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Most of us think twice before giving out a credit card number. But have you ever stopped to think how much personal information is readily available to anyone who sits down at your Mac? For instance, the Recent Documents folder in the Apple menu lets anyone see which documents you've recently opened. And your Web browser is an open book on your Web habits: it stores a history of the sites you've visited; temporary items (such as graphics) that make up Web pages; and cookies that tell Web sites who you are, where you've been, and so on. If you want to avoid leaving such telltale tracks, MacWasher 1.0.2, an inexpensive utility from Webroot Software, may be the solution.

Wash This   You can set all of MacWasher 1.0.2's options in this window. Click on the Wash Now button to give your system an immediate cleaning.

From MacWasher's main screen (see "Wash This"), you can configure the application to delete any of the following items: the Apple menu's Recent Documents and Recent Applications lists; log files from MacsBug (Apple's debugging tool); and the contents of the Temporary Files folder, the Trash, and folders you've specified. America Online users can tell MacWasher to delete the cache as well as the download and history folders. In addition to those items, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator users can also instruct MacWasher to delete cookies.

Deleting files makes it difficult for casual users to discover what you've been up to, but MacWasher can also "bleach" files–overwriting them from one to ten times. Three and seven overwrites meet Department of Defense (DOD) and National Security Administration standards, respectively. Bleaching can be extremely time-consuming: to bleach a single 350K file one, three, and seven times took 2.5, 7.4, and 17.0 minutes, respectively.

Bleaching prevents data-recovery tools from resurrecting the deleted data; however, it does not prevent them from displaying the names of the bleached files. By comparison, Norton Utilities' Wipe Info can overwrite selected files and folders in a few seconds, not only meeting DOD security requirements but also deleting the file names.

While MacWasher will find a welcome home with computer novices, more-experienced users will quickly find other ways to meet MacWasher's security objectives. For example, you can turn off your Web browser's history, disable cookies, and create simple AppleScripts to delete the contents of selected folders.


2.5 mice
PROS: Easy to configure; flexible. CONS:: Technical support via e-mail only; bleaching is time-consuming and doesn't hide names of deleted files. COMPANY: Webroot Software (800/772-9383, ). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $30.

April 2000 page: 64

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