How to stay anonymous on the Internet in 2024

OCTOBER 27, 2022 PRIVACY & ANONYMITY EXPERT OPINION
The best way to stay anonymous on the Internet
Every day we use many devices to go online, and every PC and smartphone that we use collects our data and sends it to websites that we visit. This data includes, e. g, your geotag, device description, its technical parameters, and other data that allows websites to identify you by the device you’re using, and even ban you for the slightest website policy violation. This article will tell you about eleven most popular and effective ways to keep your data private, mask your IP address, stay anonymous online, and bypass bans.

TOR Browser

TOR (The Onion Router) Browser directs a user's Internet traffic through a network of servers called nodes. Each node encrypts and forwards the data to the next node. This procedure is repeated three times. The last server, known as the exit node, decrypts the data before sending it out. By routing traffic through multiple nodes, TOR changes the IP address, so that websites do not know the visitor's real address.

However, TOR does not encrypt messages sent online through other applications or software on the device. Because traffic passes through three nodes, the connection speed in TOR is significantly lower than in a regular browser. It is not possible to download files, stream videos, or access certain websites using TOR.

DuckDuckGo Search Engine

Traditional search engines store user queries and personalize results. Unlike them, DuckDuckGo does not store users' personal information, their IP addresses, or search history. Even if someone, be it a hacker, government agency, or advertiser, wants to obtain data about your actions, DuckDuckGo won’t be able to disclose them.

By default, the search engine enables HTTPS encryption to protect the Internet connection and prevent eavesdropping. DuckDuckGo also offers built-in tracker blocking to prevent advertisers from tracking your online behavior.

The search engine uses its own web crawler, DuckDuckBot, to index search results from various sources without collecting user data. As a result, all DuckDuckGo users receive the same answers to identical queries, regardless of their location, search history, or government censorship.

Incognito Mode

Incognito mode allows you to visit websites through a regular browser without saving search history, cookies, or information entered into forms. This data is deleted after the person closes an incognito tab.

Incognito mode is suitable for situations when multiple people use the same device, such as in an office or at home. Another use case is accessing a social network on someone else's phone. However, websites still see the user's IP address and other device parameters. Internet service providers and network administrators (for example, at work or in a university) can also find out which pages you visit.

Ad Blockers

Ad blockers, such as uBlock Origin and AdGuard, are installed into the browser as extensions. They are based on filters, text files with lists of rules. When a user visits a site, the ad blocker analyzes the page's code and determines what to display and what not to. For example, if the filtering list contains the word “banner,” the user will not see website elements whose URLs contain “banner.”

If a person is not shown ads, advertisers cannot obtain user data. Additionally, in such cases, their device does not download unnecessary files that may contain viruses. Ad blockers also speed up page loading and reduce bandwidth usage by removing unnecessary content.

Messaging Apps for Encrypted Communication

Signal and Telegram, among other anonymous messengers, use end-to-end encryption. This means that information is encrypted on the sender's device and remains encrypted as it passes through the application's servers until it reaches the recipient's device. Even in the event of interception, encrypted messages cannot be decrypted by fraudsters, internet service providers, or application employees because they lack the necessary keys.

Anonymous messengers often feature automatic message deletion after a certain period of time. You can even set a timer so that messages are erased immediately after being read. This function additionally protects information in case attackers gain access to the device.

However, it is important to note that some applications store metadata such as IP addresses, phone numbers, and information about with whom and for how long a user communicates.

Secure Email Services

Providers of secure email services, such as Proton Mail and Tutanota, use end-to-end encryption for emails. It operates similarly to anonymous messengers, allowing only the sender and recipient to read the message. Anonymous email clients also employ other security measures, such as two-factor authentication, for additional user data protection. Unlike popular email clients like Outlook and Gmail, they do not scan the content of emails or sell customer data to advertisers.

If you do not want to switch to another email service, you can use a browser extension like Mailvelope. It will encrypt outgoing emails so that only the recipient can read them. However, keep in mind that the recipient also needs to install the extension to decrypt the message.

Encrypted Storage

Secure storage services like Tresorit encrypt your data before uploading it to the cloud. Encryption keys are stored locally on your device, so only you have access to your data. Even if the service provider is compromised, no one can access your data.

In secure cloud storages, files are exchanged as in regular cloud storages. Some services allow you to set a password for a link, limit its expiration date, restrict the number of downloads via the link, prevent taking screenshots, etc.

Anonymous Cryptocurrency

Some coins, such as Dash or Monero, focus on transaction privacy. They use various technologies to encrypt the sender's and recipient's data, as well as the transfer amount. As a result, it is impossible to trace where the money came from and where it went. However, encrypted transfers may take longer than usual, and the fees may be higher.

VPN

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a secure connection between a user and a server that allows the user to bypass local restrictions and remain anonymous. The data transmitted over a VPN connection is encrypted, and this is one of the easiest ways to anonymize your traffic.

However, there’s a drawback to this technology: sometimes your data can leak into a publicly accessible network. If your VPN client doesn’t immediately and automatically re-establish a secure connection when it’s broken for one reason or another, a user might simply not notice that the connection is no longer secure, and their data is being leaked.

Moreover, VPN users are often faced with slow Internet speed: additional encryption takes time, and traffic often has to travel large distances because the VPN server is far away.

Proxy servers

A proxy server is an intermediary server that functions as a middleman between a user’s data and endpoint servers of Internet resources. A proxy server allows you to browse websites with a certain degree of anonymity, as the data passes through several servers located in different parts of the world. This in itself makes tracking your IP address more difficult.

Using a proxy can be enough if all you need is to hide your real IP and/or location: e.g., when you need to access websites and services banned in a given region. However, many websites track more than one hundred parameters, besides the IP address, to identify users. This means that often just using a proxy server to stay hidden online will not be enough.

Learn more about proxy types here.

Multi-accounting browsers

Multi-accounting browsers, sometimes known as anti-detect browsers, spoof (substitute) the real digital fingerprint of the browser and device, replacing it with another regular fingerprint. Moreover, these browsers allow a user to work with multiple profiles, creating for them different digital fingerprints that do not overlap. This means that using a VPN service or a proxy server together with a multi-accounting browser ensures complete anonymity and prevents bans for using multiple accounts.

Octo Browser allows you to completely spoof all connection parameters that are tracked by websites and create a completely new and unique digital fingerprint, which will make you indistinguishable from other users. Using Octo Browser you can create hundreds of unrelated and untraceable accounts on one device and in one browser.

Another advantage of Octo Browser is that it is powered by Chromium, the same kernel that the most popular browser in the world, Google Chrome, uses. Octo Browser is as simple to use as the browser you’re currently using, and it offers high speeds of non-anonymous browsers.

Users requiring several profiles are best served by working with their own proxy servers bought separately from proxy server providers. Using a quality proxy server guarantees you absolute anonymity.

Anonymity and Privacy: What's the Difference?

The words anonymity and privacy are often used interchangeably, but in reality, there is a difference between the concepts. The term privacy primarily relates to data and the level of control over it. For example, a person stores passwords in a password manager, and only they have access to it. In this case, it can be said that their passwords are private or confidential. On the other hand, anonymity pertains to identity. An informant of a journalist can be anonymous. They provide information, it gets published, but the person themselves remains unknown.

Conclusion

Anonymity today means not only data protection, but also a way to effectively conduct fine-tuned marketing and market research campaigns which require professional instruments, such as Octo Browser.

FAQ

Is it possible to stay anonymous on the Internet?
Yes, you can maintain online anonymity by being cautious and using dedicated tools. Each of the services you’ll need to protect your privacy works differently and is suitable for different tasks. You can use encrypted messaging apps for communication, anti-detect browsers paired with proxy servers for web surfing, and anonymous cryptocurrencies for financial transactions.
Is incognito mode really anonymous?
Incognito mode does not save browsing history, cookies, or data in forms, so it can be used if you want to hide your actions from other device users. However, incognito mode does not hide your data from websites, and the network administrator and ISP will still know which online resources you visit.
Which method is the safest?
Anti-detect browsers are considered the most reliable tools for maintaining online anonymity. Unlike other tools, they replace the device fingerprint, and not just its IP address, as proxy servers or VPNs do. As a result, websites accessed by a user of an anti-detect browser cannot identify them, and therefore cannot reveal their identity. At the same time, online resources do not suspect that the visitor is using an anti-detect browser and not a regular one, as their fingerprint does not stand out from the crowd.

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