No, Going Incognito Online Does Not Solve All Of Your Security Concerns

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Last month, President Trump signed a resolution that repeals online security regulations and makes it easier for Internet Service Providers to use your data.
In the days before and after the resolution was signed, there was much talk of VPNs and Incognito Mode. Both are intended to protect your safety while browsing. However, while each has its benefits, neither is the security cure-all it’s often sold as. Ahead, everything you need to know about Incognito Mode, or, as I like to think of it, your virtual Halloween costume.

How to turn the dang thing on
If Chrome is your go-to web browser, click on More in the top right and select "New Incognito Window." In the new window, you'll see a gray icon with a top hat and glasses, indicating you're in Incognito mode. You can also press command, shift, N on a Mac or control, shift, N on a Windows computer.
If you're a Firefox diehard, select the menu button in the top right corner and click "New Private Window." You'll know you're in Incognito mode when you see a purple mask at the top of the window.
To clear data that's been stored on your browser before you turned on Incognito mode, go to Preferences > Privacy, where you can opt to clear your history.
What Is Incognito mode, anyway?
When you go Incognito, the web browser you're using doesn't save a history of the sites you visit. There are some benefits to this. If you fill out any forms while browsing, the information that you enter, such as your address or credit card number when buying something, won't be saved in your browser.
Plus, the websites you visit will know less about you. "Incognito mode makes it harder for websites to track your usage as an individual, as it starts with no previously saved cookies present," says Darren Guccione, CEO and co-founder of Keeper Security.
Photo: The CW/Photofest.
What it can't do
When you go to a masquerade ball, people can usually still figure out who you are (unless you're on Gossip Girl, where somehow wearing a mask over your eyes makes you completely unrecognizable to friends and family alike?). Similarly, just because you're wearing a purple mask or top hat and glasses online, that doesn't mean you're completely anonymous.
"Network administrators, ISPs (internet service providers), website operators, and other third parties can still see and track activities over the Internet or LAN (local area network) from an incognito-mode browser," Guccione says.
This means that whether you're connected to a server at the the office or your home internet provider, your activity is not completely invisible to the outside world.
Incognito mode also doesn't serve as a security guard. "It won’t protect you from going to a malicious website where you could download malware or get scammed," says Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee. "Incognito mode is really intended to protect your privacy when browsing, more so than making what you’re doing online more secure."
Should you always browse in Incognito mode?
It depends on the situation. If you're on a shared or public computer system, Guccione advises using a private window. This makes sense, since you don't want someone else to use the same computer and see which sites you were visiting and when.
But there are some downsides to always having it on when you're using your personal computer, the main one being that Incognito mode can slow down your internet browser. "Having certain things cached or stored locally once you’ve visited a certain website will make accessing the website faster on future visits," Davis says.
What to do in addition to Incognito mode
When you get new updates for apps or your iPhone's operating system, the reasons most often cited are small bug fixes and stability improvements. The same applies for a web browser. Davis advises always upgrading your browser when a new version is available, since these updates include extra security measures.
Above all, keep in mind that Incognito mode is not a security cure-all. Be smart about the sites you visit and, as always, think twice before sharing any personal information in a public space.

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