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iNetPrivacy Software AntiFirewall

 Author: Roy Santos
 Review Date: 8/28/2002

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AntiFirewall offers an ingenious way of trying to connect to Internet services you've been forbidden from accessing. Instead of connecting directly to the service that you want, it goes to widely available public proxy servers first. Moreover, it only uses anonymous proxy servers so that you effectively hide any information about your computer and your Internet habits. I tested this promising software on my network with high hopes, but what I discovered may leave you wanting to block the software itself from your list.

Pros:

  • Small, easy install

Cons:

  • Didn't connect to any services
  • No SMTP support (can't send e-mail)
  • Only supports one instant messenger (ICQ)
  • Hide button doesn't really hide program in Windows XP
  • Passwords not masked

Corporations are cracking down more and more on their employees' communications with the outside world, particularly when it comes to Internet communications. In the name of productivity and security, it has become de rigueur for IT departments to block workers from "unproductive" activities, such as instant messaging of friends or checking e-mail all day, and to make sure sensitive information doesn't get out.

Because it's so easy to download and upload almost any file, some companies install restrictive firewalls that block certain Internet protocols so that employees are unable to perform file transfers or connect to chat servers.

AntiFirewall is software that promises to get around firewall restrictions. It claims to work if you are in a networked environment that has a firewall but still allows you to surf the Web. Instead of you connecting directly to services, such as FTP (file transfer), ICQ (an instant messaging system), or IRC (a chat service), AntiFirewall first creates a connection with a public proxy server before going on to the destination server.

For instance, if your company's network administrator has blocked all requests for POP mail, a protocol used by most e-mail providers, then you won't be able to get your private mail at work. If you use AntiFirewall, it will first make an HTTP request to the proxy server, the same request your Web browser makes to connect to Web pages, before connecting to the POP server to retrieve your e-mail.

I tested AntiFirewall on a home network with a router that has a built-in firewall. I blocked requests for FTP, newsgroups, and POP mail by closing the appropriate ports that make those requests. I installed AntiFirewall on my PC, a step that took less than two minutes. A wizard appears immediately after the installation process. It helps you get started by asking you what kind of program you will be using. It also chooses the appropriate public proxy server from a list built in to the software. If the service requires a username and password, the software will ask you to enter them first. The password field is not masked, that is, your password appears in plain view when you type it, rather than as asterisks. This is a horrid deviation from standard password masking in most software. The software also has a Hide button that should keep the program and its icon from anyone's view, but this one fails miserably. In Windows XP, where I tested the software, the Hide button merely places the software in the hidden icons, which anyone can easily view by pressing the double chevron symbol near the system tray.

With the firewall restrictions that I set up, I could not connect to my Internet service provider's FTP site. At this point, AntiFirewall is supposed to help me load Web pages and other files to the storage space provided with my ISP service. AntiFirewall could not connect at all to the FTP site. It seemed to connect to the proxy server fine, but got stuck trying to connect to the FTP server. Trying to change the settings to connect to a different proxy server made it worse. This time, it failed to connect to the proxy server at all. I received the same results with my news server and POP mail. Needless to say, I was unable to upload files, check my newsgroups, or read my mail.

AntiFirewall can also work as an anonymizer, letting you connect to the Internet without giving out any information about yourself or your computer. It only anonymizes the aforementioned programs, not your Web browser. You will still need a different program if you want Web surfing privacy, such as Anonymizer.

Although the program can get around ICQ restrictions, it doesn't work for other types of instant messengers. Those with MSN Messengers or AOL Instant Messanger being restricted at work are out of luck here.

Moreover, the program works only for hardware-based firewalls. It didn't work on Zone Alarm, a popular software firewall used in many home PCs and home networks.

Summary

AntiFirewall is a fantastic idea that, for now, remains in the realm of fantasy. It is supposed to work around many common firewall restrictions to make once impossible Internet communications open again. Disappointingly, it could not get around simple home firewall restrictions in my tests and I doubt that it could work on more robust corporate networks. It's expensive ($35) for what it purportedly does. I wish you luck trying to get it to function properly. Just remember that no matter how safe any company claims its firewall workarounds are, there is always a chance that you may be compromising security.

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