Privacy and Multiuser Systems

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-10-18 Print this article Print

The second main complaint Ive seen is that GDS searches the entire local system, including the files for all users, not just the current user or the one who installed. Theres something to this, in that it means that one must use GDS with special care—if at all—on systems with multiple users.

The documentation makes clear that GDS is intended for a single user machine, or at least that it can only be installed on a single users login for a particular computer. Exactly how it functions on a multiuser system depends on how that system is configured and who the user is who installed GDS.

But its already been pointed out by others that since GDS indexes the entire computer, it will index the private files of other users on the system. You may, therefore, view files belonging to other users. If they use Web mail, you may be able to view their mail.

Lets think this through. GDS will only install on a system when the user doing the installing is an administrator, and it will only run when the user who installed it is logged in. I tested this myself.

So, in order for you to be able to view the files and browser caches of other users on the system, you must be the system administrator. Guess what, Sherlock! You already had access to those files! Shocking as it may be, GDS only makes it easier to do what you already had explicit power to do.

This objection is speciousness defined. If you still dont like the prospect of the system administrator having access to such information, you can mitigate it somewhat by modifying GDS options to have it not index https pages, which will eliminate most Web mail. You also can configure Internet Explorer to delete all temporary files when it quits.

Next page: Platform and browser restrictions.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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