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33. How to hide web-surf habits

By Mark Alberstat

Every time you surf the Internet for a recipe, a new program or that Cuban beach resort you heard about, other computers on the net are trying to find out your personal information. There are ways, of course, to keep that information personal, but to protect your privacy a few steps have to be taken.

Programs that surreptitiously monitor your Internet activity get loaded onto your computer in a variety of ways. Some come through simple webpage applications such as Java applets or VBScripts. Through these tracker and snooping programs, companies can find out your IP address, thus letting them know, roughly, where you live, what your internet surfing habits are, including personal interests, your e-mail address for spammers to purchase and even some more personal information which could lead to identity theft.

Programs or services that protect your identity while online do so in two basic ways. The first is encryption and the second is IP redirection. Encryption is a great way to send secure e-mail but you can still be tracked as you surf the net. IP redirection simply covers your IP address in a myriad of other numbers and fake addresses. Your true IP address is still there but is so covered up few programs would bother to dig it out.

Most of the services out there protect your identity by, basically, sacrificing their own. When you use their services, you actually surf the web through their machines. You make a request to retrieve a web page, their server retrieves it from the site and then passes it along to you. The IP address that the requested site sees is the service's address, not yours.

One of the more popular sites for anonymous surfing is This is a redirecting site that features an easy to use address bar on their home page for you to use as a test bed for their product. You will need to agree to their terms of service but after that, surfing without being known, through the Megaproxy toolbar, couldn't be easier. If you decide to pay for their services, you can sign up for a variety of subscription options. offers a similar surfing bar on their site which, retails their two software packages. The cheaper of the two packages is for anonymous web surfing. The other package, which costs about three times as much, offers a much wider range of services including, anonymous e-mail, chat and newsgroup activity. Both products are for Windows-based PCs only.

Web Tunnel is another package to cover your tracks. The producer, Primedius, is covering the marketplace well with both Mac (OS X) and Windows versions. You can download a trial version of this software from their homepage or purchase differing levels of Web Tunnel, depending on the amount of megabytes you intend to pass through their filters on your rounds of daily surfing.

Using both encryption and redirection is WebSecure from Freedom software. Although this package has the hefty yearly price tag of $59.95 US. It is probably the most thorough Internet privacy software in the marketplace today. This software package can protect you from all types of security holes, including Java applets and ActiveX controls. It is, however, only for Windows users and there is no indication of a Mac version on its way.

Using these software packages, or surfing the net through these sites' URL bars, will help protect you from electronic prying eyes. However, nothing is perfect. The next time you look for a recipe on the Internet, you could be giving away more than just a few cookies.

The following are a few links to the products mentioned above:

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 2 May 2004


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