One of the most important and popular debates rising from the increase of social media, online shopping, and general Internet use is privacy. Even if your activities are completely above board, it is completely natural to want to enjoy the same amount of privacy usually found in other areas of life.
As a result of this need, and the continued mounting of threats and parties looking to spy on even the average Internet user, numerous choices for protection have become available that are perfect for keeping every aspect of your Internet usage to yourself. Many are free to use, with more powerful and versatile options still only requiring a small monthly payment.
The Best Ways to Surf the Internet Anonymously
There are a few primary ways to surf the Internet without allowing your activity and personal data to be vulnerable for anyone to intercept. Some primarily focus on erasing usage history, while others offer virtually complete protection in all ways.
For an easy and free way to surf anonymously, one need look no farther than their favorite web browser. Virtually every browser of note includes the capacity for private browsing, usually of a basic nature that primarily prevents anyone else from seeing which websites you have visited. All Internet history is completely erased, which not only prevents others from knowing what sites you frequent, but also blocks the link from showing up with the auto-complete function for web addresses. In addition, tracking cookies, the small pieces of code sent to and stored on your device that track your virtual movement between different sites, are all eradicated after each session is finished.
Regular browsers that offer private modes include:
If you have trouble remembering to turn on private browsing features when you use your normal browser, it may be time to get one that is specifically designed with security in mind. These browsers automatically implement these security measures by default, and are even more secure than their widely-used counterparts. Top secure browsers include:
While features contained in popular browsers and private browsers are great for avoiding marketers and their annoying spam and ads, they are lacking in keeping your location unknown and any information passed to and from target websites secure. For example, while the Incognito feature of Chrome can keep your significant other from knowing where you purchased their birthday present from online, it does not safeguard any information passing over the Internet from outside parties while you make the purchase. Whether it be someone looking to exploit you criminally, or just advertisers or your ISP spying on you, this information is in no way anonymous.
For total anonymity, the best option is usually a VPN. A VPN, which stands for virtual private network, is a kind of go-between service, with all of your Internet traffic routed to the VPN server before it is sent to its destination. Any parties looking to spy or intercept Internet requests will only see the IP address of the VPN server, rather than it coming from your device. A VPN then encrypts the traffic so it can also prevent it from being understood and used. It is important to note, however, that this extra routing may come at a cost in how fast your Internet activities are.
While Tor can technically be put in the category of a secure browser, it is in a class all its own. Tor, which stands for The Onion Router, is a service that has existed for over 16 years, whose sole purpose has been to create a free and safe way for people to use the Internet anonymously.
Tor operates by using all computers connected to the network as relays through which other users’ Internet requests are passed through. Requests are routed through multiple relays and a layer of encryption is added by each relay it passes through. This means that anyone trying to spy on you would be unable to see where your origin request comes from, or the data it contains. As with a VPN, however, you may experience some degradation in speed when using the Tor network.
While the number of Internet spies and hackers is growing at a geometric rate with each passing year, the tools available to combat them have also increased in power and sophistication. Using one, or a combination, of these resources can increase your anonymity on the Internet exponentially.