Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Best Free Anonymous Surfing Services

Introduction

Anonymous Browsing ApplicationsThis is the 21st century, the so-called Digital Age, an age where information is more public than it is private. The sheer growth and pervasiveness of the Internet have led to privacy concerns for a great number of people.
As we are entitled to our privacy in the physical world, why not so in the virtual one as well? There are many genuine reasons for why some persons wish to stay anonymous on the Internet, reasons ranging from simple precaution, to more extreme behavior such as hiding browsing activities from a spouse and averting coercive authority.
We are not here to debate the legal, moral or ethical issues surrounding anonymity on the Internet, but merely to provide you with reviews of several methods you can take to achieve it. The programs listed here are classified as free software, and you should never have to pay a penny for any of them. After all, privacy is a fundamental right of ours, and we should not have to pay to obtain it. Indeed, if you have already paid for any of these programs, then I recommend that you demand a refund.
You will find that these programs are of the most help at internet cafes, libraries, schools, workplaces, and public or prepaid Wi-Fi hotspots, and any other common place where there is surely a greater need for discretion. On the other hand, depending on your reasons, they are also perfect products for use in your own home in order to prevent curious prying eyes and even your ISP from taking advantage of the opportunity to monitor you. Although there can be no guarantees of achieving 100% anonymity online, the following free programs do a great job toward that end in the ubiquitous ether we know as the Internet.
Ultimately, anonymity comes down to two essential means:
  1. The Browser - this is your primary point of entry to the World Wide Web and the means through which others can access data about you. If you are serious about your anonymity on the Internet, it is essential that you change the configuration of your browser to prevent the revealing of your information.
  2. The Software - this is the nuts and bolts of the anonymity machine that deals with network data traffic and where to route it. Normally, our network data flows straight through to our ISP on its way to and from our home networks, meaning that our ISP can easily keep tabs on us all the time. Specialized software allows us to encrypt our network data so that when it passes through our ISP, they would be unable to see what the content is, as well as its final destination.
There are a few types of connections which enable anonymous surfing:
  • P2P - peer-to-peer is a decentralized network that routes data through multiple peers as identifiable data pieces by location-independent keys. It is generally secure but could potentially be insecure as a peer could log information about the data passing through it.
  • Proxies - routing machines named proxy servers continuously act upon your transfer requests to forward data, allowing you to avoid direct communications with the telltale point of contact where the data packets usually would be handled. It is secure to a degree, though in fact routes can only be technically random and any logging of this passing data means vulnerability. 
  • VPN - a virtual private network that securely tunnels all of your information from one point to another, in essence meaning your data transfer appears to initiate from a remote machine. Generally very secure but could potentially be insecure as the remote server could log information easily about the data that you send or receive through it.
With the popularity of portable USB devices increasing, it is now possible to run portable versions of software which do not interfere with the client machine configuration. JonDo, Tor and many other anonymity programs listed here are now fully portable and may work under restricted conditions such as being behind a corporate firewall. However, this does not sanction the fact that you can breach your company's acceptable use policy.
Discussion
Cross-Platform Solutions
JonDo (previously known as JAP) is a VPN client written in Java for routing data across the JonDo network. Unfortunately, being Java based means that the application is rather bloated. Even so, to make up for this large amount of memory consumption, JonDo does have an attractive and user-friendly GUI, which displays lots of visual information about your connection to the JonDo network. Additionally, Java-based also means that it is truly cross-platform.
The free service offers 30-50 kBit/s speeds and unlimited bandwidth. The commercial option offers a lot more features such as higher speeds, access to all ports and SOCKS5 support.
The JonDonym group provide a free browser profile for Firefox called JonDoFox. It is preconfigured to be highly anonymous out of the box and features lots of useful add-ons, such as No-Script, CS Lite and AdBlock Plus. Because it is completely free and has all these outstanding features, I highly recommend it to anybody that is serious about anonymity. Bear in mind, however, that JonDo does set limits on the number of users allowed for all of their free servers, and this limited capacity means that its network is often overloaded at peak times. Consequently, you may not be able to connect on your first attempt.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating:  Slow. 30kbps-50kbps (Dial-up speeds).
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Minimal. They log bandwidth usage for accounting purposes.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent (WOT is explained much further down).
  • 76MB of RAM usage when running.
  • There is a portable version available.

Vidalia is a client front-end that comes bundled with Tor and Polipo, and their purpose is to route data across the Tor network. There are quite a few bundles offered for users to get started relatively quickly. If you do not opt for the preconfigured Tor browser bundle, you must configure your machine's local proxy port to use Vidalia's default port of 8118 in order to use the programs. Like JonDo, Vidalia constantly changes your IP in order to mask your Internet trail to provide greater anonymity.
There are not that many features or complicated configuration options. It is a basic front-end, which strives to keep the user's experience as 'simple' as possible while the backend to Tor, which is largely hidden, is itself very complicated. The program also allows users to become relays for the Tor network, helping censored users connect to the network undetected. There is also an eye-candy feature which shows a map of Earth with lines representing connections to the Tor server participants and very nice bandwidth graphs.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Generally slow
  • Anonymity Rating: Medium-Low
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level:   Unknown. It varies from peer to peer. Some may log you and some may not. Review this page for more info about entry and exit nodes.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.
  • There is a portable version available.
  • 24 - 32MB RAM usage when running with an additional 4MB used for Polipo and another 16.5 MB for the Tor engine.

PacketiX.NET is free service offered by SoftEther Corp as an academic experiment run by the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Unlike Hotspot Shield and countless other VPN clients, it is not based on OpenVPN but instead uses a proprietary system. Like most other VPN connections, it encrypts all of your Internet activities.
The actual client itself is very customisable and powerful, allowing you to get the most out of your VPN connection. There are a number of features from setting the number of TCP connections and enabling data compression to maximize throughput. The actual speed you get ultimately depends on your geographic location in relation to Japan. This means that a lot of people may experience slow connections (especially Europeans). The GUI is very simple and easy to use. Installation is rather simple, but you need to download the client and an additional configuration file. They have a nice tutorial on their website that guides you through the whole process to make it easier for you.
Although they do keep logs, they are open about it. You have to read and accept an agreement stating that you will not use the service 'to do crime' as they put it. As long as you're not doing anything you shouldn't be doing, it should not concern you greatly.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Medium
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: High. Logs are kept permanently.
  • Server Location(s): Japan
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.
  • 19MB of RAM usage when running.

JanusVM is based on VMware and is a type of product often referred to as an "Appliance" in the parlance of virtualization software, which means basically that it is a group of programs and settings preconfigured by and large from the vendor, and usually ready to run "out of the box," so to speak. In this case, specifically, it is an Internet Privacy Appliance comprised of Tor, Privoxy, Squid and OpenVPN, which run in a virtual machine as a preconfigured client. This really is a superior product compared to other Tor solutions as it combines the power of Tor, Privoxy, Squid and OpenVPN to increase anonymity.
I would recommend this option for intermediate to advanced computer users as it is not simply a case of 'click-click-done' by any means, in spite of what the terminology suggests. It requires the installation of VMware Player (which is free), the configuration of a VPN connection and some background reading (albeit quite minimal). There is also a nicely-made video tutorial for beginners who want to try out this solution. VMware Player is required to be running every time you want to use JanusVM. While this may not be an issue for most, those with older hardware might struggle to deploy a virtual machine, if they can manage it at all. Apart from these potential technical difficulties with running the virtual machine, it can be highly inconvenient for some to have it running all the time. This is the kind of decision you will have to make when considering anonymity options. One hundred and twenty-eight MB of RAM is a bare minimum to run a virtual machine! Still, if you have only this amount of RAM available, you should consider first upgrading to a higher amount.
In addition, once JanusVM is set up correctly, you will then have to configure your operating system's network connection manager to dial into JanusVM. The people over at project JanusVM also offer a hardware based solution, dubbed JanusPA. It is really interesting as it encrypts all of your data going through your ADSL modem or router, meaning literally nothing can get through that is not 'Torified', that is, running through the Tor network. More information can be found here. Even though they are currently out of stock of this hardware device, it is worth a look anyway.
Here are some technical points regarding the solution:
  • Speed Rating: Generally slow
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Unknown. It varies from peer to peer. Some may log you and some may not. Review this page for more info about entry and exit nodes.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent
  • 53  MB of RAM usage when running.

proXPN is a VPN client based on OpenVPN; however, there is a PPTP service also on offer for mobile phone users. They currently have servers located in the USA and are looking to expand into Europe.  Therefore, speeds vary depending on your location. Overall, speeds are generally very fast for most users. With it being a VPN client, it encrypts all of your Internet activities. They use a 512-bit level of encryption with 2,048-bit certificates for users to achieve high levels of anonymity.
Unfortunately, registration is mandatory in order to use the service. Of course, for the extremely paranoid folk among you, fake details may be provided, but a real e-mail address must be used in order to activate an account. Then again, this e-mail address could also be anonymous. Sorry if I confused anyone with that last sentence!
The GUI is very basic and user-friendly. Even so, it could use a little reworking, like removal of some tabs and integrating some controls into one window for starters. One problem I encountered is that proXPN appears to run on start-up by default for me and cannot be stopped easily. As far as I know, this problem occurs only in Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. Use the comments section for assistance with this. It's available for a wide variety of operating systems, including Microsoft's modern operating systems, such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows Mobile, as well as a range of Apple based operating systems, such as Mac OS, iPhone and iPod Touch. It may work for older operating systems such as Windows 98 and 95, but they are not officially supported.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Free accounts are limited to 100kbps.
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Minimal. They log connection time and date, your bandwidth usage and your registration details. Logs are kept for a roughly 2 weeks.
  • Server Location(s): USA
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:   Excellent.
  • 3.6MB of RAM usage when running (+3MB for OpenVPN).

USAIP is a PPTP/L2TP/OpenVPN VPN service. Having servers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary and China, their network should deliver good connection speeds to most people around the world.
Because PPTP and L2TP are protocols and not applications, they are not bound to any one operating system, even though Microsoft played a major part in their development. As a result, you can make use of the USAIP service with the standard network connection manager program found in most any Windows distribution, such as Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, even older Windows systems such as Windows ME, Windows 98 and Windows 95.
Additionally, the USAIP services may be used in other operating systems as well, such as MAC OS and Linux, which already include VPN clients within their respective operating systems. The program effectively tunnels all of your data through this service.  Consequently, not only your web browsing session is anonymous, but all of your Internet activities are likewise so. This is indispensable for applications that use other protocols, such as UDP. I used to play online games using this service, and my ping was higher than many of the programs listed here can offer.
The free service has unlimited bandwidth, and you can use it for as long as you wish. However, there is one big catch. They allow you to try their service for absolutely nothing but disconnect you every seven minutes to entice you to upgrade to one of their premium packages. Actually, this caveat sounds a lot worse than it actually is, and we cannot complain too much because we can, after all, automatically redial immediately after we have been disconnected. Most of the network connection programs have an automatic redial function available, so make good use of it. In many cases being disconnected every 7 minutes can be unnoticeable, but if you are playing online games frequently, as I noted earlier, then getting disconnected is going to be very noticeable! Indeed, I would prefer using this service as a backup to some of the other services listed on this page.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Fast
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Minimal. They log bandwidth usage and keep them for 48 hours.
  • Server Location(s): USA UK Germany The Netherlands China
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:  Unknown.

VPNReactor is a L2TP/PPTP/OpenVPN VPN service similar to USAIP. They currently only have servers in the USA, so speeds may vary.
Most of the points that were mentioned about USAIP apply to this product too. While the free service also has unlimited bandwidth and usage, the only major difference is that the VPN connection disconnects every 30 minutes. Registration is mandatory, and they also require users to reactivate their accounts monthly. I'm not sure if they support mobile devices, but in theory they should support any devices that use PPTP or L2PT.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Fast
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Minimal
  • Server Location(s): USA
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.
Your Freedom is a Java-based "sophisticated tunneling solution" offered by resolution GmbH. Again, being Java-based means that it is truly a cross-platform solution. The GUI lacks elegance, and it looks plain and simple, even for Java. On the other hand, they have servers located worldwide, have support for lots of protocols, for instance, UDP, and they allow you to play online games using the tunnel.
However, the speeds are on the slow side: 64 kbit/s dial-up speed for free users. They also limit usage of the proxy tunnel for up to 6 hours per day or up to 15 hours per week. It's not much at all and that is why I recommend this service rather as a backup solution. They only keep logs of your statistical data for accounting purposes.
  • Speed Rating: Slow. 64kbits/s (Dial-up speed).
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Low. Up to 6 hours per day and up to 15 hours per week.
  • Logging Level: Minimal. They only keep logs of part of your IP (16-bit or half of your IP address) and your statistical data for accounting purposes only and are usually deleted within 4 weeks.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • Operating System(s):
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.

Windows Based Solutions
The xB Browser (or XeroBank Browser, previously known as TorPark) is a Firefox and Tor bundle. It was at one time unique compared to the other Tor programs, offered as an 'all-in-one' solution. You can start surfing anonymously straight out-of-the-box. Firefox users will feel comfortable using the XeroBank Browser as it is based on the same browser. Speeds vary as they do with all Tor connections, but you will find they are usually quite slow. You may be able to speed things up somewhat by disabling images (add-on download required).
Here are some technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Slow
  • Anonymity Rating: Medium-Low
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Unknown. It varies from peer to peer. Some may log you and some may not. Review this page for more info about entry and exit nodes.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.

Hotspot Shield is a free VPN client based on OpenVPN. Unlike other anonymous surfing options, such as JonDo or Tor, Hotspot Shield encrypts all of your Internet activities and not just web browsing. This is ideal for people who want to anonymise other applications without the need to 'proxify' them, which can be a complicated and tedious task.
Anchorfree does not collect any identifiable information about you, so you can rest assured that your privacy is not compromised. Another advantage to using this option compared to others is its speed. I was pleasantly surprised when I first used Hotspot Shield as the speed was noticeably much faster than Tor and JonDo's free servers combined. It can load web pages nearly as fast as my unencrypted connection can even in ideal circumstances.
One catch to the service, however, is that Anchorfree displays advertisements on every web page that you visit. Luckily, those who have the AdBlock Plus and NoScript addon for Firefox won't see ANY adverts at all; but those who use Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari or any other browsers without equivalent plug-ins will see them. This isn't necessarily a bad deal considering what you are getting; namely, a commercial-like service for the sake of a few adverts (or none if you're a Firefox/AdBlock Plus/NoScript user). If you really cannot tolerate the advertisements, then I highly recommend that you use JonDoFox, a free Firefox profile which includes all the necessary plugins (including AdBlock Plus and NoScript) for greater anonymity and to block Hotspot Shield's adverts.
We've already sung the praises about JonDoFox above in the JonDo review, I really recommend you get it! Hotspot shield can seem a bit intrusive as it always loads with Windows and cannot be stopped unless you disable its services. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for fast computers but if you're using something with minimal resources, then you'll want to preserve as much RAM as possible. In that case I would suggest you configure your operating system to disable HotSpot shield's services, of which there are three in total. If you're a regular user, this may be an advantage to you!
Now for a few technical points regarding the program.  There is no standalone GUI for the program, but instead it uses a web page interface.  It is very simple to use as it has only two buttons, connect and disconnect.  It is a relatively small download (5258kB), which includes the necessary OpenVPN components, and it uses around 68Mb of memory when running. No registration is required.  Anchorfree has a number of high-speed dedicated servers based in different locations in the United States.
More information about the data that Achorfree does collect can be found at this page. Achorfree also offers a UK version of this popular product called ExpatShield, which can be used to access the popular BBC iPlayer serivce from outside the UK.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Fast
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Medium. 5 GB per month.
  • Logging Level: Minimal. They log connection times and volume of traffic.
  • Server Location(s): USA UK
  • WOT  Rating:  Good.

AdvTor is a powerful alternative to the Vidalia bundle and as the name suggests, it is built with the advanced Tor user in mind. You can customise pretty much any aspect of your Tor connection, from bandwidth throttling to manual entry or exit node selection. One of its nicest features is the ability to force a program to use your Tor connection! Although that particular feature is in a Beta stage, I've managed to get various programs to work with it. This feature is very promising. Try it yourself, force a program such as an instant messaging client to use Tor without changing its internal proxy settings. This is great for applications that simply refuse to use your Tor connection.
It's important to note that Tor does not support the UDP protocol, so programs that use this protocol will send and receive UDP packets unencrypted over your network connection and untouched by Tor. As far as I know, there is no way to route UDP packets over the Tor network and there are no plans to implement such a feature.
The GUI isn't particularly elegant or user-friendly, but for all it lacks in looks, it makes up for in features. A must have for advanced Tor users.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Slow (high with custom configuration)
  • Anonymity Rating: Medium-High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Unknown. It varies from peer to peer. Some may log you and some may not. Review this page for more info about entry and exit nodes. (Minimal with custom configuration)
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.
  • 8MB of RAM usage when running.
  • There is no installer file. The program is provided in a Zip archive.
  • Since there is no installer, the program is fully portable.

SecurityKiss is a simple Windows VPN client based on OpenVPN. They have servers located in Germany, the United States of America, The United Kingdom, Switzerland and are looking to expand into other locations. Speeds are relatively fast depending on your location to the nearest server. They do not cap speeds and use data compression to ensure you get the very best connection.
There is a 300 MB per day limit for free users, which they insist will always be free, will never decrease but may increase in the future. This would work out as roughly 9GB a month, which is more than adequate for surfing the web or very light to moderate downloading activities.
The GUI is very basic; it features a connect and a disconnect button, a button to change servers and a button to leave feedback. It also displays how much of your daily download quota has been used and how long before a new cycle begins.
SecurityKiss insist they do not keep personally identifiable data about their users and only log your IP addresses, connection/disconnection times and traffic volume. They use the 128-bit Blowfish algorithm to encrypt session data and use 1024-bit RSA certificates for session keys. Therefore, users can be assured that nobody can eavesdrop on your data.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Fast
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Medium 300 MB per day
  • Logging Level: Minimal. They only log your IP address, connection/disconnection times and traffic volume which are kept permanently.
  • Server Location(s): USA UK Germany Switzerland Canada
  • WOT  Rating:  Unknown.
  • 2MB of RAM usage when running (+3MB for OpenVPN).
  • Available for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows.

UltraSurf is a VPN program for Windows. They have servers located in USA and collect the following data about you; your IP; the properties of browser and/or your computer; the number of links you click within a site; state or country from which you accessed the site; date and time of your visit; name of your ISP; web page you linked to our site from; and pages you viewed on the site.
The GUI is very basic with a few standard Windows-like buttons to access options, help and to exit the program. There are radio buttons for server selection and that's all that is interesting about the GUI apart from the server utilisation displays which are helpful in deciding which server is currently the fastest.
At the moment, users are unable to change the default port (9666) to a custom one. Users should be aware of any restrictions that prevent the program from listening on that port before attempting to use it. NB: Some antivirus programs falsely identify Ultrasurf as a virus/trojan as it can penetrate through firewalls. This is a false positive. Please be aware of this if you get any alerts and such.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Fast
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: High. UltraSurf collect the following data; your IP; the properties of browser and/or your computer; the number of links you click within a site; state or country from which you accessed the site; date and time of your visit; name of your ISP; web page you linked to our site from; and pages you viewed on the site.
  • Server Location(s): USA
  • WOT  Rating:  Good.
  • 5MB of RAM usage when running.

CyberGhost VPN is a VPN client offered by S.A.D. GmbH, whose servers are based in Germany. It uses 128-bit AES encryption on all connections to ensure a high level of anonymity and special data compression techniques to make speeds faster. With its free service, you get 1 GB a month, which is more than enough for surfing the web.
It has a clean, intuitive and user-friendly GUI. It supports lots of languages including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish. This is a more complete solution compared with others listed here, one which is great for everyone. You may have to wait in a queue during peak times due to the service's popularity.  I am very pleased with this product and believe that it is well worth a good look to anybody serious about his or her privacy and anonymity.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Fast
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Low (1 GB a month)
  • Logging Level: Unknown. Awaiting a response from the CyberGhost VPN team.
  • Server Location(s): Germany
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.
  • 27MB of RAM usage when running.
  • You must register in order to use this service.

Freegate is a free proxy offered by Dynamic Internet Technology Inc. This specific program offers unrestrictred access for Chinese users but restricted access for all others. The extent of this restriction is unknown, but I have successfully managed to search Google, load up YouTube and Facebook without hassle. Obviously, this feature makes it a great choice for Chinese users.
  • Speed Rating: Medium.
  • Anonymity Rating: Medium.
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited.
  • Logging Level: Unknown.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent.
  • 15 MB of RAM usage when running.
  • Fully Portable.

Project Loki is a VPN client based on OpenVPN. As far as I can tell, they have servers located in the UK only. Speeds for free users are not good at all (56k downspeed) but they have an unlimited bandwidth quota (which may seem pointless considering the speeds). Also, free users are disconnected frequently after a period of up to 30 minutes.
That was the bad news, now here is some good news about Project Loki. It has a good set of security features including remote DNS management, forcing connections through Project Loki and an active connection manager. They do not keep logs that personally identify you but they do keep logs of connection times and traffic for performance monitoring purposes. It's a good backup service to have if nothing else.
  • Speed Rating: Slow
  • Anonymity Rating: Medium
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Minimal
  • Server Location(s): UK
  • WOT  Rating:  Good.
  • 19 MB of RAM usage when running.

Linux Based Solutions
The (Amnesic) Incognito Live System is a Debian-based (i.e., Linux) Live CD. It can be downloaded as an ISO file and then burned to a CD. Then, the user simply boots from the CD, which now contains everything needed to run the OS in RAM without installing any of it to the disk. It will automatically configure your internet connection using your system's ethernet interface. Vidalia is bundled with the CD, which forces all connections to go through the Tor network. Absolutely no data is stored when using the Live CD unless you explicity configure it to do so. However, data may be stored on a Live USB setup if you like.
The Gnome GUI is very clean and intuitive, as well as easy to use. It is similar to the popular Debian-based Ubuntu distribution. You get some essential software such as an instant messaging client (Pidgin), a secure browser with Tor button (Iceweasel) and an e-mail client (Claws).
Lots of other software packages are also included to help you work productively, such as OpenOffice.org. Lots of network devices are supported out-of-the-box but if you require support, visit their forum here.You do not need a speedy machine in order to use the Live CD as merely 256 MB of RAM or greater is recommended, 128 MB being a bare minimum. One can't complain too much anyway, given the nice pricetag.  :)
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Medium
  • Anonymity Rating: High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Unknown. It varies from peer to peer. Some may log you and some may not. Review this page for more info about entry and exit nodes.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • WOT  Rating:  Good

Estrella Roja (Red Star) is a Linux-based Live CD. It comes with Tor and Privoxy which are used to route all data across the Tor network. You have a choice of desktop environment, KDE (minimum of 256 MB of RAM) or Fluxbox (minimum of 32 MB of RAM). It also includes a ton of great open-source software. It must be noted that this distribution is entirely in Spanish, so I recommend it for advanced users only or intermediate users who understand the Spanish language. Here is a heads up on some of the difficulties you may have;
  • The root password is 'estrella' by default.
  • To start Tor, open up a Konsole by right clicking on a blank space on the desktop, click 'Ejecution orden', type 'Konsole' and hit return. Then type the following command; 'sudo tor'. It will then prompt you for a password, which is 'estrella'. Now that Tor is running, open up Firefox and click the Tor logo (an onion) at the bottom right hand side of the window.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Slow
  • Anonymity Rating: Medium-High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Unknown. It varies from peer to peer. Some may log you and some may not. Review this page for more info about entry and exit nodes.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • WOT  Rating:  Unknown

Privatix is by design almost identical to (Amnesic) Incognito Live System. One significant difference is that the default browser configuration is Firefox with the Tor button. If you want more information on Privatix, read the Amnesic section as most of the points regarding that product apply to this one too. Alternatively, you can visit the project's website here.
Here are some of my personal ratings and a few technical points regarding the program:
  • Speed Rating: Slow
  • Anonymity Rating: Medium-High
  • Usage Allowance: Unlimited
  • Logging Level: Unknown. It varies from peer to peer. Some may log you and some may not. Review this page for more info about entry and exit nodes.
  • Server Location(s): Worldwide
  • WOT  Rating:  Excellent

Test Your Anonymity
JonDonym's Anontest is a free comprehensive anonymity test. It displays all the information that sites can obtain from you simply by visiting them. Lots of sites gather information about you when you visit which is used to enhance your site experience; however, lots of the information you give out to them is not needed.
Enter; Anontest. It clearly identifies areas of your configuration that are not as secure as they should be and gives suggestions as to how to fix them. Areas are colour coded with easy traffic light colours; red being highly insecure/bad and green being secure/good. They also have a number of other neat features for the 'techies':
  • IP Whois
  • Show IP location on a map
  • Traceroute
Curious to know what websites can gather from you just by visting them? Take the Anontest and see for yourself! It's one of the most essential tools I use to test anonymity.
NB: This test may falsely identify your IP and User-Agent as 'insecure', but this may not necessarily be the correct conclusion. The reason it does this is because the test was designed for JonDo+JonDoFox.

Test Your Speed
Speedtest.net is a free service that allows users to test their Internet connection speed based on their location. You can use this to test the speed of your connection when using the products listed above to help you decide which is the fastest solution for you. Be sure to select the nearest server to your location for accurate results. You should be aware that there is generally a trade off between speed and anonymity, especially with free products.

Noteworthy Add-ons for Firefox Users
HTTPS  Everywhere is an add-on for the Firefox browser developed by Electronic Frontier Foundation and supported by The Tor Project , and its purpose is to force your browser into making certain websites to use the secure HTTPS protocol instead of the standard HTTP protocol. Currently, the number of sites it supports is limited by predefined rule-sets, the list of which is growing through updates made periodically. However, custom websites may be added on an ad hoc basis so that users can access other websites using the HTTPS protocol. By using this add-on, or by accessing HTTPS websites where possible, you can automatically increase your level of anonymity. You will find a thorough and fascinating discussion of this topic on the website where it is supported, www.eff.org. Here are but a few of the many sites supported by this excellent Firefox extension:
  • Faceboook
  • GMX
  • Google
  • Ixquick
  • Live (Hotmail)
  • Meebo
  • Microsoft
  • Mozilla
  • NY Times
  • PayPal
  • Twitter
  • Washington Post
  • Wikipedia
  • WordPress
WOT is an add-on that promotes 'safe browsing' and advises users which sites are considered 'safe' and which are 'not so safe' based on a ratings system. It uses traffic light colours to indicate the level of safety for a site; green is considered safe and trustworthy whereas red means not so safe and generally untrustworthy.
With the program being so easy to use, any member of the family can use it, including children and the elderly. It's not just available for Firefox either, it's available for most of the major browsers including Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera. Once you've installed the program, you'll become part of the WOT Internet community, and have the chance to rate websites. WOT helps you make informed choices about the websites you visit, and by avoiding untrustworthy and potentially 'dangerous' websites, you increase your level of anonymity.
NoScript is a popular add-on that blocks JavaScript, Java and Adobe Flash elements. All of these are capable of revealing your true IP address and/or compromising your system. With NoScript, you can manually select which elements you wish to run. If you're the type of person that regularly watches videos on YouTube, then it's most likely that YouTube is obtaining your true IP address every time you watch a video, regardless of the fact you're using a proxy or VPN. I would suggest that you download the video via a service such as KeepVid. NB:  Some websites need Javascript, Java or Flash to work properly. Verify whether you trust the website and be selective.
CSLite is an add-on that controls how your system deals with cookies. Cookies are small files which store information about you on your visit to a website. They are stored on your local computer. Obviously, we don't want lots of websites to store cookies on our computer, so this add-on allows you to manually allow cookies for websites that you trust. NB:  Some websites need cookies to work properly. Verify whether you trust the website and be selective.
AdBlock Plus is another popular add-on that blocks adverts on webpages. The reason why it's so popular is because it does exactly what it says on tin; it blocks ads making your web experience that little bit better.
Coming soon...DownloadHelper...JonDoFox...FireForm

Anonymous Search Engines
Ixquick is the world's most private search engine and earned the first European Privacy Seal. Logs are destroyed after 48 hours and there are no cookies. It has a built-in proxy function to allow you to visit the search results anonymously via one of the company's own secure proxies. This provides an additional layer of anonymity when used together with one of the products listed above.
Scroogle is a simple anonymous search engine. It's basically a stripped down version of Google's official search engine without all your information being exposed. No frills, just anonymity.
NB As of February 2012 Scroogle no longer exists.

Anonymous E-mail
Anonymous E-mail is a truly anonymous e-mail service which uses random remailers of the mixmaster remailer network. Unfortunately, you cannot receive replies and track the e-mail. It can take up to 12 hours for the recipient to receive the message. In order to ensure your anonymity is not compromised, consider using one of the  programs listed above.
Safe-mail is a secure and anonymous e-mail service. You can define your own e-mail address with the @safe-mail.net domain. As a free user, you get a whopping 3 MB of storage, no downloads, no cookies and no ads. It also includes file storage, secure chat, photo storage, jotter, calender, your own secure messageboard, spam filters and virus protection. It works with most browsers and is compatiable with the following protocols:
  • POP
  • SMTP
  • IMAP
  • S/MIME
  • PKI
Finally, a few tips:
  • If you set a password, don't forget it! It is impossible to retreive it from them.
  • Try to use one of the programs listed above with this service to increase your anonymity.
HushMail is an anonymous e-mail service. It's very reliable, secure and completely anonymous. You can define your own e-mail address or generate one and can choose from one of the following domains;
  • @hushmail.com
  • @hushmail.me
  • @hush.com
  • @hush.ai
  • @mac.hush.com
As a free user, you get a whopping 2 MB of storage! In order to keep using the service, you must login at least once every 3 weeks. Finally, a few tips:
  • If you set a password, don't forget it! It is impossible to retreive it from them.
  • Try to use one of the programs listed above with this service to increase your anonymity.
  • Choose a good encryption question and answer to increase anonymity.
10 Minute Mail is a disposable e-mail service. This service is especially useful for signups and activations where you do not want to disclose your real e-mail address. This acts as a good spam prevention method. A random e-mail is generated and is updated automatically when e-mails arrive.
As the name suggests, the mailbox only lasts for time minutes until it self destructs. However, if you need to use the mailbox for a little bit longer, you can request another 10 minutes quite easily and repeat as many times as required. Highly anonymous as your mail is destroyed after 10 minutes. You cannot send e-mails using this service.
Yopmail is a disposable e-mail service. It is a little more sophisticated than 10 Minute Mail and allows you to define your own e-mail address @yopmail.com or generate a random one. The accounts last for 8 days and then it expires. Again, useful for signups and activations where you do not want to disclose your real e-mail address. You can only send e-mails to other Yopmail users using this service.

A Final Note...
I would suggest that you try to avoid web-based HTTP/CGI proxies. They are not serious tools for achieving anonymity, but are a great tool for accessing blocked content. Remember, requests are still sent to your ISP unencrypted and then on to the proxy server, which you may know very little about, and then out to the Internet. If we don't know anything about the host we're sending our data to, how can we be sure we can trust them? This isn't very anonymous at all, is it? :-)
Services like HideMy*** can be seen as trustworthy, as they have a good track record in the business of anonymisation and proxies. I can only recommend 'elite' or 'highly anonymous' HTTP proxies are genuine solutions. Choose your proxy solution wisely.

Legal Statement
We, members of 'Gizmo Freeware' and 'TechSupportAlert.com', are not responsible for any damage that these programs may cause to your computer. We are also not liable for any abuse or misuse of the aforementioned products by users and it is recommended that users read the terms and conditions of use for their chosen product. We cannot be held responsible if you break any laws using these programs, after all, we just review them and provide links to them. In short, don't do anything you shouldn't be doing, and you shall surf long and prosper! The article and the images are the property of TechSupportAlert.com.

Feedback
We really appreciate your feedback, so if you have any criticisms, ideas, experiences, information or queries regarding the products listed here or the article then by all means use the comments section below. Thank you for reading.

Coming Soon...
  • Polippix
  • FoxyProxy
  • I2P
  • Images!
  • BestFreeVPN
  • FreeOpenVPN
  • VPN Steel
  • DemocraKey
  • TorK

Interesting Fact...?
Each of my reviews was written after using the respective program.

Interesting Experiment...?
What if we initially connect to one of the aforementioned services, and then connect to another service through our initial connection. Effectively, we would be anonymising our anonymous surfing session! This sounds like a very good idea if we want to double our level of anonymity. Unfortunately, this may come at a price, that price is speed. So far, I've tested this 'theory' with proXPN (proxy #1) and Ultrasurf (proxy #2) and observed only minimal speed degradation. To make this work, follow these steps:
  • Connect to proxy #1
  • Check your IP
  • Connect to proxy #2
  • Check your IP
Both IPs should have different values and not your actual IP. What is actually happening here is that your web browsing session is being processed through proxy #2 which in turn is being processed through proxy #1. Try it for yourself and see which mixes you like best.
Related Products and Links
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Quick Selection Guide

CyberGhost VPN
10
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Nice GUI, relatively fast. very secure, lots of support.
Registration required, only 1 GB allowance, you may have to wait in a queue at peak times.
http://cyberghostvpn.com/en
4.7.18
12.47 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7
Warning: Downloads from Cnet (Download.com) now require the use of a proprietary installer.
SecurityKiss
10
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Simple GUI, fast, lots of servers, secure, 300MB/day.
Usage cap.
0.1.5
2.3 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7
Hotspot Shield
9
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Fast, secure, easy to use and browser independent. Allows access to American services such as Hulu from outside USA.
Displays adverts on certain browser configurations. TIP: Use JonDoFox.
http://hotspotshield.com/
http://hotspotshield.com/
1.56
5.7 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 2000 to Windows 7, Mac OS X
Expat Shield
9
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Fast, secure, easy to use and browser independent. Allows access to UK services such as BBC iPlayer from outside the UK.
Displays adverts on certain browser configurations. TIP: Use JonDoFox.
http://www.expatshield.com/
2.32
5.7 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7
UltraSurf
9
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Simply GUI, very lightweight, no installation necessary, fully portable, reasonbly fast and secure, direct support for IE.
Cannot change default listening port, lack of features additional features, only support and integration with IE.
http://www.ultrareach.com/
10.08
1.1 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
95 - 7
JanusVM
9
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Highly secure, forces programs to use Tor.
Requires VMware Player to be installed and running, may not be as secure as other solutions, speeds fluctuate but are generally slow.
http://www.janusvm.com/
http://www.janusvm.com/
July-2010
42 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7
VMWare Player or Server is required
proXPN
8
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Slim, cross-plaform and secure.
Registration required, GUI could use some work, more servers would be nice, may load on start-up unexpectedly. Free accounts are limited to 100 kbps.
http://proxpn.com/
http://proxpn.com/
2.4.2
2.5 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7, Macintosh, Windows Mobile, iPhone and iPod Touch
AdvTor
8
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Feature rich, highly customisable, can force programs to use Tor.
It is for advanced users, may not be as secure as other solutions, speeds fluctuate but are generally slow.
0.3.0.3b
4.1 MB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable
95 - 7
xB Browser
8
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Zero-configuration, based on Firefox, lots of support.
May not be as secure as other solutions, speeds fluctuate but are generally slow, multi-browser setup can be confusing.
3.9.10.24
10.4 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable
95 - 7
JonDo
8
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Friendly interface, platform independent, very secure.
Slow data transfer speeds, limited availability during periods of high demand and the client itself is a bit of a memory hog.
00.17.001
50 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable
95 - 7, Macintosh, OS/2, Linux/Unix
Java is required
Amnesic
7
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Highly secure sandbox-like environment, no local traces, everything is tunnelled through Tor.
Changes are not saved automatically, a blank CD-R is required.
http://tails.boum.org/
0.9
573 MB (ISO file)
Open source freeware
N/A
Blank CD-R, VMWare Player or Server is required
Privatix
7
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Highly secure sandbox-like environment, no local traces, everything is tunnelled through Tor, Mozilla Firefox included.
Changes are not saved automatically, a blank CD-R or VMWare is required, not updated often.
11.04.11
838 MB (ISO file)
Open source freeware
N/A
Blank CD-R, VMWare Player or Server is required
Vidalia
7
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Easy to install and use, lightweight client, reasonable data transfer speeds and lots of online support.
Potentially not as secure as other services.
0.2.15
8.8 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
This product is portable
95 - 7, Macintosh, Linux/Unix
PacketiX.NET
7
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Secure, ad-free, highly customisable and powerful client.
Data transfer speeds depend on your geographic location in relation to Japan, slow updates, privacy and/or anonymity is not guaranteed as they log everything.
http://www.packetix.net/en/
2.20 Build 5351
17 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7, Linux/Unix
USAIP
6
Is a web service or web application
Reasonably good speeds, no installation necessary, multi-platform.
Disconnects every 7 minutes.
http://www.usaip.eu/en/index.php
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7, Macintosh, Linux/Unix
VPNReactor
6
Is a web service or web application
Reasonably good speeds, no installation necessary, multi-platform.
Registration required, monthly activation required, disconnects every 30 minutes.
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7, Macintosh, Linux/Unix, iPhone and iPod Touch.
Estrella Roja
6
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Highly secure sandbox-like environment, no local traces, uses Tor.
Changes are not saved automatically, you have to manually start Tor.
http://www.estrellaroja.info/
11.10.23
691 MB (ISO file)
Open source freeware
N/A
Blank CD-R, VMWare Player or Server is required.
Project Loki
6
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Good set of security features, minimal logging.
Dial-up speeds, frequent disconnections.
http://www.projectloki.com/
1.7.3.119
1.0 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7
Freegate
5
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Reasonably good speeds, no installation necessary, great for Chinese users.
Restricted access for worldwide users outside of China.
http://www.dit-inc.us/
7.21
1.8 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7
Your Freedom
4
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Servers located worldwide, support for many protocols.
Restricted usage up to 6 hours per day or 15 hours per week, dial-up speeds.
http://www.your-freedom.net/
20111201-02
12.02 MB
Unrestricted freeware
95 - 7, Macintosh, Linux/Unix

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