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Thread: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

  1. #1
    zabdab Guest

    Default Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    I have discovered two very disturbing privacy issues:

    1) The Site List tab in the so-called "Privacy" section lists "all the web sites visited in the current (ZA) session". This list includes sites I visited via IE and FF and appears to be captured independent of any browser privacy settings. This means that anyone can open ZA and see the list of site I have visited even if I have cleaned the browser cache and history list. Yes, I know the Site List is flushed at ZA shut down to include just the sites for which I have customized settings, so please don't say this is not a problem. I shouldn't need to shut down ZA and restart it to protect my privacy.
    2) If #1 wasn't bad enough, not only does the Site List show the sites I've visited, but it also shows all the sites visited by other people (yes, with separate accounts) who have been logged onto the computer since ZA last started up. Thus, I can log off (not just "switch users&quot and someone else can log into their own, separate account and see what web sites I visited earlier.
    Is there any way to turn this automatic web site listing "feature" off? I couldn't find anything about this issue in these forums or in product reviews on the web. If it can't be turned off, at the very least ZA should inform users of this privacy loophole. I recently switched to ZA from Norton, partly because of a similar issue with a "feature" I did not want and could turn off. This "feature" is worse and is making me consider switching back.
    Thanks for any help anyone can give.

    Operating System:Windows XP Pro
    Product Name:ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite
    Software Version:7.0

  2. #2
    naivemelody Guest

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    I have the Official Users Guide -
    it's a big PDF file - uses Adobe software - everything you wanted to know and more of standard settings and customization - click on the right version - check out chapter 8 - Privacy Protection -;lid=ps_zass
    .<hr>Hope you have completely removed Norton, there is a Norton Removal Tool available. If you have future problems with ZA anti-virus - updating,etc. - maybe Norton - they leave some hard to kill/delete files, yes. Oh, another thing - newest trick by Norton and some other greedy firms, is even thou you
    stop/cancel your account- they may still charge your credit card for charges- ain't that some kind of $#*&amp;^ - you have to tell them, to stop charging/renewing fees.OK. Their undisclosed trick - renewing fees, until you tell them to stop- officially.NaiveMelody NYC 2-26-07~10:35pm e.s.t. - Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac

  3. #3

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    Yes, you are quite right - any web browser activity is tracked from your browser, your security software, Internet servers and then on the source site.There is no privacy.

  4. #4
    critterjoe Guest

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    A faster way to &quot;flush&quot; the privacy site list, as opposed to shutting down ZA, is to go to Privacy|Main, turn all 3 global controls OFF, then immediately turn them back ON; check your Privacy Site LIst; this should have flushed all entries except the ones you have customized. Don't do it one at a time; turn all 3 off, then all 3 on.

    A second alternative is to turn privacy off at those controls and keep them OFF. Of course you won't have the benefit of cookie-blocking, ad-blocking, mobile code blocking anymore, but you can use the pop-up blocking and cookie blocking, etc. found in your browser options. (I actually like to use both myself). Another way to turn off privacy for your browsers (which should render the privacy controls useless) is to to go to Program Control list, find your browser program such as IE, Right-click it and choose options. In the security box that pops up, remove the checkmark for &quot;enable privacy for this program&quot;. Then you'd have to do it for Firefox, too. Once you do that, if I remember correctly, the privacy controls at Privacy|Main no longer will attach to those browsers even if you were turn them to the ON position; but if you go that route be sure and test it, since I haven't personally done it.

    I hate to tell you this, and maybe you already know it, but Norton also logs all the websites you visit in a log file (at least my NAV does) in the Internet Worm Protection logs under &quot;connections&quot;; it may just not be as easy to see as they are in ZoneAlarm. You view it through the Norton Activity Log. You can change the log file size, but I don't know if there's any way to turn it off.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    How very true. Plus search engines track the activity and the google cookies (thunderbird or google itself) track the user. Hop servers keep logs for short term, amd large servers such as akaimi retain logs for a much longer period of time. The Provider keeps full logs for a period and then again many of the providers keep logs of the users for marketing puposes- they want to sell goods and services to companies and use that info for themselves.

    The nice thing about the ZA log in the site list, is that the sites associated with a particular site can often show. Nice for added security or to see who else is watching you. Firewall logs such as windows pfirewall.log does not do this- just the actual connection to the site is recorded and none of the associated sites.


    Message Edited by Oldsod on 02-27-2007 05:06 AM
    Best regards.

  6. #6
    zabdab Guest

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    Thanks for all your replies. A few thoughts in particular:

    My too general subject line was composed in haste. I know web surfing is far from private, but I didn't expect ZA to actually make it easier for someone to find out where I've been on the web.

    OldSod makes a good point that the Site List can be useful in seeing what associated sites get accessed as you surf. However, the fact that you can't easily turn off the automatic inclusion of web sites in the list (just for the current ZA session, I know) is still a design flaw to my way of thinking. Unfortunately, the philosophy behind this design is prevalent: lots of companies automate processes to make them easier but take away the user's ability to control things at a finer level.

    NaiveMelody - thanks. Who would have thought that reading the manual would be useful? :-) It does provide the information that sites get automatically added to the Site List as you surf, so I should soften my sense of surprise just a bit. Unfortunately, there's still no way to turn off the automatic listing. This has reminded me that it is possible to delete sites from the list - individually, with three clicks each. Not really a useful process beyond just a few offending sites.

    CritterJoe - Thanks for the tips on flushing the list and managing the privacy controls in general. I'll try some different combinations and share what I can figure out.

    As far as Norton is concerned - I found out that Norton logged things via using its &quot;custom cleanup&quot; that supposedly adds your favorites to a site list (similar to ZA's). The only problem was that Norton automatically added every site I ever visited, not just my favorites. It also set certain customization options (e.g., keep cookies) that I wouldn't necessarily want set for my favorites, let alone for every site I ever visited. Deleting the sites from the list was a bit easier than in ZA: two clicks instead off three for each site individually.

    I'll get the Norton removal tool to make sure it's completely gone from my hard drive.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    re: sites associated with the browsing. Just right click the page seen in the browser and select Source. In the javascripts asnd such are all of the sites that are associated with that individual page.

    Best regards.

  8. #8
    zaswing Guest

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    Interesting thread.
    Does v7 not have ZA password protection? If zabdab protects ZA, nobody can see anything. It might not be practical, but as I read this thread, is sounds like it might be.

  9. #9
    critterjoe Guest

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    <blockquote><hr>zasuiteuser wrote:
    Interesting thread.Does v7 not have ZA password protection? If zabdab protects ZA, nobody can see anything. It might not be practical, but as I read this thread, is sounds like it might be.

    In version 6, password protection does not prevent anyone from seeing the Privacy Site List or anything else in ZA. It only prevents someone without the password from making an unauthorized change.

    Message Edited by Critterjoe on 02-28-200711:55 PM

    Operating System:Windows XP Home Edition
    Product Name:ZoneAlarm Pro
    Software Version:6.1

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

    Default Re: Web surfing is NOT private!!!

    The ZA files are not easily read by the internet. It would take some malware specifically designed to do this. The usual malware would be a rootkit or malware or trojan that logs the PC internet activity or useage and then report it back home.

    There are only three methods that will defeat a sophisticated firewall such as the ZA. Simple packet filters or stateless packet filters are victims with any kind of malware, so disregard any plain or simple firewalls.

    One is the BHO (toolbars, browser helper objects and addons, etc). Two is a malware that infects itself into the TCP stack itself directly and is not seen by firewalls (trojans and some malware and some rootkits). Three is rootkits that create virtual drivers and devices. These defeats all firewalls monitoring. The ZA OSFirewall and the Triple Defense will observe new registry changes, memory accesses, services changes and certain Windows components activities. This is enough to inform the user that something is happening and please immediately examine the situation. Please note, the Sony DRM rootkit was detected by the paid versions of the ZA- it does work well if the user listens and does the followup. Clicking allow would let the rootkit install itself.

    As for the actual web tracing of a user on the internet, please be aware of the various methods. They can be all blocked in the Privacy of the ZAPro and the ZASS.

    Javascripts is one of the most potent of all scripts. Webbugs, tracking and exploits all use javascripts. These can track the user, not just invade the PC. Blocking javscripts globally is the best approach for unsafe browsing or visiting new sites. Block this in the Privacy.
    Also flash, animations, gifs, some links and animated jpegs need javascripts- all possible exploits and can track.

    ActiveX has been said enough times. The install of rogue activeX results in unwanted malware and exploits. Block in the OSFirewall, not just the Privacy.

    VBScripts are another example. The same exploits for the javascripts will work for the VBScripts. Block in the Privacy.

    Ads do intrusifully inject themselves into the browser's page and every add clicked actually record the visitor (through the use of scripts!). Block in the Privacy.

    Cookies can track. Some will report back home will details of the users browsing habits but only when the original cookie is still present when the user returns to the original site or it's associated sites. Some will actually report passwords or logins from the user's internet activity. Block third party cookies in the Privacy. Deleting cokies is easy enough for anyone.

    Java from some malicious sites will use evil java. Usually it stays in the Java cache and some (if allowed by the user) run rampant in the OS. Block in the Privacy.

    No doubt I missed a few.

    Please note the IE still is tied directly into the Windows OS. Any drive-by spyware or malware will have direct access to the OS and be able to run. The ZA does help protect, but use the OSfirewall acccordingly.

    Please be aware that the private header or referer can relay your IP and past visits to the server or to the next receiving server. Block the private header in the Privacy.

    Okay, now for a different approach. All of these are either blockable, controlable, or setable or not even used in browsers such as Opera or FireFox. FireFox has the addons and the about:config to really make it a highly configurable browser.

    The worst of all is the html exploit. Click that page and it begins all by itself. Some trojan site that has no error message, loads and appears just as an empty page is an example. Just visit the site and watch the trojan attempt to hit the PC. Usually somewhere in eatern europe or south america or in russia, with the promise of some enticing info or pictures or financial gain of some sort.
    Make sure the antivirus is a good one and updated and is running. It should prevent the trojan from invading the PC and taking over.

    The IE temp files are exploitable. The alternative browser keep the caches in their own seperate caches or folders.

    How do I browse? I clean the browser cache each and every time between browsing sessions and after the browsing session is finsihed. I block the third party cookies in the browser itself. The Opera has configuable site content allowed and the favorites, signins and safe sites have been adjusted. The rest are all blocked. In other words, I browse in plain html. Plus an antivirus, site blocker (protowall-large homemede file of 7.5 billion sites blocked- and a large host file) and additional HIPS(stops almost everything and almost anything). Plus of course, a router. The SPI/NAT router is one of the best defensive features for any home user's LAN.

    Plus do not open unsolicted email. The webbug will report back to the sender and inform that yes the email has been received and there is an actually email address for the one selected. So spam and delete all unwanted emails. Opening unwanted attachments goes under the same rule- spam and delete and do not open. The malware inside is not worth the curiousity or need to know how or who or what or what does it look like or if that the free ipod offer is really true.

    Others are simple- IM or IRC or P2P. You take risks with these. The IP is known by other users, ports are opened to the internet, their applications act as servers running silently (even when closed in the firewall), new spam and ads intrusions is the result of using these three. Plus various worms. trojans, viruses, spyware have been especially designed for these three. I do not use any of these on Windows.



    Message Edited by Oldsod on 03-01-2007 12:12 PM
    Best regards.

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