How To Surf the Internet Anonymously

An introduction to proxies and VPN's

An Introduction to Browsing the Internet Anonymously

If you are here to learn how to be a 1337 hax0r and want to know where to get your 4chon mask and how to join anonymous then don’t bother reading the rest of this article, click here!
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Surfing the internet anonymously is becoming more and more of a hot topic, both in politics and and the press.
Advocates for online anonymity say that it allows freedom of expression and prevents governments clamping down on what information their citizens can access (See The Great Firewall of China).
Opponents of Internet Anonymity say it creates a lawless society that harbours criminal activity such as attacks carried out by Anonymous and LulzSec.
What we do know for sure is that when people have anonymity online and an audience, the phenomenon known as “The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” is all too common. A prime example of this can be found at my project The Last Word

OK enough with the external links, this is supposed to be an SEO blog after all.

The overall feeling I get from the “anonymity online” discussion is that the leading edge of this is driven by the young savvy internet users and, whats more, they are so far ahead of “the man” (Governments, Law-makers, System Admins, etc) that the whole game plays out like an online version of the cartoon “RoadRunner” in which our plucky young hacktivists are the Road Runner and “The Man” plays the hapless Wile e Coyote constantly trying to catch up.. Something that was perhaps best expressed in this tweet by @techpractical “cameron wanting to bring chinese-style web filtering to the uk? fuck you and the horse you rode in on, i will bypass it.”.

With that said I will share with you a few tips I have picked up along the way on how you can be more anonymous online.
The fact is pretty much anything you do to hide your identity online will never be 100%. If you are looking to hide your identity online in order to commit criminal acts then I should probably say “don’t do it bro.” There’s a pretty good chance you will be caught, and v&.

Proxies

The most basic (and therefore crappiest) method of obscuring your identity online is the humble internet proxy. A Proxy is basically a computer that your connect to between you and the internet making the website you are viewing think that you are the computer you are connected to.

A nice example would be to imagine three people: Peter, Charles and Harold.
Peter is annoyed at Harold but doesn’t want Harold to know that he is annoyed at him.
Peter asks his friend Charles to call Harlod a “Dickhead”.
Charles obliges Peter and walks over to Harold and calls him a “Dickhead”.

There are 3 basic types of Proxy:

  • Transparent
  • Distorting
  • Anonymous

A transparent proxy does not hide your IP address or anonymise your internet activity, it also shows the server you are connecting to that you are actively using a proxy server.

In the scenario above this would be like Charles saying “Peter told me to tell you you’re a Dickhead”
It tells Harold that the message comes from Peter and Harold also knows that Peter is using Harold to transfer the message.

A distorting proxy modifies or adjusts your data so that your real IP address and info isn’t given to the server but the server still knows that you are connecting via a proxy.

In the Scenario above this would be like Charles saying to Harold “My friend told me to tell you you’re a Dickhead” It tells Harold that someone has asked Charles to tell him he is a Dickhead but it does not reveal who.

An anonymous proxy hides your personal data such as IP address and also hides your internet activity, further more it also hides the fact that you are using a proxy.
In the scenario above it would be like Charles saying to Harold “You’re a Dickhead”
Harold only knows that Charles has called him a “Dickhead”, he doesn’t know that Peter told Charles to do it and he also doesn’t know that anyone has told Charles to say it on their behalf.

Setting up a proxy in a modern internet browser is very simple, this great infographic explains the basic steps.
Check your IP address (Google “What is my IP address)
Get a proxy from a proxy list such as samair.ru
In Firefox go Tools>Options>Advanced>Connection settings
Input your HTTP Proxy IP address and Port number into the boxes provided and press Save.
Recheck your IP address.

VPN – Virtual Private Network

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) works in a very similar way to a Proxy. The main difference between the two being that a Proxy works on all traffic within the specific application that it is set in. For example, setting a proxy in FireFox will make any internet traffic you send in FireFox go through the proxy server you have set up.
A VPN sends ALL INTERNET TRAFFIC from your computer via the other computer you are connecting to.

In effect your computer looks, to any service/website you use, exactly like the computer you are connected to.
This is most effective for circumventing geo-targetted content locking. For example the BBC iPlayer service is only available to people located in the United Kingdom.
If you try to access the content from outside of the UK it produces a message that says “This content is not available in your region”
If you use a VPN to connect to a computer/server that is physically located in the UK then you can access the content as your computer appears to be located in the UK.

Simply put, a VPN is like using a proxy on steroids, routing all incoming and outgoing data via a second computer.

Most VPN networks are accessed by adjusting your computers connection settings using the details of your VPN service.
Two VPN services I have personally used and can recommend are:
OverPlay VPN $4.99-$9.99 per month
and
ExpatShield Free with Heavy Advertising

A more advanced example of using a VPN Network is the Tor Project.

I will discus more advanced ways to surf the internet, such as the Tor Project, Virtual Machines etc in part 2 next week ^_^