Anonymous Surfing Software - What's the Difference ?
Anonymous Surfing Software
There's a whole range of different software to download and buy which promises to protect your privacy or help you surf anonymously. To be honest it can be extremely confusing but I'd like to try and explain the basic areas of software which claims to make you anonymous.
There are two distinct areas of this software, those that protect your data and browsing on your own PC and those that protect your browsing online. Let's take the first category initially, those products that help protect information on your home PC.
Home Privacy Software
When you browse the internet on your home PC, a huge amount of information gets recorded and logged on your PC. History of web sites you have visited, cookies, urls, images are all stored and cached locally, now the main reason for these is to customise your browsing and make it easier. Cookies help remember usernames and other information from your browsing session on that computer but it is definitely a huge impact on your privacy.
If you share the computer with someone it is fairly simple to spot there browsing patterns and the web sites they have visited. Many of us will have experienced the issues of being logged on automatically to a website we've never visited before. It can get annoying when you are trying to buy surprise presents and gifts for those people.
This generic group of anonymous software is usually called privacy something, or evidence eraser or similar. The software completely wipes out all your surfing records from the PC you are using, wipes cookies, removes histories and some of the advanced stuff actually 'shreds' these details preventing an IT person recovering the data when deleted.
If protecting your privacy from someone who shares your computer is your main priority this is the area you need to be looking at. However you should also remember that nowadays lots of browsers are building in their own privacy functions which perform much the same function IE8 and Firefox both have advanced privacy modes and Google Chrome has an 'Incognito mode' which removes all evidence from your PC quickly and easily,
Online Anonymous Software Protection
In my mind by far the biggest threat on our privacy and why it essential to maintain our anonymity is the online invasion of snoopers, hackers, government surveillance and a myriad of others who covet our online data.
When we visit a web site, view a move or download something we leave behind a huge trail of personal data which is directly linked to our computer and hence us. Initially every thing we do is logged at our ISP logs - this is an exact copy of everything we do online, and I mean everything. These logs are regularly accessed by Governments and agencies to check on our activities for various reasons. Next we leave trails and evidence in every server we pass through, and finally the website we visit will record a huge amount of data about us in their own logs.
HTTP - the Cleartext Protocol
This wouldn't be so dangerous if we had some sort of protection but we don't. Our browsing all takes place in clear text using HTTP, therefore it is instantly readable by anyone and everyone. Your ISP can easily provide a list of every web site you have visited, every picture you've looked and and everything you've downloaded , in fact they are forced to keep this data by legislation in Europe and many other countries. By default we have absolutely no privacy or security online, an extensive profile is being built up of every single one of us who use the internet regularly. It's no wonder people want to surf anonymously with so many people spying on us.
Online Anonymous Software
To protect our information online, many anonymous software programs tend to focus on anonymous proxies. These are servers that sit between our browser and the web sites we visit, the idea is that logs on the web sites we visit have no record of our IP address just that of the Proxy Server we use. This is indeed an important component in maintaining your anonymity online, and these proxies are extremely important. However there is also a great danger, when you use a proxy server you are in fact creating another log on that server of your web browsing so you must trust this service.
Many anonymous software programs simply scan the internet for free anonymous proxies and redirect all your browsing via these.
This is Very Dangerous !
Free anonymous proxies are all over the internet but many of them are accidentally misconfigured servers or worse hacked servers run by identity thieves. They know they can pick up and intercept your browsing is you use these servers which they use to steal your data, passwords and credit card details - DO NOT USE THEM !
It is important to choose anonymous software that runs private controlled and secure proxy servers, that way your data and logs are secure and deleted quickly.
Anonymous Proxies are only Half the Solution
They protect your logs and identity from the web sites you visit but they do nothing to protect your browsing in transit and being logged completely at your ISP. This is the most worry for many of us concerned about privacy online, the ISP is the most complete record available of your browsing, countries across the world are all accessing this data regularly - the UK Government is only one of many preparing to transfer this data to a single database so that agencies can access this information regularly.
To protect against this serious invasion of privacy, then you must find software that actually encrypts your connection as well. This prevents people intercepting and your ISP logs will be completely unreadable, the common solutions are SSL and SSH being used to encrypt your connection. Check that this technology is being used by the anonymous software you use and in case you've forgotten stay away from FREE Anonymous Proxies !
More Information on Anonymous Browsing
- BBC News - Snowden leaks: US and UK 'crack online encryption'
US and UK intelligence agencies reportedly crack technology used to encrypt internet services such as online banking, medical records and email.
- Anonymous Surfing Software
If you are interested in downloading a free demonstration of the best Anonymous Software I found.