To browse the Internet securely entails going about your daily Interneting affairs without your data getting into the hands of agents who want to use it for non-beneficial purposes e.g. identity theft and tailored malware. To browse anonymously entails that your data is just not secure, but that your data is not traceable to you.
As a typical user, everything that you do online is tracked. Now, there are various reasons why you might be fine with your data being tracked as well as reasons why you might not be fine with it.
That is a debate I refuse to go into today. What I will do, however, as briefly as possible, is tell you all the necessary steps that you need to take in order to browse the Internet securely and if you want, anonymously.
1. HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS is the secure version of the HyperText Transfer Protocol which is used to exchange data between browsers and websites. Almost every current website uses HTTPS so stay away from websites that don’t because it is an easy indicator that your details are not in safe hands.
There is even a browser extension, HTTPS everywhere, which forces browsers to transmit data over HTTPS even though they don’t have an HTTPS certificate. You can download the version for Internet Explorer here.
2. Beware of Public (Unprotected) Wi-Fi
Public WiFi is one of the ways to ensure that your online activities are not used to pinpoint your location because the IP address assigned to your system wouldn’t always be yours.
However, make sure that you prevent your machine from sharing data with other connected devices, receiving automatic updates and app downloads, etc.
3. Beware of Browser Plugins
Modern browsers e.g. Google Chrome and Firefox have the ability to extend their functionality using plugins and while that is a good thing, not all plugins are created equal especially if you’re not getting the plugins from the standard repo such as the Chrome Store for Google Chrome.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine that strives to keep your search history private and block advertising trackers which in turn give you control of your data. It is highly recommended by most open source communities and is even the default search engine in the Onion browser, TOR.
I’m not painting Google bad but the search engine makes money from selling adverts based on the data tracked from users who use its service. Surely, if you want to be surer that your data is secure and less traceable to you, you would quit using Google this instant.
5. Beware of Cookies
Cookies are not bad on their own because they are a method that web services use to provide you with a tailored browsing experience ranging from which subjects you enjoy reading on to which products you are likely to purchase.
Cookies can be used to perform several complex tasks including keeping your login credentials, card details, location and language preferences, etc. so it is important that you keep track of which cookies your browser stores and how they will be used.
6. TOR browser
TOR is free and open-source software that enables users to browse the Internet anonymously by bouncing Internet traffic across various relays.
It goes an extra step to encrypt your IP and all the data packets that interact with your computer so that your identity is masked whether or not you’re using a VPN.
7. Use a VPN
VPN’s are the easiest way to change your IP and most VPN’s feature the ability to encrypt your Internet traffic, spoof your location, and enable you to access geo-blocked websites.
I haven’t suggested that you use a Proxy server because even though it will give you access to geo-blocked websites, proxy servers don’t offer you half of the features you will enjoy in a VPN service with anonymity being one of the most vital.
8. Use an Anonymous Email Account
Popular email account providers like Gmail and Yahoo Mail require you to submit certain personal information which is automatically shared within their community for several purposes.
What you want to do is stir away from those services in favor of anonymous email services such as TorGuard and ProtonMail which enable you to create accounts and interact with others via email without compromising your identity.
9. Use Mobile Network
Browsing using your phone’s data is a secure way to remain anonymous online because it uses a routing system that assigns a unique IP address each time you connect to it.
While this method keeps your identity anonymous, it is slow and not as efficient as when you browse from your laptop.
10. Anonymous Digital Payments
You can’t remain anonymous online if you send bank details and similar credentials across the Internet even if it is a safe process. How do you make online payments then? Use gift cards and cryptocurrencies. They are becoming easier to get a hold of these days and more businesses are adding support for them every day.
The above-mentioned points are the check-boxes that you need to tick in order to ensure that your data is secure online and that you remain anonymous at all times. Remember to pay attention to the details of any services that you use while you are online and adhere to the privacy guidelines enlisted in the applications you use e.g. Tor.
Do you know other points that you can add to the list? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments box below.