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Risk

New Browser Hides User Behavior

Browzar flushes cache, history, and cookies as soon as the user closes the application

There's a new, "private" Web browser on the market that end users may like -- and IT administrators may not.

Browzar, a low-memory browser developed by Freeserve founder Ajaz Ahmed, promises to let users crawl the Web without leaving any footprints. Unlike popular browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox, Browzar doesn't save any information on searches, Websites visited, or content downloaded.

Essentially, Browzar works like any other browser, interacting with Websites that dish out cookies or applets as they operate. But unlike IE or Firefox, Browzar flushes all Web history, cookies, and cache as soon as the user closes the application.

Ahmed, who founded the U.K.'s first free ISP in the late 1990s and sold it to France Telecom for about $2.4 billion, is positioning the new browser for the consumer market. It would work well on shared family PCs or on public PCs and kiosks, where the user doesn't want subsequent users to know where he's been, he says.

For IT managers, however, the new browser could be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it reduces cookies and other history that might be used by phishers, adware, or spyware distributors in the future. On the other hand, it might also prevent IT administrators from recognizing dangerous or illegal Web behavior among employees via systems that do historical analysis.

The new browser also doesn't protect the privacy of users whose data is collected or stored on a server. The software would not have protected the users who lost their private information when Google published its search logs, for example.

Browzar, which was quietly released as beta software on Aug. 22, works differently from services such as Anonymizer or EverPrivate, which provide a proxy that allows Web users to surf the Web anonymously. (See Web Service Hides Behavior.) While the proxy services are hosted services that cost about $30 a month and could conceivably be blocked by enterprise content-filtering software, Browzar is a light, 264-kbyte, client-resident browser that is being offered as freeware.

The initial offering works only on Windows, but the company said products for Linux and MacOS are in the works. The application does not offer an auto-complete feature, which relies on lengthy Web histories. Users can store the downloadable browser on their machines, or they can pull up a fresh browser each time they surf the Web, the company states.

Along with its new browser, Browzar published a list of embarrassing gaffes that occurred when subsequent users examined the history of previous users on a PC. Several individuals on the site said their spouses and relatives found out about divorce, pregnancy, or adult site surfing through accidental discoveries in browser histories.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • Anonymizer Inc.
  • Browzar
  • Private Date Finder, LLC (maker of EverPrivate)
  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
  • Mozilla

    Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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