December 27, 2019 at 4:50 pm #82901ChinomnsoParticipant@chinomnso-ugwuanya
Privacy on the internet is a big thing today. With tech giants being accused every now and then of snooping on us and our activities, the concerns about privacy on the internet have never been this serious. In this article, we will take a look at the very basics of online anonymity. We will also take a look at the options available for you to use the internet without the fear of being monitored unnecessarily.
Why Go Anonymous?
Before we dive into the technical details of online anonymity, let’s talk first about why you may choose to go off radar. In simple, clear terms, the purpose of going anonymous online is to bypass technologies that track your online activities. When you surf the web anonymously, to a reasonable degree, no one traces your footsteps – what sites you’re visiting, or even your location.
Unfortunately, quite a number of people associate anonymous browsing with things like credit card theft, illegal downloads, or even dark web activities. But there is a number of other reasons for which you may go anonymous. Let’s look at a few of them.
Certain websites and apps are blocked in some countries. For example, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, among others are banned in China. Suppose you traveled to China. Instant Messaging may well be the cheapest means of keeping in touch with friends at home. A proxy or VPN would come to the rescue in a case like this.
Proxies will be helpful if you want to share sensitive information. For example, if you have a health condition and need to speak to an expert privately, staying anonymous means that the information about your browsing session cannot be traced back to you. That way, you decide just how much information about yourself you want to share.
Sometimes, schools and offices may have strict web browsing policies that greatly restrict how much you can do online. Proxies will allow you to access content outside the barriers your employer or school have put in place.
Sometimes, people want to express themselves freely without interference, opposition or harassment from those whose opinions differ from theirs. Proxies help them stay safe, as they cannot be tracked.
What Is An Anonymous Proxy?
Otherwise known as a CGI proxy, an anonymous proxy server is simply a server with special software that takes your web browser requests and hides your identity before forwarding the requests to the servers that eventually handle them. Surfing anonymously is a way to bypass the technologies that track your online activities, as these trackers could potentially place your online activity records in the hands of unauthorized persons.
Anonymous proxies typically come in the form of websites with a simple form into which you enter the URL of the website you want to visit. The anonymous proxy then masks your IP address with its own by making the request for the website on your behalf, routing the request through different servers with different IP addresses and delivering the requested web page to you. That way, the IP address finally seen as yours by the website you are visiting is the IP address of the last server that handled your request – the one that directly makes the request to the web server hosting the site you are trying to visit.
Quite a good number of websites log the IP addresses of their visitors. Others gather much more information about users’ online behavior by means of cookies and other methods. This way, website owners can carry out analytics, make projections and optimize user experience. Others use such information in ways that many users might find disturbing. That explains why you would search for toilet seats on Amazon to fix a broken toilet and be pestered by a barrage of toilet seat ads for the next three weeks. But for a moment, let’s talk a little about IP addresses.
Internet Protocol addresses, or IP addresses for short, provide website owners with a simple way to track users. Every single device connected to the internet has a unique IP address – your smartphone or tablet, your PC, or even your refrigerator or television, if they are smart, connected devices. Your internet service provider (ISP) assigns IP addresses to those devices when they connect to the internet. Such IP addresses assigned once a connection occurs are referred to as dynamic IP addresses. The ones supplied to you by your ISP that you have to manually configure on your devices are static IP addresses. They remain unchanged even though you disconnect and reconnect several times.
Think of an IP address as a unique home address that no one else shares with you, your house being the only one on that address. Imagine mailing a letter to another destination across the country. Your home address is on the packaging of the letter as the originating address, and also as the return address. That is how it should be. But then, you do not want the recipient to know the letter originated from your address. You then work with someone at the post office who replaces the originating address (your address) with his own address but keeps a record of the return address in the office. When a reply arrives at the post office, the post office staff tags the package with the return address and ensures it is delivered to you.
Ordinarily, IP addresses do not contain personally identifiable information. However, your ISP could associate your IP address with your name, home address, phone number and email address. Although ISPs would not randomly give out your personal information to any stranger because of the strict privacy policies by which they operate, they could be forced by a court injunction to release your personal information to law enforcement agencies. Therefore, a good place to start the journey of anonymity would be masking your IP address, and this is done pretty well by anonymous proxy servers.
VPN vs Proxy Site: What Are The Differences?
The major difference between a proxy and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is that a proxy handles only web traffic running through the browser using the proxy at the very moment. In contrast to a proxy, a VPN can be configured to take over the entire device on which it would run, covering applications that use non-web traffic. This means that a VPN works on the operating system level, while proxies work at the application level, rerouting traffic that comes from a specific application, usually from a browser. in addition, some VPNs can be configured to connect once you turn on your device.
Talking of security, proxies are often unencrypted. VPNs, on the other hand, are encrypted and therefore can protect you from ISP tracking, hackers and government surveillance. With this in mind, you should never use proxies to send or receive sensitive information.
What To Look Out For
You should also watch out for so-called open proxies. These proxies claim to have been abandoned and somehow left open for some reason. Sometimes, they are installed without permission on virus-infected computers.
When you make a request via a proxy server, each outbound and inbound request has to be processed by the proxy server. This may result in slow page loads. With this in mind, be sure to find a proxy server that has good speeds. And because some proxies attempt to take off elements of a webpage that may compromise your anonymity, bear in mind that some elements of the requested pages may be redacted, or some pages will return errors. Sometimes, the best grade of anonymous proxy services may require you to ditch a free tier and go for a paid package.
This way, you can evade censorship and access content that you would otherwise not have been able to access from your geographical area. If you want to evade advertizers and their tracking technologies, proxy servers are good for you.
What Is A Cookie?
Cookies could also pose a serious threat to your online privacy. To learn more about cookies and how they work, take a few minutes to read the first five paragraphs of this article. If you’re feeling a little nerdy and want to go further into the code that powers them, you can read the article to the end. For now though, just know that cookies are tiny bits of data stored on your computer that carry information about your browsing activity. Third-party cookies could potentially harvest more data about your browsing activity than you would ever want, and they are employed by advertisers to track what your interests are so they can tailor ads that correspond to what your browsing habits.
So far, we’ve considered the basics of anonymity online, including how IP addresses and cookies can be used to track your online activities and preferences. Before providing you with a list of proxies you could use to go anonymous, let us talk about how you can use your browser settings to cut down on how much information about your browsing activities is accessible to other persons.
Although it may not amount to much, one way of taking your footprints along with you is to delete your browser history after a browsing session. Modern web browsers allow you to do that. Let’s take a look at how you can do that on the major web browsers. It is worthy of note that deleting your browsing history from your computer does not prevent your network administrator or your internet service provider from gaining access to it.
Using Your Browser’s Privacy Settings
Chrome: Open the browser menu by clicking on the three vertically aligned dots at the top right corner of your browser, just beneath the Close button. Click History, then select a recently visited webpage and click Delete. You can also access the history window by pressing CTRL + H on your keyboard if you’re using a PC. Using the menu on the History page, you can clear browsing history for an extended period.
Safari: Go to the History menu, scroll to the bottom of the menu and click “Clear History.”
Firefox: Open the Preferences box from the Firefox menu. Select the Privacy tab and locate the section on Private Data. Clicking “Clear Now” erases your browsing history.
You can also tweak your browser’s cookie settings to make yourself more secure. The default setting in many browsers is to accept all cookies, irrespective of where they may come from. You can decide to block all cookies, or you can decide to block third-party cookies only. Blocking all cookies, however, would make it impossible for some sites to function properly.
To spare yourself the stress of having to delete your browsing history after each browsing session, use your browser’s private browsing feature. In Google Chrome, you can enter “Incognito” mode as private browsing is called by selecting it from the menu, or you can simply press Ctrl + SHIFT + N. In Safari, you can check the “Private Browsing” option in the main menu. In Firefox, you can simply select it from the hamburger menu icon at the top of the top right corner of the page and select “Private Browsing.” Alternatively, you can press CTRL + SHIFT + P on your keyboard.
How To Register Anonymously
Quite a number of websites require users to register as a pre-requisite to accessing or making use of their services or certain parts of their sites. In most cases, a username, password, phone number or most commonly, an email address.
Most certainly, if you are security conscious, you don’t want to throw your email address into the air, leaving your true identity on every website you visit. And you may not fancy the idea of being contacted by a website after registering. In other cases, you may want to gain access to an e-book, an offer or some other digital material or service, but need a mailing list subscription, but don’t want to be contacted afterwards.
Security experts advise against using the same email, username and password to access several websites and apps. A potential danger is that one of the sites you use could possibly experience a data breach and either maliciously or inadvertently release your login credentials to identity thieves who could then use this data to wreak havoc on your digital life.
A workaround could be to create multiple email addresses with providers like Gmail. Outlook or Yahoo. However, these providers have a lot of data on you – loads of personally identifiable information. Therefore, it’s not a good option since you want to go anonymous.
A better option would be to use disposable or temporary email addresses. Disposable email services generate random email addresses and keep them active on their servers for a brief period after which they are destroyed. Examples of disposable email services include Temp Mail and ThrowAwayMail. Some other services in addition to generating temporary emails, receive emails, scrape malware from them and forward them to your real email address. Other websites post free usernames and passwords for accessing popular websites and apps.
Free Anonymous Proxy Servers
Here, I have compiled a list of anonymous proxy servers. Please bear in mind that this is done in no particular order. Although I will be highlighting the pros and cons of each of the ones I mention here, it is still up to you to make a choice of which ones you would use.
One thing that makes KProxy stand out among other anonymous proxies is that it offers a browser extension (for Chrome and Firefox) so all your web traffic can be routed through the proxy.
In addition to the foregoing, KProxy also offers up to 10 different proxy servers. So if you notice that one of the IP addresses have been blocked, you can quickly switch to another proxy and regain access instantly.
With KProxy, you have the option of hiding the menu that shows at the top of the screen. This is in contrast to many other proxy sites that have a menu that sticks annoyingly to the top of the screen. This would be particularly appealing if you are a control freak, or if you love to customize things.
On the flip side, the free version comes with limited features, and after using the free tier for a period of time, you must wait for 30 minutes before you can continue using it, or upgrade to the paid version.
Although it works like many other anonymous proxies, a striking difference is that it allows you to use Facebook and YouTube, even on the free tier. Many free proxies don’t. This means you don’t have to pay for a premium proxy service.
Zend2 also offers you the option of enabling or disabling any of the following: scripts, encrypted pages, objects, encrypted URLs and scripts. You can only enable or disable these options before you start using the web proxy, unlike some that allow you make customizations only while you’re using the proxies. A downside to this proxy is that you cannot change settings once you start a browsing session.
Hidester supports SSL and offers protection from scripts that could pose a threat to your computer. It reportedly has a reputation as the most reliable free web proxy site. It offers the option of choosing between a Europe and a U.S. server prior to starting your browsing session and allows you to choose whether to encrypt URLs or not. You can also allow or disallow cookies, strip off off objects and even accept enable or disable cookies.
With Hidester, you have access to a password generator that can be used on the site. Paying for Hidester gives you access to hundreds of proxy servers in different countries. And you can even change the browser referrer so traffic from you appears to be coming from a different operating system. It also offers an extension for chrome, so you don’t have to use a form on their site each time you want to visit a site.
Offering you the option of choosing between proxy servers in the U.S and Europe, ProxySite.com is an anonymous proxy server that allows you to visit any website including Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Twitter.
You have the option of enabling or disabling cookies objects, scripts and even blocking ads. While browsing with the proxy, you can change the server you’re using at any time – that’s a good thing if the IP address gets banned by the website you’re visiting.
If you’re looking for a web proxy that offers a clean, uncluttered look, HTTPS and 256-bit encryption, VPNBook is the right place to go. Although you don’t have such whistles and bells like disabling or enabling scripts or cookies, you can choose between servers in the U.S, U.K and Canada.
A major advantage of Whoer over other web proxies is the ability to choose from several server locations including Russia, France, Netherlands, Sweden the United States and the United Kingdom. These locations can be automatically chosen for you, or you can choose them manually. They offer browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
So far, we have talked about what online anonymity is, why you may want to go anonymous online and differences between VPNs and proxies. Finally, I made a list of proxies you can choose from to help you go anonymous on the web. If you have other ideas about going anonymous online, please share them in the replies section. And you can add to the list of proxies too.
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