How serious is a site when it says “please close your browser window” after you log out? Is it really that big of a deal if you keep browsing the internet in that same window? Is closing the tab enough? It turns out, depending on your browser, website, the network you’re on and even the computer you’re using, just closing the tab may leave you open to serious risks. Clearing your browser cache just may be the key to staying safe online.

Browser Cache

Closing out the active tab may not completely erase your visit to the site in question. Depending on which browser you use and what version, it may have cached the website. Your browser’s cache (pronounced “cash”) is a collection of graphics and other parts of a webpage that are downloaded to your computer. Browsers do this so that the webpage loads faster in the future. However, when you visit a secure website, such as your Facebook page or YouTube, your login information, passwords and other sensitive information — even images — may have also been cached. 

To find out how to clear (or refresh) your browser’s cache, visit Refresh Your Cache.

Switching Networks

Switching networks is another reason to close your browser windows after logging off of secure sites. This is especially true if you’re moving from a trusted network, like your personal wifi, to a public network. As mentioned above, your browser caches websites that you visit. If you switch networks and your browser’s cache hasn’t been cleared, you may be putting your information at risk on the new network, especially if it is an unsecured network. An unsecured network is any network where you can log on without a password, such as a hotspot or public wifi. When you use an unsecured network, hackers are able to see and possibly capture any information you share, such as your Facebook username and password.

Using a Public Computer

It should go without saying — always close everything you’ve opened on a public computer and log out before you leave it. However, you should also clear your browsing history. Since the browser does not always clear its cache, your secure information may still be available. This is especially true if the next user visits the same website you just did. If this occurs, they may be able to log into your account and get all of your information.


Text by Jennie Tippett


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