Summary: Looking for ways to protect your privacy and stay anonymous online? You’re in the right place!
Follow these simple tips, tricks, and hints to keep your online presence away from the prying eyes of criminals and spying governments.
If you are concerned with protecting your privacy, particularly with the explosion of identity theft and the revelations of government spying, this is the right article for you.
We have 21 simple steps you can take to keep your online experience private and secure. Keep reading and follow these steps, you won’t be sorry.
1. Use Webmail with Extensions
If you are one of the millions of users of Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or other popular webmail apps, you should be using a security extension. Mailvelope is a great extension of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox that encrypts your webmail. You can also use SecureGmail to keep your emails private. Make sure the recipients of your emails also install the extension so they can decrypt your emails to read them and send you encrypted emails.
2. Use Your Browser’s Private Mode
All the popular browsers, Chrome, IE, Firefox, and Safari come with a private browsing mode. When using the private mode your browser won’t store cookies or your website history. While this provides some privacy protection, keep in mind it only hides what you are doing online from others using your computer. It doesn’t encrypt your data or mask your presence. It’s still a good practice though.
3. Stay Off Social Media
I know, I know…you can’t live without Facebook or Twitter. If your privacy and security are more important than tweeting about your neighbor’s barking dog though, break the habit! The amount of information social media applications can harvest from users is staggering. The only way to keep your information from being part of this, is to stay off social media. If you decide to cut the chord, remember to delete your account. If you only deactivate it, all your data remains with the social media app. Delete your accounts and stay clear of social media. It’ll be okay, we promise!
4. Block & Manage Website Trackers
It’s common knowledge websites track and collect browsing data in order to target marketing and ads. There is a way to keep your browsing from being part of this mix though. Consider a free browser extension like Ghostery, which works with all the popular browsers. Ghostery shows you what sites are trying to collect data on you and lets you decide which ones to allow.
5. Use an Encrypted Email Service
If you want to take your email privacy to the next level, consider an encrypted service such as Hushmail or MyKolab. Hushmail is very popular among privacy activists. It is ad free, has built-in encryption, and gives you unlimited aliases. Hushmail offers a free, limited service to start and then a subscription fee per month. Nothing is above the law though, so be aware both Hushmail and MyKolab must reveal user data if ordered to do so by a court of law.
6. Use a Temporary Email Address
One way to avoid spam when filling out web forms is to use a temporary email address. You can save your regular email address for important correspondence and use a temp one when you buy that new pair of shoes. There are dozens and dozens of temporary email services available. A quick web search will give you plenty of options. One word of caution – these email services aren’t very secure. So, don’t use them to send sensitive information. Use them for their purpose – once or twice, trash it, and get another.
7. Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is another tool for your privacy toolbelt. A VPN provides you an encrypted tunnel, so your web traffic is protected. A VPN also lets you mask your location by connecting through a server in a different location. This provides another benefit if you are in an area that blocks certain websites. By connecting through a server in a location that doesn’t censor traffic the entire world wide web is available to you. VPNs are another feature that come in troves. A couple popular services are ExpressVPN and HideMyAss, but there are many others.
8. The Onion Router (TOR)
Originally designed for the US military, TOR is a network of anonymous tunnels designed to improve security while on the net. You can download the TOR browser for free. When you browse the web with TOR it’s difficult for sites or people to track your activity. The downside is TOR can be slow at times and might be too complicated for beginners. Also, TOR has been used for unlawful activities in the past like drugs and exploiting children. It’s worth taking a look though.
9. Route Through a Proxy Server
A proxy is somewhat like a VPN in that it helps mask your location. By connecting through a proxy you add a middle man of sorts between you and the net. It essentially masks your location by hiding your IP address (the unique address assigned to you when you connect to the web). A proxy doesn’t encrypt your traffic like a VPN, though. You can find many different proxy servers on the web, from free proxies to paid services.
10. Get the HTTPS Everywhere Extension
If you are familiar with website addresses you probably recognize HTTP as part of most addresses. HTTPS is the secure version. In other words, when you connect to a site with a HTTPS address, that connection is encrypted. There’s a neat browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere, which forces websites to use their HTTPS site, rather than their regular, unsecured site. It’s a free extension and works with Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
11. Clean Those Cookies Up
Cookies are another way for websites to track your traffic and activity. Stored on your computer, a cookie allows a website to know if you’ve visited their before and potentially alter what you see based on past traffic. You can wipe cookies off your computer through your browser’s settings. There are also free apps available to help, like CCleaner. Although deleting cookies doesn’t guarantee your privacy or anonymity, every little bit helps.
12. Use Alternative Search Engines
Yes, Google is popular, simple, and fast. It’s far from secure, though, and certainly isn’t interested in your anonymity. Quite the obvious, in fact. Google wants to know as much about you and your browsing habits as possible. Although knowing your habits and activities it part of why Google is so fast, it also means they are storing information about you. Consider going with a different search engine, such as DuckDuckGo. This engine is popular with privacy-concerned users because of their oath to never track your traffic.
13. Get an Alternative Browser Too
Using an alternative web browser is another way to keep you anonymous. Browsers like SRWare, Dooble, and Comodo Dragon are much more secure than the popular browsers. No web browser keeps you completely anonymous though, so make sure you use our other tips and tricks too.
14. Kick DropBox to the Curb
DropBox is another popular service. Used for file sharing and storage, DropBox was called “hostile to privacy” by Edward Snowden, the man behind the recent revelations about US spying. Consider using a service more concerned with privacy and security, like Spideroak or OnionShare. If Edward Snowden thinks DropBox is bad for your privacy, it’s probably a good idea to use something else!
15. Switch to a More Secure Phone
Yes, first we said to stop using social media and now we’re telling you to get rid of your iPhone. No, we aren’t trying to make you miserable, honest! Although the newer Apple and Android operating systems are more secure than previous versions, they still have a long way to go. If you are serious about privacy and staying anonymous, check out the Blackphone. It touts itself as being “NSA-proof”. Security isn’t cheap though, so expect your wallet to take a slight hit.
16. Take Advantage of Password Managers
Having a strong password is vital to keeping your privacy and security intact. The downside, of course, is the more strong passwords you have the harder they are to remember. This is where a password manager comes in. A password manager, like LastPass or DashLane, will securely store all your passwords and only require you to remember a single, master password.
17. Use an Operating System Focused on Security
So far we’ve talked about browsers, email services, and even phones. Time to look at the next part of your online presence – your computer’s operating system. Consider an OS like Whonix, which is based on the TOR network. It’s open source and is focused on security and privacy. Plus, it’s free! Give it a try if you want to take your anonymity to the next level.
18. Go Off the Grid with Your Money
Although not practical for all your financial transactions, a service like Darkcoin will help keep you anonymous. Based on Bitcon, Darkcoin claims to be the world’s first anonymous online currency. You probably won’t find a lot of sites that accept Darkcoin. If you do though, it’s another great step to keep you anonymous and secure.
19. Use a Virtual Machine
If you’re fairly computer savvy you can download a virtual computer and host it on the machine you regularly use. Using a virtual machine on your computer allows you to work with files in a secure, contained environment. You can check out files like images or attachments you receive in your email on the virtual machine. This way, if there’s something embedded in the file you’ve protected the rest of your computer. If you want to try this, check out VirtualBox. It’s easy to use and will go a long way to keeping you anonymous.
21. Go Off the Grid – Completely
See, I told you we weren’t going there yet. Well, we’re there now! If you truly want to stay anonymous and keep your privacy, well – private, unplug your electronics and go off the grid. Delete your accounts, cancel your internet, chunk your smartphone and tablet in the ocean, and find a nice quiet spot to live in peace. Probably not practical for most of us, but it is an option and we can all dream, right?
Stay Anonymous and Protect Your Privacy
Pick and choose which ones are right for you and start using them. Like we said before, every little bit helps.
Stay tuned to our site and we’ll continue to bring you great internet security information and topics. Good luck!