In this Volatile world of internet, protecting your identity and safeguarding your privacy is a major challenge. As we are always being tracked by websites who sell our data to advertising agencies (Ex. Google tracks and stores your search history and behavior pattern to show you relevant advertisements on Adsense enabled websites like this blog). And then there is facebook who even tracks your search history when you are not even using Facebook. Then there are malicious hackers who always leaves you with a risk of hacking your email address, credit card details and what not. In this tutorial, I will give you a detailed guide on how you be anonymous online, to ensure your privacy and anonymous identity.
I have stripped out most of the obvious things like keeping a strong alpha-numerical password etc. Rather this is a step by step detailed approach to be anonymous online.
Step 1 – Anonymous Web Browsing
Since web browsing offers the greatest obstacle in order to be anonymous online. Using secure and anonymous web browsing methods are must if you want to secure your Identity and Private Details, this can either be fully or partially achieved by using one or all of the methods mentioned down below..
Using a VPN Service
VPN Stands for Virtual Private Network, serves the purpose of encrypting your uplink and downlink traffic through an encrypted tunnel. Working procedures of VPN is pretty simple, instead of directly accessing on the website’s web server, the server of VPN Provider acts as a middleman between your computer and web server, while encrypting all the traffic.
If you choose to be anonymous online, VPN is a great option.
# Firstly, VPN spoofs your IP address by routing your internet connection through a proxy server.
# Secondly, VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic, protecting you from Hackers, ISP Spying, and Govt. Surveillance
# VPN uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocols to ensure there is no malicious data transfer to your computer from the web server.
While Most of the VPN Services costs a lot, but there is freeware as well. I have mentioned some of the Best And Free VPN down below. If you are using a Windows PC, I would like to recommend Windscribe.
Browsing Through TOR Network
TOR stands for “The Onion Router” it is a free software which lets you do anonymous web browsing by routing your traffic through a free worldwide encrypted network of 70000+ relays to defend you against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships. Using Tor makes it more difficult to trace Internet activity to the user: this includes “visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms”.
Recently TOR network has been cracked by CIA, so I would recommend using VPN+TOR to add an extra layer of anonymity in your web browsing. TOR is available for Android Too.
Step 2 – Using an Encrypted Email Service
Most of us use mainstream email services like Gmail and Outlook. Despite being popular, intuitive and feature-rich, these email services also have their flaws. Privacy is always the most serious issue to concern, especially with Google’s services, Gmail is no exception. Google has often had to face criticism for spying on users’ emails to search for keywords, which are then sold to advertisers to show relevant advertisements to you.
But yes, Gmail and other email services also encrypt its emails, so a random hacker won’t be able to snoop on your emails. Unfortunately, only Google has the Keys to decrypt your emails, which they always do to get contextual keywords. So if privacy is your overriding concern you should be better off with encrypted email services to ensure your anonymity.
Some Best and Free Encrypted Email Services Are.
This encrypted email service was founded by CERN Researchers at Geneva, Switzerland. In mere 5 years of its existence, it has become the most encrypted email service today. It provides end-to-end encryption using AES, RSA and OpenPGP encryption algorithms. It also employs browser side encryption, which means the emails are decrypted on client’s computer rather than companies servers. It also lets you set a timer of self-destruction after which the email will be deleted from companies server.
While the downside is it doesn’t offer IMAP or POP3 access, which render it useless if you are using an email client like Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook. Which also means, You won’t be able to send emails to any other email services. Ex. You can’t email to your friend’s Gmail account. But this is an intended security feature to let you be anonymous online.
It also offers Android and iOS apps.
This encrypted email provider is also very similar to Proton mail in terms of security and encryption. While two major differences are, It doesn’t allow the self-destruction of emails, while the good side is It gives IMAP and POP3, which means you can send emails to any email service provider like Gmail. It too has Android and iOS apps.
Like Proton Mail, It’s servers are also based in Switzerland, because of fierce privacy laws of Swiss Govt. and to keep it out of reach from FBI, CIA and NSA hands.
Using an encrypted email service is a great step to be anonymous online, especially for business persons.
Step 3 – Anonymous File Sharing
While the Online file sharing services are around for a long time, and they are pretty good services and helps a lot whether you are sending something to family, friends, even for business purposes. But none of them are really secure. While cloud storage providers like Google Drive and Dropbox does provide security but the downside is, anyone with the sharable download link can view and download the file.
Using an Anonymous file sharing will let you be anonymous online by transmitting your data securely. There are many secure file sharing services around. But I found two of them the best.
It is a free and standalone (not browser plugin) file sharing service made by Mozilla (maker of Firefox browser) it offers a web-portal interface, which can be accessed by any web-browser. You can upload any file you want to share on to its web portal. Once the file has been uploaded you get a shareable link. And this shareable link works only once. After that the file will be deleted from Mozilla servers, anyone else having the sharable link will never be able to access it, since it’s not present in Mozilla servers in first place. Making sure that your sharable file only reaches its intended user.
Also if the link isn’t been opened for 24hours it gets deleted automatically.
OnionShare is a file-sharing platform which uses TOR Network to send files, it implements the robust security and unmatched anonymity of TOR network. It is available as a desktop app for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
Upon uploading a file to TOR servers you will get the shareable link on a .onion domain. Which can only be accessed by TOR Browser, making it extremely hard to snoop by any spying organizations like hacking groups, ISP or Government organizations? Even Whistleblower Edward Snowden has reported the use of this software.
Step 4 – Secure Messaging
Millions of peoples exchange messages over the internet every day. But most of them hardly know that those messages are intercepted by the third party. Truth is we live in an age of internet surveillance and data logging. Agencies and organizations often want access to private communication; we have had instances of CIA hacking attempts and attempts by FBI to gain unauthorized access. Another matter of concern is Data Breach of a service provider which leaks out personal details like Phone No. Email id etc. of users.
Generally, Messaging apps employ end-to-end encryption, where the copies of messages are deleted from the server once it is delivered to the user. But that’s not enough. Let’s take a look at a few best secure messaging service which will let you be anonymous online.
Signal Private Messenger
It’s one of the few apps to claim an endorsement from Whistleblower Edward Snowden, It uses an advanced end-to-end encryption to secure all the messages shared with other Signal users. Highly encrypted voice calls, group chats, media transfer, archive functionality are some of its features; and all these do not require any PIN codes or other login credentials. Also, the messages can self-destruct after a set amount of time.
Signal also has a Chrome Browser Extension, so that you can use it on your computer also. (Get Here)
If any messaging app is made with only security in mind, then this is it. It packs all the necessary features to keep your data out of government, corporation and hacker’s hands. It doesn’t require email ID or phone number while registering. In addition to text messages, Threema allows end-to-end encryption for voice calls, group chats, files and even status messages.
Threema uses the trusted open source Networking and Cryptography library(NaCl) to protect your communication. Threema also has a desktop client so that you can access it from your computer also.
Silence is an encrypted SMS app which lets you send SMS messages without internet. And what’s greater is that it’s so heavily encrypted, even your ISP can’t snoop on your SMS messages
Step 5 – Using a Secure Operating System
This is the last ditch step to be anonymous online and also the strongest shield you can against any kind of surveillance or spying by any kind of organization, agency or company. A secure OS not only ensures your anonymity over the internet but also protects you from any kind of hacking attacks which penetrated right into your computer.
There are many Linux and BSD based operating systems out there which claims themselves to be the guardian of security, I have listed these three, keeping in mind of their security, ease of use, compatibility and a fair number of applications available for them.
Tails is designed for two things, taking up little space and erase any trace of its use across the Internet. It can be downloaded and Run from a USB Stick, on any machine as a temporary alternative to your computers main OS.
Tails anonymize user activity through TOR network (we have seen in step 1, how TOR works and how secure it is). In short, by Using Tails, a user’s location will be hidden, access to otherwise unavailable content will be available, cyber attacks will be protected against, and user’s identity will most likely remain a secret.
Tails was used by Whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose privacy was in grave danger to spying.
Whonix is very similar to TAILS. It works side by side with your main OS, forces all connections via TOR Network. And its users get to enjoy all of the perks of TOR network like Disguising IP address, Preventing ISP Spying, Circumventing Censorship.
Qubes OS (Recommended)
Now this OS takes some different approach to let you be anonymous online, while all the secure OS including Tails and Whonix are based on a Monolithic kernel and all it takes is one successful Kernel exploit to compromise the whole system. Qubes OS omits that possibility by keeping all crucial elements and activities isolated from each other and running everything in a virtual environment. So, if you are a victim of a cyber attack, the attacker can’t take over your entire system, but rather gets confined to a particular isolated compartment.
Once QubesOS has done with the isolation process, it uses Xen Hypervisor to handle memory management and CPU scheduling of all virtual machines. By using Xen Hypervisor, Qubes has tightened the security of a system, as for an attacker, he must be capable of destructing the hypervisor itself in order to compromise the entire system, which is a hard task to achieve.
Be Anonymous Online: To Protect Identity and Safeguarding Privacy
So this was a pretty much detailed guide to be anonymous online, certainly, this did not cover obvious things like Keeping a strong password, logging out from devices etc. But rather it was an advanced approach covering pretty much every aspect of your internet usability where there is a possibility of someone looking onto your digital shoulder. If you recommend something or add or simply want to say your thoughts, do comment down below, after all, Privacy Matters!!