How To Be Anonymous On The Internet

Browse Annoymously On The Internet

In A Nutshell

Being truly anonymous on the Internet is a complicated, because computers create so many logs and records. However, you can get a reasonable level of privacy by downloading an anonymous browser like the Tor Browser. Tor is free, but it does tend make browsing the web slow. If you want to make all your internet connections private and speedy, I suggest using a VPN with a privacy-enhanced Firefox browser. The combination of a VPN with an anonymous browser will give you a “pretty good” level of anonymity. If you need industrial-strength privacy, use an operating system like Tails, and run it directly off a CD or DVD.

The Details

To be anonymous on the internet you must:

  1. Conceal your IP address and location with a VPN provider
  2. Make your web browser anonymous by using Tor or a privacy-enhanced Firefox
  3. Follow the VPN tips listed on this page, to prevent privacy leaks

Use A VPN (Virtual Privacy Network)

A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) redirects all your internet connections — thus making your internet activities reasonably anonymous. VPNs can be used mobile devices too. One of our recommended VPN providers is Private Internet Access — they take privacy seriously and they do not track you. See all our recommended VPN providers in this article.

If you don’t trust any of the commercial VPN providers out there, you can host your own OpenVPN. You can put OpenVPN on a cheap 128MB VPS from hosts like BuyVM or 123Systems (costs $10-$15 per month).

For extra anonymity, I suggest paying for these services with a pseudo-anonymous payment system like Bitcoin, and supplying fake personal info.

Use Privacy-Enhanced Web Browsers

A VPN will make your internet connections private. To enhance the privacy of your web browsing, I suggest using Firefox with the privacy-mode turned on, cookies turned off, with these add-ons installed: HTTPS-Everywhere and Disconnect (also consider Noscript and AdBlock).

You should disable Flash, Real Player, Quicktime, Java. All these plugins can potentially leak out your real IP address or other identifying information. If you want to be extra safe, disable Javascript too.

You can run a second VPN inside a Virtual Machine (using Virtual Box), for another layer of privacy. This page describes how to set this up.

Use The Tor Browser Bundle

An easy way to browse anonymously is to use the Tor Browser Bundle. If you just want to browse a few web pages on occasion, while concealing your IP address, Tor works quite well. It is a free application that is available for Windows, Macs and Linux. See my article on Tor for more information. You can also use the Tor Browser while running a VPN for extra privacy.

Tor does not protect all of your computer’s Internet traffic when you run it. Tor only protects your applications that are properly configured to send their Internet traffic through Tor. To avoid problems with Tor configuration, I strongly recommend you use the Tor Browser Bundle. It is pre-configured to protect your privacy and anonymity on the web as long as you’re browsing with the Tor Browser itself. Almost any other web browser configuration is likely to be unsafe to use with Tor.

Also, Tor is not set up to stream videos, run torrent clients, or perform large downloads.

Use A Private Search Engine

For a search engine, use StartPage or DuckDuckGo because they do not track your searches. I like StartPage by Ixquick because they incorporate search results from Google. StartPage removes all identifying information from your query and submits it anonymously to Google. DuckDuckGo is another good search engine with a focus on privacy. Like StartPage, DuckDuckGo and does not record user information — see their privacy policy for the details.

Use Encrypted DNS & Check For Leaks

To help stop your personal information from leaking out follow the tips listed on this page

You can check your browser privacy by going to this page, a more advanced check can be found here.

Use Tails For a High-Level Of Privacy

Tails is a free operating-system designed to be used from a DVD or a USB stick independently of the computer’s original operating system. Tails can be run in “read-only” installation, meaning it does not write any files to disk. This provides a high level of privacy because the operating system leave no traces of the user’s activities, and there’s little chance of the user being monitored by key-loggers and other tracking software.

See also our recommended privacy tools.

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