6 Ways You Can Surf The Web Anonymously

anonymous-surfing
Concerned about your online privacy? Are you doing everything possible to maintain your online anonymity or are you simply relying on pure luck? Tweaking a few of your browsing behaviors and adjusting the default setting will prevent marketers, social networks, search engines, hackers and governments from collecting information about your online activity.

VPN Services

A virtual private network (VPN) is a physical server that is controlled by the VPN service provider. This server acts as the “middleman” between your computer and the global network.

The VPN server encrypts all of the data transferred between your computer and the global network. This encryption prevents third parties from getting access to information about your web traffic.

VPN encryption becomes essential when you use open wi-fi networks. Such networks are inherently unsafe and you need to be extra-careful about using your laptop in a café, at the airport or a hotel. These services eliminates such worries and enables you to use all kinds of networks safely and anonymously.

Web Proxies

Many web proxies are free and completely anonymous. Anonymouse is just one example of such an online privacy possibility.

The web proxy acts as an intermediary between your computer and the global network, much like the VPN does. Its main aim is to keep your IP address hidden. The web proxy service provider, however, is aware of your IP address information, which may decrease the attractiveness of the service.

Reading reviews and choosing the right web proxies is the key to maintaining anonymity. Some web proxy services are set up by hackers and designed specifically for the collection of personal data. Do your research before opting for one possibility or another.

Encrypted Chat Services

Encrypted chat services encrypt your communication with others, as well as all file transfers. Cryptocat is one example of such a service.

Many chat encryption services are offered as browser extension and they encrypt all chat communication on the client’s side. Most often, encrypted chat software will use off-the-record (OTR) messaging protocol. The protocol enables two users to communicate with each other while the communication is being encrypted.

Advanced encrypted chat services guarantee the privacy of group chats, voice and video conversations. Some of these possibilities can be used alongside popular chat options like Facebook chat. They will encrypt the social media communication, guaranteeing a level of anonymity that is originally unavailable.

Tor

Tor is a free open network that was initially designed to guarantee the privacy and classification of governmental communication. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a privacy advocacy organization, recommends the use of Tor to make online activities anonymous and more secure.

The traffic is routed through a series of servers before the data reaches its final destination. These servers are operated and maintained by Tor volunteers across the world. The technology used delivers wonderful results in terms of keeping your IP address hidden.

There’s one main disadvantage connected to using Tor – since the data passes through numerous servers, browsing could become quite slow.

Private Social Networks

Private social networks have established themselves as a wonderful alternative to traditional social media like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Websites like Ello don’t feature advertising, which means that the member information is not shared with third parties. Facebook became notorious for its attempts to deliver targeted advertising by sharing personal data of its members with companies. Private social networks enable individuals to enjoy the “community” experience without threatening their online privacy.

Closed social networks can be used for personal communication or business interactions (much like Linkedin). It’s also possible to establish your own closed social network and add members on a per-invitation basis.

Browser Tweaks

One of the simplest possibilities for boosting your online anonymity involves adjusting the default settings of the browser that you use.

Start by disabling cookies. The cookies are small text files that contain information about your online activities. Many websites use cookies to guarantee a higher level of personalization.

Many browsers, including popular options like Google Chrome and Firefox, have an incognito browsing possibility. Using your browser in incognito mode doesn’t store information about your activities and the websites that you visited.

Finally, get in the habit of deleting your browsing history on a regular basis. If you want to, you can prevent the browser from storing any history whatsoever.

Changing your online behavior is one of the most important factors for keeping your personal data safe. Many privacy solutions are free or quite inexpensive, as long as you’re willing to make the transition and substitute convenience for a higher level of security.

CISPA Rears It’s Ugly Head…Again…

cispa-is-not-dead

CISPA is a bill that doesn’t seem to want to die, and there are very strong emotions both ways on that fact. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a bill that originally was introduced by Republican US Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan in both 2011 and 2013 where it passed the House, but never went past the Senate.

This time, however, it’s Democrat US Representative Dutch Ruppersberger III who is reintroducing CISPA into the House of Representatives as bill HR 234 in 2015. While the early reactions are fairly predictable depending on what side of the argument an individual was on before, there’s still a lot to understand about this bill.

What Is CISPA And Why Should You Care?

The intent of CISPA is clear. This is a security bill that deals with online access to potentially sensitive information. If passed CISPA would allow government agencies, as well as private companies, to share information on potential cyber security threats.

In theory this would allow a swifter and more comprehensive response to threats to cyber security. The idea with this bill is that attacks like the Sony hacking incident and any full cyber attacks on military sites or computers could be more easily tracked and dealt with.

The reason individual voters might care is that this bill allows a large scale sharing of information that currently is considered private. Some privacy advocates see this as an overreach of government supervision, while others worry that there are not enough checks and balances in place to prevent abuse. Others are worried about the scope of power this gives private businesses to prosecute individuals without any official law enforcement supervision.

Is CISPA A Single Party Issue?

CISPA is interesting in that its supporters as well as its detractors seem to cross party lines. There are a number of conservative groups who support CISPA as the next important step to greater security while there are also conservative groups who condemn the bill as being far too vague and offering too much of an overreach.

The same can be said with traditionally liberal or democratic leaning groups. The fact that CISPA was re-introduced by Dutch Ruppersberger III shows that there is bi-partisan support for the idea of a cyber security bill that helps deal with these new attacks in the information age, but finding common ground seems to be a sticking point.

What Are The Sticking Points With CISPA?

The largest sticking point for opponents of this CISPA bill is the language. In the past many security bills have had intentionally vague language to allow the government greater leniency in how they interpreted the bill and how it could be acted upon.

The problem with having vague language in a security bill that involves corporations is the worry that this could be abused. What if Facebook, Google, or Amazon could sell private data to one another or to other companies? While this does not seem to be the intention of the CISPA bill, there’s questions about whether or not the current language prevents that very breach of privacy from happening.

The additional issue that seems to be coming up with Representative Ruppersberger’s version is that it doesn’t seem to be revised from the last failed bill. The same issues seem to exist in this version that doomed the previous one.

President Obama has commented on putting forward a cyber security bill that would attempt to address the same issues that CISPA is meant to handle, while attempting to also take on some of the concerns about restrictions on when the data can be gathered, and especially on shielding agencies or companies from prosecution if they abuse the powers this bill would grant them.

What Are The Chances Of CISPA Passing?

CISPA has failed twice already to make it to a vote in the Senate. There’s no guarantee it would pass there, either, and President Obama has already made the statement that CISPA as is would be vetoed.

The recent Sony cyber attacks and growing online threat still will put on the pressure to pass some type of a bill to deal with them. Whether CISPA is that bill or not remains to be seen.

Promises Of NSA Reform Raises More Questions Than It Answers

President Barack Obama’s pledge that the government would no longer be housing vast warehouses of the personal and private communication data of millions of Americans was a relief on the surface, but the vagueness displayed when the specifics were outlined has caused many to raise a significant amount of questions as to how exactly the implementation of this new policy will take place.

According to Politico, President Obama indicated that he would task Attorney General and the intelligence community to determine whether information about incoming and outgoing calls would be provided by independent companies such as Verizon and AT&T, or whether that information would be obtained by some other means. Privacy advocates had hoped that the answer would be that this information would not be obtainable at all – rather that it would remain private without a specific warrant – but that is not going to be the case.

Obama stressed the importance of creating a system which is comparable to the powers that the government has for information gathering under Section 215, which he stated is critical for national security. He did state that more work needed to be done on the system – in all likelihood, the final result will be a compromise that gives something to both sides of the debate.

Canada Is Reviewing Its Privacy Policies As A Result Of The NSA Leaks

As a result of the massive intelligence leak of NSA information by whistle blower Edward Snowden, Canada’s own intelligence agencies are now taking a hard look at Canada’s privacy and eavesdropping policies. This information came to light this week as the result of a memo which was recently declassified and details the steps that Canada is taking in its policy review efforts.

The memo is not dated and therefore cannot be tied down to a specific date, but it is addressed to Stephen Rigsby, the National Security Advisor, so was definitely composed during his tenure.  The CSEC, which is the Canadian version of the NSA, if the topic of the memo – specifically how they plan to deal with the potential damage two security systems as a result of the NSA leak.

The memo was previously classified and top-secret, but was obtained by a Canadian newspaper and the contents made public.

CSEC spokesperson Lauri Sullivan said that the agency will continue to review its policies and procedures to make sure that they are both effective and in the best interests of the nation, both of which are top priorities.

You Are Paying For Free Services With Your Privacy

privacy-cartoonDo you have a Gmail account?  Maybe you like to post what’s going on in your life to all your friends and family on Facebook.  In either case, you need to realize that free services aren’t really free.  All the information you use to build up your profile is in the control of the companies you freely give it to.  All this in exchange for being able to send email and post pictures of your cats.

ReadWrite recent wrote up a piece discussing how we are giving our privacy away one convenience at a time.  In essence, this is the other side of the debate on corporate and government use of our information.  Why are we so keen on giving it up in the first place?  Why do expect these entities to be good stewards of our data?  By no means do I condone the actions of the NSA or Facebook, but sometimes you have to take a good look in the mirror and stop being an enabler.

The NSA And The Supreme Court

aerial-utah-data-centerYou may find this a bit disturbing but did you know that much of the NSA’s public justification for hoarding all of our data comes from a 1979 Supreme Case, Katz v. United States.  It basically states a very loose definition of the “right to privacy” in that when it comes to 4th Amendment issues people should only have a “reasonable” expectation of privacy.  As you can imagine, this leaves the door open to all sorts of abuse.

“The Atlantic” recently put out a great article on that case, as well as others (go here to read it yourself).  In a nutshell, they demonstrate how that law is ridiculously outmoded because technology and tactics have changed so dramatically since then. This is one of the reasons why I believe that there needs to be a single all encompassing statute on privacy that crosses every aspect of our lives and not a patchwork quilt of federal, state, and private regulation and policies (that’s a different story, though).

Why More People Are Turning to Bitcoin to Purchase VPN Services

The popularity of anonymous currency has seen significant growth over the past several years.  It offers a variety of benefits, but privacy tops the list.  This makes anonymous currency the ideal solution for anyone considering a VPN service primarily for privacy reasons.  Bitcoin is a unique type of digital currency.  It is inherently public because every transaction is broadcast throughout the entire network.  On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to associate a Bitcoin identity with a real-life identity making it an excellent way to preserve online privacy.

How Does Anonymous Currency Provide Real Privacy Protection?

The first question most people ask about anonymous currency is why it is different from other types of digital currency.  There are several unique characteristics which allows Bitcoin to remain more private than other popular types of digital currency.

  • No Bank or Bank Account is Required

The biggest reason Bitcoin is able to provide anonymity is because Bitcoin accounts don’t need to be tied or authenticated with a bank account.  Most digital currencies require the user to authenticate their account by tying it to a bank account which eliminates any potential for privacy.  Plus, anytime a bank account is used there are certain government regulations related to personal data which can undermine privacy.  By not requiring a bank account, Bitcoin bypasses these types of government regulations.

  • Choosing the Right Currency Exchange is Critical

Even when using Bitcoin, it is important to choose the right currency exchange service.  Some larger currency exchanges are now requiring users to authenticate their account.  This is especially true for users which convert their digital Bitcoin currency to physical currency.  Once physical currency is brought into the picture a whole new set of government regulations come into play.  Many of them are related to currency and account tracking which also undermine using digital currency anonymously.

The Benefit of Using Anonymous Currency to Purchase a VPN Subscription

People who use a VPN service primarily for security purposes rather than to enhance online privacy are less concerned about using anonymous currency.  At the same time, a growing number of new VPN users are focused primarily on preserve their online anonymity.  It is this group of individuals who are turning to anonymous currency.  When preserving personal privacy is the highest priority, combining anonymous digital currency and a VPN service is the ideal solution.

The Hardest Part is Finding VPN Services Which Accept Bitcoin Payments

The most common difficulty to overcome is finding a VPN service which actually accepts Bitcoin payments.  Since Bitcoin is so decentralized and unregulated, many merchants are wary of accepting it.  As a result, consumers have a difficult time finding the right VPN service.  Fortunately, there are a growing number of VPN services which have begun accepting anonymous digital currency, even though they can be difficult to find.  To find the best VPN services which accept Bitcoin take a look at the list below.  These services not only accept Bitcoin, but also go to great lengths to maximize the privacy protection of their users.

Company
# of Countries
Monthly Price
Visit
Private Internet Access
12
$6.95
TorGuard
8
$5.95
BolehVPN
9
$10.50
Mullvad
3
5€
TorVPN
???
3€