Anonymizer Safe Surfing Suite

At a Glance
  • Anonymizer Safe Surfing Suite

Protecting your privacy while surfing the Web can be difficult, but the Anonymizer Safe Surfing Suite makes it easier. This $40-a-year suite consists of four privacy-themed products. Unfortunately, though three of them work well, the suite is hamstrung by its Anti-Spyware application.

Available for download from Anonymizer.com, the Safe Surfing Suite runs in the background as you browse, with an icon in the system tray. The suite's raison d'etre, Anonymous Surfing, affords privacy while you're browsing the Web. The Digital Shredder clears your Windows usage history (such as recently opened files) and your browsing history. And the new Nyms feature lets you easily create temporary e-mail addresses to protect against spam. These three elements work well and make it easy to change your preferences or turn off certain features.

The same cannot be said of the Anti-Spyware component, which performs an on-demand spyware scan and offers limited real-time protections for ActiveX controls. My test scan falsely reported benign software as harmful malware. It also issued a "very high risk threat" warning for StumbleUpon, a safe browser add-on, and advised me to remove it immediately. I checked with the company, which confirmed that these were indeed false positives and said that these flaws would be fixed.

If you ignore Anti-Spyware, though, you have a decent product. The Anonymous Surfing app protects your privacy by masking your browsing via an Anonymizer-maintained proxy. You won't notice anything while you're using the service--except, perhaps, for a small indicator icon in your system tray that flashes when you're using the proxy. You type in a Web address as usual, but the proxy steps in and makes the actual Web site request for you. It hides your IP address (a unique identifier that can be traced back to your computer) so that the visit appears to be from the proxy instead. Anonymous Surfing also blocks known phishing and other malicious sites.

In my informal tests, Anonymous Surfing worked fine with both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2, but it had trouble with a few browser tools and specific sites. For instance, the Netcraft antiphishing toolbar doesn't work with the proxy as yet, and I had trouble accessing a few internal company Web sites here at PC World. You can toggle the anonymous surfing feature off and on relatively quickly, though.

The suite recently added Nyms for sending and receiving e-mail via easy-to-create temporary addresses that hide your real address. For example, you might use bobthrowaway1@nyms.net to sign up at a forum or to make an online purchase. Any message sent to that address would go to your real address, but if the list of forum users' e-mail addresses were to find its way into a spammer's hands--intentionally or accidentally--you would know where the spammer got your e-mail, and you could simply turn off that particular Nyms address (you can create up to 1000 disposable addresses).

You can reply to any Nyms e-mail message: Nyms converts between your real and Nyms addresses, so the site never sees the former. There's also a Web interface for creating and managing your Nyms addresses.

The Digital Shredder works well enough. New built-in features in both Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 perform many of the same functions it does, but the Shredder lets you easily choose which cookies to keep and which to toss.

If you're concerned with protecting your online privacy, Anonymizer's Safe Surfing Suite is worth a look--especially for its Anonymous Surfing and Nyms e-mail features. But forget about using its Anti-Spyware app to keep your computer safe.

Erik Larkin

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Anonymous Surfing component works well
    • Easy to install and use

    Cons

    • Anti-Spyware component is mediocre
  
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