Each day we spend hours on the internet doing various things, including work and entertainment. The internet provides freedom of speech and, most importantly, a certain degree of privacy among the users. With the internet, you do not have to worry about what they will say when buying a particular item. However, with everything moving online, one’s privacy has become a huge concern. Since normally browsing the internet will leave various traces of your activities, the government, website owners, and cybercriminals can trace your digital footprints. As a result, one of the major modern-day concerns is mass surveillance.
Big companies such as Google and Facebook collect internet users’ data to deliver specialized adverts to their target markets. Now, this might seem not bad – but only if you look at it from a naïve perspective. However, remember, when these companies collect your information, your personal data is included too. That means whenever there are breaches and leaks of information from these big companies, your personal data might be included. Each time you surf the internet, you are at risk of getting your personal data exposed.
When introduced, the internet was mainly used to achieve ultimate privacy, but is it really possible to browse the internet without being closely monitored today? Sadly, it is not. Remember, placing aside the businesses willing to advertise their goods and services, we also have ISPs that also like to snoop on surfers’ online activities. Thus, in order to achieve ultimate privacy while actively online, we are left with one option: not to browse at all – which is not an option at all since everything is done online nowadays. Therefore, we are left with various methods of minimizing the snooping on our privacy.
Why Online Anonymity Is Important
Staying anonymous while browsing the internet can help you in many ways. For instance, you are looking up a particular prescription drug. By surfing anonymously, you will protect your email address from getting exposed to websites that will end up sending you various spam messages about new types of prescription drugs. Here is another example: you are looking for greener pastures and you don’t want your current employer to know that you are in search of a new job, so browsing anonymously will assist in hiding your online activities from your employer.
This is what you might achieve by browsing anonymously:
- Minimize spam emails
- Avoid targeted ads that are presented in a creepy manner displaying items you recently searched
- Stop your previously visited websites showing on the browser as suggestions
- If sharing a computer, prevent your history of internet activities from showing to other parties later
How to Stay Anonymous Online
To stay anonymous while browsing the internet, there are a number of tactics that you need to combine. Note that some of the methods will only hide your internet behavior to a certain extent, and it also depends on your reason for hiding your online activity. There are many ways on how to stay anonymous and private online, and here are some of the best practices that one can implement to minimize being tracked or spied on while surfing the internet.
1. Browse in Incognito/InPrivate Mode
This is one of the most common methods of going anonymous when online. When the InPrivate or Incognito mode (depending on the browser you are using) is turned on, your surfing information such as cookies, temporary files and history is not saved on your system and is instantly deleted once you close the browsing tabs. Why is this method the most commonly used among internet users? Simple, it doesn’t require any form of installation. It comes ready with the browser, and all you have to do is select it. Now, before you close your case and entrust your anonymous browsing to this mode, it is important to get informed about what you achieve when on incognito mode.
For starters, Incognito/InPrivate is ideal if your main concern is in getting your browsing history exposed to other people you share your computer with. However, it doesn’t mask your activities from third parties such as the government, your employer (who can be your network admin at the office), and your ISP. As a result, it’s accurate to conclude that while on Incognito/InPrivate, you are by no chance safe from hackers and by no means are you anonymous on the internet.
2. Make Use of a Firewall
Before going online, it is important to know how to set up your hardware in a way that achieves anonymity when surfing the internet. Connecting a broadband modem directly to your computer is a no-no. Remember, hackers can gain access to your system through your IP address. Therefore, without a firewall that protects your IP address, you literally will be having one less line of defense against hackers. On your home network, it is important to have a router because it can alleviate hackers’ tactics through its built-in firewall. The nature of a router complicates things to hackers thanks to the NAT ( Network Address Translation) technology, which it uses to distribute secret IP addresses to the connected devices. These IP addresses are only visible on the router’s network, so that for one to gain access, they will need to be part of the network in view.
Moreover, you can add another firewall layer by activating your PC’s operating system firewall, for example Windows Firewall. If your OS does not have an inbuilt firewall, you can make use of one that comes with cybersecurity suites.
3. Surf Surreptitiously
Practice stealthy browsing by implementing the following strategies when visiting websites:
- Block physical location tracking
- Block browser reports on your operating system
- Block plugin and browser type detection
- Block time zone and language preference reports
- Use the ScriptSafe browser extension
4. Use Dummy Email
There are some websites that require you to enter and verify your email address in order to gain access to their services. What you do not know is that once they have acquired your email and managed to make you click on the so-called “verifying link” sent to your email, they are done with you. We cannot avoid such websites as some of them, if not most, are actually legit ones. Thus, in a bid to beat this nasty behavior, how about you just create a dummy email address that you will use for such things? That way, your real email address with your entire information and classified conversations stays anonymous.
5. Secure Your Social Accounts
Yes, social media accounts need to be secured to boost your privacy online. Big guns like Facebook rely on ads to fund their pockets. Yes, their services may be free to use, but there is an underlying fee that you will pay and that is your privacy. Facebook also monitors what the users do, and that jeopardizes your privacy . Taking all this into consideration, one has to make sure that they secure their social media accounts. To achieve that, you need to conduct a thorough privacy checkup. Prevent your posts from being spidered. You also need to monitor who is capable of seeing your posts, images and profile. Narrow down the people who can tag you in their posts and images. You can do the same to all of your social network accounts, including those on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, to mention a few. If at last, you feel like you want out of a particular network account, do not leave it idle. Delete that account and follow up to make sure that it wasn’t deactivated but deleted.
|In other news, if you’re not fully interested on how to browse anonymously but simply want to share and enjoy media with close, trusted individuals or groups, you can now do so. Introducing FileWhopper, a file sharing platform powered by Auslogics. The platform currently has a Beta version via which you can share files of unlimited size for free.
|There is no need to purchase a monthly subscription or buy any sort of plan. When you decide to use FileWhopper, the amount of data you’ll be sharing is entirely up to you. Here are the basic steps to follow when sharing via the cloud environment:
|- Simply select any file or folder you want to share.
- Download and use the FileWhopper app to help the upload process be faster.
- Quickly click on your link to copy it, then share it with the recipient(s).
- Also, send through the password, which is provided to make sure that your files are shared securely.
|FileWhopper keeps uploaded files for 14 days by default and for 3 months if additional services are ordered, after which they will be deleted to protect the uploader.
How to Be Anonymous on the Internet with VPNs, Proxies, Tor?
Some of the methods that we have mentioned above focus on “wearing balaclava” in order to hide your identity. However, by taking note of the exposed features while doing so, your chances of getting exposed are still high. We all know that the best way of hiding is to be someone else. You can achieve this while surfing the internet by using a proxy server or a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Once you get connected to a VPN, websites will not be able to gather your personal information or write cookies into your system for other advertising parties to see. Using the right settings and combinations, you will be so anonymous that you can appear to be in another country. With a VPN, your original IP address is masked, and on top of being anonymous, you get to unlock location-restricted services, for example Netflix, which is available in selected countries. VPNs are used more commonly than proxies, which are a bit complicated for an average user.
Now, in order to achieve the ultimate anonymity when surfing the internet, you must use a combination of a VPN and the TOR browser. The TOR (The Onion Router) browser offers various layers of anonymity by rerouting web requests and page downloads through a network of tunnels. The TOR network consists of over 7000 relays that allow to hide a user’s original IP address/location. On TOR, if someone attempts to track your activity, they will only see random traffic generated by the TOR network.
TOR has proven to be such a hard nut to crack that the NSA confirmed not being able to identify users of the TOR browser. It could only detect that the browser has been in use through monitoring exit nodes. This does not mean the TOR browser is entirely anonymous, but you can increase your privacy by combining it with a VPN or proxy. By so doing, you will have an experience close to anonymous internet browsing.
Lastly, regardless of the reason why you want to surf anonymously, it is important to always practice safety measures that will keep your privacy at its highest levels online. By surfing anonymously, not only will you enjoy an untraceable browsing experience, but you will also minimize risks of getting hacked, leaking work or personal confidential data, being cyberattacked for ransom, and getting cyberbullied.