Go Private – Online Anonymity……

21 Jan

Why Go Private……

There are many reasons you may want to keep your communications and surfing habits private.  These include:  Preventing companies from collecting data regarding which sites you visit and what you buy.  If you are politically active and feel that there is a threat from your government watching you and to those with whom you communicate.  To circumvent any restrictions placed on the sites you want to access by repressive governments (as in the case of China and North  Korea). 

NB:  I certainly do not advocate the use of anonymity software for illegally accessing child pornography or extreme violent pornography.

How to Achieve Anonymity……

There are several routes to internet anonymity.  They have differing degrees of security depending on your needs.  Some are pretty simple, others a little more complicated.  Depending on the level of security you require dictates the system you should choose.

One of the simplest is a program called “TOR”.  TOR works by routing the information you send and receive through a network of other users.  It effectively bounces your data across the world from one computer to another, then another and so on, until it finally arrives at its desired location.  Where your data is sent is dependent on the number of users connected to the TOR network but with thousands of users there are enough portals to accommodate the data spread.  TOR also updates and re-routes its connections regularly (default is 10 minutes I believe).  Although this method is not encryption and does not offer complete anonymity, it is useful for stopping all of the market research companies from tracking your movements and bombarding you with “special offers”.  It is also useful for anonymous blogging if you post through TOR and, anonymity is enhanced if you use the time delay functions on your blog server.  That way, any patterns relating to the timing of your posts becomes variable.  This stops patterns from becoming obvious in situations when you post at the same time everyday say, when you get home from work.

TOR is easy to install and set up.  Using Mozilla Firefox as your browser enables you to install a button to switch TOR on or off, as required.  It offers a world map showing the route your data is taking and the interface is easy to use and self explanatory.

There are only 2 downsides which I am aware of.  Firstly, your internet data transfer rate slows down a little as it takes slightly longer to go around the world and a small amount of your bandwidth is allocated to other users sending data via your portal.  Secondly, you may not be able to access some local geographical services due to your connection appearing to be from outside of your locality.  The only time this has affected me is using Channel 4 catch-up TV, as the terms of their copyright only allows them to show programs in the UK……

More Secure Options……

There are a number of encryption programs, the most popular of which is PGP (Pretty Good Protection).  The name was given by its creators with caution but it is actually Pretty Unbreakable Protection.  PGP is quite complicated but in essence the idea is quite simple and works with a “lock and key” arrangement.

To simplify; imagine the person you’re sending your message to has the key “3”.  This means they move each letter of the alphabet along by 3 positions, so A becomes D, B becomes E, D becomes G etc.  So, “Hello” becomes “Khoor”.  PGP does the same thing, only using binary and the key is a very complicated algorithm.  It is estimated that it would take 1 billion years to crack a PGP code at current computing speeds. 

For further information and downloads:

How PGP works: http://www.pgpi.org/doc/pgpintro/

PGP Freeware Downlaods: http://www.pgpi.org/products/pgp/versions/freeware/

TOR Information & Downloads: https://www.torproject.org/download/download.html.en

I hope you find this update useful and happy private surfing……

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2 Responses to “Go Private – Online Anonymity……”

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes January 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Hey, this is great. I bought a MAC only last August – is there a special program for a MAC : it uses Safari. Just wondering.

    Thanks – interesting as always!

    • Steve Walker January 23, 2012 at 11:33 am #

      Hiya, good to hear from you, hope all’s good with you. You can use TOR or PGP on Mac or PC. I would think TOR will probably be okay for you & it’s dead easy to use. The link on my page takes you to the download….

      Steve…x

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