How to be anonymous
This guide will help you learn ways to anonymize the majority of your Internet-based communications and activities. Before we get started, it should go without saying that if you’re trying to stay anonymous online, you shouldn’t use your real name when creating any account and shouldn’t sign in with any profile that has your personal information connected to it (ie, Google, Facebook, Twitter). We’ve left out the obvious stuff here and instead focused on offering a quick summary of ways that you can keep your identity and location hidden while browsing, communicating, and downloading and transferring files.
LEVEL 1: Anonymous Web browsing
The best thing you can do to stay anonymous online is to hide your IP address. This is the easiest way to trace your online activity back to you. If someone knows your IP address, they can easily determine the geographic location of the server that hosts that address and get a rough idea of where you’re located. Broadly speaking, there are three ways to obscure your IP address and hide your location:
- Use a proxy server. If you want all of your online activity to be anonymized, the best way to do it is to pretend to be someone else. This is basically what a proxy server does: it routes your connection through a different server so your IP address isn’t so easy to track down. There are hundreds of free proxies out there, and finding a good one is just a matter of searching. Most major browsers offer proxy server extensions that can be activated in just one click
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). For most intents and purposes, a VPN obscures your IP address just as well as a proxy does – and in some cases even better. They work differently, but achieve the same result. Essentially, a VPN is a private network that uses a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users together. So, if I were to log into Digital Trends’ VPN, anyone looking at my IP address would think I’m in New Delhi when I’m actually in New York. Here’s a list of good VPN services to get you started.
- Use TOR. Short for The Onion Router, TOR is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Browsing with TOR is a lot like simultaneously using hundreds of different proxies that are randomized periodically. But it’s a lot more than just a secure browser. We won’t get into the details here, but you should definitely check out its site if you’re concerned about anonymity.
LEVEL 2: Anonymous email and communication
Using proxies, VPNs, and TOR will obscure your IP address from prying eyes, but sending emails presents a different anonymity challenge. Let’s say you want to send somebody an email, but you don’t want them to know your email address. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go about this:
- Use an alias. An alias is essentially a forwarding address. When you send mail through an alias, the recipient will only see your forwarding address, and not your real email. Since all mail is forwarded to your regular inbox, this method will keep your real email address secret, but it will not, however, keep you from being spammed like crazy.
- Use a disposable email account. This can be done in two ways: either you can just create a new email account with a fake name and use it for the duration of your needs, or you can use a disposable email service. These services work by creating a temporary forwarding address that is deleted after a certain amount of time, so they’re great for signing up for stuff on sites you don’t trust and keeping your inbox from being flooded with spam.
- Use an encrypted email service. because of privacy concerns, encrypted email services offers end-to-end encryption that you can use without worrying about any unauthorized entity getting their hands on your private conversations
Also, using a VPN and communicating through an anonymized email address will keep your identity hidden, but it still leaves open the possibility of your emails being intercepted through a man-in-the-middle scheme. To avoid this, you can encrypt your emails before you send them. Here’s how:
- Use HTTPS in your Web-based email client. This will add SSL/TLS encryption to all of your Web-based communications. It’s not bulletproof, but it definitely helps. Just make sure the URL of your webmail has an S (for Secure) after the HTTP. Gmail users, for example could use . We also recommend using the HTTPS Everywhere extension.
In addition to email, you might want to encrypt any instant messaging you do for the same reasons. We recommend the following two chat clients:
- TOR chat: a lightweight and easy-to-use chat client that uses TOR’s location hiding services. It uses SSL/TLS encryption.
- Cryptocat: a Web-based chat client that uses the AES-256 encryption standard, which is extremely hard to break. It also supports group chats, so its perfect for all those top-secret world domination meetings you have with your buddies.
LEVEL 3: Anonymous file transfers and sharing
Getting files from the Internet is easy, but the sender has access to your IP address when you download files. In the case of BitTorrent, there are thousands of different peers that can see your IP address at any given moment, which means downloading is one of the least anonymous things you can do on the Web. However, if done correctly, it is possible to download and share files while keeping your IP address and identity concealed.
- If you’re downloading directly form a file hosting site like MediaFire or Mega, you can just use a proxy or VPN to obscure your IP.
- If you’re using BitTorrent to download stuff, using a proxy or VPN will keep your identity hidden, but rather than just using any old service, we recommend using BT Guard. At its core, BT Guard is exactly the same as any other VPN or proxy service with the one difference being that the site is designed specifically for heavy BitTorrent users. Don’t worry about DMCA violation notices you might elicit – BT Guard just ignores them for you.
- If you wan’t to share file using shareable link you can use Self-destructing file sharing system by Mozilla known as FirefoxSend, it omits the possibility of privacy breach by offering a client side encryption too, which means not even mozilla can read your files.
LEVEL 4 : Anonymous Operating System
While Linux is certainly more secure as compared to Windows & Mac operating system, there are some specialized Linux distros that cater to the needs of security enthusiasts. By using technologies like TOR, sandboxing, firewalls, etc., These Linux distros deliver extra layers of security, making sure that you complete your work anonymously and privately.
- Tails : It is a Debian-based Linux distribution that’s one of the most secure operating systems you’ll ever get. With the help of redirecting all the web traffic through Tor, Tails achieves privacy through anonymity.As Tails stores everything in RAM and avoids the usage of the hard disk, it erases everything once it’s shut down.
- Whonix :This private operating system consists of two virtual machines. While one VM is a “Tor Gateway” running Debian, other one is a “Workstation.” Please note that Whonix is installed on a user-provided host OS that could be Linux, Windows, macOS, or Qubes OS. By utilizing Tor’s open and distributed relay network, Whonix defeats the network surveillance possibilities.This Linux for security purposes does its best to hide the real IP address of the user. Also, many pre-installed applications are stream-isolated in Whonix and they use a dedicated Tor SocksPort for extra security.
- Qubes OS : It is also called the world’s most secure operating system, is a security-oriented system which performs virtualization by Xen hypervisor. For those who don’t know, a hypervisor mimics the hardware and allows running multiple virtual machines. The isolation is performed by turning hardware controllers into functional domains. It also separates your digital life in different levels of trust, for e.g., work domain, shopping domain, random domain, etc. All these domains are run in different virtual machines. With this technique, one exploit doesn’t allow the attacker to take over the entire computer. Qubes OS has been approved by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
This tutorial touches on a lot but is by no means comprehensive. If you have any good tips or tricks for staying anonymous online, we encourage you to share them in the comments.