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How to Stay Anonymous Online?

The internet has become an integral part of our everyday lives. If we’re being honest, we are all kind of addicted to the internet and probably couldn’t imagine a life without it. But though the internet helps us a lot, we have to understand that we are becoming more vulnerable to cyber-threats and data theft.

While some are aware of the threats, there are many who are not and there are also some who do not care about it. This is one reason why hackers and cyber criminals find so many individuals to be easy targets. But something can be done if we understand we are vulnerable to online attacks and take the necessary steps to make sure we are safe while browsing the web.

Enjoying online privacy may not be as easy as enjoying your privacy in your everyday life.
But it is still important to take precautionary measures to stay private online. If you do not place importance in online security, you might end up losing your personal information including your bank details and much more. That’s why we are here to give you some insight into the top seven services that will help attain online anonymity.

tools-to-stay-completely-anonymous-online

1. Use a VPN

VPN, Virtual Private Network will encrypt data you transfer online, routing it through an intermediary server in a different location. A VPN will mask your original IP and show a shared IP address on its server so that you can stay anonymous online. You can choose a server in a different location and browse privately. This will help prevent advertisers from tracking your online activities. No one including your ISP can monitor your online activities.

There are several VPNs out there offering a variety of features to make your internet connection more secure. Many VPNs promise not to log their users’ online activity. Avid internet users who are concerned about their privacy can consider using a VPN to stay anonymous online.

A VPN will assign you an anonymous IP thereby masking your original IP address. As a result, queries you send to your ISP will not show your real IP. This is one reason why many prefer to use a VPN to keep themselves anonymous online. Not all VPNs are equal and offer the same features. There are some that sell users’ data to advertisers, too. So, you need to be very cautious while choosing a VPN. Likewise, there are some free trustworthy free VPN services too.

Here are a few VPN services that offer a free trial and are worth considering.

Benefits of using a VPN

  • Hide online activity from ISP
  • Protect yourself from man-in-the-middle attacks by increasing security
  • Access geographically blocked content by masking your IP
  • Block ads and filters

2. Switch to the TOR Browser

The other way to stay anonymous online is to use an anonymising browser. TOR browser is an excellent and well-known anonymising browser. TOR is “The Onion Router” that is an entire system of browsers, tools, network and APIs that will help you stay private online.

Your traffic will be routed through a set of “TOR nodes” thereby splitting your traffic through different nodes. TOR’s proxy is similar to the layers of an onion which is why it is called “The Onion Router.” Using the TOR browser is one of the best ways to stay completely anonymous online.

When you use TOR browser, your browsing history, cookies and other sensitive data will be deleted. TOR is free but remember there are certain web services that block it. The reason is simple: those services want to store your data.

Likewise, you cannot expect TOR to be as fast as the other browsers. Also, remember that TOR is not like the Chrome Incognito and Firefox Private browsing. While those options clear your history, TOR completely anonymizes you.

Features

  • Tor does not store cookies and browsing history
  • Does not support most extensions and plugins
  • HTTPS everywhere – it will automatically load the HTTPS version of websites, if available
  • TOR is available on Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Allows users to visit locked websites
  • Does not allow executable scripts including Java, JavaScript, Flash and Silverlight, to run on webpages unless the user allows it.
  • It can handle millions of users

TOR browser protects your online activity that includes instant messages, visits to websites and other things you do online. It encases your personal data in three layers of encryption.

You can improve your internet experience by using a VPN along with TOR. The following VPNs work well with TOR.

3. Use an Anonymising Search Engine Like DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that promises its users that it does not track them. Unlike Google, it does not personalize search results. When you use DuckDuckGo, you will not see targeted advertising as your data will not be recorded like Google does.

If you wish to completely stay anonymous and keep your searches private, you will have to switch to a different search engine. Here’s where search engines like DuckDuckGo that will help you stay private, come into play.

There are a few other search engines like Start Page, Search Encrypt, Gibiru, etc. that work similar to DuckDuckGo. However, these search engines will have just a fraction of content that Google has and you may not see thousands of results that you see on Google when you use one of these search engines.

The other most popular search engines collect data that will help them personalize services. They collect users’ names, email addresses, birthday, gender and phone numbers. Additionally, they collect device location and information, IP address, and cookie data.

If you do not wish to be tracked while using the internet, you can go for a search engine that does not track personal data. DuckDuckGo is the top search engine that allows users to browse anonymously.

DuckDuckGo will not show personalized search results. Likewise, whatever you search will not be stored. The search engine will also not sell your data to advertisers as it claims and you will not see targeted ads that you see when you use other browsers.

Features

  • Ensures privacy
  • Option to save your settings in the cloud
  • Region-wise search result
  • All search results appear on one page
  • Option to opt out of ads
  • !Bang – short commands used to search other sites from DuckDuckGo

4. Make Sure to Use HTTPS

Whenever you browse online, only visit websites that have HTTPS encryption. This is one way to make sure your data is secure. Data transferred over HTTP will not be as secure as data transferred over HTTPS. HTTPS encryption adds more security to the information transferred between your browser and the website you visit. However, there are still many websites that use HTTP thereby putting your privacy in jeopardy. Websites that are not secured by SSL certificates will display HTTP instead of HTTPS, where “S” stands for secure.

So make sure the website you visit uses HTTPS and not HTTP. HTTPS Everywhere is something that will help browse securely. HTTPS Everywhere is a plugin available for Firefox, Chrome and Opera. This will help you to remain secure while browsing online.

This plugin will connect users to the HTTPS version of the desired websites in turn encrypting their data online. This plugin will keep you safe from hackers and man-in-the-middle attacks.

5. Proxy Servers

A proxy server will help you stay anonymous. While there are free proxies available, it is wise to go for a paid service. A proxy is similar to a VPN and it will connect you to your destination via a passthrough server. It will route your connection through a different IP address masking your original IP so that you can attain anonymity online. A proxy server will hide your IP and help you visit geo-blocked content.

All you need to stay anonymous online is to pretend to be someone else. A proxy server will help you stay completely anonymous. As your connection will be routed through a different server, you cannot be tracked.

Here are a few proxies that you can try out.

  • HideMyAss
  • AnonyMouse
  • Hide.me
  • Privoxy
  • VPNBook Free Web Proxy

6. Choose Browser Extensions Carefully

Some extensions reveal the identities of their users. When you use such extensions, you may not be able to attain complete anonymity online.

TOR does not support all extensions. This is to prevent advertising companies from tracking users. Advertisers can track users through the extensions they install through fingerprinting technology. They use details like the name of the extension users install, their device, the language they use, etc. to identify them. This is one reason why it is difficult to browse anonymously on the most popular browsers.

Fingerprinting is not the only method through which the users are tracked as extensions also communicate with servers thereby logging metadata that will help identify users and their online activity.

Plugins like Privacy Badger will enhance privacy. This plugin is available for Chrome and Firefox. This plugin aims at stopping advertisers and trackers from tracking your online activity. HTTPS Everywhere will make sure you visit the HTTPS version of the website. But remember, this plugin will not turn a HTTP connection into HTTPS connection.

7. Secure Your WiFi Router

One thing many of us fail to do is to secure our WiFi routers. We do not change the factory settings in turn leaving our routers unsecured. Such unsecured routers are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Your traffic can easily be modified and read using your router. Always use a VPN if you are on a public WiFi network.

Also make sure you change your router’s login credentials. Apart from that, do the following to secure your router.

  • Update firmware
  • Turn off WPS
  • Change default passwords
  • Enable and read logs
  • Check Port 32764
  • Disable remote administration

Other Ways to Stay Anonymous

Adding two-factor authentication will provide an additional layer of security. Two-factor authentication will help you generate a one-time-use security code on your phone for your online accounts. This will help secure your account as anyone who acquired your login credentials may not be able to access your account as they will also need the security code. You can enable two factor authentication for all the accounts you use.

The information you give away on social media can pave way for hackers to gather personal information about you. Hackers can use your address, phone number, photos you share and your name for illegal activities. Make sure you do not submit personal information on websites that you think do not need your personal information and submit as little information as possible when it’s needed.

Webcams can be used to spy on users and remotely activated with the help of malware. System scans and virus scanners can prevent webcams from being hacked. You can put tape on your webcam or close your laptop when you are not using your laptop.

Conclusion

It is becoming more difficult to attain online privacy these days with ads legally tracking our online activities. It is not impossible to stay anonymous online but it is just getting more difficult with today’s ad driven internet ecosystem. On the other hand, hackers steal more of our personal information by the day. That being said, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure online privacy. With the help of any of the above mentioned tools, we can make sure that our internet experience is safe.