TEN STEPS TO ON­LINE ANONYMITY

PC & Tech Authority - - FEATURE STAY ANONY-MOUS ONLINE -

IT MIGHT SOUND LIKE THE QUEST FOR ON­LINE PRI­VACY IS HOPE­LESS. IT’S CER­TAINLY TRUE THAT IF YOU’RE SE­RI­OUS ABOUT BE­ING ANONY­MOUS ON­LINE, YOU MUST PUT IN SOME EF­FORT – AND THE MORE TECH­NI­CAL MEA­SURES AND LAY­ERS OF OB­FUS­CA­TION YOU ADD, THE BET­TER YOUR CHANCES OF MAIN­TAIN­ING A DE­GREE OF PRI­VACY. HERE’S A SUM­MARY OF OUR AD­VICE FOR PRO­TECT­ING YOUR­SELF ON­LINE.

1 Sign up to a rep­utable, paid VPN. Ideally, use it all the time; at the very least, use it when­ever you’re brows­ing through a pub­lic hotspot. Some routers have built-in VPN ca­pa­bil­i­ties, mean­ing you can trans­par­ently pro­tect your en­tire home, but re­mem­ber that you won’t be pro­tected when you step out­side your home, or when you’re us­ing a mo­bile de­vice over a 3G or 4G con­nec­tion.

2 In­stall Tor Browser and use it when­ever practical. It’s not as fast as your reg­u­lar browser, but it adds en­cryp­tion and hides your iden­tity at mul­ti­ple points along the path. If you have a Rasp­berry Pi, you can set it up as a per­sonal Tor ac­cess point, so that ev­ery PC con­nect­ing through it is au­to­mat­i­cally anonymised: for in­struc­tions, have a look at the Know How video podcast at pcpro.link/288tor.

3 Be cau­tious of browser ex­ten­sions. These can eas­ily com­pro­mise your anonymity, as they run lo­cally on your PC and are able to pass in­for­ma­tion about your browser and net­work con­nec­tion to the site you’re vis­it­ing – or to any­body else.

4 Al­ways look for “HTTPS” in the ad­dress bar of your browser, to con­firm that you’re us­ing a se­cure con­nec­tion that can’t be snooped on by a “man-in-the-mid­dle at­tack”. Con­sider in­stalling the HTTPS Every­where plugin from the Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion (e”.org/https-every­where) – which is avail­able for Chrome, Opera and Fire­fox on Win­dows, and Fire­fox on An­droid – that makes your browser de­fault to the se­cure ver­sion of any site you visit.

5 Don’t want your email ad­dress to get into the wrong hands? Next time you sign up for a ser­vice or ac­cess a down­load, use a made-up ad­dress from a dis­pos­able in­box provider. Our favourite is shark­lasers.com but there are plenty to choose from: you can re­ceive and read con­fir­ma­tion emails at the web­site, then never check the in­box again. Don’t use a ser­vice such as this for im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion, though, as mes­sages tend to be au­to­mat­i­cally purged af­ter a short time.

6 Con­sider set­ting up an eas­ily wiped com­puter for ca­sual brows­ing. The Rasp­berry Pi is ideal here, as it’s in­ex­pen­sive to buy and easy to re­store to fac­tory-fresh set­tings. Hold­ing Shift while re­boot­ing drops you straight into the NOOBS in­staller, from which you can re­in­stall the OS in a few taps, wip­ing all track­ing data from on the de­vice. 7 Be wary of fol­low­ing web links in your mail client, or open­ing down­loaded PDFs and other doc­u­ment types that link to on­line re­sources. Click­ing opens an im­me­di­ate con­nec­tion to the re­mote server, and there’s no way to know for sure what in­for­ma­tion will be shared with the op­er­a­tor.

8 We’re big fans of cloud backup, but if you re­ally want to pro­tect your pri­vacy, look for a ser­vice that lets you pro­tect your per­sonal data with your own en­cryp­tion key. This en­sures that the data on your per­sonal net­work is never shared with a re­mote server in any form that could be mon­i­tored or stolen – al­though it also means you need to keep your key some­where safe, as with­out it there’s no way to re­cover your backed-up data.

9 Anonymise your web searches by ditch­ing Google and switch­ing to Duck Duck Go (duck­duckgo.com). It’s a silly name but a very sen­si­ble ser­vice: you get the same re­sults as you would from a Google search, but Google has no record of what you’ve per­son­ally been search­ing for – and Duck Duck Go doesn’t store or share any in­for­ma­tion about you at all.

10 Don’t use so­cial me­dia – al­though bid­ding farewell to Face­book is eas­ier said than done...

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