- Private browsing mode: There are two basic ways to maintain anonymity while surfing the web. The first, most basic and popular, yet insufficient way is to browse the information in private mode, an option that most browsers allow. Your browsing history will not be saved, and basic tracking technologies, which advertisers use, such as HTTP cookies, will be prevented from creating your detailed profile. But this is more of a nice to have privacy: It basically hides your browsing history from family members who can access your computer. Your IP address can still be monitored and information regarding all the sites you visited is still exposed to your ISP.
- Use alternative browsers: browsers, such as Dooble, Comodo Dragon or SRWare Iron, which focus on user privacy, are limited in capabilities. You can achieve a similar degree of privacy offered by these browsers simply by deleting cookies – bits of code which have been downloaded to your system by websites you visit, that monitor your activity and sometimes even follow which content you consume; Another way to remain anonymous is by neutralizing your browser’s location settings, and installing various features aimed at achieving anonymity. To check whether you disabled all cookies effectively, you can use the app CCleaner, which also handles Flash cookies, but none of these browsers are fully encrypted. The only standard browser that ensures total privacy is the Tor browser. Tor is ugly and slow, but it will protect you and your sources. The next section will give a more detailed account of it.
- TOR: This “notorious” browser, which was developed by the US Navy, allows you to operate in a hidden network, carry out private communications and set up web sites anonymously. Tor’s browser, which can be downloaded at Torproject.org, makes it very difficult to monitor your activities on the internet, or let governments or your ISP pinpoint your location. The only drawback is that it’s slow at times, a bit cumbersome – but that’s only because Tor routes you through three encrypted random relays around the world, before landing you at your destination site. You should also bear in mind that your neighbors may be shady characters.Another option related to Tor is to download Whonix, a secure operating system that is focused on privacy. It works as an access gate to Tor, and only allows connections with Tor sites and users. But the most popular Tor OS is Tails (The Amnesiac Incognito Live System). Tails can be booted from a USB stick or DVD, and it anonymizes all information. Edward Snowden is considered a fan of this software. Qubes is another OS that supports Whonix and is recommended by Snowden.
- Alternative search engines: Google, the most popular search engine, saves your search history in order to optimize the results. To stop this personalization you should click on: Search Tools > All Results > Verbatim. Or you sign into your Google account on www.google.com/history, find a list of your previous searches and select the items you want to remove by clicking the ‘Remove Items’ button.
But to avoid being monitored entirely, it’s preferable to use a search engine such as DuckDuckGo. If you find it difficult to give up Google, download Searchlinkfix to at least keep away URL Trackers.
- Direct treatment of “short-term” computer memory: Another way to neutralize options for monitoring your surfing is by deleting the DNS (domain name system) cache. Deletion is done using simple commands in the operating system. Rebooting the router – which sometimes has a DNS cache – or rebooting the computer can also reboot both their respective DNS cache, if the router has one.
- Try to avoid HTML Web Storage: Web Storage is built into HTML5, and unlike cookies, the stored information is impossible to monitor or selectively remove. Web storage is enabled by default, so if you’re using Internet Explorer or Firefox, simply turn it off. You can also use the add-on Better Privacy for Firefox to remove the stored information automatically. The Click and Clean extension will do the same job for Google Chrome.
- Use a VPN: As I mentioned already, your ISP can monitor the sites you surf, and anyone who wants to eavesdrop on you, can also intercept your communications. To protect all incoming and outgoing communications, it’s important to make use of a VPN (For a complete explanation, click here). VPN encrypts all your communications, so that even the ISP or the secret services, or just hackers hovering around your favorite coffee shop’s Wi-Fi, won’t be able to know who you sent an email to, which service you used, etc.The use of a VPN is very common among people who, for example, wish to see the complete Netflix movies catalog outside of the United States, but not every VPN is suitable for journalists. A VPN for journalists won’t necessarily be the fastest one or have the best support, but it has to be trusted not to keep VPN logs – that is, it cannot determine who you are, what sites you’ve visited and so on.A safe VPN is bound to be provided by a company who’s not located at one of the “14 Eyes” countries, where intelligence networks are allowed to collect and share information with one another; firstly and foremost, in the USA. So VPN companies located in the territory of the former Soviet Union countries have an advantage. Their courts do not easily hand out orders to retrieve information collected by local companies, be it regarding their citizens or foreign nationals. Here you’ll find a list of 5 VPN services that stand out regarding privacy and all are located outside the “14 Eyes” countries.wBy the way, even if governments are out on the hunt for Traffic that is sheltered by a VPN, you can still use stealth VPNs like TorGuard, to confront the challenge, whether it is active government censorship or just spying you’re dealing with. Tor and VPN’s give you the perfect protection when someone is trying to retrieve your browsing history in order to profile you.
- Repair DNS leaks: Using a VPN does not protect you completely, because that DNS Traffic may hint at your identity. DNSLeakTest.com will allow you to detect such leakage. If the test shows that DNS is of your VPN, you can relax, but if it shows that the DNS is of your ISP, you are not anonymized. In this case you, check out what you can do here.
- Virtual Machines: This nifty little trick is actually a second (virtual) computer, which operates as an app in your operating system. You can download files or open links in a similar way to the isolated computer I recommended earlier, so that your computer is less exposed to malware or spyware of any kind. Virtualization software, like VirtualBox should be opened using a secure operating system. File downloading is done with the virtual machine Internet connection shut down; after using the file, you’ll need to delete it – and depending on your adversary, perhaps delete it along with the machine.
- Proxy server: As in the case of virtual machines, here too the activity moves to another “area” and allows you to keep safe from spying and other attacks. Actually, the proxy servers substitute your IP address with theirs, which can mislead people into thinking you’re in a different country, for instance. HideMyAss.com/proxy, Psiphon (open source) and JonDonym all provide a similar service. Some experts say that these should be used with a VPN and/or Tor for higher levels of security. But then, some experts I’ve talked to claim that if you bother using Tor, you’re as secured as one can be anyway.
Originally published here