Anonymizer, a provider of Internet-privacy software and services, announced the release of a new plug-in tool for Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browsers on Tuesday which lets users surf the Web anonymously.
The plug-in adds a button to the IE toolbar which, if clicked upon, lets users visit Web sites anonymously by preventing visited sites from tracing visitors' identities back beyond Anonymizer's proxy servers. The plug-in thus makes it impossible for Web sites to identify users' IP addresses and place cookies in users' machines. The free service runs in the background.
Previously, Web surfers needed to type in a Web site address in a box on the Anonymizer.com site. Anonymizer would then display the Web site requested.
The free version of Anonymizer's tool does not permit browsers to visit secure sites like a Hotmail e-mail account or online bank accounts. The faster US$50 pay version provides for secure site access, as well as ad filtering and blocking functions.
Computer criminals have been known to use privacy-protecting services like Anonymizer to probe Web sites without leaving behind a trace of their actions. Anonymizer has restricted its service from some subscribers for unauthorized uses, but spokesman Charlie Bornheimer could not immediately say how many users had been blocked, or how often. Anonymizer.com itself has never been successfully hacked, he said.
Interest in privacy protection on the Internet has increased both with the growth of the Internet user base, increasing reports of online fraud and personal data theft, and crackdowns by repressive governments on unfettered access to information online.
"We do see a lot of traffic from overseas ... from just about every country, including the more restrictive countries like China and Saudi Arabia," Bornheimer said of the San Diego-based company. "Most of our overseas traffic comes from England, though."