Internet, Technology

Staying anonymous on the Internet

Part One

So, thanks to our wonderful, outstanding, useful, totally not-bought-and-paid-for United States Congress® combined with our Reality-TV-star president, there is a very good possibility that your online activity soon can and will be collected and sold without your express permission.

Up until now, Internet Service Providers, who can track all of your online activity, had to get your express permission to collect and sell such information. (Of course, how many people read the entire Terms and Conditions before clicking “OK.” But it was at least nice of them to ask. So it’s likely that we’ve already voluntarily signed a lot of rights away in exchange for a service.)

But there are ways to obfuscate quite a bit of your online activity. In this video, former hacker and current author Kevin Mitnick explains some things you can do to protect yourself.

Now, some of these suggestions only help protect your information and not necessarily your browsing habits. If you visit bankofamerica.com, even with secure sockets layer enabled, your ISP will still know you’ve visited the site. They just can’t see what you’ve done there. Using TOR, as also suggested in the video, would help prevent that type of monitoring.

None of these suggestions is a guarantee of safety or anonymity. They just help.

Part Two

On top of TOR, or maybe even more important than TOR, I would recommend signing up for a subscription VPN service. There are several good reasons for signing up with a VPN service, and most of these reasons are covered in this nice YouTube video:

There are several good VPN providers out there; I won’t specifically recommend one here, but there are several reviews available online. If you’re looking for a good VPN provider though, keep in mind that each one has different policies regarding the safety and privacy of your data and personal information. And different providers have different methods for configuring your Internet access as well. A lot depends on the type of equipment you use when you access the Internet. Some providers give you installation programs to install on computers to protect them individually. That means that each individual device you want to connect to the VPN must be configured separately. Some providers will give you configuration files (for OpenVPN, for example)  that you can import into all of your devices to connect them. And some routers support using configuration files to protect all of the devices on your network at once. (Usually, at the cost of speed.)

Of course, if you don’t mind that Comcast knows you’re shopping for size 37 purple underwear on amazon.com, you don’t have to do anything at all.

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