While everyone has their own mobile devices, WiFi networks, computers and laptops are often shared among family members or even roommates. Each has their own browsing habits and not everyone sharing devices would want others from seeing records of their internet use. This is why Google Incognito Mode is among the best features in Chrome, useful for all kinds of scenarios. Besides hiding preferences on shared devices, people can also use it to avoid digital advertisers from acquiring their data.
Going back to users of shared networks and devices, Google Incognito mode is typically the first defense for these people. This is because the feature will prevent cookies from identifying you and help protect you from browser-fingerprinting. This means that websites you visit cannot place cookies in your computer, which can then read by the site and track you across the different sites you visit. However, they can still see your activities on their site while you are there; this includes what pages you have browsed on their site, the search terms you’ve used, and even how long you stayed on each page. However, what they cannot do while you are on incognito mode is gather information about your browser, the fonts you’re using, and the add-ons or browser extensions you use.
While useful, this neglects the information that is shared via a WiFi connection or a network, as explained by our friends at ExpressVPN and their article on using Google Incognito mode. If you use public Wi-Fi or connect to your school or work network, the network administrator can see every site you visit. This is because they are higher up in the technological food chain. Networks are always controlled by their owners, not their users. By using their network, you are essentially forfeiting your right to privacy, and even Google Incognito mode cannot help with that. For sites not encrypted with HTTPS, they are even able to see the contents of the site and all information you exchange with it. In other words, using an incognito window will not protect you from system admins.
Furthermore, information your share over WiFi can even be hacked in Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks after purchasing simple tools they available online, such as a 20 USD wireless adapter and free Kali Linux software. This allows the attacker to read all the information you are sending via the WiFi connection, before sending it the website you are interested in. This is done through SSL stripping, which means the information sent over these networks are first shown to the hacker, before becoming encrypted and sent to the site. This is how both parties (the user and the website the user is trying to connect to) is kept in the dark.
To prevent this, ExpressVPN recommends using a Tor browser with a VPN. By relaying your queries across the globe and encrypting your traffic in a secure tunnel, the Tor-VPN combo is enough to protect you from any snooping network admins and aspiring MITM hackers.