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Web browser buttons

Why is use of the "back" and "forward" buttons in a Web browser a potential security or privacy problem? I remember reading a news article that someone was able to expose a problem that way. I have also noticed that the credit card company Barclaycard explicitly tells you not to use "back" or "forward." Thanks for your ideas on this.


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It is not a problem, per se. The reason that sites using SSL for secure connections caution you against navigating with the back button is because SSL security is tied to the particular Web page you are browsing at a given time. A bank, or any secure site, can make sure it hands you off from one secure connection to another if you use the site's navigation controls. That is, the Web site designer can always make sure you move from one https: URL to another. BACK and FORWARD direct you to URLs in your browser's cache. The concern is if you think your connection is still secure when it is not. Most browsers will warn you when you make that transition. Many people turn that warning off.


This was first published in April 2001

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