NoScript is also effective in blocking an emerging form of user tracking called browser fingerprinting. A recent study by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) showed that even without cookies or malware, Web sites can pull enough information about a user from the browser itself to build up a profile that can be used to track the user from site to site. The EFF singled out NoScript as an effective safeguard against this kind of tracking.
Since so much of the Web relies for basic functionality on the scripting languages that NoScript blocks, an Options button at the bottom of the browser window pops up a menu with options that you can use to temporarily or permanently allow scripts on sites you trust.
Using the Tor-Proxy.Net Toolbar, though, you can choose to use Tor on a case-by-case basis, visiting chosen sites anonymously while maintaining non-anonymous connections in other Firefox tabs. Just enter the URL of the site you want to visit into the Tor-Proxy.Net Toolbar instead of Firefox’s own address bar and click “by Tor.”
The toolbar also offers two other options: You can click “by JAP/JonDos” to use the less popular JonDonym service, which offers slightly better performance but slightly weaker anonymity, or you can click “by Express-Service” to use Tor-Proxy.Net’s own anonymizing server. It’s a little quicker than the others but isn’t as secure, since it’s not an established anonymity service.
One of the greatest threats to privacy is the loss or theft of a laptop or desktop computer, giving whoever finds or steals it access to everything stored on it. Chris Finke’s FireFound extension notes the location of the network your computer is on whenever it connects to the Internet. If it has changed locations, FireFound sends a message to a central server with the new location.
FireFound lets you remotely send instructions to delete browser passwords, page cache, surfing history, form data and other personal information from Firefox, so that whoever is in possession of your computer won’t be able to use your browser to access your online accounts or derive personal information from your cache.
The extension relies on the free service at FireFound.com, or you can set up your own open-source FireFound server. A $1-per-month premium account allows you to remotely encrypt and back up your saved passwords before wiping them from your lost computer; the premium account also lets you designate “safe areas” within which your computer’s movement will not trigger an e-mail alert.
Google offers an impressive array of services that help make the Internet useful, but all that assistance comes with a cost: your privacy. If you use a number of Google services, you’re giving the company access to your search history, your e-mail, your video and picture uploads and a wide range of other data, all of which can live on Google’s servers for months or even years.
Phlogenix’s OptimizeGoogle extension offers some neat tricks to improve your Google experience, such as adding links to results pages from Yahoo, Ask and other search engines for your searches in case you’re not satisfied with your Google results. The extension also offers a number of privacy-increasing options, most notably the ability to default to HTTPS secure browsing on all Google services and disabling tracking by ads or Google Analytics.
[Logan Kugler is a frequent Computerworld contributor.]