Browzar Bashing: Is It Warranted?

When I first learned of Browzar I was excited. But the excitement quickly turned to a yawn right about the time I discovered that it's a wrapper for Internet Explorer components. Even so, that doesn't mean that it isn't a useful tool. I wrote about it in my editorial this week for our Security UPDATE Newsletter.

Lots of people have been bashing the tool based on its claim to be a privacy enhancer. A lot of the bashers simply do not like advertising at all while others fail to comprehend that Browzar is in beta development and like any software is prone to have bugs.

I was surprised to see Bruce Schneier align with those who think Browzar can be considered adware simply because of ads in search results. If you haven't used the tool yet, it has a little search box at the top left similar to Firefox. If you use that box then your query is sent to a Browzar-operated search engine which delivers a lot of sponsored results. So what? Google and Yahoo do the same thing and we don't hear people yelling from rooftops about them. Having sponsored search results in no way constitutes adware. You can alway access your favorite search engine directly by simply entering its URL.

Others bash the tool because it doesn't always remove all traces of Web usage history. This is to be expected. After all, it's in beta development. If it's released out of beta and still doesn't remove all traces, as it is claimed to be able to do, THEN complain, but to do so now is just plain aggression for no reasonable cause.

Still others point out that even when Browzar deletes historic Web use records the related files can be recovered using file recovery tools. In other words Browzar doesn't contain any kind of disk wiping technology. It relies entirely on Windows API calls to remove Web use history information. There's no surprise here and Browzar never claimed to be able to prevent history recovery using specialized tools. So why all the fuss?

I think the usefulness of Browzar is pointed out clearly on the tool's Web page: It makes browsing safer when using public or shared computers. It's not an anonymity tool, and it's not meant to 100% effective in all circumstances. Proper perspective seems to severely lacking in Browzar's critics.

That said, there is another tool you can use to help protect privacy if you don't want to use Browzar. Sandboxie runs applications in a sandbox so that when you close the sandbox traces of application usage are removed. I'll post about my experiences with this tool in another blog article to follow this one.

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