As awesome as the internet is, it might also be the biggest threat to personal privacy the world has ever known. But even though it’s tough to guarantee total privacy in a connected world, a number of tools can help you to maintain some degree of personal privacy. This article discusses five such utilities.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: Blur

Blur (Figure A) is designed to prevent Web tracking. It also protects your privacy in other ways, such as email masking and password encryption. If this sounds familiar, it could be because Blur has been around for a while — but was formerly known as DoNotTrackMe. The software installs a small add-on for your browser, but the actual configuration is performed through a Web interface. The free version can block trackers, manage your passwords, auto-fill Web forms, and mask email. The Premium version ($39/year or $59/two years) adds credit card and phone masking, along with backup and sync.

Figure A

Blur is available for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Opera.

2: Adblock

Adblock (Figure B) is a free utility that blocks internet advertising. Although online ads might seem like more of an annoyance than a threat to privacy, there have been documented instances of ads containing malicious code. Adblock is a simple browser add-on and works without your having to do anything. However, you can disable Adblock for certain websites if you’d prefer to see the ads on them.

Figure B

Adblock is available for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Opera.

3: Web of Trust

Web of Trust (Figure C) is a free tool that is both simple and useful. The browser add-on displays a colored icon indicating the perceived safety level of the site you are visiting. The software also allows you to rate sites yourself, which is useful since the site ratings are based on community consensus. The coolest thing about Web of Trust is that it doesn’t just work for the site that you’re visiting — it works within search engines, too. Search results displayed within a search engine such as Bing will include the Web of Trust color code.

Figure C

Web of Trust is available for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Opera.

4: Spotflux

Spotflux (Figure D) is a tool for ensuring the privacy of your browser session. The free version provides basic Web encryption, but the premium version offers a full-blown VPN, and you can even establish a virtual location (for example, you might trick Web sites into thinking you’re in Germany).

Figure D

Spotflux does prompt you to create an account, but you will need to do so only if you plan to use the premium service. Otherwise, you can skip the account registration process.

5: CyberScrub Privacy Suite

CyberScrub Privacy Suite (Figure E) is designed to help you to cover your tracks after browsing questionable Web sites. Although it is easy to clear the browser cache without any additional software, CyberScrub Privacy Suite performs a secure delete that conforms to United States Department of Defense standards. It also removes evidence from locations such as the Windows pagefile, temp files, and Index.dat. CyberScrub is even application aware and can remove evidence from a variety of browsers, applications, email and newsreaders, and peer-to-peer programs.

Figure E

CyberScrub Privacy Suite sells for $59.95, but a free 15-day trial is available for download.

Also read…

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