I've been looking for a safe, effective, relatively inexpensive anonymizer product that will help protect my privacy online while I browse. I need this product to be compatible with a Dell PC. Do you have any recommendations?

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This is a broad question, because there are many items that fall under privacy issues when you are interacting with others over the Internet. However, because your question specifically asks about browsing activities and anonymizers, let's look at what an anonymizer is and what it does.

An anonymizer is a Web site that proxies your browsing requests (HTTP requests). This means, if you use an anonymizer and you browse from one site to another, to the destination sites it seems as though the site hosting the anonymizer software is communicating with them -- not you. This provides a buffer between you and the destination remote Web server. Some people appreciate this level of protection, because it makes it harder for the remote Web server to gain information about you and your computer, such as your IP address, or data that can be used for identity theft, phishing and pharming attacks. It also provides protection against software on servers from installing adware, installing and reading cookies, and installing Trojan horses or other malicious software.

Be aware, if you use an anonymizer you cannot personalize a Web site, for this takes place through the cookies placed on your system. This means you will need to reenter your personal identification information every time you interact with a site that requires such information.

There are several anonymizer products out there (SafeWeb, Anonymizers, Lucent Personalized Web Assistant, etc.), but many of them work the same. Some products will encrypt your traffic while you are browsing sites. Remember that these products are just pieces of software, which means they can have their own flaws. Some anonymizers have been victims of URL redirection attacks and JavaScript attacks in the past. These identified vulnerabilities have been fixed, but most software contains many types of bugs that can be exploitable -- so don't think this provides you with 100% security.

In my opinion, it is more important to have a properly configured firewall with antivirus and antispyware protection on your local host than worrying about surfing through an anonymizer, but today, the more protection the better.


More Information
  • Learn how to initiate a secure site session.
  • Learn why your Web site is at risk.


  • This was first published in September 2005

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