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Ultrasurf is an anonymous browsing service. I'll discuss a reader's problems using and also review alternatives and the impact on speed.

I have a difficult time using Ultrasurf; whenever it's on, I can't surf webpages. What should I do? Should I use another program?

Ultrasurf is an anonymization service that in all likelihood requires some configuration to your system and/or browser.

There are alternative services, but they all share one characteristic: To varying degrees, they will impact the speed of your browsing experience.

In this video from an Ask Leo! webinar, I'll discuss anonymous browsing.

Transcript

'I have a difficult time using Ultrasurf; whenever it's on, I can't surf webpages. What should I do? Should I use another program?'

Well ... to start with, I'm going to find out what Ultrasurf is because in all honesty, I have no idea. Ultrasurf...I'm assuming that this is the Ultrasurf that you are referring to. It appears to be an anonymizer of some sort. So you can't surf webpages? Well, it seems like the intent of this is that you in fact can in surf webpages - that's the intent. Obviously, it's not working for you. What I would suggest you do is have a look at their support site. Make sure that you include the actual error messages that you are seeing. In other words, what happens when you try. Certainly, I would double-check the configuration of the application to make sure that you set it up according to their instructions. Typically, anonymization tools like this, anonymous proxies, either require that you make some specific configuration options in your browser or they install an application that more or less does that for you.

Alternatives are Anonymizer; it is a relatively well-known one. I actually don't have another one off the top of my head.

The ultimate in anonymization is called The Onion Router, the Tor Project. What that does is that uses a fair amount of encryption and routing to bounce your requests through some number of Tor routers. Each step along the way is individually and separately encrypted. That's one of the reasons they call it an 'onion'; because your packet of data is encrypted each step of the way so if you were running it through say, 4 Tor proxies, then it would have 4 layers of encryption on it and nobody in the middle could stand a chance of decrypting the data. The downside of Tor is that it does slow down your internet browsing experience, but it is, as far as I understand, it's kind of like the gold standard (if there is such a thing when it comes to trying to stay anonymous in your browsing) and as you can see, it's open source and it runs on just about every platform you can think of.

Question: 'Any other options. I don't want my PC to slow down to a great degree.'

Unfortunately, the very nature of most anonymization services almost requires that the PC slow down. And it's not necessarily the PC itself that is slowing down, understand, it's not your computer that's the bottleneck here. When you end up sending your data through a proxy, that's an extra step and then the quality of the proxy, the speed of the proxy itself, and in the case of Tor, the number of hops you elect to use (because you can configure your Tor to use anywhere from 1 to any number of hops) to route your data around the planet before it actually gets to a destination. The more hops that you include, the slower it's going to be. So with Tor, the minimum number of hops with the other services; I mean there's going to be some impact, there just is. That's kind of the way things just work.

Article C5028 - January 4, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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9 Comments
AJ
January 4, 2012 10:09 PM

I use ultrasurf and it works great and is faster than some of the others I use. The problem is that my anti virus (AVG) keeps on labeling it a trojan every time I activate it. Assuming it isn't, I had to put an exception in the anti virus settings. I have user other programs to test if I have a trojan but my PC is always clean.

Mark J
January 5, 2012 3:46 AM

@AJ
Many antivirus programs use what is called heuristics, which analyze the behavior of a program. So, if a program does something which a virus typically does, even if it's a legitimate application, it might generate a malware warning. If you're sure that the program you are using is safe, you can add it to your safe list.

Dave Markley
January 6, 2012 8:33 AM

A.J.'s AVG problem is most likely the 'heuristic scan' feature. You can turn off heuristic scanning in AVG Free (under 'advanced settings), then it will only, in theory, look for 'known' malware.
As far as 'anonymous browsing' goes, these programs can hide your IP address, but your service provider will still know 100% of where you go and anything you download.

AJ
January 6, 2012 8:49 AM

Thanks for the comments.
Dave, I am not sure if the service provider really knows where I go as this service is excellent to go to websites which have been blocked by them.

David
January 6, 2012 10:17 AM

I used UltraSurf until I had a problem accessing a certain site that had previously worked OK using it. After a lot of hunting around, I now use "ChrisPC Free Anonymous Proxy"
http://www.chris-pc.com/proxy/index.html
This is simple to use and works a treat on the site I wish to access, which is not normally available where I live. (I'm being deliberately vague, here!). It gives a choice of countries but, not having need of variation, I can't vouch for the efficacy of that! For what I need, it works well. Beware on installation, as it "offers" to install "Relevant Information", which seems to be generally regarded as spyware. Refuse and all is well.

Ariel
January 6, 2012 12:44 PM

"Scroogle" scraper found here: http://www.scroogle.org/cgi-bin/scraper.htm
I guess this is sort of the same thing without having to make any changes in your settings on your browser or download any program.
Someone with more knowledge than me can confirm if it is the same kind of "Anonymizer"
or if any..... the "differences".

David
January 6, 2012 1:26 PM

Can't see the connection between "Scroogle" and anonymous surfing. It just seems to be some sort of stripped-out search engine.

KRS
February 25, 2012 7:16 AM

Unfortunately, Scroogle is gone. Google didn't like it because it skipped their ads, and it was hit by a DDOS attack.

Don Gilcrease
March 5, 2013 8:57 AM

Ultrasurf is not intended to be an anonymizing service as such. It is designed to circumvent government level internet censorship in security critical situations. Meaning, its purpose is to keep you out of jail for banned surfing in oppressive countries by encrypting your connection, both ways, between your system and the Ultrasurf servers, and totally obscuring the sites you connect to. They have a new program, UltraVPN, that is more comprehensive. Go to the Ultrasurf site: https://ultrasurf.us/ for more information. UltraVPN is downloadable from the last line (a hot link) on this page: https://ultrasurf.us/support.html.

Some antivirus software will report Ultrasurf as a virus - it is not. Some antivirus software will report the Ultrasurf site as a malware site - it is not. Ultrasurf and UltraVPN require special configuration to function properly on any browser other than Internet Explorer. Without that special configuration, there is no protection on any other browser than Internet Explorer.

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