When we think of the words ‘internet anonymity’, they mean the user’s right to be private and anonymous online, which means first of all protecting the access to their data being intercepted and secondly protecting their online presence and information about themselves being exploited under false pretences. Below, we will look into the state of data privacy, common internet privacy practices and then the tried and true ways of revealing as little information about yourself online as possible, which most people will probably not be aware of. For instance, conducting a specialist diagnostic that reveals how anonymous you are may shock you as to how much data about you (system, hardware, timezone, browser model etc.) is being communicated and sent out to the internet without your knowledge.
The State of Data Privacy Today
Unbeknownst to everyone, 2013 would be a year that would change the way we think about the internet and especially how much we trust the World Wide Web (WWW) platform. This event also completely changed how tech companies approach user data. The event that would spark these changes all over the world is known as The Snowden Effect (or the Snowden leaks). NSA contractor Edward Snowden – coveted by some as a true digital ‘martyr’ and a criminal by others – would in 2013 reveal to U.S. citizens the truth about what happens to their data. He revealed that information such as who people talked to when people talked to whom and other miscellaneous information was collected passively by national intelligence agencies via the PRISM program. His leaks led to enormous changes in legislation (the USA Freedom Act was instituted) and of course caused large-scale distrust surrounding the internet, government, big tech and data privacy. The leaks also caused waves of political tension on a global political and economic scale. The EU brought their GDPR privacy initiative law into force in the mid-2010s, and the U.S. state of California activated their CCPA law last year as a result of these events.
So, if you value your privacy and data then we’re going to look into some tried-and-tested methods to make you disappear, pretty much. It isn’t only because people have eyes on your data, it’s also about considering staying safe from cybercriminals. Why? Ransomware is on the rise, and so are phishing scams. It also looks like mass cybercrime by dangerous nation-state hackers will be a pivotal issue in this decade’s cybersecurity -so the future of the internet is looking rather grim and you need to stay safe.
How to be More Anonymous Online
Being anonymous is not a gimmick, it’s a requirement for everyone because of the reasons discussed above. Here are some fundamental suggestions for keeping your data private by anonymizing yourself, and staying safe from online threats as well as prying eyes.
A Virtual Private Network or VPN is an anonymization software provided by software vendors, available for download on any device that connects to the internet today. This software, once installed, allows the user to cloak their location and data by injecting an extra server in between the user and the rest of the internet. This software encrypts your connection, can place your internet address (IP) in a location of your choice anywhere in the world, thereby making it very difficult for advertising third parties, cybercriminals and even your own internet service provider (ISP) to track and monitor you. A good, premium VPN service is always a good idea to have running on all of your devices.
An anti-malware software (malware is a term for all computer viruses) is always a good thing to have. With premium anti-malware software installed, it will effectively protect your system from any viruses, infected programs, shady downloads or infected websites with real-time scanning capabilities while you browse.
Good Internet Hygiene
In general, good internet hygiene means a few things. It means ensuring that you are using a fundamental safety feature on your computer called a firewall. It also means never sharing any sensitive information on the internet if you don’t have to, especially on unencrypted (non-SSL) websites without the HTTPS and lock key displayed in the address bar. Furthermore, opening or downloading files that you are unsure of is never a good idea and can have you infected quickly. Another point is to avoid using public wi-fi without the software mentioned in the above steps. Always make sure to clear your internet browsing history on exit, for your browser to not retain that information. Finally, make sure that you make use of MFA or multi-factor-authentication features on all of your devices, and always use long, complex and random passwords (that only you know and have written down somewhere) on all accounts and devices.
Advanced Techniques For True Anonymity
We’ve discussed the very basic forms of internet anonymization, but there is so much more beneath the iceberg that you must know about (and which regular research will never reveal).
So, hopefully, you have taken the anonymity test at the beginning of this article and can see that your location, city, timezone all the way to the make and model of your computer is visible, right? The anonymity test essentially tells you what information can be seen by any website, as well as someone intercepting your connection with simple tools (no advanced hacking necessary).
What Your IP and Web Browser Reveal About You And How To Stop it
Your browser reveals information such as;
- Browser brand
- Browser plugins
- System time
- Operating system
- Last website visited (referrer)
- Information about your system’s hardware components
Your IP (Internet Protocol) reveals an address that will contain numbers such as; 41.123.456 etc. These numbers are an address that can enable someone to pinpoint your physical location and internet provider.
With a VPN installed, you can solve the IP address issue in one click by connecting to a ‘middle-man server. However, your VPN software will not contain your browser leaks which are much less looked into and require going into some system settings to fix. The following settings are especially important when it comes to privacy; timezone and last website visited.
Let’s do the following things on the checklist below and tune some system settings, and then retake the test at the beginning of the article where you will see a big difference in your ‘invisibility’.
- You should already have premium VPN software installed and running
- You should always be in your browsers ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ browsing mode
- Make sure that you are always using a privacy-oriented browser
- Change your timezone region to another location in the same timezone as you
- Enable “Do-Not-Track” and “Anti-Fingerprinting” options in your browser
- Enable “cross-site tracking” protection or block “third-party cookies” in your browser
- Enable “MAC address randomization” if your device has it in wi-fi settings
Hardcore Privacy Settings
Now, there is the privacy-conscious crowd and then there is just flat-out disappearing. For whatever reason, there are those of us that want no part at all in online tracking and fingerprinting. What do you need to do? Well, with all of the above points completed, we’ll add the following ingredients which are a Virtual Machine (VM) and the TOR browser. A Virtual Machine is essentially a virtual operating system that you set up, which even when attacked will not affect your real system. Running the TOR browser (the only truly anonymous browser) via a VM system, including a VPN and all of the above points, is a truly hardcore way to go about privacy. It is recommended that you stay off of the Deep and Dark webs in all cases, though.