The internet may, at times, feel a bit like the Wild West. Between the trolls and pirates, there are very few real “rules”, and even those seem meant to be broken.
But more recently, our online activities are starting to carry more and more risk. Law enforcement is increasingly cracking down on certain behaviors; people are being fired for random Twitter comments, and more.
These days, the things you post online are there forever. Sites like Google and Facebook collect every scrap of your personal information, and the NSA gets everything they miss. The internet seems to get less anonymous everyday.
Fortunately, there are quite a few online anonymity tools that can help you become more hidden than ever before.
- Tor: If you want to take a trip to the darknet, you’ll need Tor anyways. But that’s not the only use for this anonymous browser. By routing everything you do through a ton of different relays and encrypting it along the way, Tor helps keep your IP, identity, and the things you do online separate – and therefore anonymous.
- Linux: If you’re serious about going completely off the grid, you’ll need a solid foundation. Without a secure operating system, even the best online anonymity tools can’t keep you completely hidden. Windows and Mac OS are not the answer here. Linux is, and more specifically, the Tails iteration.
You can load this baby from a CD or thumb drive, and it comes stock with everything you need to stay anonymous. Tails routes all online activity through Tor, and it’ll wipe all traces from the computer when you’re done.
- VPN: A VPN or virtual private network is one of the most effective online anonymity tools you can get. It basically creates a tunnel for your web traffic that keeps it secure and encrypted, so whether you’re browsing the internet from home or a public Wi-Fi hotspot, your information and activity is kept private. Even your internet service provider won’t be able to see what you’re doing.
- HTTPS: HTTPS adds a layer of security to the normal websites (http://) you visit. It makes sure you’re communicating with the right site and keeps the data you share with them encrypted. This online anonymity tool is available in a browser plug-in called HTTPS Everywhere. It’ll make it super easy to implement and is already included in the Tor Browser bundle.
- PGP: PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy and is a system for encrypting your e-mail communication. You have a key and share one with your e-mail buddy, and you’ll be able to send a coded message that only they can use their key to decipher. You can use it on its own or find it already installed in Tails.
- Anonymous Search Engines: If you didn’t already know, Google is collecting data from any and everything you search. Other search engines do this as well; it’s just that Google is the most notorious. That’s where private search engines come in, which don’t store any of your search data.
Other Tools to Consider
Those are just the main, most effective online anonymity tools out there. But there’s also hard drive encryption, proxies, and private instant messaging, among others.
How far you want to go to stay anonymous depends on your needs and how much you value your privacy. If you’re really serious, you could give your whole computer and network a complete overhaul. Or you can just do little things here and there to add a little piece of mind.