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How To Stay Anonymous Online

 

 

As for the title of this article, yes, pun intended. When I first started exploring online chat rooms and learning more about how the internet worked, I have to admit I was rather naive to it all. I remember watching an online video which led me here to Anonymous. This video, in part tells people to ask for help remaining secure and private online. In the spirit of this message I write this article.

We all hear about the NSA and government surveillance or hackers lurking in the shadows. For some people, the internet can seem like a scary and intimidating place. Do you want help feeling safer online? Do you want to be unafraid about making an online purchase? Would you like in interact and learn with people from all around the world without feeling spied on by some unknown powers at be? If you are like many people you have suspicions or hesitations online, but here are some tips from the professionals on how to help you stay anonymous on your journey.

Step 1. Use a good firewall software for your computer. A good firewall software you can use is a high-end built directly into Kaspersky and Norton Internet Security (2013). Also, using Kaspersky or Norton, you are getting spyware protection and live website protection to protect you from unsafe websites.

 

Step 2. Purchase a hardware firewall. You can get them for as little as $50+ from a pawn shop (if they have any) and up from there. This will help in protecting not only your computer, but if you hook it into your internet connect before your router/modem, it protects all of your networked devices.

 

Step 3. Utilize a VPN connection. VPN (Virtual Private Network) actually simulates your computer as if you are logged into the network from another location. a good VPN company to use is from IPVanish. They offer SSL as well as VPN connections.

Step 4. Once you have completed steps 1-3, now you need to get a more secure browser than IE, FireFox, Chrome, etc. I am talking about the Tor Network. Tor is one of the leading web browsers that also comes with another VPN connection and keeps your website viewing privatized. Tor is 100% free and safe to use.

How can you further protect your privacy interacting as anonymous online? Invent an alias, a surname if you will, with a name of your choice. Go and register this name with one of the big email service providers. Use this new email to register any new Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, ‘etcetera’ accounts. Be sure to clear all browser cookies before using this alias, or better yet, use a different web browser for your anonymous identity than you would use for your more typical internet activity. If you have a further need for security beyond these steps you may want look into encryption, stenography or TAILS system.

 

 

Avoiding Spam, Spam, and Spam

Beyond the obvious things—like never, EVER clicking on a link in a spam message, or even opening a spam email—the best way to avoid spam is to never let them get your address. It’s almost impossible, but there are methods to mitigate.

Number one is to utilize an alias or dummy email, which can be used with any service that requires an email address. You might be able to set one up if you own your own domain name. In G Suite, for example, you have your primary address, like bill@yoursite.com, but there’s the option to use William@yoursite.com as an alias for online sign-ups, messages to which can be forwarded to the main address. When spam begins to collect, change or kill that second address; there can be up to 30 aliases per individual.

Gmail is a little more straightforward: to make an alias, you just append something to the user name. Turn bill@gmail.com into bill+alias-name@gmail.com. Once the alias in question accumulates spam, you can filter it right into the trash. Here’s a video on how to do that in Gmail:

 

In Yahoo Mail, there are Disposable Addresses (under Settings > Security), which are similar to those used by Google—there’s a base name then a secondary keyword appended, like bill-trash@yahoo.com. Outlook.com also supports aliases, up to 10 per account. Look for “Account Aliases” under the Account settings, to create them. And if you have your own domain name, check the control panel at your Webhost—they’re likely to have tools for creating aliases galore.

If you only need an alias for a short time, a disposable address is very handy. Free services like Airmail, GuerrillaMail.com, and Mailinator create an address you can check for just a short time.

 

Social (Network) Security

Should you care about security when it comes to social networks like Facebook? One word: Duh. Facebook isn’t exactly an altruistic non-profit. It makes money by having lots of users looking at lots of ads. That occasionally means making your data available to questionable entities. Plus, you might not want all of your “friends” or their extended networks to know all of your business, right?

There are several steps you can take to regain some Facebook anonymity. First, on a desktop, go to the Account menu in the upper right and select Settings, then click Privacy on the left. You’re going to want to click the “Edit” link on every choice on this page to personalize just who can see what, who can friend you, even who can look you up by phone number or email address. And you can make sure your posts are not spidered by search engines.

You can get as granular as you want, making sure, for example, that old boyfriends or girlfriends don’t see your posts—even the old posts. Click on the Lock menu and perform a full Privacy Checkup to see who can see what you post, apps you’ve granted access, and more.

 

 

 

Also under Timeline and Tagging, ensure that you don’t get tagged in images or posts without your express permission. The Blocking section is where you can create the Restricted List of your friends who can see your content, and block users, apps, and invites you don’t want.

Finally, inspect your contact info. Go to your General Account Settings, and again click “Edit” next to every entry. Double check the email address and phone numbers you’ve entered. Minimize the list of who has access as much as possible to maximize anonymity.

This week, Facebook added support for physical security keys, which typically take the form of USB dongles that use the Universal Two-Factor standard, or U2F. If you have one, you can now use it to log in to Facebook just by tapping it after the site asks you for your username and password.

If you need out of Facebook entirely, delete the account. Deactivating it leaves your data on the site for your potential return. Go to this page and follow the instructions. It’ll deactivate your account for two weeks, just in case you really, really, really didn’t mean it. After that, it’s gone. However, even then, some digital photos may linger.

On LinkedIn, go to the Settings icon of your face in the upper right and select Privacy & Settings. In the center, under the Profile tab, you’ll see Privacy Controls.

 

What about Twitter? There’s the obvious: don’t list your website or real email in your profile. Make sure your password is different from that of any other site. That’s good advice across the board, but we know people don’t follow it. You should with Twitter, which has had some security breaches in the past. You also have the option, under Settings > Security and Privacy, to protect your tweets, meaning only those followers you approve get access to them. Protected tweets aren’t searchable, aren’t retweetable, and you can’t share permanent links to them with non-approved followers.

That said, you’re fooling yourself if you think using social networking (or making any post online) is 100 percent safe—all it takes is an “approved follower” to take a screengrab of something you say and share it with the world for it to get out.

If you’re worried about getting tracked as you surf, it also behooves you to sign out of the above services, as well as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Apple when you’re done using them. Otherwise, the ad servers and cookies and so forth that are run by them or their affiliates will pretty much know where and when you go online at all times. Not signing out is a pain—and exactly what they’re counting on.

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