delete unused browser files?
May 16, 2018 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Hi everyone, I regularly clear my browser history/cache/etc for Chrome to protect from adware/malware/whatever, which is the only one I use. I have windows so I also have Edge, Internet Explorer installed automatically. Is there any reason I should also clear out cache for browsers that I don't use? Are they like, portals into the internet that can be activated without my even using them, if that makes sense?
posted by bengalibelle to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
No. If you totally don't use it, it's totally safe. Anyway, if you totally don't use it, the cache will be empty. Be wary, though, of files set to have Edge or IE open them. If you encounter these, change their default to Chrome before you open them.
posted by ubiquity at 9:53 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I regularly clear my browser history/cache/etc for Chrome to protect from adware/malware/whatever

As somebody with what I thought was a reasonable grasp of web security who never does this, I'm curious to know what kinds of threat such regular clearing is supposed to be protective against.

Is there any reason I should also clear out cache for browsers that I don't use?

I can't think of any good reason why you should regularly clear out cache for browsers you do use.

If there's threatening stuff held in the cache, it must have got there via some web page that the browser was actively displaying at some point, and as far as I know it's really only while that is happening that cached malware ever actually does anything. And clearing out the cache doesn't affect its ability to do that, because the next time any page that would exercise your hypothetical cached malware is loaded, the malware will simply be re-fetched from its server if it's not already there in the cache.

The best idea is to stop your browser loading malware in the first place, and since the overwhelming majority of malware comes from advertising servers, the single best protection you can use is a reliable ad blocker like uBlock Origin. As a bonus, most web pages load faster when an ad blocker is suppressing all the advertising-related traffic.
posted by flabdablet at 11:20 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]


I can't think of any good reason why you should regularly clear out cache for browsers you do use.

No security reason (that I know of), only privacy concerns as cache can be a fingerprinting vector. However, there are dozens other fingerprinting sources to explore, it's not like clearing the cache while ignoring everything else would amount to much in that regard.

For the OP's purposes, deleting the cache files is pointless and keeping them is the better option as flabdablet explained.
posted by Bangaioh at 1:13 PM on May 16


If this is on a personal computer that you protect with a password or are otherwise reasonably assured that you're the only one with access to it, clearing out the cache does basically nothing for you from a protection standpoint. I can see the argument for clearing cache/history/cookies when using a public or work computer to protect against casual snooping by third parties, though even then, I wouldn't expect complete privacy. Also, deleting these files doesn't delete them in a secure way; someone determined enough can potentially recover the files if they have access to the computer. If you are concerned about privacy, use incognito mode, which will prevent anything from that browsing session from being cached or saved in your history, and if you generally want to avoid tracking on the web, tracking blockers like Ghostery or Privacy Badger are a better bet.

If malware gets installed on your machine, no amount of cache clearing will protect you, and clearing the cache won't help prevent it from getting installed there in the first place. All you're really doing is making your web browsing slower at this point. Seconding flabdablet's recommendation of using adblock to limit your exposure to malware, but also make sure to keep your OS and software (especially your browser) up to date.
posted by Aleyn at 9:59 AM on May 17


I can see the argument for clearing cache/history/cookies when using a public or work computer to protect against casual snooping by third parties

Better yet, using Private or Incognito windows on such browsers means that none of that stuff survives the closing of the window.
posted by flabdablet at 10:19 AM on May 17


« Older How do you manage aging, and grief that...   |   One day in Carmel...with baby Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments