Can the Most Recently Opened (mru) Files be a Security Problem?

By: Sam Miller

Are recently accessed files a security problem? Unfortunately, the answer is YES. The first task the intruder will face when need to crack sensitive files on your computer is to find them. The key will be the list of most recently used files (MRU), which is available in almost any program and in Windows. During your casual work it's a great time saver, as you don't need to find file to open, but when someone else have an access to your computer it became a dangerous security hole.

Is there any way to get rid of the list of recently accessed files? Actually, yes and it is quite easy to do. First, you should get the name of file (files) that you want to remove from recently opened list, then you should find the place where the list is kept and then you should remove the particular record.

It is easy to do for Windows recently opened file list, as the only thing you should do is to find the folder "recent" in Windows directory and delete links from there. Or a better option is to use an option built in task bar, but unfortunately, this function is no longer available in XP.

What about the list of recently opened files of other types. It depends a lot on many factors, for instance, for MS Excel or MS Word it is easy to find necessary records in Windows registry. For this very task you should run regedit program. You will need to select Run option in Start menu and type there "regedit". Then you will need to use built in regedit search function and find the record by the name of the file that was recently opened. The problem might be that you cannot just delete the record as this might damage the list of recently opened files and you will never see the MRU list again, but I think you'd wish to, as it really save a lot of time.

Also, there are a number of programs that doesn't allow to clear the list at all. For instance, for MS One Note, you will not be able to find a good way to clear the list of recently accessed files. Special software utilities will be needed in this case.

You might also want to clear the list of records in your browser. This task is much easier as developers of popular web-browsers are concerned about possible security problems and suggest a way to clear browser records, such as types links, cookies, recently accessed pages and so on.

Are records about recently opened files a sensitive information? Yes! If you will hide this information from possible intruder, then you will make his work much harder. But there is another problem with list of recently accessed files and browser records. Typically, it is easy to clear all records, even these you don't need to clear, so this is a big challenge for browser developers, it would be better, if someone could point only to the files and records that should be cleared, not all files and records.

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