There are some things that we want to keep secret. Honestly, what we do in private isn’t the business of anyone else. (See Editors Note at the end).
In a world that is full of technology where we spend so much time online it is getting easier and easier for criminals to access our personal data and use it against us.
There are methods we can use that can help keep our anonymity intact when online. Here are some to be considered:
• Activating incognito mode on Google Chrome (all major browsers have a similar feature) – This is one of the simplest methods of keeping your details and browsing history secure on a shared computer. Incognito mode allows you to browse the internet without your history being recorded. This means the websites you visit will not be visible to anyone else who uses the computer.
Its ease of activation does indicate that it is not an overly complicated system to hack and it does have some fairly big weaknesses. One of these weaknesses is that websites you visit may (and probably will) store your information and record the fact that you visited them which means your history will be recorded anyway.
This method is great if you just want to keep your browsing history secret on a shared computer but if you are really concerned about the big time techno criminals, other means will need to be considered.
• Blocking cookies – in Internet terms, cookies track the web sites and pages you visit and then use this information to customize your browsing experience. For example if you visit a couple of car based websites with cookies enabled – do not be surprised when you start seeing car advert banners pop up as you browse.
By blocking cookies, your browsing will not be tracked and an ill timed advert will not give away your browsing habits to other users. Blocking cookies is an easy process in your internet setting options.
As with incognito mode this is a great method if you are simply trying to keep your browsing secret from another user of the same computer but to keep your data safe from prying online criminal eyes you are going to need something a bit more robust.
• Virtual Private Networks (VPN) – with some help from someone with a bit of technical knowledge, or simply downloading a “client” (a small program) from a commercial VPN company, you could set up a VPN. This is a connection made between a computer and a private network.
The connection is made using the internet to bridge the gap between your computer and your endpoint. Since all data that is shared is encrypted, if someone was able to intercept it, they wouldn’t understand what it is actually saying.
There are online VPN services where you register your details and you are then given access to a VPN – examples of sites that offer this are PureVPN, TunnelBear, and VyperVPN. There are hundreds of companies able to provide similar services although there is usually a charge which can be as low as $5 per month.
• TOR (The Onion Router) – This is a free online network that encrypts your data (including you IP address) multiple times and sends it through an online circuit where each stage decodes one part of the encrypted data. This means that at no point in the circuit is all your data accessible to anyone who may be snooping online.
Because your IP address is encrypted during the process, even when you have been directed to your intended site, the location of your request is not known by the website therefore your browsing can not be tracked or monitored.
Although this seems like a fool proof system, cyber criminals are determined to find ways to hack the system. One weakness this method has is that someone could use vulnerable software that is on your computer to gain access to the data before it has been encrypted by TOR.
You must also be sure you’re connecting to secure sites (their web address starts with HTTPS:). Otherwise, when the information exits TOR onto the “wild” Internet, a sniffer could read your insecure information. Your identity is still secure, but your information being sent is not.
• Proxy Servers – Similar to TOR, proxy servers act as a go between for you and the server of the site you are trying to visit. You make your site request to the proxy server which then makes that request to the sites server on your behalf. This means that any sites you visit have no idea where the original request came from.
Proxy servers therefore protect your location and any data stored on your computer. However the proxy server provider does have access to your IP address and data as it is connected to you, so it is important to use a trustworthy provider with good levels of security to prevent any breaches of the system.
Some providers do not charge for access to a proxy server but if you want to maximize your privacy chances you will probably want to pay which will likely cost a few hundred dollars.
Editor Note: Our whole “gig” here is personal independence. That includes your personal privacy. Simply protecting your privacy is not an indication that you’re doing something nefarious. It’s an indication that you value your privacy. I use TOR on a regular basis for one reason: It’s no one’s damned business what I’m doing on the Internet.
Remember that anything that is electronic has the ability to “rat you out”. Your smart phone – with the GPS function enabled – gives your pinpoint location. Even with the GPS function disabled, your phone identifies your general location when it “pings” the cell phone towers for service. Its mic and camera can be remotely enabled without your consent or knowledge.
Even your TV may be supplying others with information about your habits, thoughts and actions. As this article, “I’m Terrified of My New TV: Why I’m Scared to Turn This Thing on — and You’d Be, Too” notes, as a result of the cameras, microphones, logging scripts, et al, we willingly enable, “The FBI will not have to bug your living room; you will do it yourself.”