I have been using Cotse for private internet surfing for over a year and I think this is an accurate review of Cotse based on that. This privacy provider also gives you access to private email, IRC Chat via web interface, web based remailer, SSH tunneling and webhosting.
The first thing to understand is that Cotse SSH tunneling is not for anonymity, but privacy. You will be able to hide from your ISP what websites you are visiting and what you are downloading from the internet, and it will not matter if your ISP keeps logs for one year or twenty years, all they will see when you surf the internet is that you are connected to an SSH tunnel, and anything after that can only be seen and logged by Cotse, your ISP will be powerless to stop this.
In order to use the SSH tunnel in Windows you will need to download an SSH client, my favourite client being KiTTY but there are others around. In Unix, you simply open the shell and type (example assumes you are using tunnel1):
ssh -L 5000:127.0.0.1:9999 email@example.com
With 5000 being the local port being forwarded to port 9999 on the server, using this port will pass on your OS and browser ID to the visited sites, if you forward the traffic to port 8888 Cotse will fake your operating system and browser ID as Windows Vista and Firefox regardless of what OS you use.
You can also forward to port 8080 which uses privoxy, this protects your privacy even further by stopping aggressive advertisements displaying on the screen, but privoxy will slow down your internet browsing a little.
You can pay for the service with a money order, check, Paypal or credit card, however paying by credit card requires you to reveal your real ISP email address or they will decline payment, according to Cotse this is due to fraud prevention reasons. For anonymous payments you will be better off using a money order or using a virtual credit card and pay through Paypal. Read my post on opening a Paypal account using a fake name to learn how to do this.
Cotse claims they keep logs of your activities for five days, I think this is reasonable. In an ideal World logs would not exist,but unfortunately some people will abuse privacy services and those users will have to be weeded out one way or another.
Most proxy services will tell you that they do not keep any kind of logs, but technically speaking this is impossible since from the moment you connect to their proxy logs are being created, what happens is that they claim that those logs do not get stored more time than necessary, until you disconnect, and then get overwritten, hence they call it a “no logs” proxy service.
When reading about the logging policy of a privacy service you should consider that it is very easy for them to lie to you and hide their real logging policy. Cotse could easily claim they keep no logs and you would have no way of knowing if these claims are truth or not. By making clear your activities are being stored for five days and then overwritten, Cotse gives me the impression of being an honest provider in regards to their privacy claims of what they can do for you and what not.
There are far too many privacy snakeoil out there advertising the impossible, although I believe it is possible to run a “no logs” privacy service, the problem will always be finding out who is lying and who is not.
The Good Stuff
You can use Cotse SSH tunnel with Unix systems as well as Windows, their tunneling service is ideal to be used together with a live Linux CD leaving no computer tracks.
You not only get an SSH secure tunnel but also a private email service (Squirrelmal interface) with POP and IMAP, you also get a fairly decent hosting account with no speech limitations other than illegal content in the US where Cotse and its servers are based.
You have no bandwidth limitations when using SSH tunnelling and Cotse provides alternative ports like 443 in case your ISP blocks the default SSH port 22.
Unlike a VPN, if the SSH tunnel goes down for some reason, your real computer IP will not be exposed and your internet will stop working, this is a good thing. In a VPN, when the service goes down, your internet connection simply borrows your real IP instead with the risk of exposing your identity.
The Cotse email address that comes with the SSH tunnel has automatically expiring aliases, SSL connexion and a highly configurable spam filter, as well as hiding the sender IP on the headers.
Cotse helpdesk is excellent and they always reply under 24 hours, downtime of the SSH tunnel is also minimal, in one year I must have experienced thirty minutes downtime altogether, speed through the tunnel is unnoticeable from the direct connection.
The Bad Stuff
You are not allowed to use torrents through the SSH tunnel as p2p incoming connexions cause issues to the other customers, and the tunnel will disconnect automatically after 600 minutes of continous use (ten hours), you will have to reconnect after that.
Using a credit card for payment will require you to reveal your ISP assigned email address, payments with a virtual credit card under assumed name will only be possible using Paypal. Your other alternative is a money order or check.
Webspace monthly bandwidth is poor at 1000MB, it will be enough for a text only personal website but no more than that. Their IRC web based chat is blocked by some Undernet servers (due to abuse), other than that it works fine at other networks.
Setting up Cotse SSH tunnel can be a bit overwhelming for someone who is new to the internet, it may take them a while to figure out how to configure everything.
Cotse makes excellent value for money, and you not only get an SSH tunnel but also a private email address and webhosting. If you want a cheap private proxy with no bandwith limitations that works accross Unix as well as Windows, then Cotse is probably for you.
Their five days logs policy is worse than other sites promising not to keep any kind of logs, but you can not be sure those sites are telling you the truth, in fact you can not even be sure Cotse is not logging your activities for longer than the five stated days, you have no way around this other than running your own proxy server.
Notice: Review based on the basic SSH Internet Shield Cotse service, you can upgrade this for extra features.