UNMASKED ON THE NET

THE FINNS RAID A COMPUTER THAT FERRIES ANONYMOUS MESSAGES. NOW USERS FEAR THEIR SECRETS ARE AT RISK

Johan Helsingius' personal computer may be the most loathed machine in cyberspace. Cranks routinely E-mail bomb it, trying to level the IBM clone with millions of pages of gibberish. Hot-headed hackers dispatch bit-eating "worm" programs to Helsinki to search for and destroy the computer's precious electronic cargo. A few vengeful folks have even threatened Helsingius himself, for what would the machine be without the man?

But for hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet, Helsingius' computer-and the service it provides-is a glorious haven. Known technically as an anonymous remailer, it is the network equivalent of a Swiss bank: a conduit...

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