Picture the following: you are browsing on your smartphone or laptop. Everything you see is related to your lifestyle, things you have spoken to your friends about or things you have thought about. It’s a weird feeling… as if someone is spying on you.
The thing is, you are not going insane just yet. This is the reality we live in today.
The fact of the matter is, every website, ISP, government, as well as hackers, and other third parties trace ALL of your online activities. They collect your valuable data for operations, such as targeted ads.
That’s why today anonymous browsing and online privacy are more relevant than ever.
Lucky for you, we have created this guide to showcase all the options you have these days to stay safe, anonymous, and unseen online.
The bad, the good, and everything in between.
What option is the right one for me? you might ask.
Well, that’s up to you to choose based on how much safety and anonymity you need.
Incognito mode: Low level of anonymity
Most browsers have some sort of an Incognito Mode or Private Browsing Mode.
It’s pretty straightforward and you yourself have probably used it at least once or twice, whenever you didn’t want anyone to find out what you were up to late at night *wink-wink*.
But the real question is: Is incognito mode safe?
When you use incognito mode, say on Google Chrome, you are surfing privately. However, private and anonymous browsing is not the same thing.
Your computer doesn’t store your search data with private browsing. It just clears ‘cookies‘ and any other temporary information from your record.
Incognito mode might come in handy in several situations. For instance, it may prevent your roommate from going through what you googled, and it might shield you from targeted ads.
It’s also essential when using public computers. After all, you don’t want the next user to see your search history.
Still, Incognito mode DOES NOT save you from being tracked and traced!
For instance, Google uses first-party cookies for data collection, even in Incognito mode. So Google basically does the same thing it does normally, but without storing your browsing history.
And that’s not even all there is!
All websites you visit can access your physical location, IP, surfing patterns, etc. In turn, your ISP, the government as well as hackers can access all the same information.
This is why Incognito Mode only provides a low level of protection, anonymity, and privacy online.
To upgrade from the beginner level, the next step towards anonymity is using a proxy server.
Proxy servers: Medium level of anonymity
A proxy server acts as a mediator between your device and the website you wish to visit.
Simply put, a proxy is a substitute server, and here’s how it works.
If you set up a proxy, you will connect to another server. It will filter your information, swap your IP, and then connect you to the site.
Take, for example, a school or a workplace with a long list of blocked websites. Without a proxy, access to online games or some forums is impossible.
But what happens when you connect to a substitute server?
The website owner can trace the activity back to the proxy, but not your original location. As the proxy server doesn’t have the same limitations as your local network, you will bypass that nasty firewall with no hiccups.
Still, a proxy is not the best choice for anonymous browsing.
Because it doesn’t offer any encryption.
All of your information is still out in the open, as well as the fact that you are using a proxy to get outside of your local restrictions. This means several things:
- First of all, if your ISP or local network administrator does what they are paid for, they will immediately block your favorite proxy.
And then it’s back to the drawing board of looking for new ones in the middle of work.
- Second, all of your private information (the websites you visit, the time you spend on them, the traffic you download and upload, etc.) is still fully visible to both your ISP and the occasional hacker.
Proxies are good for some things, but not for those truly concerned about their online footprint.
TOR: High level of anonymity
Now that we’ve solved the issue with IPs let’s take things to a whole other level, with encryption.
And one of the best tools for that is The Onion Router, or as most people will know it, TOR.
Most people instantly associate TOR with illegal activities. But that’s not necessarily the case.
The router is perfectly legal in both India as well as any other country.
Browsing deep web content, such as pornography, drugs, or guns, on the other hand, is what could get you into trouble.
TOR has a unique and somewhat complex setup.
When you go online with the TOR browser, it routes your traffic through several computers that also use the TOR Network, also known as nodes.
TOR also re-encrypts your information at each node to keep you safe and anonymous.
So, in theory, it makes it impossible for third parties to get their hands on your data.
However, it’s not all good news.
Governments are well aware of the TOR network. So, they keep a close eye on the TOR browser users and trace all of their traffic, as well as the people on Dark Web websites and forums.
Also, many websites can identify and block TOR.
But probably above all else, the main issue you face with TOR is that the browser can slow down your speed considerably.
So, what’s the next best option?
VPN: The ultimate level of anonymity
A Virtual Private Network is the ultimate solution for anonymous surfing online.
A VPN combines the best things from all the other options and eliminates all of their disadvantages.
Let’s see how it works!
Unlike TOR, a VPN uses a single access point to the Internet.
That’s how it speeds up the connection and gets rid of all delays you might be facing otherwise.
It also doesn’t use a browser as a mediator, as proxies do, but completely substitutes your internet connection. It hides your IP and provides full encryption.
Another big thing that few people realize about VPNs, is that, unlike all the other options, a VPN encrypts and hides ALL of your traffic and not just the websites you visit.
Sure, proxies or the TOR browser can help you bypass some of the local restrictions, give you access to blocked websites, but they do nothing for the software you use on your device. BitTorrent, streaming services, Usenet, and everything else are still left exposed.
But not with a VPN!
A decent VPN encrypts all of the traffic that leaves and enters your device, leaving you completely hidden and anonymous, with no traces of you left on the web.
One of the other top VPN qualities is the No Logs Policy. Most providers log absolutely no data, but there are also the ones that keep limited logs.
So, the only issue regarding a VPN is choosing the right provider.
How do you become untraceable?
We’ve done our research, and here’s what provides the best outcome for true privacy “freaks.”
- Buy an internet hotspot in cash;
- Connect to TOR;
- Create an email account with an encrypted email service;
- Sign up for a VPN, pay in cryptocurrency, and connect to the network;
- Start surfing anonymously using TOR or another secure browser.
If you are set on being fully anonymous online, one thing to keep in mind is to register with fake information, instead of your real name, address, email, or phone number.
Data leaks occur nearly every day, even with cybersecurity companies. And there is no software to protect yourself against data breaches as of yet – that is always up to the company.
And there you have it!
You’ve been looking for an answer on how to stay anonymous online. And we gave you all the options you have at your disposal as of today.
Unfortunately, we would be lying if we said that there is a 100% guarantee to ensure absolute online anonymity. As VPNs are constantly becoming more of a necessity than a luxury, governments, and hackers are looking for ways around them to still keep tabs on you and your valuable private data.
However, the solutions we’ve talked about can dramatically increase your online privacy and safety.
If you are truly anonymous on the web, your partner, advertisers, ISP, the government, hackers, or anyone else will not be able to trace your activities.
All your information can stay hidden and safe. It’s up to you to determine to which degree, starting from the beginner Incognito Mode to the godlike VPNs.