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How To Browse The Internet Anonymously?

How To Browse The Internet Anonymously?

Updated: 07-28-2021

What is anonymous browsing, and why would you opt for it? Anonymous browsing is when internet users browse the internet without revealing their personal information to the websites they visit. Anonymous browsing entails having your data secured since no one can trace any data from your traffic back to you.

It is easy to track a normal user’s online activity using personally identifiable information they reveal when they visit a website. For example, you might be searching for a new job using your current employer's computer. If you don't want your employer to know about it, you’ll have to browse anonymously.

As a software engineer, I often interact with students from all corners of the world. Some come from countries with strict rules as far as using the internet is concerned. For such students, having a VPN makes it easier to cross online boundaries that would otherwise not have been possible to cross without this technology.

Browsing anonymously will hide your web history and data from your employer. Also, you might be living in countries with restrictive web policies. In that case, you may choose to browse anonymously to bypass the restrictions and hide your personal information.

Typically, with ordinary web browsing, your information can be accessed by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the government, and anyone else with the required skills for this task.

In this article, I will discuss some vital tips on how to browse anonymously.

There are numerous ways of hiding your personally identifiable information when browsing. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Using a VPN 
  • Anonymous browsing with a proxy  
  • Using browser extensions

How To Use a VPN To Browse Anonymously

A virtual private network (VPN) is a secured end-to-end tunnel that protects private web traffic from being accessed by prying eyes. A VPN blocks ISPs, hackers, and governments from seeing your online activities over the internet. Even so, a VPN doesn’t guarantee 100% privacy.

For example, suppose you log into a particular website using your username and password. The website will still know who you are despite using a VPN.

Using a VPN to browse anonymously is beneficial if you’re using public Wi-Fi. This is because such a connection has no encryption, which makes it vulnerable to hacking. Always use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi if you want to safeguard your private information.

How To Choose a VPN

All VPNs are built based on trust, so it is up to you to find a trustworthy one. Almost all VPN providers claim to have strict no-log policies, but it's challenging to know the validity of this claim as a user. Logs are records of what users do on a network, and a no-log policy guarantees that logs are not stored or disclosed by a VPN provider.

Therefore, it is always advisable to research a VPN service provider before committing to their paid plans. You might also check out the VPN Trust Initiative, a program set up by various companies aiming to raise the VPN services standards. The initiative significantly impacts people's trust level in a given VPN service and mitigates risk for a VPN user.

Besides the above aspects, you'll also need to determine if the VPN service can run on all major operating systems and has servers in the countries you want to connect from. Different VPNs will impact your internet connection speed differently.

The speed is fairly fast in VPN services that support the new Wire Guard protocol. The WireGuard protocol is an entirely new communication protocol that uses state-of-the-art cryptography and performs better than the OpenVPN protocol.

How To Use a VPN

To use a VPN, follow the steps below.

Step #1: Sign Up for Your Ideal VPN Service

First of all, choose and install a VPN service of your choice on your device, launch it, and sign up using your preferred username and password. Some VPN providers will send you an activation code to verify your VPN account.

After verifying your new account either through email or SMS, you will then be allowed to sign in to your VPN account. Once you sign in, you’ll see a list of paid plans that you can subscribe to. Usually, the longer the subscription period, the cheaper the monthly subscription fee.

Most VPN providers will offer users a 30-day or 14-day money-back guarantee, popularly known as free trials. Take advantage of the free trial period to determine whether that particular VPN service suits your needs or not.

Step #2: Choose Your VPN Server

Usually, after logging in to your VPN service, you will see a Connect button. The button gives you an option to connect to the closest server or the server with the fastest connection.

The VPN service might also provide you with a list or a map of the countries you can use your particular service. Click on one server and wait for a Connected or Protected notification on your screen. The connection takes around 20-30 seconds on average. 

Your connected server becomes your virtual location, making it seem like you are browsing from that particular location. To prove if your actual location is undetectable, visit websites such as IPleak.net.

On the homepage of the website, you will see your IP Address and location. The location should be the virtual location you had earlier chosen. If it's not, then it means there is a problem with your VPN connection, or it did not connect to the virtual server in the first place.

Step #3: Enable the Kill Switch

Some VPN services provide a kill switch option that terminates your connection when your VPN stops unexpectedly, thus protecting your privacy. To activate the kill switch in some VPNs, you must turn it on the app settings since it does not turn on by default. Even so, you should note that the kill switch is not compatible with all devices.

There are 2 common types of kill switches available; the internet kill switch and the app kill switch.

The internet kill switch shuts down internet access to a device when the VPN connection drops, while the app kill switch only kills internet access to specific apps or programs.

If the app kill switch is available, use it to pick the apps to cut off from the internet if the VPN connection drops. The app kill switch will only restrict internet access to the selected apps leaving the others functioning normally. Some VPNs offer a feature known as split-tunneling, which works the same way as the app kill switch feature.

Using the Right Browser for Anonymous Browsing

Most browsers only offer a private browsing session through their inbuilt incognito modes. Incognito mode only ensures other users of the device you’re browsing on won’t see your history but does not guarantee anonymity.

VPNs work with almost all browsers; if you want to secure your internet privacy, here are a few browsers you can use with a VPN service enabled.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge succeeded Internet Explorer and has more safety upgrades than its predecessor. However, these upgrades levels are deficient, and it is not advisable to go for a Microsoft Edge to browse anonymously. Microsoft Edge has no tracking protection; therefore, it's advisable to use a VPN service whenever you browse the internet with Microsoft Edge.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome browser supports some pop-up blockers and other browser extensions which are privacy-oriented. The fact that Chrome is built by Google Inc means Google can easily access your data. The company makes its profits by hosting as much data as possible and then using it to display personalized ads and improve its search engine.

This explains why your social media or the websites you visit display ads about sneakers just two minutes after searching for 'cheap sneakers' in your search engine.

How Google handles users' privacy is questionable based on class action lawsuits for privacy violations that the company has faced in the past. For instance, in 2018, a bug that exposed Google users’ private data to outside developers was found, but Google chose not to disclose the information to the general public. If you want to browse anonymously using Google Chrome, all you have to do is ensure your VPN service is enabled.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is the best standard browser for users who care about their online privacy. The browser has various security features to protect you from phishing and malware. Also, the browser warns its users automatically every time a particular website tries to install add-ons on the user's browser or computer.

Firefox is a safe choice when it comes to privacy as it even offers valuable extensions. These extensions help protect users against any tracking and privacy breaches.

Unfortunately, Firefox is an open-source browser as opposed to most browsers. Therefore, it means that everyone can check out the code that creates Firefox's software. This transparency prevents Mozilla from building tracking features. To browse anonymously on Firefox, it is advisable to use VPN at all times.

Ideal Anonymous Browsing Browsers

Here are some good examples of browsers to consider for anonymous surfing.

I2P Anonymous Network

I2P is a decentralized network that allows anonymous browsing for users and applications. Unlike in onion routing, I2P communication is likened to garlic.

Garlic communication is when messages are bundled together.

Every message is clove, and a group of messages is the bulb. Clove means that messages pass through different routes but have the same destination, and a group of cloves make a bulb.

This way, I2P will send several messages instead of just one message. The messages pass through different nodes before reaching the destination.

I2P also uses one-way entry and exit tunnels so that every query and reply takes a different route. Furthermore, there is an onion routing on each tunnel. Using I2P even complicates the traffic analysis more than when using a traditional VPN.

I2P is compatible with most browsers, P2P tools, and torrents; thus, it is usable in all internet activities. Additionally, it has clear and comprehensive documentation to allow users to adapt its API for all applications. However, I2P has fewer users; thus, less content is shared, and the browsing speed can sometimes be slow.

Freenet

Freenet is an unstructured Peer to Peer (P2P) network operating with non-hierarchical nodes to share information. A P2P network is a distributed network of more than 1 computer sharing resources over the internet without using a central server computer.

Freenet stores encrypted documents that only the user can access with an associated key to prevent them from being tracked and censored. The browser offers anonymity to both entry and exit channels.

This browser possesses strong privacy controls to allow users to browse websites, publish files, and search or read forums anonymously. It also supports a P2P network, making it a better browser to print and share anonymous content. However, because every user must store the content on their hardware before sharing it, it may require large disk space.

TOR

A TOR browser encapsulates the network traffic in encryption layers at the entry, transit, and exit nodes of communication. The layers have numerous hoops with encryptions that are extremely untraceable. 

The browser has an easy-to-use interface supporting various programming languages and platforms, like Linux, Windows, and Android. Additionally, it has a relatively faster browsing speed and consumes fewer resources.

On the downside, though, a recent ESET research uncovered some cybercriminals distributing unofficial trojanized copies of TOR browser intending to steal bitcoins from the victims. Therefore, you should ensure that the TOR browser you are using is the legitimate one.

Anonymous Browsing With a Proxy

You can also use proxy servers to provide your online anonymity by first requesting information from a particular proxy server. The proxy server will then send you feedback about the appropriate website. That specific website can only see the proxy server's IP address but not yours. A proxy server acts as an intermediary for requests between the client and server.

A proxy has a lower encryption level than a regular VPN. Despite the visited websites being unable to identify you, it’s easier for someone with the right skills to access your IP address.

The only thing that keeps you anonymous is the IP address of the proxy server you’re using, but you should be aware that proxies don't protect or encrypt your internet traffic. Proxy servers may be seen as accessible alternatives to a VPN, but the truth is, they have fewer security standards than VPNs.

If you intend to browse anonymously to circumvent some geographical browsing restrictions, using a proxy is ideal. The following are ways in which you can use a proxy effectively.

 

You may use general privacy practices by:

Using secure networks only when possible: Even though it is tempting, do not browse on unprotected public networks. It makes you vulnerable to other browsers using that network. If possible, always use your private home network or other protected networks.

Using a secure browser: E.g., Firefox, which has in-built security settings to prevent tracking and other security issues that are not very common in different browsers. Opera is another ideal option since it has an in-built VPN that can conceal your online activities.

Deleting tracker cookies:  Tracker cookies can be used to track your online activities. Deleting them reduces the number of targeted ads and emails you may see on your browsers.

Do not input your personal email address on sites that you visit. If the site you want to access requires an email address, always use a spam email address. 

Using web-based proxies by:

Opening a preferred browser: Chrome, Firefox, Edge (Windows), and Safari (Mac) are examples of strong and supported browsers.

Searching for online proxies: Some of the most popular proxy services include Anonymouse, VPNBook, Filter Bypass, among others.

Opening a proxy site by clicking on the site's link: Research various proxies before committing to one. Suppose you don’t trust the proxy owner, set up a web proxy for your web host. Also, note that proxies can cause a heavy load on your web host.

Typing the site's name on the proxy's search bar: You’ll find the search bar in the middle of the proxy page, directly below the search field.

Some of the Best Proxy Servers

Hidester

The site is accessible on various platforms such as Windows, Mac OS and Android. It does not need you to install any software before using it. Hidester has servers spread across the United States and Europe, giving the user various countries to choose from.

You can access Hidester by visiting its official website. Enter the link or URL of the website you would like to surf anonymously. Hidester proxy server does not require the user to fill in any sign-in information forms. If you consider using Hidester for a prolonged period, the Hidester Secure VPN Software Suite may be a more excellent choice.

Proxysite.com

Proxy site supports websites such as YouTube and Facebook and enables browsing anonymously with a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. SSL is a cryptographic protocol that prevents criminals from accessing or modifying sensitive data sent over a computer network.

Proxy site has a seamless option for blocking ads and allows the user to switch between various proxies to access many countries simultaneously.

Kproxy

Kproxy offers its services through different subscription plans that suit every user. Some of its features include unlimited downloads, no ads, and access to premium servers. This proxy server also has its own Firefox and Chrome extensions and comes with a free trial.

Using an Anonymous Search Engine

Google is arguably the best search engine today. It uses powerful and intelligent algorithms, including Artificial Intelligence implementations, to give users the best-personalized experience.

Google usually tracks users who use Google services, e.g, Gmail, for targeted marketing.

Targeted marketing is when websites show advertisements based on an individual’s browsing history. Below are the best privacy-oriented search engine alternatives to Google.

DuckDuckGo

This site is one of the best-known anonymous browser search engines alternative for Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines that may collect your data. When using DuckDuckGo, your search terms and clicked links become untraceable.

Additionally, the visited websites can't see the search terms you used. However, they'll know that you have visited their web pages.

Using a DuckDuckGo to surf the internet provides more anonymity than regular search engines. However, it does not offer complete anonymity and privacy.

DuckDuckGo has less budget and human resources, unlike Google, meaning it does not optimize search results. Therefore, it is essential for users who are more focused on privacy than anything else when browsing the internet. DuckDuckGo shows the same results to everyone entering the exact keywords, unlike Google, which adjusts the search results based on your user profile.

Qwant

Qwant is probably the second-best privacy-oriented search engine after DuckDuckGo. The search engine guarantees your privacy, neutrality, and digital freedom when you use it over the internet to search for information.

Qwant does not offer a casual user experience as opposed to other privacy-oriented search engines. It is a very dynamic search engine that displays trending topics and news, and it is well organized. Even though it offers no personalized experience, it still boasts a rich user experience.

Using Browser Extensions

Browser extensions are small software units popularly known as plug-ins that add new features to a browser. These extensions filter and control information by changing how the user visits a web page or views information emanating from web services.

Browser extensions usually work by adding additional website features and functionalities. You can also use them to remove unwanted features and functionalities, e.g., pop-up ads or other annoying elements when browsing the internet.

Web browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Opera have numerous extensions that can help keep your browsing activity anonymous. Some of these extensions are made directly by the respective browser companies, while others are from third-party software developers. HTTPS Everywhere and Ghostery are some of the extensions that you may use to enhance your browsing anonymity.

It is always essential to understand that someone might be monitoring your online activities anytime you log in to the internet. Governments and private corporations are fond of tracking or logging users' data, and only you can prevent that from happening.

Consider the above methods of browsing anonymously to see which best suits your needs. Remember not to enter your credit card information if you’re using proxies because the data is passed through an external server, making it accessible by anyone.

Now that you know how to browse the internet anonymously, it may be time to get yourself a great deal on VPNs for the ultimate privacy, safety and protection on the internet!

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