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Worth a Look: Web Browsing Under Wraps

Next time you’re surfing the Internet, do a search using the phrase, “What is my IP address?” You’ll reach a number of sites that will display the Internet protocol (IP) address of your computer or your company’s router. Using this number, you can then perform a who- is search that will display your company’s name, Internet service provider, physical address, and even the name, telephone number, and e-mail address of your system administrator.

Now consider the fact that your IP address is visible to any Web site you visit—and so, therefore, are each of those details about you or your organization. Even worse, Web sites (and the advertisements featured on them) can track each of your visits and build a profile of your surfing behavior. This may help make it clear why blocking or obfuscating your real IP address might not be a bad idea.

Anonymizer Anonymous Surfing prevents Web sites from collecting data from your visits because it creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the Anonymizer network while you surf; then, any page you visit will see Anonymizer’s IP address, not yours. The software installs after a quick download and can be used with either Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers.

Using the Web sites mentioned previously, it was easy to check whether my IP address was being cloaked (it was). If that was all the product did, it might be worth a recommendation, but it actually does much more. For example, modules in the software can notify you if you are visiting a known phishing site or if you are being redirected to a Web site that looks like the one you want to visit but is actually a fake.

The secure tunnel approach works for wireless access as well; traffic between your computer and the Anonymizer server is encrypted, so even if you’ve connected to an “evil twin” that is between you and the Internet, the traffic will be hidden from prying eyes.

Pros. Very easy to install, and effortless to use; the Anonymizer can be configured to begin running when you turn on your computer, meaning that protection is in place without any action on your part.

Cons. Some Web sites took a lot of time to load, and a few refused a connection from the Anonymizer server.

Where to get one. A year’s subscription is $29.99 from the company’s Web site.