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New Web Browser Leaves No Footprints 388

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-poof-just-like-that-he's-gone dept.
eastbayted writes "InfoWorld reports a new web browser designed to protect users privacy is available for download. Called Browzar, it 'automatically deletes Internet caches, histories, cookies and auto-complete forms.' It also boasts a search engine, which the company will use to generate income. The 264KB application is the brainchild of Ajaz Ahmen, known for creating the U.K.'s first ISP Freeserve. The forthcoming version is for Windows only, but Mac and Linux versions will be available eventually."
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New Web Browser Leaves No Footprints

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:47AM (#16014401)
    This will be on work laptops across the world.

    Surfing for porn on the company's own hardware is a difficult problem to solve because you know that the machine's going to hang up on you right in the middle of some huge download and you're going to have to take that dead machine down to IT where they will come to know all about your little addiction.

    With this software, you can be sure you're clean even when the PC crashes.

    They selling stock?
  • by stego (146071) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:47AM (#16014402) Homepage
    Safari has a 'Private Browsing' mode that creates no history, cookies, cache.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by b1ufox (987621)
      A simple cltr+shift+del is available under firefox too, which clears all your sessions, cache, authenticated sessions, browsing history etc.

      So just a browser which says it does it automatically perhaps know how to market on this issue,its not a very big deal now for other browsers too.

      • Yes, but what does Firefox do if it crashes, or you need to close it quickly?

        Not to mention, do this and you lose ALL your browsing history. What if you want to keep some of it?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by CastrTroy (595695)
          You can have firefox clear out all private information every time you shut it down. It's one of the standard options. Not sure what the procedure is if it crashes, but then again, when has firefox ever crashed? :P
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dhasenan (758719)
          For the former: restart it (make your homepage about:blank for safety) and ctrl-shift-del.

          For the latter: Firefox has profiles; use them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by martinultima (832468)
      Personally I still like Dillo [dillo.org] – might not have CSS or JavaScript, but it's one hell of a fast browser (and not to mention it never stores any information on your disk) – and yes, it runs Linux.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by lmcplatte (723142)
      Actually, Safari's Private Browsing mode does a good job of not creating history and not remembering what was typed in search boxes, but it still builds cache and still accepts and stores cookies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by robosmurf (33876)
        Although it does accept cookies, any cookies that were created while Private Browsing was switched on are automatically deleted when Private Browsing is switched off.
  • Not-a-fact! (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:51AM (#16014413) Journal
    Ajaz Ahmen, known for creating the U.K.'s first ISP Freeserve

    Freeserve was far from the UK's first ISP. There were hundreds of ISPs, including large players like Pipex, Demon, Compuserve and AOL in the UK, along with much smaller ones like Eclipse before Freeserve came along.

    Freeserve was the first ISP not to charge a monthly fee, but not the first to exist.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:52AM (#16014416) Homepage
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heatseek [wikipedia.org]

    At least they are more upfront with their mission... ;P
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Aethedor (973725)
      That's funny. In order to hide your porn, you use software that has specifically been made to hide porn. no-porn-finding-girlfriend starts program. "Please, enter your password to access the porn".
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lex-Man82 (994679)
    I wonder if Google Toolbar works with it?
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

    by davidbrit2 (775091) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:52AM (#16014419) Homepage
    I'm not trying to be an OSS zealot here (honestly), but how does this do anything that Firefox doesn't do already? Preferences/Options, Privacy, Clear Private Data tool settings button. (The way to get there might be different in the Windows version, but you get the idea.) You can have it blow away history, forms, passwords, download history, cookies, cache data, and authenticated HTTP sessions automatically when you quit. And a few of those can be disabled outright from the start. And of course, Safari has a similar option too.
    • by VdG (633317)
      You're quite right, of course, that this is nothing that you can't do with other browsers. However, I think that this might have a couple of advantages.
      One is that it might reach users who haven't thought about these things before. Sure: that's preying on potential customers' ignorance but some of them might be interested in a solution which doesn't require them to fiddle with browser settings.
      It could be useful if you're on someone else's machine - maybe even a Cybercafe or something like that. Gives a
    • by geminidomino (614729) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:06AM (#16014480) Journal
      'm not trying to be an OSS zealot here (honestly), but how does this do anything that Firefox doesn't do already?

      If the text is to be believed, it does 1 thing firefox doesn't.

      Fit on a 5.5" DSDD Floppy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HansF (700676)
        It's small and you can run the exe straight from the site. No install needed.
        • by jackbird (721605)
          I thought "running the exe straight from the site" was something we were all trying to avoid.
    • but how does this do anything that Firefox doesn't do already? Preferences/Options, Privacy, Clear Private Data tool settings button. [..] You can have it blow away history, forms, passwords, download history, cookies, cache data, and authenticated HTTP sessions automatically when you quit

      Probably nothing. But it might do better and actually *not store* this information to disk at all, and mark the memory non-swappable. Anything else and the (parts of the) data in those caches and stores will end up stored
  • Knoppix? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by epsalon (518482) * <slash@alon.wox.org> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:53AM (#16014425) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of what happened to me once, when I was manning a booth at a conference trying to convince people to use Linux. We tried to get people to buy a Knoppix LiveCD from us to try it out. So, two people came and were mostly intersted in the fact that if they use the LiveCD to browse the web, none of their data is saved anywhere.

    Regarding this "Browsar", does it delete all caches/cookies, or not save them at all? Because just deleting can be not secure enough unless you do it very carefully. Also, what about the swap? Is it deleted or avioded?
    • "We tried to get people to buy a Knoppix LiveCD from us... "

      Good for a laugh first thing in the morning. Thanks!
      • by epsalon (518482) *
        Yes, we did sell it for about $2 to cover the cost of the media, as a conveinece. We of course told people they can download it if they prefer.
        • I figured but it still made me chuckle. Actually if you consider the time it takes, especially on a slow DSL connection (heaven for bit you are on dialup), $2 is a bargain.
    • Re:Knoppix? (Score:5, Informative)

      by phreakv6 (760152) <phreakv6@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:30AM (#16014550) Homepage
      Regarding this "Browsar", does it delete all caches/cookies, or not save them at all?
      From the browzar FAQ
      Does Browzar store cookies? If so, why?

      Browzar only ever stores cookies temporarily, automatically deleting them when you close the programme. For many sites, such as internet banking or shopping sites, it is necessary to store cookies to keep you logged into the site or hold shopping cart contents while you perform your transactions. If you visit a site using Browzar where a cookie for that site already existed on the computer prior to you using Browzar - the cookie will not be deleted. However the cookie's 'Last Accessed' date and time stamp may be updated to the date and time you visited the site associated with the cookie using Browzar.
  • by ncw (59013) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:56AM (#16014440) Homepage
    It is unlikely that they developed a modern web browser from scratch.

    There is no indication on their web site that it is based on anything though.

    http://www.browzar.com/ [browzar.com]

    I found this one message on google groups (in french) which indicates it is based on Internet Explorer.

    http://groups.google.co.uk/group/fr.comp.infosyste mes.www.navigateurs/browse_frm/thread/19f96a99deb3 0fc1/76965389104729e7?lnk=st&q=browzar&rnum=2#7696 5389104729e7 [google.co.uk]

    Anyone know any better?
    • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerteNO@SPAMdrunksnipers.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:04AM (#16014470) Homepage
      Well, it does require at least MSIE 5.5 in order to run.
      So yes, this is only a new frontend.
      • by DrXym (126579)
        Well, it does require at least MSIE 5.5 in order to run.

        In other words this browser is worse than fucking useless. It just embeds IE, tweaks what settings it can and then tries to clean up afterwards. If you want to do that, you can do it in Opera and in Firefox. I believe there are even builds of Firefox which run off a keychain and leave absolutely no tell tale clues they were ever there (e.g. cache files etc.).

    • by hclyff (925743) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:08AM (#16014491)
      Quick check with process explorer shows that it uses mshtml.dll as well as MFC.

      "Coming soon" to linux indeed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kafka47 (801886)

        They said, "coming eventually". "Coming soon" probably means "eventually" which probably means, "never". :-)

        /K

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by R2P2 (193577)
        Claiming eventual Linux support is just an easy way to increase the chances of an application getting a /. post.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bendy (34731)
      Given that the acid2 standards compliance test http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid2/ [webstandards.org] produces identical results in Browzar and IE (well, the version 6 I have installed anyway) I'd say it's a pretty good bet. It will be interesting to see how they go about producing a Mac or Linux version if they're just wrapping the IE renderer in some way.
    • I guess that explains the "automatically deletes Internet caches, histories, cookies and auto-complete forms" bit.
      If you made a browser from scratch you could just not implement those features...
    • If it's based on IE rendering, that doesn't give me great confidence that this browser is not caching anything on disk.

      Personally, I'll stick with the off by one web browser [offbyone.com] for any local private browsing. It may not be a great web rendering browser, but it's totally contained with it's own rendering engine, will fit on a floppy disk, and everything is stored in RAM and is deleted once the browser closes.
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@g m a il.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @06:58AM (#16014452) Homepage

    But does it work well on a USB flash drive? From the description it seems like it might. Anyone have an idea?

    Most browsers already give you options to allow you to not store most of this information already. Firefox has a key combo to (transparently, optionally) wipe out selected areas of this data. Someone mentioned an option for Safari. Opera probably has something too somewhere.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:03AM (#16014466)
    1) It's closed source. So even if we assume good intentions on the authors' part, not many people have had a chance to scruitinize the code for weaknesses. The recent flap about how "wiped" mobile phones can still have their databases recovered is an example of this issue actually happening.

    2) It sounds like it only keeps the local computer clean of history. Which I guess is good if you don't want your boyfriend to find out you like the whole Furbie sex scene. But when you're later divorcing him because he won't put on a chipmunk suit, and his attorney subpoenas Yahoo to get records of your search history, you're not protected. I think to be protected from THIS sort of thing the browser ought to default to using an anonymizer proxy.
  • by jolyonr (560227) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:04AM (#16014468) Homepage
    Ok. I just posted this to them as an example of why people should be very, very careful, but it's funny enough I should share it here.

    A few years ago I was doing IT consultancy in London, and a client had a problem with her PC all acting funny.

    I went along, it was the secretary/receptionist's PC so she moved over, and sat next to me watching what I was doing as I investigated.

    I found a suspicious DLL beginning with 'S' running on the system, so I did what you would normally do, do a google search and see what it comes up with.

    As soon as I typed the first 'S', up pops good old google autocomplete:

    "STD clinic london"

    I typed as fast as I could and hoped she didn't notice!

    Turned out her PC had a virus too.

    Jolyon
  • Hmm, I tried it, it seems that Browzar doesn't execute 'input type="submit"'-buttons.
    Anyone else noticed this?
  • "It also boasts a search engine, which the company will use to generate income."

    Why do I have a feeling that you'll leave "footprints" on its search engine.

    (And they sure need some way to create revenue since there's no reason to use their browser.)
  • Firefox plugin (Score:5, Informative)

    by a_nonamiss (743253) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:07AM (#16014484)
    There's a Firefox plugin that does the same thing. Stealther [mozilla.org] claims to do the same thing, but what I don't know is how well it really covers its tracks. A forensic investigation into a hard drive can easily reveal browsing history, even if one cleans his or her history and deletes cookies, etc. I have heard of a browser that actually "shreds" this information (similar to Eraser [heidi.ie] but I can't seem to find any information on this browser.
  • I realize there are sometimes good reasons to support anonymous browsing, like for whistleblowers, etc. But I wonder if the costs outweigh the benefits?

    I keep on seeing these stats about huge numbers of married guys who feel addicted to porn. That is, they know it's causing them relationship problems, but they feel they can't stop. And hiding their browsing history is a major modus operandi for them to continue their behavior.

    Yes, I realize there's a possibility that these guys would find some other venu
    • It's like with knowledge. The problem is not the existance of the tools (or having the knowledge), the responsibility lies in applying it. You can use it, should the need arise. You can also not use it. The choice is yours.

      I do firmly believe in the personal freedom to do as you choose as long as nobody gets hurt. Tools should exist. Knowledge should be available. Take them and use them as you see fit, and let your conscience (or whatever is used to make an informed decision) be the judge whether and when t
      • by MooUK (905450)
        The one problem I have with that gun law argument is that if guns cannot be obtained legally, there could be less accidents and less spontaneous use of them. Naturally, I have no idea what the extent of that would be. (I also am unsure where I stand on that issue for various reasons...)

        Either way, except in the case of accidents, the responsibility is still with the person pulling the trigger. And that applies to most things.

        Alcohol may be part of the cause of various problems, but it's not an excuse - you
    • by Tim C (15259)
      And hiding their browsing history is a major modus operandi for them to continue their behavior.

      You need a special browser for that? You can't just tell IE, FF or Opera to clear out its cache, history, etc when you finish? You can't just configure FF to do it automatically?

      You can't just create yourself a user account and not tell your spouse the password?

      Besides which, they're clearly doing it now; I don't see that a new browser that makes it a little bit easier is going to change anything.

      I'm asking wheth
  • protect my privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:19AM (#16014513)
    Protect my privacy, but sell my search results?
  • Given that it autocompletes, I don't see that it can be that good about removing traces of where you've been...
  • by dreemernj (859414) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:26AM (#16014528) Homepage Journal
    It just a simple front end for IE. There are already plug ins to do this in Windows with other browsers and at least then you wouldn't be browsing with IE so the pages would look nicer. This seems like a bit of a waste/ploy/piece of junk.
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:38AM (#16014584)
    ..... and I can't find a link to download the source code.

    So-called "security" software without source code is worse than useless -- and would be outlawed if we had a sensible Minister for Information Technology. The information it's claiming to be hiding could be valuable, so there's a clear motive to lie about what it's doing -- and hiding the source code provides an obvious means. I, for one, wouldn't give it the opportunity.

    I have set Firefox to ask me every time about cookies. As soon as I see a "__utma" or a "h2" cookie, I know at once the owners of that site have absolutely no concern for my privacy, and simply block all cookies from that site. Otherwise I usually accept cookies for the session only.

    I also keep my day-to-day login password as secret as any of my root passwords, and always set up a brand new user account if anyone ever wants to use one of my computers for anything.
  • by pointbeing (701902) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @07:39AM (#16014589)
    I already have a browser that leaves no footprints - Firefox Portable [portableapps.com]. Loaded on my 1GB Swiss Army knife [swissbit.com] the only thing it leaves on the host machine is a pluginreg.dat - which contains nothing about my internet use.
  • Great! Now I don't have to worry about the huge threat cookies have to my machine (approximately 0%), and can inconvenience myself by having to type in my password every time I want to post as me on Slashdot or any other internet community. I also don't have to worry about finding that Google search I made a few days ago that had the exact wording that yielded some pretty useful results, because I don't have history! Thank you "auto-privacy"!

    Then again, in IE7 I can just go Tools -> Delete Browsing Hist
  • . . . does it still leave the difficult to blow away INDEX.DAT [128.175.24.251] files?
  • So many people are posting the same comment..."every browser can clear this data". Sure. However, if I were to, say, surf pr0n on my mother's PC, I think she might be a little unhappy to find her passwords, auto-completes, history etc wiped so I could hide my shame. This sucker fits on a thumb drive, or is a 1 second download from anywhere. I think mum might prefer me to use this rather than take a magnet to her web-life.
  • Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but the FAQ says
    Each time you run Browzar it places a simple text file on your computer which contains a date and time stamp of the precise moment your Browzar session began. Normally this file is deleted automatically when you close Browzar, but in the event of a crash this file remains on the computer. All you need to do is run Browzar again immediately after the crash and Browzar will clean up anything left over from the crash by checking the time and date stamp and removi
  • If you wanted to catch people doing unethical things, the best thing to do would be to create software or services that promise to hide information and then collect information about the users. To get around that, the source needs to be audited by someone, and for this kind of product, that means that the application needs to be open source.
  • It uses the engine of IE to render pages, that's why it's so small. This kind of project would take a good programmer a week or so. This buddy knows how to get good press for nothing. No footprint? All right, but this guy does not talk about security in his site. Linux? Mac? Sure! if enough people insists and he's got enough money he will think about it! Sure Send email!

    Crap!
  • Ditching your browser history stuffs is easy. The real problems are the shit IE/WMP throws in the users profiles index.dat file, and the shit WMP throws around when playing movies inline/downloaded. So, unless this browser also gets WMP to stop that, you're still going to get busted.

    That said, it is a nice little exe to toss on the USB thumbdrive.
  • Why would anyone want a Mac version? I can just about see users not knowing how to delete their IE cache, but "Private Browsing" in Safari takes three mouse clicks to enable.
  • I sure hope this browser doesn't just disable cookies, but just doesn't store them. For a lot of websites you need to have session-cookies!
  • My first impressions of this browser aren't very good.. I've noticed something very strange.
    I pushed 'Run' and got a nice looking black browser with their own search-engine.

    But I usually use Google, so I typed in 'www.google.com'. And the first thing I notice in the top corner:
    'myemail@google.com | Personal Homepage | etc'

    Google sees that I'm surfing to their website..! And they can't be locating me by my IP because I'm behind a firewall inside my company's network. (right?) So it probably just uses I
  • I have a "safe" profile on my Firefox browser at home that I use for this sort of thing. That profile has its preferences set to not cache, keep cookies for session only and delete them at the end, has no bookmarks, doesn't run javascript, and so forth. "Browzar" would be better if it actually avoided writing to the disk at all, but apparently it writes and then deletes.
    Isn't that the same?

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