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GhostSurf - Your Computer’s Invisibility Cloak

written by: •edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 1/28/2012
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GhostSurf anonymizes your surfing. Whether you want to fly under the radar when you’re surfing the Internet or remove all traces of your computer activity, GhostSurf is up to the job.

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    Introduction

    Probably the two greatest fears people have today in regards to computer use are of identity theft and malware. GhostSurf can help eliminate such worries by completely anonymizing your surfing. GhostSurf works with all web browsers, making compatibility concerns a nonissue.

    Product features that are lacking in the version of GhostSurf that I reviewed are available in the Platinum Edition, including the ability to prevent advanced spyware from reinstalling on your computer, and backup and blocking capabilities.

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    Help & Support

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    GhostSurf has an extensive range of help and support options. They offer email support through a web form. Phone support can be purchased for an additional $9.95 for a one-year subscription. Tenebril has an online support section, which can be viewed at

    http://www.tenebril.com/v2009/support/supportcentral.php

    GhostSurf has an excellent context-sensitive help section within the application, and the option of a virtual tour to help you get acquainted.

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    Performance

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    GhostSurf ran smoothly and did not seem to affect the performance of my PC, except when surfing the Internet with certain options selected (see the What's Not section).

    What's Not:

    I found that surfing the Web while GhostSurf was running with privacy settings configured to anything higher than Normal slowed things down somewhat. If I went to a Special Site--one that I specified to be exempt from my privacy level settings--the speed at which the page loaded was a lot faster.

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    Security & Privacy

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    Windows Firewall detected GhostSurf, so you may have to configure your security settings to allow your computer to run the application.

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    Price to Value

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    This version of GhostSurf costs $29.95. Considering the wide range of features this application has, I would say you are getting great value for your money. GhostSurf’s licensing agreement will let you install it on up to two computers. This price is for a one-year subscription.

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    Installation & Setup

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    Installation was a typical and effortless procedure. GhostSurf works with Windows 98, Me, NT, 2000, and XP.

    If you are using a browser other than Internet Explorer, you can configure your browser to work with GhostSurf.

    You can configure GhostSurf to notify you when updates are available, along with available downloads and customer news.

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    User Interface

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    GhostSurf’s user interface is neat and tidy. I had no problems finding my way around and with the help files being context-sensitive, if I wasn’t sure of something, it was simple enough to find the answers. You are also provided with a brief tooltips for most functions. GhostSurf did a fine job designing the interface of this application.

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    Product Features

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    GhostSurf has an array of features. Below are ones I’ve selected to highlight in this review. If you’d like more information, you can visit Tenebril's website:

    http://www.tenebril.com/consumer/ghostsurf/ghostsurf_standard.php

    When you open GhostSurf, the main screen consists of two options (three if you include a button to upgrade to Platinum): Privacy Control Center and TracksCleaner.

    Privacy Levels

    • Normal: Standard Internet connection is used.
    • Anonymous: Personal information (cookies) are blocked; websites can't track you.
    • Invisible: Personal information is blocked, and your data is routed through anonymous hubs that hide your IP address.
    • Secure: Personal information and your IP address are blocked, and all data is encrypted to prevent spying.

    You also have an advanced option to customize your privacy levels; for example, if you've selected the privacy level Secure, if you go into the advanced section you can customize it to still encrypt data and block your IP address, but keep cookies unblocked.

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    Product Features Continued

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    TracksCleaner

    This section of the application gives you the ability to wipe all your tracks from the computer and is not only limited to wiping your Internet tracks like history, cookies, and cache. GhostSurf can also wipe items from other applications on your computer, such as "recently used" lists, playlists, the Start menu run list, the recent documents menu, the recycle bin, and more.

    TracksCleaner can completely eliminate any trace of files and folders you select it to delete. It can also make previously deleted files unrecoverable and undiscoverable. There are a variety of methods you can choose from to delete your data, from quick and simple to aggressively strong methods. Below are the five methods you can use; keep in mind the stronger the method, the longer it will take.

    • Quick Wipe (normal pass)

    • Stop Undeleted Tools

    • NAVSO P-5239-26 (MFM)

    • Schneier's algorithm

    • Gutmann's algorithm

    TracksCleaner has a reporting feature. You can set it to send an email after it's completed a wipe. You are also able to set TracksCleaner to run when you start your computer, when all browsers are closed, or on a selected date and time, with the option to repeat at set intervals--from 15 minutes to one year.

    What's Not:

    Although GhostSurf’s TracksCleaner provide you with five levels of wiping methods, upon further research, it seems to be a redundant set of options. Peter Gutmann--after whom TracksCleaner's strongest wiping method is named--says in his own article’s epilogue:-

    In the time since this paper was published, some people have treated the 35-pass overwrite technique described in it more as a kind of voodoo incantation to banish evil spirits than the result of a technical analysis of drive encoding techniques. As a result, they advocate applying the voodoo to PRML and EPRML drives even though it will have no more effect than a simple scrubbing with random data. In fact performing the full 35-pass overwrite is pointless for any drive since it targets a blend of scenarios involving all types of (normally used) encoding technology, which covers everything back to 30+-year-old MFM methods (if you don't understand that statement, re-read the paper). If you're using a drive that uses encoding technology X, you only need to perform the passes specific to X, and you never need to perform all 35 passes. For any modern PRML/EPRML drive, a few passes of random scrubbing is the best you can do. As the paper says, "A good scrubbing with random data will do about as well as can be expected." This was true in 1996, and is still true now.

    Looking at this from the other point of view, with the ever-increasing data density on disk platters and a corresponding reduction in feature size and use of exotic techniques to record data on the medium, it's unlikely that anything can be recovered from any recent drive except perhaps a single level via basic error-cancelling techniques. In particular the drives in use at the time that this paper was originally written have mostly fallen out of use, so the methods that applied specifically to the older, lower-density technology don't apply any more. Conversely, with modern high-density drives, even if you've got 10 KB of sensitive data on a drive and can't erase it with 100 percent certainty, the chances of an adversary being able to find the erased traces of that 10 KB in 80 GB of other erased traces are close to zero.

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    Images

    Browser SetupUpdatesMainPrivcy Control CenterAdvancedSpecial SitesTrafficTracks CleanerFirewallVirtual Tour
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    Suggested Features

    Product features that are lacking in this version of GhostSurf are available in the Platinum Edition, such as the ability to prevent advanced spyware from reinstalling on your computer, and backup and blocking abilities. Tenebril has created a side-by-side comparison, which can be viewed here:

    http://www.tenebril.com/consumer/ghostsurf/ghostsurf-compare.pdf.

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    Conclusion

    GhostSurf certainly does its job well and stands up to its promises. However, I can see very little need for an application like this. I suppose if you are totally paranoid or if you store extremely sensitive data on your computer, you might obtain some degree of comfort from a number of GhostSurf’s features. Other than that, built-in Windows options like Disk Cleanup or the "Clear history and cookies" command should be enough for most people.

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    Related Products

    Anonymizer, Steganos, Bypass Proxy Client