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New Firefox variant browser protects user privacy through stealth surfing technology

Thursday, September 21, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: Torpark, the TOR, internet security

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(NewsTarget) Hactivismo, a group of computer security and privacy experts, have developed a special version of the web browser Firefox that can prevent sites from tracing where computer data departs and arrives.

The browser, named Torpark, makes the computer's Internet Protocol address -- the number that identifies computers connected to the internet -- seem to change as the user navigates. This prevents sites from using the IP address to track down a user. While being tested in London, Torpark changed the computer's IP address to one registered in Berlin, and then one registered in Madison, Wisc.

Torpark's creators said they wanted to increase privacy rights as more technologies emerged that can collect online data. Although they warned that Torpark encrypts only the user's connection and will not prevent users from giving away their own information. They added that users should only send sensitive data when the browser confirms that the site they are visiting is using encryption -- symbolized by a gold padlock in the bottom right corner.

This modified version of Firefox Portable is free to download, and encrypts data before sending it over a worldwide network of servers nicknamed "TOR," which stands for "The Onion Router." Usually, internet traffic carries information identifying its source and destination, but the TOR network -- endorsed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- transfers data from one server to another in a random fashion and muddles the information in the process, making it hard to trace.

The only drawback to TOR is the speed, but many privacy-minded surfers may not mind when the see features such as "Flush TOR," which allows them to change to a new, random server connection with the click of a mouse.


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