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Every time we are online, we leave a digital “trail”. IP addresses give us away and cookies compile our Private browsing habits. Internet service providers (ISPs) and employers theoretically keep track of which sites we visit and when. Even private navigation, also known as Incognito mode, is not entirely safe from prying eyes.
So what exactly is private browsing? In essence, it’s about staying anonymous on the Web, leaving little or no trace of your online activities.
The advantages are numerous: from protecting you from targeted ads to allowing you to avoid sites that restrict access if you do not pay and even buy “surprise” gifts for your friends and family. In addition, there are other lesser known benefits, such as saving money.
As the International Day of Protection of Personal Data, celebrated on January 28, here we analyze what you must do to remain anonymous online.
Uses HTTPS sites
Use only the HTTP or HTTPS protocols when you are browsing. Other web browsing protocols usually advertise your identity or location.
When working with HTTPS, use only trusted certification authorities that do not issue a “false” identity certificate.
For many, ad blockers are an essential element to maintain privacy online and, consequently, protect against cybercriminals.
There is a wide variety of password managers available, but unfortunately its general adoption is a constant struggle. Of course, it does not help that some get infected and expose all passwords to cyber criminals.
If you have a password that you can guess or steal easily, it is a good idea to start using a password manager. These programs are able to create robust and safe keys, and save them so you do not have to memorize them.
Uses temporary email addresses
Disposable email addresses (DEA) are anonymous and temporary. They allow users to quickly create new email addresses when necessary, after which they are deleted.
This is particularly useful for avoiding spam when filling out forms on sites that require an email address to continue.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are an effective way to protect your privacy online, as they hide your IP address, your unique online ID, and transfer all your data through a secure and encrypted virtual tunnel. In this way, they prevent websites from tracking your online activities and even know from which country you are surfing.
VPNs use proxy servers located anywhere in the world, so your identity (or location) will never be fully revealed.
If you’re worried about being tracked, you can use the Tor anonymity network, which hides your IP address. In this way, advertisers or cybercriminals are less likely to identify and target you.
Tor is a network of “virtual tunnels that allow individuals and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet.” This anonymity network allows you to access the “deep” Web, where sites are created anonymously and people communicate privately with each other.
Private browsing mode
Most modern browsers have a private browsing mode that you can use to make sure that the sites you visit do not appear in your browsing history.
Browsers typically record each site you visit and store the information you enter into them. When using private mode, you are basically telling your browser not to register the sites you visit and not to use or download any cookie.
However, they are not perfect. For example, in 2010, Stanford University professors discovered that while Firefox does not record your history during a private browsing session, it does register the sites on which you’ve installed SSL certificates.
Secure your chats
IMessage services from Apple and WhatsApp are encrypted from point to point, but other options are also available, especially for desktop communications.
TOR chat is a lightweight and easy to use chat client that uses Tor services to hide the location. It uses SSL / TLS encryption.
Cryptocat is a web-based chat client that uses the AES-256 encryption standard, which is extremely difficult to decrypt. It also supports group chats.
Now you know: it is possible to continue sailing without worrying (so much) for the privacy of your identity.