But besides the obvious sexy photos and porn stash, what other secret stuff should you hide from prying eyes? Below, we've compiled a list of eight things you should consider hiding on your computer.
1. Gift lists and to-do lists
This holiday season, you're probably making a list and checking it twice. Gift lists are handy to keep track of what presents you need to buy, but don't leave it out in the open on your computer for family and friends to peek at. Same goes for to-do lists.
2. Tax receipts, W-2 forms, credit card statements and electronic bills
Scrub through your computer to see if there are any files that include your online banking information, account numbers and other financial data. This includes looking into tax receipts, W-2 forms and credit card statements you may have saved or scanned to your computer.
If you receive electronic bills and downloaded them to your computer, it's best to take a closer at these documents. These can contain personal information and account numbers that you don't want anyone to access.
If your inquisitive co-worker happens to be browsing your computer, you don't want him to see the cover letter you sent when you applied for a job at a different company. You also don't want him running his mouth to others in the office about your secret job hunt. Furthermore, some companies have direct access to employees' computers and/or browsing histories, so even if HR isn't directly in front of your computer doesn't mean they couldn't tap in.
It's best to hide resumes, cover letters and other application forms. With that said, do not take the risk of applying for jobs at work, whether it's on your personal or work computer. Your employer's system administrator could possibly access your files remotely and view your browser history when you're connected to the company's Wi-Fi network.
It's smart to keep copies of important documents like your social security card or passport. But it's not smart if they are saved on your computer without protection. The last thing you want is for your computer to end up in the wrong hands, and put yourself at risk for identity theft.
Here's a list of documents to consider hiding on your computer:
Social security card
State-issued identification cards
5. Browsing history and favorites bar
You can tell a lot about a person through her browser history. If you're letting a friend borrow your computer to check his email, think about clearing your browser history beforehand. You don't want them to stumble upon an embarrassing or risqué Google search of yours.
Also, be aware of what sites are listed on your bookmarks bar. Most browsers will give you an option to hide the bookmarks bar.
Keeping track of 50 different username and passwords can drive you insane. At first, it may sound like a great idea to keep your login information in one document so you don't forget anything. But by doing so, you're putting yourself at risk. Hide or encrypt the document so no one can find your information.
Looking for an alternative? There are cross-platform password managers that will store your login data, such as 1Password and LastPass. These secure services automatically fill your password data, making password management a whole lot easier and safer.
7. Diaries and journals
Long gone are the days of lock and key diaries. Many have shifted to typing out their feelings and top secret thoughts on computers. But simply keeping your diary in a Microsoft Word document or notepad without protection is not secure or safe. If anyone is snooping around your computer, you definitely don't want them reading about your personal life.
Keep in mind that there are a several secure services and apps that can offer you a space to write privately, like Penzu, Penmia and Day One.
8. Confidential work documents
When you work for a company, you may have an obligation to keep classified reports and proprietary information confidential. In case a hacker accesses your computer, make sure these files are hidden. The last thing you want to do is put your job at risk and be fired for leaking confidential documents.
BONUS: Messages that sync across devices
Be careful if you have multiple devices connected to your computer. For example, let's say you have iMessage set up on your computer. If you're texting someone through iMessage on your phone, and your little brother is on your computer, he will be able to view your conversations as they pop up on the computer. He will also have access to your previous conversations.
When you're not using your computer, it may be a good idea to disable iMessage on your computer. To do this, go to Messages > Preferences > Accounts, select your iMessage account and un-check "Enable this account" below your Apple ID. That way, your conversations can be kept private.