If you want to be anonymous online, and protect yourself, there are easy to use tools which are freely available to anyone who wants to learn how to use them. As online privacy becomes a commodity, many vendors are making things available for people to use for free, as well as at a premium price. You can use a variety of them to be anonymous online, with little effort on your part.
The only way to be truly anonymous online is to never go online. But you can start learning more anonymous tactics using the first three tools and techniques, and then picking and choosing from the nine techniques and tools below it.
Be anonymous online: 12 tools and techniques
It is no secret that we would look at VPNs here on Best VPN Providers. For those who are visiting our website for the first time, here are the basic things that you need to know about VPNs and how they can help you be anonymous online:
- They encrypt all of your information starting right at your computer, this eliminates ISP tracking.
- They can also protect you from a DMCA notice when you are torrenting.
- VPNs hide your IP address, preventing further tracking and revelations of your exact location.
- Using a no-log VPN provider, which is one that does not log in any of your activity, can protect you against nearly every online threat.
The absolute easiest step that you can take to be anonymous online is to choose a reliable VPN provider. The two most trusted VPNs, which do not log user activity, are IPVanish VPN and Private Internet Access.
2: DNS leak testing
Once you have a VPN provider in place, it is easy to make sure that it is working properly. To be sure you are anonymous online go to DNSLeakTest.com. Run their extended test. There are two possible results:
- The results show the third party DNS service, which you get from your VPN. You are protected and a little bit more anonymous.
- The results show your own DNS, the one that is given to you by your ISP. You have a problem as you are not protecting your anonymity.
If you find yourself with the second issue that same website also has advice on how to fix your DNS leak.
3: Browser leak testing
As you’re going to find out the deeper you go into being a bit more anonymous online, the more you’re going to find that everything leaks if you’re not careful. Another viable website that you can choose to check whether or not your browser is leaking is BrowserLeaks.com.
Here is an image of my browser not leaking anything:
4: Virtual machines
There are a number of files which you can download onto your computer that can be attack vectors for third parties who want to invade your online privacy. If you’re not sure about a file your first step is to not download it at all. If you simply have to open the file you can set up a virtual machine.
This varies from machine to machine, depending on what operating system you have installed. Here are a few different tools that you can try out
The first three tools are free to use, the last one has a small fee.
5: Blocking third party tracker cookies
The most common method that people use to track you online is through third-party cookies. Advertisers use them so that they can track your activities and sell advertisements. People have to make money, I get that, but these trackers can lead to an invasion of your privacy.
Open up your browser’s preferences and look for the security settings. Every major browser will allow you to turn off cookies. While this may not be a major way to gain any sort of anonymity online, it’s better than not doing it.
6: Using Ghostery extension
Ghostery is a browser extension that can be used in Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and even the ancient Internet Explorer. Its purpose is to allow you to stop specific trackers, and is much more powerful than the step we took above. It will allow you to block every tracker, or only allow certain ones which make your Internet experience easier.
If you are truly paranoid about your online privacy, be sure that you do not opt in to their tracking. The fact that they even have any sort of tracking has greatly irritated a number of people online. But all you have to do is not opt do it when it asks you if you want to be tracked by them.
7: Disabling WebRTC
We are getting a little bit more personally involved in this. It is not as simple as downloading a program, you have to do a little bit of work to disable your WebRTC. Your WebRTC is what allows you to do video conferencing in your browser. It can reveal your IP address.
To give you the greatest understanding possible here are videos for the two most popular browsers:
8: Disabling location tracking
Many websites are using location data. A number of them are doing it for Geo restrictions, which are a big enough of a problem on their own. A number of others are also doing it so they can track your movements. The most common reason is for delivering targeted advertising.
You can fix this by looking in the privacy or security settings of your specific browser. Every major browser has an option to disable location tracking. You will also notice pop-ups for certain websites which are asking for your location. Deny them.
9: Avoiding fingerprinting
Browser fingerprinting is a topic we looked at recently on the blog. It is basically how people can track your activities across the web by looking at your specific browser and its unique identifiers. Perhaps the most telling unique identifiers which lead to you being fingerprinted are plug-ins. You can reduce your risk with browser plug-ins and fingerprinting by:
- Configuring your browser so that it requires your approval for any plugin to run. This will be found in your settings tab.
- Chrome is perhaps the only browser which allows you to directly run sand-boxed plug-ins. Window users can also try tool called Sandboxie.
This is a bit of a delicate balancing act that you will have to do. There is no way that you can be perfectly anonymous, using plug-ins which block trackers, and not have some sort of browser fingerprinting going on. The more that you can do to make your browser like many other browsers the better off you are.
- Your plug-ins
- The screen size of your monitor
11: Using DuckDuckGo for searches
DuckDuckGo is very simple as it is just a search engine that doesn’t track you. Google just loves to track everything about you, it’s like they’re your biographer. They want to know everything. The problem with that is that any hacker worth $.10 can hack into this data, steal it, and find some useful information in it that will damage you.
It’s easy to use DuckDuckGo to do your searches, especially ones that you want to keep to yourself, and increase your chances of staying anonymous online.
12: Using anonymous email
I recently wrote an entire article on anonymous email, please take some time to read it and fully understand this topic. To cut down to the most basic tools, try using these when you send email that you want to be anonymous:
Each of these tools will help protect your main email account. They are especially useful when you’re signing up for a bunch of different things and you do not want to risk getting spammed.