The importance of security, no matter where you are, whether it’s on the street, anywhere you go, or on the internet. Most cybercrimes happen on the internet, and it’s important not to reveal your identity in any shape, form or fashion. This includes telling people where you live, or telling people your IP address which is the equivalent of telling people where you live, because the wrong person you give it to could potential mark you as a target. Using Geo-location and smart tracking, your IP address is pretty much your door number. 288.382.4.11 (Example of an IP address) on the internet basically means house number 64 in this neighbourhood, in this city, in this country. Beware of criminals on the internet, take security with serious caution. Which brings us to our topic of discussion, Internet Anonymity.
Some people know how to play it smart, and don’t reveal anything personal about themselves on the internet, besides a screen name. This may not be enough however. A thief, or someone who has a grudge on you, may know how to track you down from the internet, which brings a serious real-life concern.
Hiding your IP address when associating yourself in situations you might feel are bad is extremely important, Like when visiting a bad website filled to the brink with malware and spyware, or conversing with potentially dangerous people, your IP address tells them the important stuff about you, not a whole lot, but enough to make you a potential victim. As I said earlier, your IP address basically screams out to the world “HEY, MY IP ADDRESS IS 288.382.4.11, AND THIS IS WHERE I LIVE!!”
Proxy Servers and VPNs
Before I get to actually showing you how to anonymize yourself online, you must first understand the basic concepts of what you’re going to be using.
A Proxy, or often referred to as a Proxy Server, is a server, or a machine that serves as an intermediary between your computer and the rest of the computers on the internet. When connecting to one of these servers, you are lightly masking your internet footprint. When visiting a webpage, your computer sends requests to the Proxy server you are connected to, then the Proxy server processes your request, and returns back the result of what you requested. This way, websites that you are requesting cannot reveal or see the physical or external IP address that you wield. There are a number of different reasons that people use VPNs or Proxies.
- To bypass restrictions or blocked webpages from network administrators
- To loophole around a government that blocks network access to some websites that developing countries such as those in the middle east have
- Filtering online web content
- Protect and anonymize/mask your identity when surfing the web
- Hides your External/Physical IP Address from anyone who may have access to your web requests (Ties with the 4th reason)
VPNs, which we are about to discuss in a short moment, are like Proxies in a way, but in my opinion much safer. Proxy servers are most often only a single machine that your computer can connect to. Now, if the right person dedicated enough wants to find you, eventually they will. Nothing can truly 101% protect you online. Eventually with enough effort, time, power, and money invested, you CAN be tracked. VPNs, or (Virtual Private Networks) are a group of machines that act like sort of like proxies.
The group of computers are all linked together and sends requests to each other, covering the trail of the last requestee that submitted the information. Using VPNs are not difficult. There are free VPN softwares, and then there are paid versions of these VPNs. Some ISPs even offer VPNs, either bundled with your home internet plan, or include them complimentary, completely free of charge.
Although web browsing is fast, on an average network, VPNs and Proxies sacrifice speed, for safety. Your computer sends a request from your machine directly to the Website’s server, therefore eliminating the amount of intermediaries in between, therefore making the connection a lot faster. VPNs and Proxies act as multiple middle men, and of course, take a little while longer to retrieve your requested website. They sacrifice speed for safety, which in my opinion is absolutely worth it.
A lot of the time VPN/Proxy servers are provided by software that can only be used by full-fledged computer machines, technological advancements are improving by the day, and eventually software that is only achievable on more powerful machines on a bigger scale, will eventually be brought mobile.
That’s right, VPN and proxy software do exist on Smartphones now. A very popular VPN software called Hotspot Shield, specializes in just that, and in my opinion, the best Mobile VPN available. Though this is available on desktops as well, it’s not as great as it can be when compared to other mainstream and more popular VPN programs out there that provide more functionality. The Free version does have some limits, but it’s usable.
VPNs and Proxies aren’t the only type of connection anonymizing software. If a person REALLY, REALLY wants to get serious with protection, they’d arm themselves with what’s called a TOR server. TOR (The Onion Router) is an extreme version of traditional VPNs. TOR was developed by the U.S Navy, and users, including big time cybercriminals take advantage of this to generate revenue online through drugs and weapons.
Using TOR, you can access a very dangerous part of the internet which is not the internet we know of. Imagine an Iceberg. 10% of the iceberg is floating above the water, and can be seen, which is the Internet we know. We think the internet is big right? Well guess again. The other 90% of the iceberg is underwater and cannot be seen or accessed normally, unless you use TOR. The other 90% of the iceberg is called the Darknet, or the Darkweb. Feel free to read up on that and TOR, as I will not be explaining it here, it is just too complex to explain.
As I mentioned before, the power of VPNs have been ported to the mobile world. Smartphones have access to these Applications simply by downloading and running them. Feel free to head over here to the Google Play Store to download HotspotShield for Android. iOS users can find this on the App Store. Using this app is very simple, just run it and press connect, and you will automatically be connected to a VPN Server in no time. Your web browsing activity and data is now being masked and hidden from websites. They can no longer see the real IP address of where the request connection is coming from, only the details of the server machine that is making the request.
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