Believe it or not, but every move you make on the Internet is being recorded and sold to hundred of companies out there. There are many websites tracking your browsing activity, government blocking and monitoring your logs, hackers trying to pry your identity, etc.
Sounds Scary, right?
As a result, we often use a Private browser or a VPN to secure us from the prying eyes. But these are not sufficient. There are many things which can trace you on the Internet, regardless of whether you use a VPN or not.
Note: You can never be 100 percent secure or untraceable, but these are some of the best industry standards to stay anonymous on the Internet. So without any further due, let us know what are those things that can track you and how to disable them individually.
How to be Anonymous on the Internet
1. Using a Secure File Sharing System
Say you want to send some files to your clients or friends online. The first thing that comes to our mind is E-mail or cloud storage services like Dropbox. But both these platform are hostile to privacy and also requires you first to register to use their service. Off course, you can use an alias to sign-up, but that’s too much work.
Hence we recommend using a cloud service which offers zero knowledge encryption where the company itself has no access to the content like Spideroak, which offers a limited trial as well as a subscription package for $12/month. Or, if you’re looking to sharing files on the go, you can also try OnionShare.
With OnionShare, you can anonymously share files of any size. Start by downloading the app (it’s free and available for all platforms) and then just drag and drop the files in the app. OnionShare will generate a temporary URL, which the recipient can access via Tor browser.
2. Using a Secure Operating System
Your browser’s information isn’t the only thing that is sent over the Web. Every website you visit can also track which Operating system you are running. And talking about the OS, most of us use — Windows, which is not very privacy-friendly. Microsoft has also said it in their Privacy Statement that they do collect your personal data (which includes your credentials, name, contacts, demographic, and location etc.
So to protect your privacy, you can boot from a live Operating System like Tails. It’s similar to how you use a Linux live CD but specifically built for privacy and anonymity. So, here is how it works — simply download the iso, burn it on a CD or USB stick and then boot to Tails OS from your BIOS. Trails will by default routes all your traffic through TOR network and has an encryption tool for IM and email.
Whonix is another popular OS that aimed at privacy and anonymity.
3. Blocking Third-Party Cookies
Blocking cookie will make it harder for websites to learn and understand your browsing habits. And thankfully you can easily block cookies it in your browser settings. For example in Chrome go to Settings > Show advanced settings > under Privacy (Content settings) > “Block third-party cookie and site data.”
And while you are at it, also delete the existing cookies from your system by using an app like CCleaner. It’s completely free and works well.
4. Using Different Email Services
Many websites require you to register your email address before you start using their service. In this case, it makes no sense to use your original email address if you wish to be anonymous. Keeping your original email address away from spammers is important to protect your identity online.
However, if you’re interested in a long term solution. For instance – you want to give a proxy E-mail address to a stranger and want his or her email to be delivered to your real E-mail address, then use an E-mail masking services like Blur. They’re anonymous, secure, and allow email forwarding for free.
5. Using Incognito Mode in Your Web Browser
Yes, we know Incognito mode do not make you anonymous, but it still helpful if you forget to delete cookies or your browsing history. All popular web browsers support Incognito mode (sometimes refer as a private browser) are available on both desktop and mobile browser. With private browsing ON, your browser’s history and cookies are automatically deleted once you close the window so that websites have no information of your online activity.
6. Using Private Search Engines
Undoubtedly, there is no search engine better than Google when it comes to speed, accuracy, and efficiency. But the reason, why Google is so good, is because of invasive privacy policies. It uses a personalized search algorithm where it monitors your previous search history, websites you visit and keeps track of all your private information (such as who you are, your name, your interest, age, gender, phone number, home address, your current location etc. Overall, Google knows everything about you.
So, if you can compromise search result for privacy, we recommend using a private search engine such as DuckDuckGo or lukol. These search engines never track your search and focus on privacy and anonymity.
7. Using Extensions
Browsers are just a tool to connect you to the web, but to make it powerful, we use add-ons, Right? Hence here we make use of some extensions which secures our browsing experience and helps us to be anonymous on the web.
It’s a simple and extremely customizable extension, which blocks trackers from all over the web. It displays which tracking services a website uses, and manually allow you to disable it as your need. It’s a must have extension if you’re serious about protecting your privacy.
Most HTTP websites can get easily attacked by Session Hijacking and many other attacks because they are unencrypted and unsecured. But this can be overcome by using HTTPS Everywhere browser extension. It forces encryption (SSL connections) on many websites which make your online activity secured and encrypted.
9. Blocking Location Data
Many websites use your location to show location-based ads, but this can also be used against you if you wish to stay vigilant on the web. Although there are many advantages of keeping it ON, it can also be used to identify who you are. So it is recommended to disable it completely.
Disabling Geolocation in Chrome is easy. Navigate to your Settings > Show advanced settings > under Privacy (Content settings) > under Location “Do not allow any site to track your physical location”
10. Disable WebRTC
Not many of us know that your browser can reveal some of your network information to websites regardless of using any VPN or proxy server. With WebRTC enabled, websites can access your internal IP address hence revealing your real IP address to the web even while using a VPN.
You can disable it by downloading extension from WebRTC for your specific browser.
11. VPN Server
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the most efficient ways to be anonymous on the web. It creates a private, encrypted tunnel over the Internet to a web server, so that your real IP address is hidden from the world. A VPN has several benefits such as enhanced security, improved privacy, and access geo-restricted content on the web.
Related: 5 Best Free VPN Service For 2016
12. Tor Browser
If being completely anonymous is what you’re after, then nothing beats the good old Tor Browser. It uses a vast network of encrypted tunnels to route your online traffic through its layers to erase its origin. Tor has all the benefits which you might have using a VPN. Plus it’s a secure browser, so you don’t need to make any changes in your browser settings or install any extra extension. You can download Tor from TorProject.org, and it’s completely free.
Some Important Websites
DnsLeakTest.com: Even if you’re using a VPN, it’s still possible to track your identity via your DNS traffic. Under certain conditions, the operating system continues to use its default DNS instead of using anonymous DNS servers provided by the VPN network.
To fix this problem, head over to dnsleaktest.com and run the extended test. If you see your ISP’s DNS in the results, then you have a DNS leak. You can fix it by following the steps listed on the “How to fix a DNS leak“ page.
BrowseRLeaks.com: It gives you a detailed view of all the entities that may leak your identity. It has simple categorical sections which give a detailed view of that particular identity.
Ultimately, the only way to stay anonymous on the Internet is to avoid going to the internet in the first place. But since this is not possible for most of us, the above mention tips will help you keep your privacy in check.
However, If you feel I missed something, then let me know in the comments. Also if you have any queries regarding installation or setup of any step as mentioned above, do ask them below.
Also Read: How to Access Blocked Websites