The Internet, in all her infinite glory and utility, can also be a very scary place. You’ve likely read about all sorts of phishing scams and the ongoing battles with Faceboook privacy settings. It may not be possible or particularly prudent to avoid the web altogether, but there are strategies that you can employ to stay anonymous online.
This can further improve your Internet security, adding in tactics like using 2-step verification for Gmail and Dropbox. Yes, we want to stay social, but there are also times when you’d rather stay anonymous and not leave any digital bread crumbs to be followed. These five features and techniques should help you stay safer.
Incognito Mode in Google Chrome
Normally, the web browser of your choosing will automatically save cookies and a history of all the websites that you visit. This is mostly for your convenience and it mostly makes the web easier to use. However, if you want to stay anonymous online, it’s smarter to use features like Incognito Mode in Google Chrome. All of your previous browsing sessions are “hidden” from new websites, creating a fresh “anonymous” session whose data is completely discarded when you close the window. Other browsers may also have a mode similar to Incognito. Internet Explorer calls it InPrivate Browsing, for example. Incognito and InPrivate aren’t going to protect you against phishing scams, but they do provide a more private web browsing session that isn’t tracked as easily.
Avoid Using Google
Yes, we all recognize that Google is great for a lot of things. Gmail is very useful, as is the Google search engine and Google Drive. However, Google loves collecting data and it literally thrives on tracking everything that you do on the web. This isn’t necessarily to say that other major corporations in this sphere aren’t just as bad, but Google is an industry leader for a reason. If nothing else, if you really want to stay anonymous on the web, avoid being logged into your Google account when you’re not actively using it and then purge your history with each new session.
Temporary Email Addresses
There are websites that won’t let you access certain content until you provide them with an email address or sign up for an account, but maybe you don’t want them to have your contact information or know who you are. It’s easy enough to set up “throwaway” email addresses using Outlook/Hotmail or Gmail, but a service like 10 Minute Mail can be even better. You get a temporary email address that expires in ten minutes; you can click to extend the time as needed.
Inconsistent Handles and Usernames
For branding purposes, many companies and professionals will want to retain the exact same username across as many online profiles as possible. This way, the name they have on Facebook is the same as the one they have on Twitter, Tumblr ,and YouTube. However, this also means that your activity is more easily tracked and connected between accounts. If you want to stay anonymous online, use different handles and usernames for the different networks, forums and websites that you frequent. People won’t know that “HumanFireball” and “MacDood” are the same person.
Proxy Servers and VPNs
If a website (or a person) really wants to track your activity on the Internet, they can look you up by your IP address. Even in a more general sense, they can identify that you’re located in New York, rather than in Melbourne, or Mumbai. To get around this, you can use proxy servers like Proxify and Anonymouse. In effect, you surf the web through them, making it appear to the websites as if you are located where the proxy server is rather than where you actually are. However, some rogue proxy servers can be even worse for security than normal browsing. That’s why you may consider adding a virtual private network (VPN) server in another country to the mix.
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