As the World Wide Web became popular in the ‘90s, browsing evolved from being a part-time to full-time activity. The World Wide Web offered many conveniences to the point that you wouldn’t even need to get off your chair. There is one key ingredient to this “one-stop” Web experience, and that is registration forms. You are frequently required to register information before you can avail yourself of all the features. The required information may vary from being simplistic to something comparable to writing a resume. This is where form self-filling comes in. This feature works by completing forms, from registration to shopping carts, with only a few keystrokes or mouse clicks. As Web usage grows, so to does the demand for more powerful form self-filling programs. If you fill out many forms or have multiple passwords, than most form self-filler programs can be very useful – but none are perfect. Each works better for a particular type of Web site but, thus far, none have been able to dominate the market. Of course, when dealing with personal information, security is a primary concern but, unfortunately, no universal standards have yet been established.
Gator E-wallet is one such form self-filling application. Described as a “helpful online companion,” it helps a user fill out forms, logins, and passwords. It makes things so simple that many Web users download it as a necessity. However, there is one major drawback – it also collects Web surfing habits. While personal data collection is not uncommon, Gator uses what it collects for its own gain. During E-wallet installation, you may or may not knowingly install a companion application called GAIN, which plagues you with pop-up ads or with hijacked search results based on your information collected by GAIN. Not only that, Gator also has a questionable practice of “drive-by downloads” resulting in unwanted and unnecessary applications being installed on your PC. Below is a screen shot of some of those applications installed by Gator.
Ok, so we now have established that Gator is something you should NOT have on your PC, but how does that solve form self-filling? There are several safer alternatives that offer form self-filling, some are freeware and some carry a fee. A few examples are:
Firefox is a popular browser with a built-in feature that remembers passwords and other stored information for Web sites. Using Firefox will result in a much better Web experience, allowing you to gain the advantage of storing login information in the browser in a reasonably secure way. One thing nice about this feature is that it can be turned off or on any time.
AccountLogon is a free personal information management software which provides you with fast and secure one-click access to all of your online information. Some of its features include:
Single Click Logon
Logon to any of your accounts with a single Click!
Windows / IE Toolbar Integration
Accessible from a single icon in the Windows Taskbar and IE Toolbar.
Works with all IE browsers (MSN, AOL, Avante etc.)
Accessible from the browsers context menu.
Easy to use skinned interface – no more boring windows!
Extra strong encryption protects your information from unauthorized access and many built-in security features give you full control of the program. Screen Auto Lock, Password Masking, Logon Timeout, In-Memory Encryption, and Security Levels.
Below is a screenshot of the AccountLogon 2.5 software
Google Toolbar Autofill is a feature that comes with the Google Toolbar plugin for browsers. The AutoFill feature helps you complete Web forms with one click. First, you need to create an AutoFill profile and then click the AutoFill button to automatically fill forms with the information provided. Below is a screenshot of the AutoFill profile page:
These are just a few samples of secure form self-filling applications that you can currently use to enhance your browsing experience – but what about the future? Even though there is currently no security standard in cyberspace, form self-fillers and e-wallet programs continue to gain popularity. Soon, if the barriers to entry are not removed, each of us will have a digital ID that is both brokered and registered by one of only a few large corporations. The most promising solutions, like the American Express Blue card, have already been developed and are merely awaiting the wider use of smart chip reader technology. This, when combined with other emerging biometric technology, will undoubtedly promise a more secure future – but controlled by whom? The only way to be sure is to always read your EULA (End User License Agreement) and search the Web before installing any application.