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Cocoon hands on: the one-shot solution to private and secure Firefox browsing

Cocoon
A lot has been said about safe, secure surfing in recent months. Firesheep brought the necessity for HTTPS (and WPA-encrypted WLAN) into the limelight, and the Gawker Media breach reminded all of us that no one is safe.

The truth is, if you want to stay secure on the Web, you have to take a proactive stance. You need to install LastPass or KeePass, and using HTTPSEverywhere is a very good idea too. A good anti-virus suite like Microsoft Security Essentials is a necessity, and get into the habit of regularly scanning with Malwarebytes.

Alternatively, you can scrap everything and just use Cocoon, a service that proposes to solve all of your privacy and security problems in one fell swoop. There is a 45-day free trial, and it requires Firefox 3.6.13. I suggest you install it, and then read on!

Cocoon, an all-in-one secure and private surfing solution for Firefox


Proxy

Most of the security added by Cocoon is by way of an SSL-secured proxy, run by parent company Virtual World Computing. While you won't see anything different in the address bar (it will still read http://, rather than https://), rest assured that all of your Web traffic is going via a secure proxy.

Cocoon's implementation is transparent, and it's very nearly lag-free, too. Normally when dealing with proxy servers (or VPNs) the biggest problem is massively-increased latency -- not so with Cocoon.

This is the reason the service will cost $7/month after your 45-day trial, incidentally: all of your surfing traffic goes through Cocoon servers, and that adds up!

Anonymity

Cocoon's next big feature is complete anonymity. Your home IP address is never exposed, and Cocoon automatically boots Firefox in Private Browsing mode, meaning your computer stays free of cookies and other temporary Internet files.

To provide a browsing history (which you can search), your visited websites are stored on Cocoon's cloud servers. You can opt out of that, though, if you want to be really secure. Apparently, though, all of your cloud-stored data is encrypted using your account password -- so as long as your password is suitably non-trivial, you should be safe.
Finally, Cocoon provides a built-in 'disposable' email address generator called "Mailslots." Visit any page with a sign-up form and Cocoon automatically generates a random email address (1234asdf1234@cocoonemail.com, for example) that you can use. You can then check your email using a built-in client; very smooth!

Antivirus and anti-malware

One of the slightly more interesting claims Cocoon makes is that it renders you completely immune to viruses and malware. The problem is, I can't seem to work out how Cocoon insulates you -- and I can't find a white paper that details the process on either the Cocoon or Virtual World Computing sites.

Basically, Cocoon doesn't let you download EXE files -- well, it does, but not without giving you a big full-screen warning. It's possible that Cocoon filters every page you visit and physically stops you from downloading malware, but I don't know for sure.

Not all viruses and malware are distributed via EXEs, either -- and I don't see how Cocoon can prevent nefarious JavaScript from messing you up.

Very smooth

In conclusion, Cocoon is excellent. It's worth using just for its flawless, secure, seamless and quick web browsing; the throw-away email generator and built-in email client are pure genius, too. If the antivirus and anti-malware protection really work as advertised, this really could be the best all-in-one secure-and-private browsing solution.

If you want to surf safely, at just $55 for a year, using Cocoon is very nearly a no-brainer. Dell and Acer should bundle it with new PCs! Computer technicians the world over, like my cohort Lee, would be be out of a job.

Tags: add-on, browsers, cocoon, email, extension, firefox, privacy, proxy, security, virtual world computing, VirtualWorldComputing, vpn, vwc, web

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