Privacy and protection of your identity is now a hot topic - Just look at the cases of credit card and identity fraud and you know that your PC should be no exception. If you’re a regular internet shopper or banker then you are potentially open to having your details stolen. The online stores and banks are doing their part to make things as secure as possible, but the truth is, if you have your banking details on your PC, there is a risk that they could grabbed by a hacker. GhostSurf aims to protect your privacy to the highest order. GhostSurf offers five main features: privacy control, spyware control, the vault, AdWare control and tracks cleaner. Of course, each of these areas covers a lot more.

Privacy control lets you set the level of protection you like, from normal, i.e. no privacy, to secure, which really means total lockdown - you are totally anonymous, all traffic sent via the dedicated Tenebril servers to ensure you remain protected, and it is all encrypted, it even boasts that ‘agencies’ would not be able to trace you. You do get the option to nominate special sites, like Hotmail, that you don’t want to block - you can add your banking sites and so on for your convenience.

Spyware control will protect you from malicious programs running on your PC that might be send out your details or logging keystrokes. This has been somewhat in the spotlight over the past year - so much so that Microsoft are releasing their own spyware program. However, you may have protection already from your existing virus protection or firewall - our version of McAfee meant that the spyware scanner came up with no results, and nothing to clean. Of course, you can also go in and nominate spyware that you want to keep. It can also stop things like your homepage being changed to a porn search engine, for example.

The vault is as the name suggests creates an encrypted area in which you can password protect and encrypt files - both from snoopers on the internet and in your own office or home. This could be something from a business plan to a selection of racy photos of the mistress. It’s a great feature and so easy to use. Of course, you could put all your passwords into a document in here so you only have to remember one - just make sure that no one can guess your master password! You can also create a simple protect list of favourite websites. You can backup this encrypted vault onto a CD or DVD just like something out of Mission Impossible. When you remove something from your vault, you even get the option to digitally shred it - real cloak and dagger stuff. It makes you want to have something to hide!

AdArmor was one of our favourite features. This allows you to stop three main things - pop-ups, advertisements directly on webpages and paid search results. McAfee already took care of the pop-ups, so again, this might be a duplicated feature - but it does keep track of how many it has blocked. Blocking adverts on webpages is great. Those on dialup will know that sometimes the advertising is holding up the downloading of what you actually want to see. No adverts means faster web browsing. Pure and simple - once you have seen your favourite sites without the adverts, you’ll never go back. The Times website is now a pleasure to read, The Sun website is noticeably faster. Of course, if you want the adverts, you can select which sites not to block. You can also turn off a number of other things like ActiveX components, Flash, meta refreshes, window resizing and so on. This may well annoy site designers, but it’s a blessing, because you stay in control of what you view.

The final component is TracksCleaner. Ok, you might think that this isn’t really necessary because you can do this already in your internet options. However, you can customise this, so you can protect the pages you want, or the cookies you want, and clean off the rest. This is great if you want to erase your internet history, but keep your favourite pages. But it goes much further than this. We’re not just talking about the internet - it will also wipe recent lists from major applications, like Media Player, or Download Accelerator or Word. This means that no one can see what you have been up to. Of course you can select what you don’t want to delete. But it will keep a history of your deletes, which of course, you can turn off.

Price when reviewed:

Main review verdict: Put simply, this is a phenomenally powerful product. If you take your time to set your preferences carefully, you can protect yourself, your business, your relationship, or children, everything. There were no conflicts with installed virus and firewalls and as a package, it feels complete and highly effective. You need to ask yourself a question though - do you really need protection from industrial espionage? Are your browsing habits that controversial or your documents that important? Do you want to feel like a rogue agent hiding from the KGB? Some of the features are duplicated elsewhere, but this really is a very good piece of software, and highly recommended.