Everyone strives for anonymity on the internet. It is the everyday internet surfer’s quest to have little or no digital footprint, be it for security or privacy, but there’s no true anonymity in its literal sense. It is virtually impossible to remain anonymous on the Internet, as details of the device’s setup are communicated to the internet service provider and often to the site or service used.
The best way to stay anonymous on the internet is to completely stay off it. However, there are tools and programs that help reduce websites’ ability to track one’s activities and decode one’s identity and location while using the internet.
Some helpful encryption tools have been collected in the list below.
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network.” It encrypts a device’s internet traffic and reroutes it through an intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing. A VPN simply obscures your location. It protects a user’s identity by giving them an anonymous IP address. Still, in order to remain truly anonymous, you should not rely on VPNs alone.
The Tor browser provides the best anonymous web browsing available today. It conceals and offers protection of the user’s identity by routing information through a long series of servers, making sure no data goes directly from a server to a user device or from a user device to the server. It also prevents any data from being stored locally on the user’s device.
Zero-Knowledge Services (Fake/Burner emails)
Email providers (for example, Google) can read emails you send and receive via their services, productivity apps (for instance, Microsoft 365) scan everything you write, and cloud storage services (for example, Dropbox) open and examine everything you upload. The use of zero-knowledge services circumvents all these hassles in the likes of SpiderOak, WeTransfer, or FileDropper as a Dropbox alternative and Guerilla Mail, Zmail, or Protonmail as a Gmail alternative.
A proxy server serves as an intermediary between a device and the internet. It’s conceptually similar to a virtual machine, but it’s essentially another computer used to process internet requests. Also, it works similarly to VPNs but sends a different user agent to prevent your browser from being identified. It also deals with cookies and prevents them from being passed to your device.
Secure Messaging Apps
Secure messaging apps, also known as private messengers, are focused on privacy and can be used to cover one’s tracks while sending a message or making voice calls. They use end-to-end encryption and other techniques to provide a high level of security, so only the sender and recipient view such messages. Grapherex’s secure messenger is an example. It provides a higher degree of privacy, as user chats work on a peer-to-peer basis without the server.
Simply deleting data and emptying a device’s recycle bin doesn’t remove the file. For someone who knows where to look, they are just a search away, as completely removing sensitive files from a device is hard. File shredding tools overwrite the file first before carrying out the actual delete.
Incognito Mode (Private Browsing)
This is perhaps the most popular anonymity tool, as most browsers have a privacy mode that can easily be used to mask online activities, keep your internet service provider (ISP) from seeing where you’ve been online, and stop websites from seeing your physical location, delete cookie data when the browser window is closed. Incognito mode also disallows tracking of browsing data and does not remember any downloaded files.
Ads are ubiquitous nowadays, tracking our online activities and location. They sometimes contain malware that infects devices, thus becoming a threat to one’s anonymity and security. Ad blockers usually don’t require any additional configuration and are implemented as browser extensions.
Privacy-oriented search engines help avoid the filter bubble of personalized search results and focus on the protection of users’ privacy. They do not enforce any trackers while having their index for search results, thus ensuring digital freedom when surfing the internet.
This is another computer that is embedded within the main computer and runs in isolation with its own CPU power, memory, operating system, etc. It’s recommended to use the tool for opening offline files. After a user finishes with the file, they delete the virtual machine.
To sum up, online privacy is fast becoming a myth, as online protection and anonymity prove difficult to achieve with each passing day. The above-listed tools afford users privacy and anonymity to some degree. It’s worth choosing the tools wisely and with close attention to goals.