Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anti-Surveillance Web Browser

Script-free, Anti-Tracking, Anti-Surveillance Browser. The HotStrip Browser obtains and filters web page source before sending it for browser rendering with two major objectives. First, if menu option Tag Strip:Scripts is checked, all scripting code is removed. Second, many web page references to other web sites that record and track your internet surfing behavior are also removed. This browser design may have many benefits. For starters, "Look Ma, no more Google ads!". Please click the Hotstrip Browser link above to download and try this free software.

Increased Privacy. Amid increasing concern of loss of privacy, HotStrip aims to defeat corporate and government generation of profiles on internet surfers as much as possible. If "big brother" gets less information on user behavior, the user may have more privacy. To this end, all links (a href tags) to sites listed in the tracker.ini file are removed if menu item Tag Strip:A href is checked.

In the past, major browsers had options to turn off scripting. One motive to write HotStrip was that this option could no longer be found easily. It is almost as if there is a conspiracy to prevent average computer and internet users from disabling Java and other scripts in web pages. Maybe the powers that be want to be able to run almost anything on our computers as the price paid for using the internet.

More and more web sites contain references to "tracking sites". For example, a simple image of the facebook.com logo may be downloaded by your computer at your IP address connecting directly to facebook.com, usually with information attached on the web page you are viewing. See how the tracking is done? It is that simple. However, if the link to get this image (or ad) is removed, that is one step toward privacy. That "profiler" will not know you visited such and such web site. One reduces the ability of corporations (and their government associates) to track your behavior by having all the items in Tag Strip checked.

What does this mean? Say you never use or visit facebook or twitter. Well, as you surf without HotStrip, you might notice that the logos of these trackers are almost everywhere on the net. HotStrip helps you go "underground" concerning these profilers. Given some new laws in places like the U.S., using HotStrip may help prevent the government from listing you as a possible "terrorist" in the future.

One can edit the tracker.ini file to add other sites to remove in these sometimes hidden references on web pages. The trackers include the usual suspects -- google, facebook, twitter, etc -- and a number of other advertizing servers from which content is fetched if HotStrip is not used to prevent it.

The objective is that "big brother" gets the least information possible on you. Unlike "anonymous" browser systems, using proxy servers, the web sites you visit will still have a log of your visit (and may sell this information). However, Hotstrip aims to minimize direct connections from your computer to third-party sites which you may not have ever visited and which definitely do tracking and profiling of you.

Proxy servers can be used by editing Tools:Internet Options:Connections:Settings.

In sum, HotStrip aims to enhance privacy of your internet behavior, as a sort of fence with "Private Property", "No Trespassing" or "Top Secret" signs.

Increased Browsing Speed. Many web surfers have slow internet connections -- even the very slow dial-up 56K baud modems. As readers know, many web sites have a huge amount of Java scripts and many images that can dramatically slow down page display. For example, with a 56k modem, many news pages can take five or more minutes to load. HotStrip comes to the rescue since with script removal and tracker reference removal, pages load and display much faster.

To further enhance loading speed, the menu item View:Show Images can be unchecked (which is the default). The resulting removal of download time for various web page logos and pictures results in a further dramatic decrease in page display time. In addition, there is a privacy benefit in that many images on web pages are fetched from third-party sites, not the one you are visiting. Typically, these other sites receive information on your computer, IP address and site you are visiting as part of the request for those images.

With the default View:Show Images unchecked (off), the view you get may often be similar to a "text-only" browser. For users that do a lot of reading on the internet, like the author, the speed in loading these pages and their simplicity is very welcome.

What if you view a web page with Show Images off, but you decide you want to see the pictures? First, click the menu item View:Show Images to the checked (on) state. Then click View:Refresh and the web page will be reloaded with the images, except those removed by the Tag Strip options checked. Typically, one gets the images you wanted to see even when all Tag Strip options are checked (on). Remember to uncheck the Show Images option once the page is loaded with its images, unless you want to visit other sites with Images enabled also.

Increased Security. In the old days, a program written by a stranger (like a web page author or webmaster) running on your computer without your knowledge would be considered to be a security breech, a virus, malware. Now, webmasters generally think they can run any program using scripts such as Java on your computer without even asking you. The rule is: browser beware; enter at your own risk. You may think the computer is yours; but it is not.

Often these scripts are included verbatim in the web page source or downloaded when you visit a web page. Either way, this increases page display time and security risk. What wonderful things do these scripts do to your benefit? Well, you might be surprised to find that HotStrip with all scripts removed displays most web pages very similarly to what you are used to seeing. You will find that with page appearance changes, some pages rely more on scripts than other pages.

The fact that most pages display mostly as before suggests that all this Java and other scripting code is not very important for page viewing. Then, what does it do? Well, much of it is to track your surfing preferences. Also, some web sites for special things like on-line games, banking, etc, may require these scripts to function properly. For those sites, try turning off all Tag Strips or simply using another browser for those tasks. Meanwhile, for general internet reading and surfing, HotStrip may be the preferred choice.

Further, HotStrip does not store your internet browsing history on hard-drive, as described below.

Increased Efficiency. Not only is HotStrip much faster in loading web pages, especially for slower internet connections, but it uses dramatically less RAM memory, freeing your computer resources to simultaneously run other applications more efficiently as well.

In addition, other browsers (IE, FireFox, Chrome, etc) are written in obsolete, inefficient computer languages, such as Visual C, which run slower and use more RAM memory. Hence, software applications produced by these languages are often called "bloatware". In contrast, HotStrip was written in HotBasic -- known as the "gold standard" among compilers producing faster, smaller and more robust "best executables".

BookMarks. HotStrip uses resources present on most Microsoft Windows computers. For example, the BookMarks window lists alphabetically any "favorites" stored previously during use of Internet Explorer (IE), if any. Conversely, bookmarks added by HotStrip will be available if IE is run. If you "import" into IE bookmarks created by other web browsers, they will immediately be available to HotStrip. Select Tools:Edit Bookmarks to edit your bookmarks. For example, individual entries or even whole directories can be renamed, moved, deleted, etc.

History. Right click of the navigation icon arrows shows a History window, allowing navigation to any of the listings by double clicking or pressing Enter for the selected URL item. The History window is session-specific. That is, its listings are developed from the current run of HotStrip and stored in RAM memory, not on your hard drive. For this reason, when you start HotStrip, your home page is displayed and the History window will show only that one entry. As entries are added during a session, the History windows allows navigation to previously visited sites beyond the range of the back and forward navigation arrow items.

HotStrip Source Code. The HotBasic source code for HotStrip may be downloaded here.

Future Improvements. The present release of HotStrip may lack features you might like or want. The tracker.ini file can also be expanded with experience. Thanks in advance for your help.

HotStrip Development Team. Fredrik Norling, the Netherlands; [May be your name here]

1. Create a new directory -- e.g., c:\hotstrip.
2. Download hotstrip.zip as described in the first paragraph above.
3. Unpack (unzip) the contents of hotstrip.zip.
4. Optionally create a desktop link for hotstrip.exe.
5. Click hotstrip.exe or your desktop link to start the HotStrip Browser.
Go "underground" with HotStrip. Happy no-script, anti-tracking surfing.
© 2012 James J Keene

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