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How to Stay Anonymous Online

Learning how to stay anonymous online is an essential in this post-Snowden revelations world. The tools that you need to use are out there if you know what to look for. Best of all, the average person can use them effectively with a little bit of knowledge. Did you know that 89% of people worry […]

Learning how to stay anonymous online is an essential in this post-Snowden revelations world. The tools that you need to use are out there if you know what to look for. Best of all, the average person can use them effectively with a little bit of knowledge.

You don’t have to be a secret agent, a criminal, or a hacktivist to care about anonymity. The majority of people worry about online privacy, but only a few take action. This guide seeks to give you anonymity on three levels, and covers all of your online activity. Each level offers you another type of protection, making sure that your information doesn’t leak in any way.

Staying anonymous online: Anonymous browsing

The first thing you will want to do to enjoy anonymous web browsing is to hide your IP address. As you can see with our IP address location tool, any website can find out exactly where you are. This information is tracked by any number of online services, but you can change your IP address in one of three ways:

  • Use a web proxy server: By using a web proxy server you’re putting your Internet connection through someone else’s server, and taking their IP address instead of your own. You will find hundreds of web proxy services, and most of the well known browsers feature an extension that will let you do it. Reliability is a major issue here as a free service gives you what you pay for.
  • Use a VPN provider: A VPN operates much the same as a web proxy, but with much higher reliability and anonymity. It works by connecting your public Internet connection to a private network with its own IP address. Most will have thousands of IP addresses to use, and will offer servers in dozens of countries. Check out our top 10 providers to start learning what else each provider can do for you.

  • Use TOR: TOR stands for The Onion Router, that’s why their logo is an onion! The logo illustrates the hundreds of different proxies that a user’s connection is routed through. You can think of them as similar to a VPN, but with a much steeper learning curve to use, and a much slower connection speed as you route through all those connections.

Staying anonymous online: Anonymous communications and email

communication

Your IP address can be hidden by using proxies, VPNs, or TOR. Sending messages, and using email, however, is a different story. What if you want to message someone but you don’t want the receiver to know your email address? A number of tools are available for this task. These tools can come in handy in a number of legal situations, like when you’re communicating with your (divorce) lawyer:

  • Use a forwarding address: A forwarding address will hide your actual email address by routing anything you send through another email address. This will cause the person receiving your email to only see the address of the forwarding account, not your own account.
  • Find a disposable email address provider: You can do this by either creating a brand new email address and using it for a short time, or by using temporary email account providers. People commonly do this to sign up for things that require an email verification and they don’t want to be spammed on their actual email account. 10 Minute Mail is a popular provider of this service.

  • Using HTTPS Everywhere: This browser extension will add an extra layer of encryption, that is freely available, to all of your online communications. You’ll know it’s working when you see the ‘s’ on the end of HTTPS in your address bar. It isn’t 100% reliable, but it does increase your anonymity when sending messages.
  • Install PGP software: Using HTTPS will encrypt your data on the network level, but PGP will actually encrypt the information you’re sending itself. If you’re the victim of a man-in-the-middle or Fake WAP attack, the hacker will not be unable to read the information they steal as it will be a series of indecipherable characters.

  • Use an anonymous chat client: There are two main chat clients to use right now; TOR chat and Cryptocat. Both have high levels of encryption, and hide anything you say over them completely. Facebook also experimented in 2014 on an anonymous chat application called Room, but it failed and was pulled out from the App Store a year after it was launched. Facebook Messenger now have Secret Conversations, which allows users to send encrypted messages to their contacts. There’s also Whatsapp, which is end-to-end encrypted.

Staying anonymous online: P2P sharing and file transferstransfer

P2P file sharing, both in a legal and illegal context, is incredibly popular online. While it’s easy to find all kinds of different files to download, it’s also easy for companies that issue DMCA warnings to find out who you are as the downloader.

Here are the two ways to stay anonymous while doing P2P file sharing:

  • Using a proxy or a VPN will be fine if you’re using a file hosting site like MediaFire or Mega. Your IP address will be obscured, and you can’t be traced. Be sure to choose a VPN that allows P2P sharing such as the five VPNs we have reviewed for torrenting here.

  • For those using BitTorrent specifically, you can still use a VPN, but BTGuard is another option. Be aware that it only helps you with BitTorrent, and doesn’t offer you the diverse protection of a VPN.

Staying anonymous while file sharing is nearly the same as staying anonymous while browsing. The addition of BTGuard gives you a specialist tool with limited diversity. Again, a VPN is your best ally when it comes to torrenting, here are our three favourite:

Rank #1
$2.50 / mo
Rank #1
$2.50 / mo
Excellent Anonymous & High Performance VPN
  • Unlimited bandwidth and speed
  • 3,670+ servers in 60+ countries
  • 7 Simultaneous Connections
  • No Logging & Accepts CryptoCurrency
  • 45 Day Refund Policy
Credit Card / PayPal Cheque
Rank #1
$2.50 / mo

Positives

Negatives

Conclusion

CyberGhost VPN are definitely a top 5 VPN provider. Reading their privacy policy, and the fact that they do allow p2p and torrenting traffic on nearly all servers, you may rank them as your top choice for a VPN if you do a lot of downloading. Their software has features, like their killswitch, that put them on par with the top of the line VPN clients available. For fun, they also have a cute the animation that makes the experience that much more pleasant. They also benefit from being located in Romania as this country is well known for online privacy rights. What’s holding them back from the top spot is their connections do drop slightly more often than we'd like, otherwise they might be #1. Their VPN Kill Switch does save you from being exposed, but no problems would be better than a solution to a problem. For the price you pay for their VPN service, one of the lowest in the industry, and all the features of their software, you can’t go wrong when you choose CyberGhost as your VPN provider.

Credit Card / PayPal Cheque
Rank #1
$2.50 / mo

Average rating:  
 12 reviews
by Paul on CyberGhost

I have been using it primarily to download stuff online and it works great. It has great speeds and very minimal loss of connection which is usually handled fast enough by their very reliable customer... View More

by Eric on CyberGhost

I love the fact that users data is protected and deleted every 24 hours so my privacy is guaranteed. Their speeds are also remarkably fast and am able to stream my favourite shows without any glitches... View More

by Benjamin on CyberGhost

I do a lot of P2P downloading and have tried quite a number of different VPN services. So far this ranks as the best if your main interest is p2p and torrenting. You will get great speeds as well.

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Rank #2
$8.32 / mo
Rank #2
$8.32 / mo
Huge network, great country selection, average software
  • Huge server network
  • Wide variety of countries
  • Available on many operating systems
  • Easy connectivity
  • Little information on VPN client features
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Rank #2
$8.32 / mo

Positives

Negatives

Conclusion

ExpressVPN is among the best VPN providers with a software package that will satisfy the needs of most VPN users. Use ExpressVPN if you want:

  • A ‘one button’ approach to connectivity.
  • A consistent connection speed with few drops.
  • To be able to download via P2P and torrenting.
  • A wide range of server host countries for unlocking geo-blocked content.
  • IP, DNS, and IPv6 leaks protection.
If you’re willing to pay a premium price for the feature-rich software package and the huge VPN server numbers, then ExpressVPN is a good choice for you. Check them out, or other VPN providers that we’ve tested and reviewed, by clicking on the links below.

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Rank #2
$8.32 / mo

Average rating:  
 9 reviews
by Jeremiah on Express VPN

Expree VPN has given me a consistent connection fast speeds with very limited drops. I am able to comfortably download huge files via P2P and torrenting something that i couldn't do before getting express... View More

by Maria on Express VPN

This is my third month using this service. Over this period i have enjoyed a consistent connection with good speeds and very few drops.Their customer support especially via email are great. You get an... View More

by Bradley on Express VPN

Its great for p2p downloading. The speeds are pretty good for uploading and downloading heavy files. Their customer support is friendly and conducts itself in a professional manner.

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Rank #3
$6.49 / mo
Rank #3
$6.49 / mo
Fastest VPN provider! Large network!
  • Unlimited Bandwidth & Speed
  • 1300+ servers in 60+ countries
  • 10 Simultaneous Connections
  • No Logging
  • 7-Day Money Back Guarantee
Credit Card / GiroPay / cashU / WorldPay / Bitcoin / American Express
Rank #3
$6.49 / mo

Positives

Negatives

Conclusion

Apart from the obvious reasons like high-speed performance and impressive customer protection, there are several other elements that have made IPVanish a one-of-a-kind VPN provider:

  • Reliability of connections
  • Speed of connections
  • Dedication to privacy and anonymity
  • Commendable customer support
  • Exceptional Tier 1 network
  • Thorough support categories
  • Competitive prices
Put together, all these factors make IPVanish one hell of a VPN provider. To summarize IPVanish in one sentence: It does everything a VPN provider should, and it does many things better than anyone else. Once you’ve tried out its services, you will understand why we rank IPVanish as the number 1 VPN service provider in our overall review, and in several sub-categories.

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Rank #3
$6.49 / mo
Credit Card / GiroPay / cashU / WorldPay / Bitcoin /

What you can learn about staying anonymous online

These days, staying anonymous online is very important since a lot of entities around the web do not value online privacy. Your ISP, the government, advertisers, data brokers, hackers, spies, those in corporate espionage, and e-commerce sites are just some of those that are collecting your information, some of which are sensitive and too personal. There are three main activities that you need to be concerned about anonymizing when you’re online:

  • Browsing
  • Email and communications
  • File sharing

This article has given you the tools to stay anonymous for each one. The link that you can find between all three is using a VPN service. You can learn more about reliable VPN providers on our home page. While there you can also learn about all the other things that a VPN can do to keep you anonymous, protected, and safe online.

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