Many Web sites want to find out where you've been, what you bought there--even what programs you've installed on your hard drive. Others wish to install their own programs on your computer without your permission. The $25 Steganos Internet Anonym 5.0 prevents all that. It scrambles information that even benign Web sites gather about you, while blocking everything from pop-up ads and cookies to ActiveX objects from being stored or run on your computer. Though it's hard to configure the tools to allow for exceptions, those who are serious about masking their identities online will appreciate Anonym 5.0's vigilance.
Internet Anonym is available directly from Steganos online as a 7MB download. Simply double-click the file, and the program installs into a drive and directory of your choice; no other configuration is necessary. Internet Anonym works as a plug-in with Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Mozilla. As a bonus, the installation process also places a copy of Steganos Shredder on your desktop. Shredder deletes files securely by overwriting them several times with 1s and 0s.
The main interface displays the status of almost all tools at a glance.
The Anonym main menu provides direct control over seven of the program's tools and access to a detailed submenu for an eighth tool, Destroy Local Traces. We like the way Internet Anonym presents the Surf Anonymously tool, displaying each camouflaged Web address as it swiftly cycles through a list. We also appreciate how each of the tools remains highlighted while active so that you can quickly tell what's running.
Internet Anonym's primary utility, Surf Anonymously, continuously transmits a series of fake addresses to any site you visit, masking your true IP address, computer name, and even your town and country of origin. But constantly switching IP identities comes at a cost: Internet access slows significantly, even on a dedicated cable line.
Anonym's blocker tools, on the other hand, were thorough and mostly transparent. When the cookie blocker was active for hours, no cookies were stored on our drives, but a noticeable drag occurred when loading pages. The pop-up blocker had a success rate of better than 95 percent, which, given the constantly evolving nature of pop-ups (mainly, to circumvent pop-up blockers), is excellent.