How to be anonymous on the internet

Anonymity and the internet are words that don’t go together very well. It’s basically almost impossible to ensure that someone won’t follow, listen to or analyze your communication. If you’re expecting us to tell you here how to be completely invisible on the internet, you’ll probably be disappointed. Nonetheless, it’s worth pointing out several interesting tools that can (at least partially) help you remain anonymous.  

We should definitely begin with security principles like connecting to a secured WiFi network with updated firmware on your router. You should also always look to see if your internet browser is using HTTPS communication (a lock icon, green field and so on in the address bar). If it’s not, don’t visit the pages at all. What else?  

 

Ukázka, jak vypadá adresní řádek zabezpečené a nezabezpečené komunikace skrze HTTP/S. Zdroj: Blog netpromotion - Proč neodkládat přechod z HTTP na HTTPS? (2018).

First off, we should define what we mean by “anonymity”, i.e. that no one will be listening in on our communication with others, that no server will know where we’re accessing it from, or that browsers won’t be displaying targeted ads to us.  

If you want to use secure communication, you should definitely seek out tools that use “end-to-end” encryption. This means that the participants’ communication is encoded and the server that mediates the communication can’t read it. Sometimes these are lies and you can be threatened by “funny” (and dangerous) things like Zoombombing. Generally recommended tools for common communication are ones like WhatsApp, Viber or Signal – Private Messenger.   

Your anonymity can be lowered by several elements that you should keep an eye on in your browser – these are cookies, browser history, ads and tracking tools. Cookies have long been a topic of debate. These are files that save what settings you’ve created on a certain server, what you were looking for, etc. These servers use them to remember certain settings. On the other hand, they can be a significant security risk when an uninvited party reads them.  

If you don’t want someone to track you, try one of these browsers:  

Tor Browser is a tool that will make it impossible to track your location. Every router between you and the server you want to communicate with will only see the nearest jump. This makes your mutual communication very difficult to track. The disadvantage of this tool is lower connection speed (and generally everything will work more slowly).  

Brave Browser tries to put security first but combines it with functionality. If you need to be really anonymous, you can open a TOR window. Brave blocks ads and tracks systems, which significantly heightens security, but also the anonymity of your browsing.  

You can also use (and change) your IP address. In situations like these, you have basic options. First, you can use a VPN, which is probably the best and most secure option. You can try free tools  or buy a similar service, for example from Avast. The other option is to use a proxy server (you can easily find suitable extensions for Chrome or specialized applications, or use the integrated tool in the Opera browser).  

If you want to know what search results look like regardless of your previous searches, definitely try DuckDuckGo, which functions either as a search tool, a Chrome extension, or as an independent browser. When they’re used correctlyBitcoins can come in handy when making payments.  

We’ll conclude with three important bits of advice:  

  1. The main weakness to anonymity is the user – if you write, record, take a photo of yourself or log in somewhere, the concept of anonymity is naturally weakened. If you need to use some services, try to use a different email than usual (and have a number of them on hand), or use 10minutemail, which will create an email address for you for 10 minutes, which is about the time to complete a common registration for a service. Generally, make sure to use strong passwords or encrypt your content.  
  2. No service in the world will protect you from what you download onto your computer. If you want to be anonymous, minimize downloading.  
  3. The anonymous window in Chrome is good in that it doesn’t download data into cookies or browser history and it deactivates the possibility to record keyboard strokes by system tools (usually done by viruses). However, it doesn’t solve the issue of anonymity as such. It’s a good tool for looking at websites that we don’t necessarily want to brag about visiting (for example a stream of a football match), but your provider or school (if you’re on a school network) can still see your communication.  

 

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