The Index.dat File and Security Concerns

If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer for browsing, this application has some features in it that can threaten your privacy and security. Although Microsoft Internet Explorer contains settings that you can configure for browser security, it also contains a file called an Index.dat file that records information as you are browsing the Web. If a hacker is successful with exploiting your browser, your privacy and security can be at risk.

How Index.dat Works

The Index.dat file in Microsoft Internet Explorer is a file that keeps track of websites you visited, searches you have performed, and files you have recently accessed. The Index.dat file is not to be confused with the browser history files or temporary Internet files. Instead it is a separate file all of its own that stores all of your Web browsing activity.

Index.dat usually works with the Auto Complete feature in your browser that automatically enters the addresses of website you have visited when you begin to type the URL into the browser window, fills out forms automatically on websites you have visited, and stores recent downloads so you can easily access everything when you browse in the future.

Whenever you type something into a website form or the browser the information connects with the Index.dat file which completes the rest of the task for you. Although the Index.dat file was created to help you save time, it represents a security threat if malicious software gets installed through your browser.

How to Get Rid of the Index.dat File

There is a way to delete Index.dat files manually but it is never guaranteed and it is rather complex to execute. The problem with the Index.dat file is that it remains on your PC even after you have disabled the Auto Complete feature. The location of the file depends upon what version of the Windows operating system you are using and if you are using user profiles. The file hides in the desktop.ini file in each directory so it is not visible with Windows Explorer even if you conduct a search for it.

If you clear your browser history, the temporary Internet files, and the Internet cache, the Index.dat file still remains on your PC. If you decide to go through the complex process of trying to delete the file you will get an error message that states the file is in use. This is because the Index.dat file is a system file and it loads every time you boot up the operating system on your PC.

Is There an Easy Solution?

The easiest solution is to obtain software that is specifically designed to delete the Index.dat file along with other annoying tracking files. Software such as Privacy Guardian and PC Confidential will take care of this problem by deleting the Index.dat files every time you boot up your PC's operating system. Other than using this software, the only other solution is to delete the Index.dat files through a complex process that involves using a MS-DOS boot disk which allows you to access the drive and manually locate all of the files.

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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser