Saturday, 20 February 2010

Strictly Software's Anonymizing Super Search Tool

Introducing the Anonymous Super Search Tool

The following free online tool which I have created follows in the same vein as the wonderful anonymizing search tools such as Scroogle which give you the searching power of Google but without all the privacy issues.

If you don't know what the privacy issues are when you carry out a Google search then you should be aware of the following:

1. A search on Google, Yahoo and Bing is carried out with an HTTP GET request. This means that your search terms are visible in the address bar e.g:

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=strictly+sofware

this means that inside the log files on the web server that carried out the search is a record of your search request as well as your IP address and browser details.

2. As well as a history of your search being stored in the web servers log files, your browsers history as well as any tracking cookies used to deliver term specific advertising it can also be stored on any intermediate servers that it passed through on the way. If you are carrying out your search at work or school then it's very likely that all your traffic goes through a proxy or firewall and therefore they will also have a history of your search terms in the log files of those servers.

3. Because your search terms are visible in the address of the URL it is very easy to block certain terms as well as whole sites in real time. It's also easy for your employer, school, ISP or authority with a warrant to find out whether people have been searching for things they shouldn't have been e.g porn or banned sites.

So now you know why searching through the main providers can be a privacy concern. Obviously you might not care who knows about your search for penis pumps, blow up dolls, latex fetish sites, pre-op transsexuals and whatever else you may enjoy looking for but if you do what can you do about it?

Well from now on you can check out my new Super Search tool. Not only does it return the top 10 results from the major three search providers at the same time but it keeps your anonymity by using proxies and other various methods.

Method 1.
All searches are passed through a built in proxy chain containing at least three steps from your PC to the search engines web server. This means that your employer, school or ISP will only ever see your request to my domain and not to the search engine. Also the search engines will only ever see traffic from the last proxy before it arrived at their server. Because the proxies use different IP addresses from your own machine there is no way for them to link a search request with your computer only the proxy server that is used by many users.

Method 2.
The initial request on my search page is made through an HTTP POST not a GET. As it takes a lot of work, disk space and resources to log all POST data it's not done as standard by Apache and IIS when they log HTTP requests. Therefore any search terms are never stored on my web server even if I did enable logging (see next point).

Method 3
The actual logging of HTTP requests has been disabled on my web server for this domain. I keep no history of any searches made through this tool. I also don't use Google Analytics or any other client side urchin tracker tools on this page. There is no way I can tell who came to my tool and what searches they did and if I cannot know then it means no-one else can find out from me...

Method 4
When possible the search requests are passed through proxies that support HTTPS which means they get encrypted on route between my server and the next one.

Method 5
The final results are passed through an anonymizer tool which means if you want to look at any result in more detail you can be assured that the request is not linked back to your IP address as you are viewing the website through a proxy.

The tool is called Super Search and can be found here: Anon Super Search

Also on a side note if you ever want to check out the details a web proxy is actually passing around to ensure its safety then the following info tool details browser related information such as IP, GEO Location, HTTP Headers, Proxy Forwarded values, Agent and Referrer info. Its basic but a good quick way of checking what details you are currently using.

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