Three practical reasons to use your browser's private mode

Incognito mode can also help you access your favorite news sites and keep upcoming surprises away from prying eyes.

Modern browsers are chock full of powerful hidden features, but one of the most overlooked features is incognito or private mode. If you've heard of this feature, chances are you know it, rather infamously, as "porn mode."

That's an undeserved reputation, suggesting the only time someone would want a sliver of anonymity online is to satisfy their basest instincts--and nothing could be further from the truth. There are all kinds of reasons to regularly use your browser's incognito mode that don't involve websites with three X's in the title.

Private mode: What it is, what it isn't

Incognito mode can help keep your browsing private from other users, but it can't keep your browsing activities private from your ISP or online snoops. For that level of privacy, you'll need to connect to a virtual private network (VPN).

All incognito mode will do is erase your browsing and search histories while in private mode, as well as dump any tracking cookies you pick-up during your incognito session. If you're unsure how to turn on your browser's added privacy mode you can find instructions online for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

Now, let's look at how you can use incognito mode to your benefit.

Outsmarting leaky paywalls

Several websites put the majority of their content behind paywalls, but allow you to view a limited number of articles for free per month before forcing you to pay for a site subscription. These paywalls are designed with many ways around that 10-article limit, however. Sites such as The New York Times will let you continue reading an article for free if you follow a link from social media like Facebook or Twitter even after you hit your limit.

Another option is to just open your browser in incognito mode. This way, no cookies are kept on your PC and every time you visit a leaky paywall site it's like you're a new visitor with a fresh 10-article limit. Clever, clever.

Private accounts, public PC

Thanks to smartphones, tablets, and ultra-portable laptops, it's rare that you'll need to visit an Internet cafe or library to access your online accounts--but every now and then it happens.

Public locations often have PCs that are often poorly maintained and may not erase your browsing history after your session.

To make sure nobody stumbles across the login page for your personal website or any other sensitive account, just use incognito mode on public PCs. It's not a bullet proof form of protection, but combined with telling sites not to store your password and using a dash of common sense, incognito mode becomes an effective form of protection.

No history, please

Porn isn't the only reason you might want to cover your tracks when searching for information.

Perhaps you want to get information about a medical condition, and you'd rather not have the search terms pop up later on the family PC. Or maybe you're shopping for a surprise gift and you don't want anyone to see what you were up to at Amazon or Overstock. Really, the reasons for keeping some portions of your browsing history private are endless. Your browser's private mode keeps your browsing, well, private.

So there you go! A trio of shame-free reasons to use your browser's incognito mode. (Well, make that two shame-free reasons if you feel guilty about not paying for a news subscription.)

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags FirefoxapplicationssecuritybrowserssoftwareInternet Explorerchromeprivacy

More about Amazon Web ServicesFacebook

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Ian Paul

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place