Feeds

Don't let Windows Indexing Service know too much

Keeping index files under control

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Now for the bad news: even if you wipe these files, Windows will re-create them as soon as you reboot, and continue storing data in them. I recommend that you wipe each one, reboot, and then write-protect all of them. It's also important to search for them occasionally because Windows may create additional index.dat files as you use your machine. There are numerous utilities available that claim to remove these files while Windows is running normally. If you wish to check them out perform a web search using "index.dat" as a term, and you'll find links to several such tools.

If you use a good browser like Firefox or Mozilla, you will not have to worry about index.dat files. You'll only have to wipe them once. They'll be re-created after you destroy them, but if you use a browser other than IE they will no longer record details of your internet behaviour. All of the directories that Firefox and Mozilla use can be wiped easily and securely, or emptied and write-protected (about which there'll be more in a future column).

On Windows versions earlier than Vista, you will need to keep Internet Explorer to use Windows Update manually (because of its support of ActiveX Controls), but you needn't, and shouldn't, use IE for any other purpose. Once Firefox or Mozilla is installed and configured, you can destroy all of your index.dat files once, write-protect them when they are re-created after a reboot, and not worry about them in the future.

System Restore

System Restore is another useful Windows feature with privacy implications. It creates snapshots of the system at periodic intervals called restore points. If the system is damaged by malware or a bad software installation, users can roll back their systems to a previous restore point when it was known to be working properly. Obviously, this is bad for data hygiene, though it is a real convenience. Ideally, the system contents backed up to the C:\Restore directory would not include any personal data, but that assumes that users will not unknowingly store sensitive files in directories that will be backed up.

It's also possible for viruses to remain in the C:\Restore directory when infected files are inadvertently backed up. The backed-up malware will defy removal by some anti-virus products, and when you restore the system you'll restore your viruses and malware as well.

So, System Restore is another item that's very handy, and bad for privacy and security. You will have to decide if the convenience is worth the risk, and choose your poison.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next page: Temporary Files

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.