Disconnect: Speed Up & Secure the Internet

The internet can be frustratingly slow at times. This could be because of the time of day, a problem with your connection, the popularity of the site you’re visiting, or badly written pages. It could also be because of the sheer volume of advertisement, page analytics and other elements packed into a site.

Disconnect  is a free extension for Chrome that can be used to help not only speed up you online experience but also to make it more secure and private. These are pretty bold claims, so we thought we’d better take a look to see how it stands up.

Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

Any tool that claims to speed up web browsing should be viewed with a degree of suspicion – snake oil merchants have been rife on the internet for many years. But Disconnect takes things further by also offering to improve privacy and security; is it all too good to be true?

A faster connection that’s also more secure and private? Disconnect is not shy in its claims.

A faster connection that’s also more secure and private? Disconnect is not shy in its claims.

The extension works in a number of ways and provides you with a range of options that help to give you a decent level of control over how your internet connection is being used. The add-on is, sadly, only available for Chrome, and it can be downloaded free of charge from the Chrome Web Store.

Other browsers may miss out, but Chrome users have a lot to look forward to in Disconnect.

Other browsers may miss out, but Chrome users have a lot to look forward to in Disconnect.

Once installed, a new button will be added to your browser toolbar and as you skip from site to site you will notice that its number overlay starts to increase.

See at a glance how many other pages and third-party services a particular site is communicating with.

See how many pages a particular site communicates with.

Almost every website you visit does much more than just provide you with text and images to look at. Tracking cookies may be used to monitor which other sites you visit, advertising components may pull in targeted ads from selected companies, and there are few sites that do not link to social networks.

The content you are not actively interest in – the adverts and tracking cookies for starters – is not only a waste of bandwidth, but can also pose a privacy threat. Whatever you do online, it is understandable that you would prefer that this information was not shared with other sites.

Click the Disconnect button and you can see how data is shared from the sites you visit.

Click the Disconnect button and you can see how data is shared from the sites you visit.

The pop-out menu gives you a brief overview of the number of third party sites the current site is communicating with. This information is broken down into four sections – advertising, analytics, social and content – and you can check exactly which sites are involved by clicking one of these headings.

Click the ‘Visualise page’ link and you can view a graph that displays an easy-to-read display of the connections that have been trying to share or exchange information. Click any of the nodes to block or permit communication with any of the sites that are listed.

Ever wondered how your bandwidth is used? Discconnect can reveal all.

Ever wondered how your bandwidth is used? Discconnect can reveal all.

Three of the biggest tracking sites are Google, Facebook and Twitter, and these are listed separately at the top of the menu. Connection to these sites can be blocked by clicking in exactly the same way.

For a quick fix, it is possible to add a site to a black or white list so that all requests from a particular site can be blocked or unblocked with a single click.

A recent addition to Disconnect is the Secure Wi-Fi component. This simple tick box enables you to avoid the serious problem of wifi eavesdropping – a technique that can be used to steal cookies from your computer and use the data they contain to obtain login information.

A simple tick box is all that’s needed to ensure that your wifi connection is encrypted to protect your data.

A simple tick box is all that’s needed to ensure that your wifi connection is encrypted to protect your data.

A very similar technique known as widgetjacking can be used to garner information from Facebook and other social networks even if you do not actively visit these sites. This is a real problem when you are using unencrypted public wifi, but Disconnect can help out here. The simple solution is to force encryption of your data, and the extension can take care of this for you automatically.

One of the great things about Disconnect is the fact that it can be used straight after installation without the need to spend an age configuring all of the options you want to use. This is an organic tool that you can tailor and tweak as you use it.

In Summary

So, is Disconnect everything it sets out to be? Put simply, yes. In terms of speeding up your connection, you may well find that improvements are rather below the claimed 27% – and this is difficult to measure in day to day browsing – but this do genuinely seem to feel snappier.

But the privacy and security side of things should be welcomed with open arms, Disconnect really shines here. This is not just in terms of what it is able to do, the number of elements and third party sites it is able to block, but the fact that it does so very transparently.

With a few clicks of the mouse you can see exactly what has been blocked so you can easily see how the extension is working. Should you find that it is being a little overzealous and causes some of your favorite websites to act strangely, it is easy to intervene and re-enable any elements that you find are actually needed.


Summary

A great tool for Chrome users looking to keep website working the way they want them to, ensuring their private data stays safe.

8

Responses

Add Yours
  • Disconnect is a smart tool in not only increasing internet speed but also providing transparent security with tracking cookies and stuff.

  • Actually, Disconnect is available for Firefox as well as Chrome. 😉