Note : The following is a guest post by Caroline Black, blogger and geek at Secure Thoughts
If you’re anything like me, hearing that you’re being tracked on the internet is a bit unnerving, even if you’re not doing anything illegal online. Between government agencies and your email provider, you probably feel as if, no matter where you are, your browsing history and everything else is being monitored. If you’re torrenting, you may even have been blocked by your internet service provider—even for legal downloads!
There are plenty of reasons you might want to stay anonymous while browsing the internet. Here are some tips:
Control Who Can Access Your History
There are a few different ways to manage this. The easiest is to turn on private browsing, which most browsers will give you access to without having to do much more than turn it on. Unfortunately, this really only limits what people can see if they have direct access to your computer; in reality, your internet viewing is still visible in a myriad of ways. A better way to handle things is to use a proxy browser, many of which are free. These will hide your internet usage so people can’t see your location or what other sites you typically access—but again, it’s not foolproof.
The best option you can use is a VPN, which sets up a sort of terminal between your computer and the site you’re accessing, meaning that only people in the terminal (you and the site) can access your information, and only limited information at that! Because of the encrypted connection, you’re a much smaller target for hackers, who usually won’t want to bother with your connection. It’ll also provide you with a safer connection by masking your IP address and making it appear as if you are browsing in a different country, thus hiding your true location. It’s definitely one of the best ways to stay anonymous online.
Control Your Information
Another way to limit what other people can see about you is to limit what you freely give away. You’ll want to start by creating a strong series of passwords for all the sites you use—passwords that are totally random and nothing that even a bot could guess. You definitely don’t want someone to be able to log on to your account and see everything there is to know about you. And don’t share this password around either. You may trust your friends to protect your friends and family from identity theft, but the reality is that your password doesn’t take that long to type in! On the off-chance that someone else accesses your device or tries to take over your account, make sure you’re protected.
You should also make sure that that you’re only posting limited information. Although Facebook and other social media networks have become common in most people’s lives, you shouldn’t be posting every detail about who you are, where you’re from, or what your plans are. If you choose to do so, you’re not only compromising your personal safety by allowing people to possibly stalk you, but also allowing hackers and webmasters alike to track your movements and predict what you’ll do next—often with alarming accuracy. Neither should you link your social media account to other sites. Although it may make sharing pages easier, it also links all of your information to the sites that you’re sharing.
Control Your Email Account
As with your other accounts, you should be using a strong password to access your email. But even that isn’t enough to allow you to truly go invisible online. In fact, Gmail and other email providers are upfront about the fact that they routinely search your emails for keywords that you use—all so that they can provide you with more relevant ads. If this doesn’t alarm you, maybe it should. This means that information you’re emailing about is often being outsourced to third-party advertising agencies.
Control Your Computer
One of the ways to control what’s leaked from your computer is pretty basic: make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date. Often viruses that attack your computer are doing more than just making things obnoxious for you; they’re often targeting your data and reporting it to third parties as well. This is common with both targeted phishing attacks and malware, which could even be loaded on your computer just because you happen to be using the same WiFi network as someone else. Make sure you turn off your computer’s ability to automatically connect to open WiFi networks, which could be malicious hotspots, and also keep software updated so that it can protect you to the best of its abilities.
Control All Your Devices
A common problem in the search for web anonymity is to secure your computer while failing to secure your phone or tablet. This means that your information is still vulnerable to leakage because your other devices are no more capable of hiding your online trail than your computer is! Make sure you’re using a VPN and protecting your phone and/or tablet as well, or else all the precautions you’ve taken will have been in vain.
If you’re looking to stay online, there’s no sure-fire way to do this, but there are dozens of precautionary techniques that you can adopt to make your browsing experience a safer one. Rather than leaving your computer totally open to attack, you owe it to yourself to research your options and make sure that you’re not a big target for identity theft, which could cause you a lot in terms of both time and money. You also don’t want to share too much information with third-party companies or the government. Make sure you take at least some steps to limit what goes out there!