Category Archives: Surveillance

Time For Tor? – An Open Source Anonymous Surfing Application

imageOver the years, I’ve posted more than a few articles on anonymous surfing and the applications, generally free, which makes that possible.

I’ve noted, over that time, that the majority of readers of these article have a Middle East IP – particularly Iran. Little wonder, when one considers the human rights violations committed by this regime. Remaining anonymous online in Iran, could literally be the difference between life and death.

A typical email from an Iranian reader:

Dear Bill

I live in Iran – I need to know news about my hometown, but in Iran we are faced with filtering…very hard filtering. It makes me depressed, but one of my friends introduced your website to me and told me you can help me.

If you think that the crazies who rule Iran, and Syria – just 2 of these Middle East dysfunctional societies), where Internet usage is scrutinized on an individual basis – are the only unhinged and delusional nutters Internet users have to deal with – you’re wrong.

The erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to surf the Internet without government oversight, seems to be happening at an ever increasing pace – everywhere.

In a previous article on anonymous Internet surfing tools (October, 2010), I wrote – “Thankfully, I live in a part of the world where Government censorship of my Internet activities is a non-issue; the Canadian government does not restrict my access to any part of the Internet.

I wish I could go on to say, that I live in a part of the world where the Government has NO interest in my Internet activities, But that, unfortunately, would be like wishing on a star – and, equally as effective.

While I have no faith whatsoever, that those in power will continue to use the gathered information in a restricted, and appropriate fashion – it’s not something that I dwell on. After all, there is nothing I can do about it – so, I’m forced to slot it into my comfort zone.

In the past week however, I’ve been ripped out of my comfort zone, as have most other Canadians, who have revolted against legislation proposed by the quasi-fascist Conservative Party of Canada – the current political party in power (a government elected by only 26% of eligible Canadian voters) – led by Stephen Harper, a fundamentalist Christian, and his minion Vic Toews – another fundamentalist Christian .

In 2008, Toews was divorced by his wife of 30 years, after it was discovered that he had fathered a child with a younger woman – who may have been his child’s babysitter. Just one more example of the “moral right” practicing its favorite pastime – hypocrisy.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant.<br />
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The proposed legislation would create  a mandatory surveillance regime. Simply put – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

The backlash against this perverted legislation was both immediate, and overwhelming. Canadians have made it clear – they will not allow themselves to be figuratively handcuffed. Frankly, I’ve never seen a political backlash remotely like it. The typically mild mannered and polite Canadian is angry, disgusted, and hell-bent on ensuring this abomination of a legislative bill – never sees the light of day.

Still, until Harper and his gang of throwbacks to the Cro-Magnon era, are thrown out on their asses in the next general election, you might consider adding an anonymous surfing application to your toolbox.

The use of anonymous surfing applications is not restricted to breaking through obstructive Internet barriers of course. There are more obvious reasons, you may have for anonymous surfing, including – surfing in internet cafes, public terminals in libraries, or hotel business centers.

In fact, you may want to surf anonymously on any PC where you don’t want to leave traces of your private surfing activities to ensure protection from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, rogue police services, or curious family members.

One of the most popular anonymous surfing applications  (with good reason), is TOR – a VPN (a virtual private network) that encrypts via an SSH tunnel, in order to safeguard your Internet connection and, protect your anonymity properly.

In this post I won’t review Tor, since I’ve done so a number of times previously. Instead I’ll direct you to the following.

From the site:

What is Tor?

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.

Overview 

Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.

Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members’ online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers.

Tor is suitable for installation on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, Unix, and Android.

For more information and download, visit the Tor Home Page.

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Filed under Anonymous Surfing, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Personal Perspective, Surveillance

Breadcrumbs Privacy Software 1.1.3.1 (Beta) Updated – Now With 64 Bit Support

Earlier this month, I ran a short test on Breadcrumbs Privacy Software (Beta) – Free Breadcrumbs Beta – Slaps Down Data Miners – which, according to the developer “……. automatically creates a Bogus Identity for you, thus preventing trackers from analyzing your real browsing information, leaving them with useless data.”

So, is this fair – is it OK to screw with so called “data miners”? Undoubtedly, you’ll make up your own mind on this – but, I won’t hesitate to state my opinion – “You’re damn right it is!”

Data miners, in an attempt to camouflage broad scale privacy intrusions, conveniently refer to their activities as predictive analytics, customer profiling, customer segmentation, predictive modeling, lifestyle clustering – yeah, right.

While predictive analytics, predictive modeling, etc. (you have to love how these guys paint privacy intrusions), may well be allowed under existing legislation – from a moral and ethical perspective, it’s reprehensible in my view.

Consider this – you’re cruising the Net and a tracker, or trackers, records every action you take, every motion you make –recording the type of sites you visit and revisit, time spent on sites, your shopping and spending habits, your political views, your marital status, and much more. All of this builds a profile of your browsing habits so that the data (your personal data), can be sold, bartered, and traded.

But don’t look for any sweeping legislative changes which will rein in these parasites any time soon. By and large, regulatory authorities have neither the moral courage, or the technical acumen (they simple fail to grasp the essence of the technology) necessary to enact appropriate consumer protection laws.

If you object to this type of intrusion into your privacy, then consider installing Breadcrumbs Privacy Software, and give these intrusive jerks the heave-ho. It may not be a perfect solution but, it’s a definite step in the right direction.

Fast facts:

Create your bogus identity – Breadcrumbs bogus Identity feature automatically creates a Bogus Identity for you, thus preventing trackers from analyzing your real browsing information, leaving them with useless data. Read more

The Do Not Track Me stamp – Once enabled, the Do Not Track Me stamp identifies you as a Breadcrumbs Protected User. It tells trackers that you do not wish to be tracked, and also lets them know that they will be fooled by your Bogus Identity in case they decide to track you anyway. Read more

Watchers Analytics – Breadcrumbs Watchers Analytics feature enables you to see who is watching you online. It’s an easy way to block ads and prevent trackers from tracking you across the Internet. Read more

Installation is simple and the application settings are limited, but effective. Click on the graphic to expand to original.

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The dashboard will give you the opportunity to “watch the watchers” and block selectively. Click on the graphic to expand to original.

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The most interesting feature of Breadcrumbs is the promise that it will build a “‘bogus identity” which will mislead watchers. Click on the graphic to expand to original.

According to the developer –

“In order for the feature to work it first needs to “learn the user” then it will synthesize what bogus data should be added in order to mask your real data and identity (so give it a few more hours/days). All of the learning process is encrypted and is done on the client-side, hence no one can see or use it but the software (and in the future you).”

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In the following screen capture the expandable “Page Watcher” panel is shown – (shown expanded). This feature is selectable under “settings”. Click on the graphic to expand to original.

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Current Version: 1.1.3.1 (Beta) – release date: May 24, 2011.

Changes in this version:

Bug fixes.

Better performance (CPU + RAM)

64 bit support.

Enhanced security to the automated Bogus browser.

Tray notifier which notifies when privacy protection analysis ended, and when a new software version is available.

Added the option to turn watchers blocking on and off through the Watchers Analytics Panel in your browser, this feature is very helpful in cases you are not sure if the page is not loaded correctly because a watcher is blocked (so you can just turn blocking off and see if that is the problem) – the panel appears in red in case blocking is turned off.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Win 7. Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 or above. (Breadcrumbs installer will alert you in case .NET Framework installation is needed)

Supported Web Browsers: Internet Explorer 7 or above. (including IE9). Firefox 3.6 or above. (including FF4). Google Chrome.

Download at: Developer’s site (Breadcrumb Solutions)

Breadcrumbs Usage and Demo: Video 2:26

I often hear from people who feel that since the information being mined is anonymous, no real invasion of privacy is taking place. While that may have been the case previously, that’s not the case currently.

Consider readingPrivacy: reidentification a growing risk.

Browser fingerprinting (a method used to identify you specifically) – Consider taking the Panopticlick test which analyses  your browser to see how unique it is based on the information it will share with sites it visits.

My test results:

Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 1,546,722 tested so far. Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys at least 20.56 bits of identifying information.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Beta Software, Browsers, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Privacy, Software, Surveillance, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Breadcrumbs Beta – Slaps Down Data Miners

imageIt’s illusionary to believe that information and services on the Internet are free – there’s a strict tradeoff involved. Here’s the deal:

You get access to “free” information and services, and in return – you buy into the condition that each site you visit has the right to spy on you, and build a profile on your browsing habits – the type of sites you visit and revisit, time spent on sites, your shopping and spending habits, your political views, your marital status, and much more.

For example, when I read my local newspaper, ten behavior trackers come into play. The personal data mined by these trackers will be analyzed, on the fly, with the objective being to target me with highly specific advertising – based on my current and previous Internet behavior.

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That’s the immediate outcome. But long term, the personal information gathered will be sold, bartered and traded (to bypass the disclaimer – “we will not sell your information”), so that it can be used in multiple ways that generate profit.

And, that’s the upside. If there’s one thing the Internet has taught us, it’s – if information can be abused – it will be abused.

Companies that defend this intrusion into my privacy love to throw around a ton of sexy words – predictive analytics, customer profiling, customer segmentation, predictive modeling, lifestyle clustering – that they’ve managed to infuse into an activity that is ethically questionable. Painted allusions, all.

Time Magazine’s Joel Stein’s recent article – Data Mining: How Companies Now Know Everything About You is an eye opener, and definitely worth a read.

A couple of outtakes:

“Three hours after I gave my name and e-mail address to Michael Fertik, the CEO of Reputation.com, he called me back and read my Social Security number to me. “We had it a couple of hours ago,” he said. “I was just too busy to call.”

“Right after I e-mailed a friend in Texas that I might be coming to town, a suggestion for a restaurant in Houston popped up as a one-line all-text ad above my Gmail inbox.”

There are limited methods that can be employed to protect privacy on the Internet – some more effective than others. I recently came across a beta application that may well be a “better” solution. Breadcrumbs Privacy Software is based on one guiding principal – disseminating disinformation.

According to the developer – “Breadcrumbs bogus Identity feature automatically creates a Bogus Identity for you, thus preventing trackers from analyzing your real browsing information, leaving them with useless data.”

I’m in the process of testing Breadcrumbs so this review is very preliminary but, it’s worth bringing to your attention, nevertheless.

Installation is simple and the application settings are limited, but effective. Click on the graphic to expand to original.

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The dashboard will give you the opportunity to “watch the watchers” and block selectively. Click on the graphic to expand to original.

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The most interesting feature of Breadcrumbs is the promise that it will build a “‘bogus identity” which will mislead watchers. After running the application for several days, I have yet to see any evidence of this bogus identity.

The developer spoke to this issue in a follow up email –

“In order for the feature to work it first needs to “learn the user” then it will synthesize what bogus data should be added in order to mask your real data and identity (so give it a few more hours/days). All of the learning process is encrypted and is done on the client-side, hence no one can see or use it but the software (and in the future you).”

image

Fast facts:

Create your bogus identity – Breadcrumbs bogus Identity feature automatically creates a Bogus Identity for you, thus preventing trackers from analyzing your real browsing information, leaving them with useless data.

The Do Not Track Me stamp – Once enabled, the Do Not Track Me stamp identifies you as a Breadcrumbs Protected User. It tells trackers that you do not wish to be tracked, and also lets them know that they will be fooled by your Bogus Identity in case they decide to track you anyway.

Watchers Analytics – Breadcrumbs Watchers Analytics feature enables you to see who is watching you online. It’s an easy way to block ads and prevent trackers from tracking you across the Internet.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista and 7. (32-bit versions only) Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 or above. (Breadcrumbs installer will alert you in case .NET Framework installation is needed)

Supported Web Browsers: Internet Explorer 7 or above. (including IE9). Firefox 3.6 or above. (including FF4). Google Chrome.

Download at: Developer’s site (Breadcrumb Solutions)

Breadcrumbs Usage and Demo: Video 2:26

I often hear from people who feel that since the information being mined is anonymous, no real invasion of privacy is taking place. While that may have been the case previously, that’s not the case currently.

Consider readingPrivacy: reidentification a growing risk.

I think this application is heading in the right direction. If Data Miners won’t play by the rules, or continue to be ethically challenge, then we need to consider the benefits of providing them we information that is essentially worthless. This application may offer a solution in that direction.

Note: The developer has advised me, that a new beta version with bug fixes and some improvements, will be released in the next few weeks.

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Filed under Anonymous Surfing, Beta Software, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Privacy, Software, Surveillance, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

iSpy Open Source Webcam Security, Surveillance, And Monitoring Software

imageIf you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution that includes a ton of built-in features, then iSpy may be just what you’ve been searching for.

iSpy, last updated December 28, 2010, is an open source application which uses your webcams and microphones to detect and record movement, or sound.

iSpy provides a number of additional benefits over the two more basic free Web Cam surveillance applications described later in this review, including:

Access to captured media over the Web, and to mobile devices – as well as the local network.

iSpy can be setup to run on multiple computers simultaneously, and has full Email and SMS alerting capabilities.

While I found setting up iSpy relatively easy, it was slightly more complex than the two free applications described later. On the other hand, additional features often lead to more complexity.

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As the following screen captures indicate, you’ll be presented with a smorgasbord of fine tuning choices.

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As the following screen capture indicates, you can access captures over your local network (local machine), which may be all you need.

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Alternatively, you have the option of setting up an account, which will allow access to captured content over the Internet.

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Fast facts:

Access and control your cameras and microphones using your mobile device (iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7)

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web

Detect, highlight, track and record movement

Record video and audio on demand (and via the web)

Detect and record sound

FTP frames from your camera to a remote server

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity)

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website and over your local network) and also via mobile devices

Access and control iSpy remotely

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically

Time-lapse record from any camera

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7. Microsoft .Net framework will be installed if required. Windows media player 9 VCM codecs – will be installed if required.

Download at: Download.com

Two additional free Web Cam surveillance solutions, previously reviewed here:

Secure Cam:

Setting up Secure Cam is a breeze since the interface is minimal. Simply launch the application, and from the main menu select your device, select the device format and then initialize the device.

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You will then need to set the application options – click on the image in the Secure Cam window to bring up the options dialog box. Choose your options and you’re good to go.

SecureCam 5

I’ve tested this application extensively and overall, I’ve been very pleased with its performance.

Fast facts:

Automatically captures images when motion is detected

Adjustable motion detection trigger level

Supports up to 99 cameras

DVR card capable

Multiplexing capable

Capture Images when motion is detected, or continuous

Image sensitivity adjustment

Image Archiving (1,000s of images)

Dynamically expanding and contracting archive

Archive images from minutes, to years

Application viewer for image playback

Image playback at various speeds

Low processor and memory usage

Adjustable Jpeg Quality

Text Overlay

Timestamps

Image Rotating, & Flipping

If you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution, Secure Cam may be just what you have been searching for. In fact, this is the application I settled on.

System requirements: Windows (all), DirectX 9 or greater, 600Mhz Pentium 3 with 128MB Memory, Web Cam or DVR PCI card

Download at: Source Forge

Rise Sun:

Rise Sun is another free web cam surveillance application I looked at that’s perhaps not quite as feature rich as Secure Cam. But, if you don’t need all of these features, (some of the bells and whistles are just that – bells and whistles), this application is a very acceptable alternative that will meet your basic  surveillance needs.

Rise Sun 3

(No, I don’t really have green dots on my face – this is the motion detector in action).

Installation is straightforward and the interface is simple – no esoteric manual to digest here. New users should not encounter any difficulty getting this application to perform as advertised.

Fast facts:

Works on all webcam models available on the market.

Powerful motion detection algorithm that allows flexible adjustments to suit your needs.

Extended Period Algorithm (For Extra Precision)

Automatically take pictures, logs events or display silent warnings when motion is detected.

Silent Alarm, Alarm, Motion Logging System

Extended Threshold, Sensibility and Performance Variables

Automatic Snapshot (JPG Compression to reduce file size.

While I haven’t run this application for very long, it’s a very capable application. It does what it’s designed to do, and turns your webcam into a fully functioning motion detection video surveillance system.

System requirements: Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, and Win 7.

Download at: Download.com

Note: If you’re a Linux user you haven’t been left out in the cold. Checkout – Motion, a software motion detector, here. Since I now run Ubuntu more than half the time, this application is on my testing to-do list.

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Filed under Connected Devices, downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Open Source, Software, Surveilance Tools, Surveillance, Video, Video Apps, Web Cam Applications, Windows Tips and Tools

Anonymize Your Web Surfing With JonDo/JonDoFox Open Source Anonymizer

imageThankfully, I live in a part of the world where Government censorship of my Internet activities is a non issue; the Canadian government does not restrict my access to any part of the Internet.

I wish I could go on to say, that I live in a part of the world where the Government has no interest in my Internet activities, But that, unfortunately, would be like wishing on a star – and, equally as effective.

Arguably, we live in highly unstable times, so Governments worldwide, take a penetrating interest in the use of the Internet by their citizens. Some, more than others, of course. But, it is fair to assume, that in a broad sense, we are all under surveillance, at all times, while connected to the Internet.

While I have no faith whatsoever, that those in power will continue to use the gathered information in a restricted, and appropriate fashion – it’s not something that I dwell on. After all, there is nothing I can do about it – so, I’m forced to slot it into my comfort zone.

But, what if I lived in a country that not only had “follow” technology in place,      but censored my access to the Internet; effectively, forbidding access to areas of the Internet, or specific web sites, that are at odds with the prevailing political status quo?

One of the saving graces of technology is – no matter the restrictions that one form of technology can put in place, additional technology exists that can effectively bypass these restrictions. Cyber criminals rely on this “truism”.

In the case of Internet censorship, the technology tool of choice, at an individual user level is, an anonymous surfing application. Interestingly, previous reviews of anonymous surfing applications on this site, have been read disproportionately by readers from Middle Eastern countries.

The use of anonymous surfing applications is not restricted to breaking through censorship barriers of course. There are more obvious reasons, you may have, for anonymous surfing, including – surfing in internet cafes, public terminals in libraries, or hotel business centers.

In fact, you may want to surf anonymously on any PC where you don’t want to leave traces of your private surfing activities to ensure protection from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, or curious family members.

Once it’s pointed out, most typical PC users are amazed at the amount of information their browser provides to web sites they visit. For example, the information below is available to every web site I visit. I have blacked out certain parameters for privacy purposes only. This screen capture illustrates “in the clear surfing”, without benefit of an anonymizer.

JonDo 1

When surfing anonymously, your web browser talks to the proxy server; the proxy server talks to the web site. Effectively, this means the web site does not know you; it knows only the anonymous proxy server.

The following screen capture illustrates the information that is now available to websites, and others, while running anonymously with JonDo, the application covered in the following review.

JonDo 2

Installing the JonDo application is a two stage process (for Firefox users). In the first step, you will install the main application which is then followed by installing JonDoFox.

The significant benefit here is – you will now have an additional Firefox user profile exclusively dedicated to running the JonDo anonymizer application. Your original Firefox profile remains untouched.

This setup is actually not complicated, despite the two stage process. This new profile includes a number of Firefox privacy and security add-ons – Adblock Plus, CS Lite, NoScript, DownloadHelper, and ProfileSwitcher.

The following screen captures illustrate the install process, and the resulting user profile choices you will now have when launching Firefox.

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Recommendation: If you’re looking for a free application which will keep your web surfing private, JonDo is definitely worth a look.

System requirements: Windows, Mac, Linux. Java Runtime Environment.

Download at: anonymous-proxy-servers.net

Although, I didn’t notice an appreciable lag while testing this application, you should keep in mind that like all anonymizer applications/services, you may notice a slowdown in surfing speeds while using JonDo.

Bonus: JonDo is compatible with PortableApps.

For additional information on this open source application, visit the developers site.

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Filed under Anonymous Surfing, Browser add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Portable Applications, Privacy, Software, Surveillance, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

BetterPrivacy Firefox Add-on Kills Flash Cookies

imageIf you hear something repeated often enough, then that “something” takes on a veneer of truth. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true of course – but, it appears to be true. The “truth” regarding Internet site cookies, falls into that category.

Most of us have heard that “truth” – without cookies (and now, Flash cookies), your Web experience would be terrible. You’d be starting from scratch each time you did anything on a given site online. Or, something along that line.

Nonsense! For years, I have deleted cookies at every Browser shut down, and have experienced no perceptible difference in performance when visiting the same 30 or so sites, that I visit every day

Here’s the reality:

imageCookies are there for the benefit of advertisers; not the web site visitor – plain and simple. Keep in mind, that it’s critically important to advertisers to generate advertising that is specific to the web site visitor at the time of the visit – not later, but right then. And a cookie is the tool that facilitates this happening.

Luckily, Internet browsers can be set to allow full user control over cookies including accepting, rejecting, or wiping private data which includes wiping cookies. That is, until recently.

It appears that a user’s decision to control cookies, in this way, is simply not acceptable to advertisers and certain web sites, and so, we now have the Flash Cookie (LSO) – Local Shared Objects.

There is a major advantage for an advertiser to employ Flash cookies, not the least of which is; they are virtually unknown to the average user. Equally as important, from an advertisers perspective is; they remain active on a system even after the user has cleared cookies and privacy settings.

This practice of  web sites dropping Flash cookies onto your computer, which occurs without your knowledge or permission,  according to some in the security community, is akin to hacking. Frankly, I agree.

If you think this practice is restricted to shady web sites, you’d be wrong. Of the top 100 web sites, 50+ use Flash Cookies. So, I was not particularly surprised, when I found some of my favorite sites involved in this invasive practice.

I first wrote on the issue of Flash Cookies back in September 2009, and since then, I’ve watched as these obnoxious web trackers and privacy invaders multiply like a virus.

Quick Flash cookie facts:

They never expire

Can store up to 100 KB of information compared to a text cookie’s 4 KB.

Internet browsers are not aware of those cookies.

LSO’s usually cannot be removed by browsers.

Using Flash they can access and store highly specific personal and technical information (system, user name, files,…).

Can send the stored information to the appropriate server, without user’s permission.

Flash applications do not need to be visible.

There is no easy way to tell which flash-cookie sites are tracking you.

Shared folders allow cross-browser tracking – LSO’s work in every flash-enabled application

No user-friendly way to manage LSO’s, in fact it’s incredible cumbersome.

Many domains and tracking companies make extensive use of flash-cookies.

If you value your privacy, then without a doubt you need to control these highly invasive objects, and if you are a Firefox user there is a solution – BetterPrivacy – a free Firefox add-on.

From the BetterPrivacy page:

“Better Privacy serves to protect against not delectable, long-term cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which silently conquered the internet.

This new cookie generation offers unlimited user tracking to industry and market research. Concerning privacy Flash- and DOM Storage objects are most critical.

This add-on was made to make users aware of those hidden, never expiring objects and to offer an easy way to get rid of them – since browsers are unable to do that for you”.

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Download at: Mozilla

Simple HTTP cookies (ordinary cookies), can be subject to attack by cyber criminals, so it won’t be long before flash cookies will be subject to the same manipulation. Better you should learn how to control them now – not later.

Privacy, in all areas of our life is under constant attack, but that shouldn’t mean that we give up. We need to learn to fight back with every tool that’s available.

I have tried to write this article in a non-technical way, to make it easy for the average computer user to understand. For a more detailed breakdown on flash cookies, and the danger they represent to personal privacy, checkout The Electronic Privacy Information Center.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Firefox Add-ons, Flash Cookies, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Point of View, Privacy, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Surveillance, Windows Tips and Tools

Safeguard Your Online Privacy – Use This Tool To Opt Out Of Ad Network Programs

image This is going to take some work on your part, but it’s possible to opt out of certain behavioral advertising programs by utilizing a service provided by the NAI (Network Advertising Initiative).

The NAI describe the organization as follows – “The NAI (Network Advertising Initiative) is a cooperative of online marketing and analytics companies committed to building consumer awareness and establishing responsible business and data management practices and standards.

In conjunction with industry leaders, regulatory agencies, federal and state legislators and others, the NAI has also addressed the business dimension of the privacy debate through the development of actionable self-regulatory standards that establish and reward responsible marketing behavior. To date, the NAI has developed standards for 3rd party ad networks and cookies, spam, and Web beacons.”

The Opt-out Tool  provided by NAI, allows you to “examine your computer to identify those member companies that have placed an advertising cookie file on your computer.” But, I suggest you skip by this process. Instead, choose the “Select All” button, followed by clicking the “Submit” button. According to NAI, your opt-out status will then be confirmed.

The list of members is considerable and I have posted just a very few, as follows.

AudienceScience

Bizo

BlueKai

Burst Media’s adConductor

Casale Media

DataLogix

Dedicated Networks

eXelate Media

Fox Audience Network

Google

InterCLICK

Invite Media

Lotame

Microsoft (Atlas Technology)

Microsoft Advertising

Quantcast

33Across

24/7 Real Media

The NAI provides a fairly comprehensive FAQ page, that you should consider checking out. Click here for more information.

The NAI Home Page: Go here

Frankly, I have no idea whether taking this proactive step to safeguard your privacy will have long term benefits, but I think it’s worth trying.

A big “Thank You”, to a very cool regular reader, Nightjar, for pointing me towards this free service.

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Filed under Interconnectivity, Internet Paranoia, Point of View, Privacy, Recommended Web Sites, Surveillance, Windows Tips and Tools