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Are you being watched? Between the Feds conducting warrant-less wiretaps and companies monitoring their employees’ web-surfing habits, the notion of privacy is as quaint as a PS/2 port. The Stealth Surfer II can’t help with your phone conversations, but it will cover your online tracks—at least most of them.
This password-protected USB device contains a suite of software designed to provide online privacy, but there’s nothing about it that you couldn’t duplicate using any USB memory key—and for a fraction of the price. The model we reviewed sells for $90 and offers a miniscule 128MB of flash memory (more than half of which is consumed by the applications). Higher-priced models feature the same software, but more memory (the 1GB model goes for a whopping $270—about $150 more than we’d expect).
Nearly all of the bundled products are free—either they’re open-source software (Mozilla’s Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client), a free version of a paid tool (Siber Systems’ Roboform password-management program), or a free level of service (Hushmail’s encrypted email). And as surprised as we were to see the relatively ancient Firefox 1.0.7 on the device (version 1.5 came out in November 2005), we were flat-out flabbergasted to discover that the bundled version of Anonymizer, Inc.’s IP-masking software Anonymizer 2005 has been discontinued and is no longer supported by the developer.
So, what do you get for your money? A PDF users manual, Stealth Ideas’ assurance that the software suite will play nice together, and tech support (provided you call between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time or submit your questions via email).
We successfully contacted a tech-support person by phone during those hours, but we also discovered a real-world scenario in which the product spectacularly fails to deliver on its promise to keep users’ online activities private: We launched Firefox from the Stealth Surfer II, surfed over to PartyPoker.com, downloaded the online game to the USB device, and watched as PartyPoker’s install routine automatically launched Internet Explorer from the PC’s hard drive and delivered us to its website. So much for stealth.
Month Reviewed: May 2006
+ PRIVACY: Kind of enables untraceable web-surfing.
- PIRACY: Outdated software; can't always deliver on its promises; expensive.