The average computer user may not give a second thought to surfing the internet, but staying anonymous has its advantages when it comes to online security. Anonymity can not only increase your safety online, but it can also prevent targeted ads from hitting your browser. Protecting your identity and confidential information needs to be a priority for all users. While these aren’t the only considerations for staying anonymous online, here are five tips to get you started.
Browse in Private Mode on a Secure Browser
Any time you visit a webpage, small amounts of information are stored in the browser’s data. These bits of data are cookies, which help deliver a custom experience to the user. They also store previous browsing sessions and information, including logins and site details (like a shopping cart). This also means your history can customize your browsing experience based on past results. This unique footprint of your online browsing tailors everything you do online to these bits of data. For example, searching for the newest iPhone on Google will likely show ads when you’re browsing on Facebook.
If you’re hoping to make your internet surfing a little more anonymous, use the private browsing methods available on your browser. Private browsing isn’t going to make you entirely anonymous online, but it will minimize the information stored by your browser. Your internet service provider will still receive records of your history, along with others tapped into your IP or dataset.
The browser you use will also collect data about your browsing history. Popular browsers like Bing, Google, and Yahoo save information from your search to target ads in the future. By using a secure server, you’ll be able to access any website you like without the saved dataset (assuming you change the security settings on the browser.) If one is browsing sugar daddy websites, for example, that data will stay private.
Use a Virtual Private Network
A virtual private network (VPN) works by obscuring your IP address as a private and encrypted network. It works by scrambling your information into a series of numbers and letters that are virtually unusable. These networks also encrypt your data, keeping your visibility online minimal. VPNs work on a global level, providing access to any network in the world. As such, you’ll be able to set your point of origin (where the network sees your IP address starting from) anywhere in the world. Some will include features like a kill switch that will cut the connection if there’s an issue with encryption.
Become Disposable Online
Although you can mask your IP address using VPNs or secure browsers, having an anonymous communication channel is essential too. There are two methods of creating an anonymous email account, both of which are simple to implement. Creating an alias email is recommended for those wanting to send communication to someone specific without attaching your name to the account. Simply set up the account online (almost all email providers are free to register). This alias email will be used as a forwarding address. The person on the receiving end will see communication with your alias account instead of your real email account. You can arrange to have it sent to your real email account if required.
Alternatively, you can create a disposable email account. The disposable account is created through a free provider with a fake first and last name. From there, you can use this email address for a specified period before deleting the email address entirely. Always use an encrypted browsing (shown as HTTPS) platform whenever possible.
Avoid Spam and Marketing Efforts
It seems virtually every website has a mailing list, registration option, or newsletter, which can add a lot of clutter to your inbox. It can also increase your digital footprint when you register online. If you’d like to register to a specific website or social media network, use the disposable email. This way, you’ll lessen the amount of spam in your inbox while remaining anonymous online.
Ramp Up Your Online Security
If you’re directly connected to your modem, you’re putting yourself at risk for hacking. It’s always wise to have a router on the home network that can implement a firewall. Routers will use NAT (network address translation) to assign every device on the network with a unique IP address. These IP addresses are only visible to that specific network, preventing access from outside sources.
Most personal computers have firewall software preinstalled on the operating system. For Windows, the software is part of a security suite. Using the firewall with the operating system is often enough to prevent attacks, increasing your safety and security. Hiding your personal information on the operating system helps improve anonymity online.
Consider Using Anonymous Calling
One of the easiest ways to track an individual is with their cell phone. Whether you’re emailing, browsing, or calling, your location is being sent to your service provider. Although the exact location isn’t provided, users can use GPS services and tower locations to determine an approximate area. Those looking to make discreet calls often believe purchasing a new phone can create an anonymous profile. Unfortunately, most cell providers (even pay-as-you-go accounts) track user location and call logs. Aside from buying a “burner” phone (any cellular phone designed to be thrown away after use), users can download apps through their smartphone that offer temporary, anonymous numbers.