The web has brought about unprecedented levels of anonymity. You can sign up for free email accounts without having to give personal information. You can create social network profiles using an alternate identity. However, you should not fall into a false sense of security. Information you post online can still be tracked back to you. And when you access other websites, these can still track your IP address, and get information about your computer, your operating system, and your internet service provider. While this information may not be tracked directly to you, there is still the possibility that you’re vulnerable. The worst thing that could happen to you is that malicious hackers could steal your passwords, gaining access to your personal email accounts and even impersonate you.
There are a few ways to surf anonymously, and here are a few tips.
Use an alternate browser. This is perhaps the first line of defense. If you use Windows, then the default browser bundled with your computer would be Internet Explorer. Being deeply integrated into Windows, IE might expose your computer, since some scripts could essentially get information and send these to other people, once you open a site.
Use an anonymizing proxy. Surfing behind an anonymous proxy lets you avoid directly surfing into a site, and this gives other sites the proxy’s IP address, instead of your own. By hiding your own IP address, you can prevent malicious software and hackers from directly trying to access your computer through your IP address. You can find anonymous proxies at sites like www.proxy4free.com. To install these on your browser, follow these steps.
- Internet Explorer: Click “Tools” – “Internet Options,” then select the “Connections” tab. Click the “LAN settings” button, and then enter the address and port of the proxy server you wish to use.
- Mozilla Firefox: Click “Tools” – “Options,” then click the Advanced tab icon. Then click the “Settings button” after “Choose how Firefox connects to the Internet.” Click the “Manual proxy configuration” radio button, and then enter the proxy server address and port here.
- Google Chrome: Chrome follows the proxy settings defined under Internet Explorer, which is actually the universal setting that Windows uses.
Use Google Chrome. You can download Google’s Chrome browser from http://chrome.google.com, which lets you surf anonymously with one easy step. Simply turn on “Incognito” browsing by pressing Ctrl-Shift-N to open a new “Incognito” window. This way, the browser never saves any bookmarks, passwords or other personal information. You might still have to set an anonymous proxy server, since Chrome uses the setting that IE uses.
Download anonymizing software. If you think setting your proxy server manually is complicated, then you can use anonymizing software, which does the job of setting proxy servers for you. Anonymizer.com is one such software and service. It’s commercial, but it has a free trial period. Anonymizer also has other features like encryption and phishing alerts. Companies and businesses that need privacy would benefit from this kind of software, since you no loner have to meddle with proxy settings.