How To Stay Anonymous and Hidden Online
You might think that the Internet was built on anonymity, where free speech and privacy reign supreme, but the truth is quite different. After recent leakages about governments spying on their people and years of learning about how big companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are snooping into everything we do on the internet, online privacy is a more important subject than ever.
Below is a rundown of what you can do to stop the spying and stay anonymous while hacking online. But let’s begin with websites grabbing your IP address when you visit them. This can be done by anybody who has a direct connection to you. This is what is known as a “session.”
Sessions are direct connections between two end-point devices. This can be a session between two routers that is persistent, and carrying information between each other constantly, or it could be a session between you and a website. It is brief, and all it does is yield a webpage for you to view. But, both of these have one thing in common. The two devices are connected, whether it is two routers, or it is your computer and a web-server, somewhere out there in the wild-blue yonder.
Let me solidify the importance of this. If I were to acquire your IP address, right now, I would have everything I need to find out where your computer is in the world. I can begin the process of hacking your computer immediately.
Scanning your computer, discovering vulnerabilities, and running exploits. The same can be said of any website, but the security of websites is significantly higher, in most cases. Nevertheless, your IP address should be relatively guarded. It isn’t something to willingly give out, because it can be abused, like a home address. It can be used to send all sorts of junk to you that you don’t want. So how do you protect your identity and remain anonymous?
VPNS (Virtual Private Networks)
VPNs are a paid service that establishes a session between your computer and another computer somewhere else. It then acts as an intermediary between yourself and the internet.
VPNs are typically trustworthy services that are provided for a fee that promises not to disclose your private information, your identity, your internet traffic, or, most importantly, your IP address. All it does is take your internet traffic, encrypts it with a secret token, passes it on to the destination, then send their responses back to you, also encrypted, no questions asked.
VPNs sometimes promise not to maintain logs on your activity, though this is not completely true. VPNs still have to maintain plausible deniability and protect themselves from liabilities. Illegal activity, especially in countries with strict computer fraud prevention laws, will be scrutinized, and a court-order can still be issued to a VPN’s owner, ordering him to disclose the logs. Their hands are tied, and they have no choice but to give you up. However, it is an added measure of security, and it makes it that much harder to detect you and discover your true identity, and it also ensures that a court order MUST be acquired in order for you to be discovered.
VPNs are, as I said, a paid service, usually, but it is well worth it if you decide that your internet traffic is suspect and you don’t want anyone to know who you are or what you do with your late-night internet browsing time, particularly the government or authorities. Either you’re doing something illegal, or you’re paranoid. One way or the other, you’ll need to shell out some cash for this service.
VPNs can be established on any computer, actually. You could even establish a VPN with your friend’s computer across town. But paid VPN services allow you to actively switch your location to other countries! What’s even better is that, in some of these countries, your identity is even more protected because your countries laws may not apply or its actions justifiable to implicate you in any of your activity! This means that even a court-order becomes useless if the VPN service refuses to rat you out, and that is exactly what you pay them NOT to do.
Isn’t that great? That means that you’re protected from any of your internet activity, that it cannot be traced back to you, and that your activity is 100% protected.
Finding a VPN
You have to be careful who you trust your anonymity to. Some VPNs are free or very cheap, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad. I personally use ExpressVPN, which has multiple paid packages to keep you secure. What I like most about ExpressVPN is that you can change which country you connect through before accessing the internet, allowing for increased anonymity and active switching between different nations to further evade anyone who might be looking for you.
Another well-known VPN service is PureVPN, which has both free and paid-premium service, granting you the anonymity you desire! It’s ultra private and secure, allows P2P, and is one of the fastest VPN services available today.
Both ExpressVPN and PureVPN comes with their own software to setup the VPN connection at the click of a button. Other VPN services include Cisco VPN tunnel. Even windows computers can be configured to establish a VPN connection with each other to merge their networks.
Proxies are much like VPNs, but they are much simpler and are utterly unfiltered and unmanaged. When you think of a VPN, you want to imagine a large data center with a host of security measures implemented, data-recovery, a vast network of infrastructure going across several countries and states/provinces, and a team of high-quality professionals making sure the system stays up 24/7, all operating to make sure you are safe and your online anonymity is maintained and protected 100%. VPNs are basically an alternative to having an Internet Service Provider, who scans through your web browsing and keeps tabs on everything you do. VPNs, keep you anonymous and safe, and they don’t give a damn who you are.
Proxies are…well…a computer. That’s it. Proxies pass traffic passively through listening ports and then pass it on to the destination provided in the header of a TCP/IP packet. It then replaces the stub of a TCP/IP packet with its own IP address and information in order to protect the person using the Proxy. Proxies offer you the same type of protection, but not as high quality, and certainly not as fast. Proxies are only as fast as their infrastructure and hardware allow. In most cases, a proxy is just a computer with a port left open on it, passively taking internet traffic and handing it off to various sources/destinations like the postal service, but even LESS secure.
Generally, proxies are used to bypass web-filters to allow kids access to gaming websites at school or to let you get onto a dirty website at work. Whatever the case, proxies basically are a dumb switch that routes internet traffic to and from you free of charge. As I said, they are not secured, and they are not managed. Anyone who wants to find out who you are can just as easily pass traffic through the proxy…even hack it! If you’re the government, you just pull out a badge and whoever owns the proxy will bend-over backward just so they don’t go to jail, and then you’re boned.
In my humble opinion, a proxy is best left to being used merely as a web filter. By no means should it be considered a sufficient means of identity protection, but it certainly does help. If you have a VPN, you can also route your connection through a proxy. What happens then? Well…first your traffic goes through your session to your VPN provider, then, it goes to the proxy, after that, it goes to your Domain Name Service, and then it finally goes to the website you wanted to look at! It’s a long way to go, and it’s slow, but it’s definitely secure. The reason is, now, not only do the authorities need a court order for the VPN, they also need one for the proxy too!
There are different levels of security and anonymity in proxies.
Low security, low anonymity. The proxy will tell any website or IP you visit exactly who you are if asked. Suitable only for getting around a web-filter.
A proxy defined as anonymous typically does not pass your IP address to the destination computers, meaning that it will not willingly give up your personal information to any sites you visit. However, Anonymous proxies sometimes keep a connection log and records your IP/MAC address when an active connection is being made. If the proxy is compromised, investigated, or seized by authorities, your privacy can be exposed.
High Anonymous or “Elite”
High Security, Highly Anonymous, and no connection logs. These proxies are rare to find and are usually saturated by traffic by the time you find them. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but for this computer to be defined as an “Elite” proxy, it must maintain no logs, reveal no information about source OR destination IP addresses, and have security and IDS software on it. However, if compromised by a hacker or the authorities, traffic passing through this proxy can still be captured and you can still be exposed. As I said, nothing is ever guaranteed.
Finding a Proxy
A GREAT Proxy search engine that I use for crawling the web for proxies is called ScrapeBox It is paid software, but very worth it. ScrapeBox also doubles as your own personal Google “spider” or what is called a “web crawler.” A very handy tool indeed. Other free web-based proxy sites that you can try are:
You can even take an IP address of a proxy off of one website, and then you can just copy it into your search engine, and chances are, that proxy is probably posted on another site, and you can copy all of those too!
VPNs are usually a paid service, and proxies are free. If you are looking for a complete cyber security, internet privacy, and online freedom you should go for a VPN. After conducting a careful research on features and pricing of many VPN services, I conclude ExpressVPN and PureVPN as the best VPN services for staying anonymous and hidden online.
It’s pretty evident in this case that you get what you pay for, but if you just need basic browsing privacy, proxies are great! Just google “proxy” and you’ll be slammed in the face with hundreds of websites listing them by the thousands in a few seconds! To set it up, just look up the instructions on “proxy settings” for whatever internet browser you are using. It’s so easy, I’m not even going to bother explaining it here. Remember the rules! Google it!