Posted: 28 Jan 2010 04:06 AM PST
The web is anonymous. That's the greatest myth going around for those not in the know. A newbie equates anonymity with invisibleness. Our email ID or username may cover up for our real identity, we can give fake ages and even genders, or hide behind a dopey eyed avatar but in the end, that's mere window dressing.
Every time we log onto the web we leave behind a digital fingerprint – our IP address. IP addresses can be traced back to a physical location and to the specific computer. And if somebody knows where your computer is, invasion of your privacy takes a little while to follow.
Identity thefts, invasion by spywares, attacks by cyber-criminals are just some of the real dangers. Using simple IP tracing tools (sniffers) someone can exploit vulnerabilities and hack into your computer. Very commonly, IP addresses are tracked and logged along with your surfing activities to deliver targeted ads to your browser or even spam mail to your inbox. In an extreme case scenario, your passwords are hacked through.
All the above dangers have a solution through anonymous surfing. But hey, didn't I say that it's a myth? Well, it is usually, but a few tools do make it possible. The core for most of anonymous browsing is the Tor network. Also called Onion routing, the technology uses a series of encrypted network relays around the world to protect your traffic from prying eyes. Hence, the likeness with an onion.
Portable Anonymous Browsers
Portable browsers lend the anytime-anywhere advantage. Carry it around on your USB Drive and browsing remains traceless. Here are four browsers for anonymous browsing.
Note: You can test the browsers by going to a site like WhatIsMyIP and taking a look at the alien IP addresses it returns.
Combine Opera, the distributed network routes courtesy the Tor Network and a web proxy called Polipo to get the portable OperaTOR. The portable browser provides total anonymity from IP tracking as the proxy network conceals your true computer address. Also, all history and cookies get wiped out as soon as the browser closes. But again anonymity comes at the cost of speed, so be prepared for some slow speeds as the traffic gets routed through the Tor network.
OperaTor (ver. 3.5) is a freeware portable browser and comes in a 10MB sized zipped package. Unzip and run it from your USB drive. Also go through the welcome information the first time the browser loads.
OperaTor is a 10MB download and runs on Windows (all versions).
The XeroBank browser was previously known as TorPark. It runs using the Firefox engine. The free version uses the public Tor network to provide anonymity. Users can add XeroBank's own anonymous proxy servers for additional protection but at a cost. The xB Browser is touted to be the world's most popular anonymous browser.
The free and open source XeroBank installer is a 10MB download and contains the xB Browser, xB VPN (Virtual Private Network) and xB Mail (anonymous mail). xB Browser is portable and can be carried around in an USB drive.
Just like OperaTor, xB Browser does not leave any trace of your browsing activities. xB Browser is at its heart, a Firefox browser with a few extra security add-ons. You can switch your user agent, set AdBlocks, quickly switch to another language and flush the Tor circuit with a button click. The flush Tor circuit button puts you on a new set of Tor servers.
Browsing on the Tor network is slower than in an open network. The one gap I could see was that despite being a Firefox browser at the core does not provide an easy way to import bookmarks from your default Firefox browser.
. xB Browser is a 102MB download and runs on Windows (all versions).
TorFox is a very simple implementation of Tor and Mozilla Firefox. So, you have in your hands a simple secure portable open source browser. You can download the browser as an EXE or a Zip file and carry it around in your USB Flash drive. The browser comes without any frills and it's in my opinion the most simplest of all the Tor browser apps.
Torfox (ver.3.0.11) is a 12MB download and runs on Windows (all versions).
The Tor Browser Bundle is a built around the Tor software tool, a Tor frontend from Vidalia, the Polipo web proxy and a configured version of portable Firefox. It allows the user to use Tor without the need to install anything. It has all the pros and cons of the Tor Network and functionally is very similar to OperaTor.
Tor Browser Bundle is a 16MB download and runs on Windows (all versions).
The four tools above are very similar in that they are combos of the Tor public network and a portable browser. It's only on the web that you have to pay to be anonymous. With these free portable anonymous browsers, anonymity could be finally yours without a cost.
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