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How to hide your online searches: We browse incognito with Disconnect and Silo

Mark Hachman | March 27, 2014
Disconnect said Monday it had tweaked and upgraded its search capabilities to improve its speed, while Silo, an anonymous browser vendor, recently launched a personal edition for individuals.

Disconnect's latest update, available today, makes those searches twice as fast as before. In my tests, it's more than fast enough for your own use. 

Disconnect says that all queries are encrypted, and that it doesn't store any keywords, personal information, or IP addresses. It's possible that Disconnect's personal encryption keys could be compromised, the company admits, although it also uses techniques like Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Perfect Forward Secrecy to counter that. (If a key were compromised, for example, PFS was designed to ensure that just one account would be compromised, not the entire user base.)

Disconnect is free, although the company appreciate a payment of whatever you wish if you use the service.

Silo--secure, anonymous browsing, but that's all

So-called "cloud browsing" became one of the hot topics of 2011, when Amazon revealed that its "Silk" browser tapped into its own server network for additional speed, as well as intercepting exploits before they could hit its Kindle tablets. Authentic8's Silo browser originally took the same approach for businesses, offering a BYOD solution. Essentially, users could bring an iPad into their company, access whatever information they wanted, and then destroy any cookies or other information once the session was closed.

Last month, Silo for personal users debuted, offering security and anonymity through its cloud browser. Silo protects your IP address, and it also blocks cookies from being stored on your machine. This can be good and bad: On one hand, your can rest assured that your session won't be tracked by a third-party agency you don't know or trust; on the other, all of your data is being passed through Authentic8, a startup you probably don't know or necessarily trust, either.

And eventually, you'll have to do so. Authentic8 offers a no-risk one-month trial--you just download it and begin surfing, and the company doesn't even bother asking for a credit card. After that, however, Authentic8 will charge you $10 per month, with the first two months for free.

Nothing about the Silo browser is fancy. Because sound doesn't play back within the browser, that eliminates many common entertainment functions, including Flash games, which failed to load. Silo will also block cookies, such as stored passwords, although users can create "shortcuts" where you can store your credentials with Authentic8 for easier access to, say, your web-based e-mail.

General browsing was perhaps a beat slower than normal, but otherwise perfectly acceptable. You can download files through the browser (such as a JPEG or a game demo), but because they go first to Authentic8 and then to your computer, the download time basically doubles. Also note that because you're going through Authentic8's servers (where the file is presumably examined), it's probably a good idea to believe the company's warnings against downloading copyrighted content. 

Both Silo and Disconnect are at least free to try. Just remember that in this day and age, few, if any electronic communications can be considered truly secure.


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