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Anonymizer

Protecting Your Privacy Online, Anonymously
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Anonymizer

The Anonymizer software product is one of the best-known Web solutions in this space. Over the years, it has morphed from a simple online-only service that lets users type in an address they wanted to visit anonymously to a full desktop suite. The full Anonymizer suite includes anonymous Web surfing, spyware scanning, anonymous email addresses and spam protection. For the purposes of this review, we’re primarily concerned with just the anonymous Web surfing application called Anonymous Surfing.

Installing Anonymizer’s anonymous Web surfing application is relatively easy and painless. Anonymizer has a free seven-day trial, which installed without incident for our evaluation and was up and running within minutes without the need to reboot the PC. The trial also includes Anonymizer Spyware scanner, digital shredder cookie/cache cleaner and the Nyms anonymous email service. You don’t need to actually run all of them, and in our test, we actually just installed the Web surfing component which provides a great deal of functionality on its own.

Anonymizer: Anonymous Surfing main dashboardAnonymizer: Anonymous Surfing main dashboard Anonymizer : Anonymous Surfing main dashboard

A main feature of the anonymous surfing application is the ability to mask your IP address. Anonymizer really makes this easy to control with a simple On/Off button setup. They also clearly show you what your actual IP address is and then show what your “anonymized” IP address is without having to activate the service.

You don’t get a choice of what the new IP address will be with Anonymizer ; it’s changed automatically by Anonymizer every 24 hours. You also cannot choose geography either, so your new IP will always be located in the United States.

Beyond just providing you with a different IP address, Anonymizer also offers a check box where you can filter the sites you browse for malicious content. There is also an option to have the connection SSL encrypted, which provides another degree of security as it encrypts your traffic between your location and the proxy server.

By virtue of having the traffic SSL encrypted, Anonymizer also claims that it offers Wi-Fi security since all your traffic is encrypted and not open for prying eyes to look at. As an added bonus, all the sites that you visit while surfing when Anonymizer is activated are also validated against phishing (fake address sites) and pharming (where the DNS is pointing you to the wrong site) as well. The phishing, pharming, SSL protection and malicious Website protection service are all part of the core Anonymous Web Surfing application, so no need to buy anything else to get those features.

While it’s great that Anonymizer clearly communicates the address of what it calls your “anonymous” IP address, it’s always a good idea to check and see if that’s how others actually see it. Among the most basic ways of testing Anonymizer’s IP address claims is by visiting a site like WhatIsMyIp.com or Ipexposed.com where your public IP address is displayed. With Anonymizer there was no incident ; the IP address the program claimed it was providing was the one that others saw too.

Not all proxies are anonymous though, and there are a number of ways by which a site can detect whether or not you are using a proxy (and then potentially block you). As such, it’s also a good idea to use a form of a ProxyJudge script that tests the information sent from your local PC in the HTTP header information in order to validate whether or not you actually are anonymous (or just seen to be using a proxy).

For this review we opted for a free online ProxyJudge script at : http://www.proxyserverprivacy.com/adv-free-proxy-detector.shtml to validate the various services. In the case of Anonymizer, the result was that no proxy was detected at all - which is result you want to see. It means that from the outside world’s point of view you are who you say you are and there is no obvious reason to suspect otherwise.

Now to be fair, there are other mechanisms by which your real IP could perhaps be discovered including a rogue JavaScript or flash file. Anonymizer does not offer the option of blocking those types of files in the dashboard, but as a user, it’s something that you might want to consider doing on your own in your own local browser.

The other issue to consider is speed. In limited testing we found that using Anonymizer resulted in a bandwidth speed decrease ranging from 25% to 50% (using third-party speed test tools at Broadbandreports.com and Whatismyip.com). In general, most of the anonymous-IP services we tested had some performance hit over running a naked (“non-anonymized”) connection.

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