• February 4, 2023

How To Make Yourself Anonymous Online

8 Easy Ways to Stay Anonymous Online | PCMag

8 Easy Ways to Stay Anonymous Online | PCMag

Some might say the internet was built on anonymity, paving the way for a place where free speech reigns supreme. But after years of learning about who’s snooping into everything we do online, privacy on the web is hardly a ‘s not just about government spying; it’s also about how much data big companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have collected in order to serve up targeted ads—not to mention how much of your personal data gets scooped up in all the breaches and are always going to be good reasons for people to go online without being tracked. For one, anonymity may be the only way for a real whistleblower to reveal corruption, considering how some have been treated. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay anonymous, no matter what you’re it even possible to take control of your own personal privacy online? Ultimately, the only way to stay truly anonymous online to go online at all. That’s not a real option for most of us, though. Here’s a rundown of what you can do to minimize spying, targeted ads, and ID theft as you explore the online world Your SystemPhone Call ConfidentialityIf you want to be anonymous, forget about using a smartphone. The big-name mobile OS makers are control freaks (Apple) and ad servers (Google). To be anonymous when you use a phone, your choice is a prepaid phone, aka a with a burner, call records exist, so your location can still be triangulated via GPS and tower locations. As you’ve seen in movies, though, you can always throw the phone into a passing truck and lead whoever might be tracking you on a wild goose chase. The upside of a burner is that your real name isn’t associated with the when you already own an expensive smartphone, buying more hardware is painful. Thankfully, there are apps aplenty to get you temporary, anonymous numbers you can use with Android or iOS. (One of those apps is named, aptly, Burner. )Light That FirewallIs your desktop or laptop computer connected directly to a broadband modem? That’s a very bad idea. Hackers are constantly bombarding IP addresses to see if they can get onto a should always have a router on your home network that can mitigate attempted hacks with its built-in firewall. A router uses network address translation (NAT) to assign an IP address to every device on your home network: those are then only visible on that network. Direct attacks can sometimes be stopped dead right there. You need the router anyway, for sharing the internet connection and Wi-Fi. Even a router that comes integrated into the modem—the kind you get from your ISP—is better than no router at could also use firewall software that’s installed on your PC. Windows 10 comes with a pretty decent solution called—you guessed it—Windows Firewall. You can also find firewalls as part of security suites. But as PCMag’s Lead Analyst for Security, Neil J. Rubenking, explains, you don’t really need another firewall if you use the one that ships with real anonymity based on your OS, stop using Windows or macOS on the desktop and move to a Linux distro that specializes in all forms of keeping you secret. Your best bet is Tails: The Amnesic Incognito Live Your Own StealthWhat does your computer (or tablet or smartphone, for that matter) give away about you when you visit websites? At the very least, a site knows your IP address (and that’s necessary; otherwise you’d get no results) most cases, it also knows your approximate physical location (by checking where your ISP supplies those IP addresses; see it in action at IPLocation) and probably your time zone and which language you speak—all good info for advertisers. Your browser can also offer up your operating system, browser type, and which versions of software you run for browser plug-ins. It even reports on the fonts you have installed. All this gives your system a unique fingerprint. And as anyone who’s watched Law & Order knows, a unique fingerprint is sometimes all it takes to track you.
If you don’t believe it, visit MyBrowserInfo or for a full report. Then check out the EFF’s Cover Your Tracks tool to see how well your browser and VPN are protecting you. You can use browser extensions in Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge to enhance your privacy. The EFF has its own Privacy Badger to monitors sites that monitor you. The Ghostery browser extension blocks all sorts of trackers and advertising on almost all browsers. The DuckDuckGo search engine for privacy also has a similar extension, called Privacy ‘s more, even if you’ve got a VPN—virtual private network—running, as you should (see below), it could be leaking. Here’s how to get yourself back into stealth Surfing
(Illustration: Vik Kay/Shutterstock)
Make sure your browser isn’t storing too much personal info. In the settings menu, turn off the ability for the browser to store the passwords you use to access websites and services. That can be a pain, since you should have a different password for every service you use. The better alternative is to use a dedicated password manager that works across all your owsers store images, surfing history, and what you’ve downloaded, as well as cookie files, which can remember helpful things such as settings and passwords. Obliterate that info occasionally by clearing your browser browsers have anonymous surfing modes. Chrome’s is called Incognito (hit Ctrl+Shift+N to access); in Firefox, it’s Private Browsing; and in Microsoft Edge, it’s In Private browsing. Using an anonymous mode prevents the browser from saving passwords, cookies, downloads, and cached content such as browser you use for privacy should have JavaScript deactivated. JavaScript can help a web server identify all sorts of things beyond your browser, such as your monitor’s size—and that info goes toward fingerprinting your system and you. You can turn JavaScript off and on for specific sites (some websites require it) using extensions such as NoScript and ScriptSafe. A number of browsers are billed as privacy-focused. Of course, they use the same rendering engines as the big names, especially Google’s Chromium engine; the difference is that the browsers don’t share any info with Google. Examples include Epic, Comodo Dragon, Comodo IceDragon (based on Firefox), and of course the Tor Browser (more below) you’re looking for a more mainstream browser with some extra security, consider Opera—it has a free VPN built right in. (Note that its VPN protects only your browser traffic, not the other apps on your computer that use the internet. )Use a search engine other than Google or Bing, which want to sell, sell, sell you. Go to DuckDuckGo or Swisscows, or check out these options.
To summarize, using stealth modes, special browsers, and private search engines won’t make you completely anonymous. But they prevent sites from writing info to your computer, including cookies, which can be used to figure out your browsing oxies and VPNs and Tor, Oh MyThe way to ensure outsiders don’t gather information about you while you’re browsing the web is to appear to be someone else in a different location. This requires a proxy server or a virtual private network (VPN) connection—or even better, both. With the right combo, you can not only be anonymous but also surf sites in other countries as though you’re a native. A proxy server—a computer system or router that functions as a relay between client and server—isn’t for newbies, but FoxyProxy can get you started. It works with the major browsers and offers proxy services and VPN services are everywhere. They have the advantage of securing the traffic between your computer and servers and masking your IP address and location. For example, by connecting through my work VPN, sites I visit believe I’m at corporate HQ, although I work from home.
VPNs also double as a way to get access to location-blocked content. If you’re in a country that can’t get the BBC iPlayer or Netflix, for example, a VPN could be your ticket. Netflix, for one, is cracking down on this tactic when it discussion of anonymity online is complete without mentioning Tor. The name comes from once being the acronym for “the onion router”—a metaphor for many layers of is a free network of tunnels for routing web requests and page downloads. It’s not the same as a VPN but might be even more secure for masking your identity. Tor’s supposed to make it impossible for a site you’re visiting to figure out who you are—but does it?
The National Security Agency’s spying controversy leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 included what some thought was a workaround to identify users of Tor. But it wasn’t that simple. As explained by security expert Bruce Schneier in The Guardian, the NSA actually monitors what’s called the Tor “exit nodes”—the agency could tell users were using Tor but not who the users were. The NSA set up a “man in the middle” attack, pretending to be the site the user wanted (Google, for example), and could send data back to the user that would take advantage of exploitable holes in the browser—not a hole in lesson there: Keep your browsers up to date, or use one of the previously noted anonymizing which company also offers an anonymizing browser? Tor has a browser bundle for Windows (run it off a flash drive to take with you), macOS, or Linux; it’s available in 16 languages. There’s also a Tor Browser for Android devices; iOS users can try the third-party VPN + TOR Browser and Ad Block is not entirely foolproof—the theory is you could still be tracked by someone skilled enough (even if they can’t read what you send). The list of potential Tor weaknesses is long.
A newish browser with a built-in search engine is trying to take some of Tor’s privacy thunder—an open-source project called Brave. As a free download, it’s worth a try, but Brave has already had some issues and is branching into cryptocurrency to change the game on how websites make you’re sensing a trend in that no software can keep you 100% anonymous, you’re paying attention. But these steps are all like a lock on a door: Sure, someone could kick it in—but why make it easy by leaving the door open? Anonymous EmailAs nice as it is to remain perfectly private as you surf, it may be even more essential for your email to be anonymous, to avoid spam or surveillance. The problem is that email simply wasn’t built with security in mind.
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Secure email services exist, of course. They use encryption to scramble what you send and require the recipient to have a password to decrypt your message. Edward Snowden used a webmail service known as Lavabit, which was so secure the government insisted that it hand over the private keys of users. Lavabit, to its credit, immediately shut down to protect its customers. Later, it returned with even more user-forward security features. So be aware that such a service can be compromised. Most will not die to protect you want a Webmail service that’s going to handle encrypted messages, the best we’ve seen is the free PreVeil, which offers secure cloud storage as well as weapons-grade encryption, and it’s easy to use. For more options, read The Best Email Encryption Services and How to Create an Anonymous Email Account.
You might think your Gmail account is safe, since you see that lock icon on the browser and access it with a secure sockets layer (SSL) connection (indicated by in the URL). But SSL only encrypts data as it’s transferred from your device to the is always going to be a problem with web-based services. Some services can provide encryption for those types of email: Virtru is one that’s specific to Gmail running on Chrome. Mailvelope is an extension (for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox) that will secure Gmail,, Yahoo Mail, and more. FlowCrypt is rhaps the smart move is to eschew web-based mail and stick with desktop client software. Outlook 2007 and later has built-in encryption tools, and Mozilla’s Thunderbird has add-ons galore (including many in our email encryption services roundup, like PreVeil) to handle message encryption/decryption. Avoiding Spam, Spam, and SpamBeyond the obvious safeguards—never, ever click on a link in a spam message or even open a spam email—the best way to defeat spam is never to let spammers get your email address. That’s almost impossible, unfortunately, but there are methods to one is to use an alias or dummy email, which works with any service that requires an email address. You might be able to set one up if you own your own domain name. In Google Workplace, for example, you have a primary address, such as [email protected], but you could also use [email protected] as an alias for online sign-ups; messages to the second one can be forwarded to the main address. When spam begins to collect, change or kill that second address. You can create up to 30 aliases per is a little more straightforward: To make an alias, append something to the user name. Turn “[email protected]” into “[email protected]”; Gmail ignores everything after the plus sign. Once the alias in question accumulates spam, filter it right into the trash. Here’s a video on how to do that in Gmail:Yahoo Mail offers Disposable Addresses (under Settings > Security), which are similar—there’s a base name, then a secondary keyword appended, like “[email protected]” also supports aliases, up to 10 per account. Look for Account Aliases under the Account settings. If you have your own domain name, check the control panel at your web host—it’s likely to have tools for creating aliases you need an alias temporarily, a disposable address is very handy. We have reviews of five products that offer disposable email addresses: Abine Blur, Bulc Club, Burner Mail, ManyMe, and SimpleLogin. Note that Abine Blur Premium lets you shop online without revealing your true email address, phone number, or credit card details, and it also manages your passwords. The program received a 4. 5 (outstanding) rating from our reviewer and also comes in a free version. Should you care about security when it comes to social networks such as Facebook? Of course. Facebook isn’t an altruistic nonprofit! It makes money by having lots of users looking at lots of ads. That occasionally means it makes your data available to questionable entities. And you might not want all your “friends” or their extended networks to know your can take several steps to regain some Facebook anonymity. First, on a desktop, go to the Account menu in the upper right and select Settings & Privacy > Settings > Privacy. Click the “Edit” link on every choice on this page to personalize who can see what, who can friend you, and even who can look you up. Make sure your posts are not spidered by search engines. Get as granular as you want—making sure, for example, that old boyfriends or girlfriends don’t see your posts (even the old posts). You can also perform a full Facebook Privacy Checkup.
Finally, inspect your contact info. Go to your General Account Settings, and again click “Edit” next to every entry. Double-check the email address and phone numbers entered. Minimize the list of who has access as much as possible to maximize you want to get out of Facebook entirely, delete your account. Deactivating is a different thing; it leaves your data on the site for your potential return. Go to this page and follow the instructions. It’ll deactivate your account for two weeks, just in case you really, really, really didn’t mean it. After that, it’s gone. But even then, some digital photos may LinkedIn, go to the Settings icon of your face in the upper right and select Settings & Privacy. In the center, select the Privacy about Twitter? Don’t list your website or real email in your profile. Make sure your password is different from that of any other site. That’s good advice across the board, but we know people don’t follow it, so we repeat it a lot. You really should with Twitter, which has had some security breaches. You also have the option, under Settings > Privacy and Safety, to protect your tweets, meaning only those followers you approve get access to them. Protected tweets aren’t searchable or retweetable, and you can’t share permanent links to them with non-approved said, you’re fooling yourself if you think using social networking (or posting anything online) is private whatsoever—all it takes is an “approved follower” to take a screengrab and share it with the you’re worried about getting tracked as you surf, sign out of the above services, as well as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple, when you’re done using them. Otherwise, the ad servers and cookies and so forth that are run by those services or their affiliates will pretty much know where and when you go online at all times. Signing out is a pain, because logging back in is a pain—and that’s exactly what the big companies tracking you are counting on.
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8 steps to being (almost) completely anonymous online

8 steps to being (almost) completely anonymous online

How to be completely, absolutely, but not really, only a little bit anonymous.
StevanoVicigor / Valery Brozhinsky / Getty Images
Anonymity and privacy are not about closing the door when you go to the bathroom. For the individual, they might be about personal autonomy, political liberty or just protecting yourself in the digital the enterprise, employee privacy mitigates the risk of social engineering attacks, even blackmail. The more an attacker can learn about key people within an organization, the more targeted and effective they can make their attacks. Educating employees about how to protect their privacy, therefore, should be a core part of any security awareness can take specific, concrete steps to protect your privacy or that of your organization’s employees, but they require energy, time and some technical ivacy vs. anonymityThe universe believes in encryption, a wise man once opined, because it is astronomically easier to encrypt than it is to brute force decrypt. The universe does not appear to believe in anonymity, however, as it requires significant work to remain are using privacy and anonymity interchangeably, and this is incorrect. An encrypted message may protect your privacy — because (hopefully) no one else can read it besides you and your recipient — but encryption does not protect the metadata, and thus your anonymity. Who you’re talking to, when, for how long, how many messages, size of attachments, type of communication (text message? email? voice call? voice memo? video call? ), all this information is not encrypted and is easily discoverable by sophisticated hackers with a mass surveillance apparatus, which is most these days. A final thought before we dig into specific technical tools: “Online” is now a meaningless word. Meatspace and cyberspace have merged. We used to live in the “real world” and “go online. ” Now we live online, and things like geotracking of cell phones, facial recognition in public physical spaces, and so forth mean no amount of “online anonymity” will help you if your meatspace self is not also anonymous, which is nearly impossible these are some steps to being completely, absolutely, but not really, only a little bit anonymous. 1. Use SignalYou may have heard the mantra, “Use Signal, use Tor, ” and while this one-two punch combo is a great start, it won’t take down your opponent. Signal is the best-of-breed encrypted messaging app that lets you send text messages and voice memos as well as voice calls and audio calls. It looks and feels just like any other messaging app but under the hood uses encryption that, to the best of our knowledge, not even the National Security Agency can about the metadata? Any network-level adversary can tell that you’re using Signal, for starters, and if your adversary is the U. S. or Five Eyes, then they have mass surveillance access to all Signal traffic and know who is talking to whom, when and for how makers of Signal are well aware of these technical limitations and are researching ways to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Metadata-resistant communication is an unsolved, cutting-edge technical research line: Signal is the most secure, easy-to-use messaging app available to date, and offers marginally more anonymity than any other app. Do not rely on it for strong anonymity, however. In fact, it’s questionable whether anything provides strong anonymity these days, which brings us to Tor… 2. Use TorTor is the largest, most robust, and most effective metadata-resistant software project, and the Tor Project does great work in the space, but the technical limitations of how much anonymity Tor can achieve have been evident to researchers for some time. No clear fix or replacement looms large on the Onion Router, better known as Tor (which is not an acronym by the way; the initial-caps spelling is a shibboleth to identify outsiders) is optimized for low-latency web browsing, only supports TCP (not UDP, sorry torrenteers), and won’t work when accessing many larger websites, as they block access via does not offer guaranteed, complete anonymity, even for web browsing, but it is the best thing we’ve got at the moment. Like so many things in life (and the internet), Tor is dual use. The same technology journalists use to research stories anonymously is also used by criminals to do bad things. When you hear folks badmouthing the scary “Dark Web” and suggesting “someone should do something, ” remind them that just because bank robbers drive cars on the highway doesn’t mean we propose banning cars or Tor Browser should be your go-to choice for mobile usage. The Brave browser also offers a Tor option. There’s an official Tor Browser app for Android devices and OnionBrowser offers a Tor Project-endorsed but unofficial app for iOS. 3. Don’t expect anonymity from VPNsVPNs are not anonymous. There is literally nothing anonymous about using a VPN. No anonymity here. Did we mention VPNs don’t offer anonymity? Just wanted to make sure we’re clear on this everyone expects VPNs on a list of anonymity tools, we’re going to debunk the idea instead. All a VPN does is move trust from your ISP or, if you’re traveling, your local coffeeshop or hotel or airport WiFi network to someone else’s server. There are many legitimate security reasons why using a VPN is a great idea, but anonymity is not on that list. Anywhere. Not even at the Tor, which bounces your traffic through three Tor nodes spread across the internet, making it very difficult, but not impossible, for an adversary to see what you’re doing, a VPN simply shifts your traffic from your ISP (at home) or coffee shop WiFi (on the road) to the VPN’s servers. That means the VPN provider can see all your traffic. That means that an adversary that gains control of the VPN’s servers, by hacking them or by serving the VPN provider with a court order, can also see all your are great. Use them. The good ones are way more trustworthy than your dodgy local coffeeshop WiFi network, but they offer zero anonymity. 4. Use zero-knowledge servicesGoogle can read every email you send and receive. Office 365 scans everything you write. DropBox opens and examines everything you upload. All three companies — among many others — are PRISM providers, per the Snowden documents, meaning they cooperate with mass surveillance programs. If Google can see it, so can folks in Washington. You have no privacy on any of these course, you could encrypt everything before using Gmail or before uploading your vacation photos to DropBox. If you care about privacy, and can figure out how to use PGP, you probably should. On the other hand, though, you could also choose to use service providers that advertise zero-knowledge file you can never fully trust that a service provider hasn’t been backdoored, DropBox-alternative SpiderOak, based in the U. S., advertises zero-knowledge file storage. Protonmail, based in Switzerland, advertises zero-knowledge email and claims that it’s mathematically impossible for them to hand over your email to a third don’t endorse any of these providers, and you should do your homework before entrusting anything important to them. However, the field of zero-knowledge file storage is an encouraging sign, and one worth keeping an eye on. 5. Be careful what you post onlinePrivacy is about autonomy, the notion that you choose to share what you want to share and to keep private what you want to keep private. If there’s something going on in your life you don’t want the entire world to know about, then posting about it on social media — for the entire world to see — may, ergo, not be the best ‘s a striking generational gap on this topic. Older generations cringe at the idea of airing their dirty laundry in public, while the generation that grew up with a cell phone welded to their palm thinks over-sharing is normal. There’s a time and place for everything. Deliberate sharing of things you want to the world to see clearly has nsider also that sharing a particular detail about your life may not appear sensitive on its own but taken in aggregate with many other shared personal details can build up a picture that you might hesitate to put onto a hostile lishing on social media today is more permanent than chiseling hieroglyphics in stone. Take a step back and consider the whole picture of what you’re sharing. 6. Check those app permissionsMobile apps, for both iOS and Android, tend to request way more permissions than they actually need and are frequently caught extracting personal details from users’ phones and transmitting those details back to the app maker in highly inappropriate that random app really need access to your microphone? (What for? Is it going to record everything you say? ) What about your location? (Why? Is it going to track your location? ) Your address book? (Does that app really need to know who all your friends are? What for? )Neither Android nor iOS make it especially easy to do so, but dig through your settings and turn off unneeded permissions with extreme prejudice. 7. Use an ad blockerIn the olden days of glorious yore, advertisements were a one-to-many broadcast. An advertisement today bears no relationship to your grandpa’s ads. Now one-to-one advertising networks watch you to better target ads at acking your every move online and, increasingly, in meatspace, is the business model of huge chunks of Silicon Valley. Google and Facebook are two of the largest players in this space, and they track you all across the web and into meatspace, even if you don’t have an account with either (though most of us do), and even if you aren’t logged stalling an ad blocker is no magic cure, but a paper-mache sword is better than nothing at all when the enemy hordes invade. The Brave Browser blocks ads and trackers by default. AdBlock has a good reputation, and other extensions are worth exploring, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s excellent Privacy Badger extension. You can also sinkhole ad network DNS requests at your local router level. 8. Dump your home assistantIf you value your privacy and anonymity, for the love of the dogs chuck your home assistant (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc. ) and your snitch-in-a-box (Amazon Ring) into the trash. These always-on digital snoops are poisonous to privacy and anonymity, and there is no meaningful way to make them less privacy-invasive. Ubiquitous deployment of such “assistants” makes clear the collective action problem: It doesn’t matter if you choose not to purchase and install one of these devices. If all your neighbors own them and use them, then your privacy is toast. If everyone else in your neighborhood has a Ring recording everything that happens, then your movements in meatspace will also be recorded and technical tips we’ve provided here offer little more than a band-aid on a gaping wound. Use them, but be under no illusion that they will do much to protect your privacy.
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21 tips, tricks and shortcuts to help you stay anonymous online

21 tips, tricks and shortcuts to help you stay anonymous online

1. SECURE WEBMAIL WITH EXTENSIONSIf you’re using a popular webmail service, such as Gmail or Yahoo Mail, and you don’t or can’t make the switch to a more secure service, then consider installing Mailvelope. Mailvelope is a browser extension for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox that brings OpenPGP encryption to your webmail service. Similar extensions exist, such as SecureGmail, which encrypts and decrypts emails you send through Gmail. Using this extension means the unencrypted text should never reach Google servers. Recipients will need to install the extension in order to decrypt and read the encrypted email. 2. INCOGNITO This is perhaps one of the most basic privacy options that just about anyone can take advantage of. The top four most popular browsers – Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Safari – have a private browsing mode, which can be found in their respective settings menus. With private browsing activated, your browser will not store cookies or internet history on your computer. This has very limited uses and is perhaps really only effective at hiding your browsing history from your significant other, siblings or parents. Private browsing does not securely hide your identity or browsing activities beyond your local machine as your IP address can still be tracked. Photograph: Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images3. DON’T USE SOCIAL MEDIAThe amount of personal data that social networking sites like Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter have harvested from their billions of users is shocking. Head to and click ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’ and you might be surprised to see just how much information is on file. Everything from who you have poked, what events you have or have not attended and when and where you have logged into your account is logged and saved. Similar levels of data harvesting occurs on all major social media sites. This is the price you pay for using a ‘free’ service. The only sure-fire way to avoid giving up this information is to delete your accounts entirely. A word of warning, ‘deactivating’ your account is not the same as deleting it. Deactivating your account is sort of like putting it into hibernation – all your information is stored and can be re-activated if you have second thoughts. Always delete rather than deactivate an account if you wish to completely wipe it. 4. BLOCK AND MANAGE TRACKERSA large amount of websites track and collect the browsing habits of the users that visit them. These trackers are invisible and most people aren’t aware that they’re being tracked. Ghostery is a free browser extension – available on all major web browsers – that will reveal these trackers, also known as web bugs. You can then decide which web bugs you’re comfortable with tracking you and which ones you’d like to block. In total, Ghostery keeps track of over 1, 900 companies. Each company has a profile in the Ghostery Knowledge Library, allowing you to better understand who and why someone is keeping tabs on you and what action you would like to take. 5. ENCRYPTED EMAILMost of the well known and popular email services – Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook – are not particularly privacy-friendly. For full Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encrypted emails, consider signing up to a more secure provider. Hushmail is currently very popular, it provides a private email account with no ads, built-in encryption and unlimited email aliases. A limited free service is offered, with more features available for a monthly subscription fee. However, Hushmail is not above the law and in the past it has been forced to reveal user data to U. S. authorities following a court order. The company also logs user IP addresses. MyKolab is a similar service that has not revealed any user information in the past, however, they are also obliged to provide access to lawful interception requests so this still remains a possibility. 6. TEMPORARY EMAILDisposable Email Addresses (DEAs) are anonymous and temporary. They allow users to quickly create new email addresses as-and-when they’re needed, which can then be disposed of after use. This is particularly useful for avoiding spam when filling in forms on websites that require an email address to proceed. Keeping your real email address away from spammers is crucial to protecting your identity online and DEAs are a great solution. Popular providers of this service include Guerrilla Mail and Mailinator, although there are hundreds out there to choose from. Most DEAs are not particularly secure, so it is not advised to use these services to send sensitive information – rather, use them as a way to avoid giving away your own information in situations where you are obliged to do so. 7. VPNVirtual Private Networks (VPNs) are one of the most effective ways to protect your privacy online. A VPN essentially hides your IP address – your unique online identifier – and runs all your online data via a secure and encrypted virtual tunnel, which can keep websites from tracking your online activity or even knowing which country you’re browsing from. These days, there are many VPNs to choose from. Hotspot Shield, TorGuard, CyberGhost and HideMyAss are some of the more popular ones that are currently available. Most of them require a small monthly subscription fee and they don’t all provide the same list of features, so it’s worth shopping around for a VPN that suits you. 8. TOROriginally developed with the U. Navy in mind as a way to protect government communications, Tor is a network of “virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. ” Tor’s anonymity network allows access to the ‘deep’ or ‘hidden’ web, where websites can be created anonymously and individuals can communicate privately with each other. When using the Tor browser – which can be downloaded for free from – it is very difficult for websites or individuals to track your online activity and location. However, while Tor is quite effective at protecting your online anonymity, it can be slow, complicated and restricting. It’s also worth noting that while the network can and has been used for good, it has also been used for illicit purposes, such as selling drugs and distributing images of child abuse. 9. PROXY SERVERA proxy server is a computer through which your online activity can be processed, essentially acting as an intermediary between your computer and the internet. As such, this can be a great way to maintain your online anonymity as the proxy basically masks your IP address with its own. If the proxy is based in a different country than your own, you can fool websites and trackers into thinking you’re browsing from a completely different continent. There are many ways to use proxies and there are various free and paid services on offer. has a limited free web proxy service that you can start using immediately if you’d like try it out. 10. HTTPS EVERYWHEREHypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the encrypted version of HTTP, the technology protocol which determines how web servers and browsers respond to commands and how messages are sent and received. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) HTTPS Everywhere is a neat little extension – available on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera – that forces websites to use HTTPS, even when they default to the less secure and unencrypted HTTP. By EFF’s own admission it’s still feasible for “some attackers to break HTTPS, ” but it’s certainly not a bad idea to install their extension as HTTPS is still far more secure than HTTP and will certainly help to protect your privacy and consequently maintain your anonymity. EFF is a nonprofit organisation that seeks to defend civil liberties in the digital world. 11. DESTROY COOKIESCookies are little bits of code that are automatically downloaded from a website and stored on your system. Cookies allow websites to quickly and easily remember if you’ve been there before – if you have, the website may then alter certain variables based on the information that has been stored in the cookie in order to give you a more personalised and potentially useful experience. However, some cookies can be very intrusive, logging information such as how long you’ve been visiting a particular website, how many clicks you’ve made and what content you seem to prefer reading. It doesn’t hurt, then, to occasionally wipe your system of any and all cookies. Admittedly this won’t do a huge amount to protect your anonymity, but it will make it harder for websites to learn and understand your viewing habits. You can delete cookies from within your browser, but to make sure you nuke the lot, you can use an app like CCleaner, which is free and powerful. 12. USE ALTERNATIVE SEARCH ENGINESLike most people, you probably use Google to search for things online. Google is an undeniably accurate, fast and efficient search engine, however, this is largely helped by its personalised search system. This is a feature that uses your past search history, rather than just relying on the terms you’ve typed into the search bar, to present you with results that are more relevant to your personal tastes. To do this, Google keeps track of your search habits in a number of ways, including browser cookies. You can turn off this personalised search by clicking Search Tools > All Results > Verbatim. But if you really want to make sure Google isn’t tracking your searches, consider using a different search engine entirely, such as DuckDuckGo, which promises never to track your searches and “emphasizes protecting searchers’ privacy and avoiding filter bubble of personalized search results. ”13. USE ALTERNATIVE BROWSERSWhile Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer are popular, they’re not as secure as they have the potential to be. If you would like a more guarded browsing experience that has a more earnest approach to secure web browsing, consider trying out a privacy-focused browser such as Dooble, Comodo Dragon or SRWare Iron. However, do bear in mind that the additional security methods are fairly limited and will do little to protect your overall anonymity on their own, rather, this should be used in conjunction with other measures. Additionally, you can probably get a comparably secure service by disabling third-party cookies and blocking all location data in your regular browser’s settings and installing various privacy and anonymity-focused extensions and plugins such as Ghostery or Mailvelope. 14. DITCH DROPBOXEdward Snowden has called Dropbox – a cloud storage service – ‘hostile to privacy’. That’s pretty damning. If you’re worried about sharing your files through this system, there are a number of good alternatives out there which offer better privacy. Snowden himself recommends Spideroak, which describes itself as a zero-knowledge encrypted data backup, share, sync, access and storage service. You can use a limited version of this as part of their free trial, which can be found on their website. A fully featured subscription is available for $12 a month. However, if you’re just looking to quickly share small or large files anonymously for free, give OnionShare a go. It doesn’t have as many features as Spideroak, but it gets the job done. 15. CHANGE YOUR PHONEStaying anonymous while using a smartphone can be tricky business. Many apps will want access to all sorts of settings on your device by default, which you may not be aware of and which you will have to manually manage with each new app installation and update. Furthermore, connecting to public networks while on the go is also a great way of potentially exposing your data to nefarious snoopers. While both Apple’s iOS 8 and Android’s Lollipop now have good encryption measures by default, there is another more extreme option in the form of The Blackphone. This is an ‘NSA-proof’ smartphone that claims to provide privacy features for texts, emails, web browsing and phone calls. Reviews so far have been mostly positive but at around £400, it’s not cheap. 16. USE A PASSWORD MANAGERIf you’ve got a password that can be easily guessed, cracked or stolen, because you have a bad memory for that sort of thing, then you can say goodbye to your anonymity. This is especially true if you use the same password for everything, or across multiple websites and/or services. A great way to improve your password security is to use a password manager, like LastPass. LastPass saves all of your passwords and only requires you to remember one master password, making multiple different passwords a lot less of a headache to manage, which in turn improves your online security and protects your anonymity. 17. SECURITY FOCUSED OPERATING SYSTEMSThere are security focused email service providers, security focused smartphones and security focused web browsers, but have you considered using a security focused operating system? Whonix is exactly that – an open source OS that focuses on anonymity, privacy and security. Based on the Tor network, Whonix is about as anonymous as an OS can get before it all becomes too inconvenient for normal use. Whonix runs in two parts, “one solely runs Tor and acts as a gateway… The other… is on a completely isolated network. Only connections through Tor are possible. ” You can download it for free from ANONYMOUS CURRENCYDarkcoin is an open source digital cryptographic currency based on the Bitcoin software code. It is intended to be a more private version of Bitcoin (which typically prides itself on its transparency) and it claims to be the world’s first anonymous cryptocurrency. Finding merchants that accept Darkcoin can be tough (Darkcoin has its own merchant directory which you can browse here) but when you do, your financial transactions are well hidden and, in theory, entirely anonymous. 19. VIRTUAL MACHINESUsing a virtual machine is a great way to work on sensitive files (or to open dubious ones) without the fear of online snooping or potentially infecting your main system. A virtual machine is essentially a second ‘virtual’ computer that you host within your main operating system as an application. So let’s say you want to download a JPG from an email attachment, but you’re worried that it’s infected with a keylogger or some other form of virus that could jeopardize your anonymity. Firstly, if you suspect this to be the case, you shouldn’t download it at all. But one method to more safely examine the file if you absolutely must is to use virtualization software, such as VirtualBox, to install a virtual machine onto your system. It’s best to use a secure OS for this, so something Linux based isn’t a bad idea. You can then download the file on the virtual machine before turning the internet on your virtual machine off and opening the JPG. Once you’re done with the file, you can delete it along with your virtual system, leaving no traces behind and no potential security issues. 20. AVOID JAVASCRIPTJavaScript is used all over the web and can provide detailed information about your system to any website that uses it. This is almost always used completely harmlessly and is often used to improve your browsing experience or funnel more personalised and relevant adverts your way. However, some of this personal or system information can and has been leaked in the past. Disabling JavaScript completely is not really a viable solution as a large amount of websites require you to accept JavaScript in order for them to display correctly. However, you can install an extension into your browser that will allow you to blacklist or whitelist JavaScript activity, giving you more control over how and where your information is being used. NoScript and ScriptSafe are both popular choices and very easy to use. 21. DESTROY ALL TECHNOLOGY AND LIVE IN A CAVEUltimately, the only way to truly stay anonymous online is to never go online in the first place. If you’ve already used the internet, delete any and all accounts you’ve ever created, turn your computer off and smash it to pieces. You will still leave a digital footprint of some sort in your wake, but hopefully it’s not particularly significant. If you’re using this extreme method, you should also smash up your smart phone, your tablet and your smart TV (they’re listening to us now). Now that you have purged all connected technology from your life, you may wish to live in self-imposed exile, perhaps in a cave, so that you are not tempted to re-enter the online world. Don’t tell anyone about this and you will successfully have acquired complete anonymity. olithic man installing a wifi router. Image: PoodlesRock/Corbis Photograph: PoodlesRock/Corbis

Frequently Asked Questions about how to make yourself anonymous online

Can online stay anonymous?

INCOGNITO This is perhaps one of the most basic privacy options that just about anyone can take advantage of. The top four most popular browsers – Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Safari – have a private browsing mode, which can be found in their respective settings menus.Mar 6, 2015

How do I browse the Internet anonymously?

Here’s how to surf anonymously with various tools:Get a VPN, a proxy server, or Tor.Use a private email service.Employ specialized anti-tracking software.Use a more private search engine.Get a secure browser.Feb 18, 2021

How can I be private online?

Here are some ways you can boost your online privacy.Limit the personal information you share on social media. … Browse in incognito or private mode. … Use a different search engine. … Use a virtual private network. … Be careful where you click. … Secure your mobile devices, too. … Use quality antivirus software.Mar 21, 2021

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