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Internet Anonymity – How you can stay safe online
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by Rob Williams on August 3, 2005 in Security, Windows

Have you ever felt the need to remain anonymous, while surfing on the internet? Even if you are doing nothing wrong, it may be something to consider. In the article, we give great starter tips on how you can get on the road to anonymity.

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Some Proxies may not be as reliable as one would hope, though. Before you completely trust a Proxy, you will want to run some tests to see if your originating IP address can be traced back. One easy solution, is a website I like, called All-Net Tools. Here, you can run the Proxy test, and it will do it’s best to get your real IP. If you go there now, you will see that it can give you your IP address and domain information, usually containing your ISP name. With good Proxy software, it should not be able to give any information of your real IP address.

So, without getting too technical, running your information through a Proxy server is the first and best way to protect yourself from minor threats. How does one get such access to a Proxy? You may be surprised to know that there are numerous programs available for this exact use. Some are free, some are not. From experience, I have found commercially available Anonymity programs to be more reliable for the most part. Not just with Anonymity, but with speed as well.

I mention speed, because that can be one downside with running a Proxy. Because of that extra layer of protection, the Proxy must first download the information, then forward that information to you. In a real life case once again, it would be the same as somebody telling a random person a piece of information, then that person telling you. It eventually get’s to you, but at a reduced speed. Of course though, when your desire is to remain anonymous online, this is hardly that much of a problem.

I will include many links at the end to some programs and websites you can check out and play around with. The performance of various proxies will vary depending on your location and possibly by your browser choice, so it’s best to test out a few and find out which you like the most.

Within a few days, we will be publishing a review on the two top Anonymity programs, Anonymizer 2005 and Steganos Internet Anonym. I’ll get more into those in the review, but I’ll touch bases here. Both programs essentially do what is mentioned above.. they will contact the server you requested, grab the info for you, then pass it along They both do it quite reliably. These are both commercial programs though, and only Steganos allows you to test before buying.

If there is a moment in time though, where you need to quickly visit a website anonymously, you can jump over to a website that provides the service for free. Anonymization.net allows you to type in the URL you want, and it will grab it for you anonymously. I have always found the service a little slow, but it’s completely free and works well. It also will block the javascript on the given website for more security.

One last thing to note is, that the more remote the server, the more secure you are likely to be. If authorities wanted your IP address from the Proxy server admins, it may not be very difficult if the server was in the US. If you connect to a Proxy in a very remote Country, they would have a much more difficult time getting it. Tools like Sam Spade can tell you what Country the Proxy you are using is in.

Now that we have the Proxy basics out of the way, we can move onto other ways to help protect yourself, even while offline.

Spyware, Adware and Trojans

If you want even better overall anonymity, there are other steps you will want to take.

Spyware is no doubt one of the most prevalent and annoying problems ever to hit computers. Spyware in general, has the ability to gather information on your computer, such as your IP address, web pages you view and even what you buy online… then send it back to a server for analysis. This is a complete invasion of privacy if there ever was one. The sad thing is, that countless people have Spyware and various Trojans in their computers, and not even know it.

A fantastic start to combat spyware, is to give up on Internet Explorer. I have said this hundreds of times before, and I will say it again: if browsers were Religion, Internet Explorer would be the Devil. On average, 31% of our visitors use Firefox, according to our stats software, while Internet Explorer is used by 61.6%. Internet Explorer is well known to allow spyware onto computers even without permission, which is why it’s hard to know that it’s even there in the first place. So, the first step is to download Mozilla Firefox or Opera, which are both very good and secure browsers.

It’s funny how many people tell me that they don’t use Internet Explorer, but instead use a browser “based” on Internet Explorer. The real key, is to use a browser that’s as far away from Internet Explorer as possible. Enough IE bashing for now.

I personally use four different programs to check for both Spyware and Trojans: Lavasoft Ad-Aware, SpyBot: Search and Destroy, Microsoft Anti-Spyware and finally, Moosoft Cleaner.

The reason to use more than one Anti-Spyware program, is because that during in-depth tests, it’s been made obvious that not one program can detect all potential issues. I’ve many times run Ad-Aware then SpyBot, and them each find many unique pieces of Spyware. SpyBot in itself seems to be more ‘picky’ than the others, which is a good thing because it finds more.

The Cleaner from Moosoft is very in-depth, which is why I love using it. It takes a lot longer than the other software I mentioned, but that’s because it does a more hardcore search for Trojans and Spyware. Of the programs mentioned, this one is the only one that charges money to register. It’s worth it though, if you really want to remain on top of the problem.

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