Top ways to surf anonymously

The Times of India reviews the many ways to protect your privacy on the Internet

Times of India
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Worried that someone may be looking over your shoulder -- in the virtual sense -- as you browse the Web? With the increasing cases of identity theft and other cyber crimes, cyber snooping is no longer a far-fetched thing. Using Internet can allow people to have all types of information about you that you would not want them to. The Wicked Wide Web is full of Spyware and Trojans that have the capability to not just 'freeze' your machine, but among other things, also delete your data. All that a Website may need for that is your IP address and some information about your operating system. And that is not at all difficult to get.

However, there are also a number of tools and techniques using which you can surf the Web in complete anonymity. However, anonymous surfing encompasses two forms of privacy: Privacy protection from the Website you are browsing as well as privacy protection from eavesdroppers who may be watching your network connection. Read below to know the ways you can use to surf anonymously.

Surfing through a Web site

There are a number of free Web sites that offer free anonymous surfing. All that a user needs to do is enter the URL of the Web page he wants to visit in the designated box on the site. From that point on, the surfing will be anonymous. The site does the work of using an anonymous proxy server for you.

www.behidden.com provides users with a secure way to surf and browse the Internet, without others monitoring and recording the sites visited. The site lets users untraceably browse the Internet by providing a proxy between their computer and Websites they visit and encrypting URLs. So if the office network bans certain Websites, you should be able to reach them using behidden. The service also offers anonymous emailing. The-cloak.com, ww.proxify.com, and www.anonymitychecker.com are some other Websites which allow anonymous Web surfing.

Get disposable mail addresses

There are several Websites that offer temporary e-mail addresses which disappear after a few hours, or days. Mailinator is one. It lets you invent e-mail addresses while surfing. In itself, it is not secure as anyone can read any mail to any address, but then it is not meant to be a personal account anyway. It is unlikely to exist the next week. Meanwhile, the user has been sent the password he wanted.

DodgeIt is another such site. The site lets users create disposable email accounts, so the next time they want to sign up for something on the Web, they can rest in peace that they will not be hounded by unwanted newsletters or spam from that site and its associates.

Surfing through free software

There is a large number of free software available on the Internet which users can download to surf anonymously. Anonymity 4 Proxy (A4Proxy) is a personal anonymous proxy server and anonymizing software. Once the user installs the software on his computer, it allows him to surf the Web with privacy. This local proxy server includes a database with hundreds of anonymous public proxy servers located all over the world. Max Secure AnonySurf is another such tool that keeps the user's IP, or Internet address unlisted so that he can surf the Internet without being tracked. An easy-to-use Internet activity anonymizing tool, Mask Surf Lite protects privacy by hiding or masking a user's identity while surfing. It also protects your privacy by allowing you to clean any browser traces on the PC.

One of the most popular free software for being anonymous is Tor. With Tor, user can maintain the privacy of all communications. It secures not just Web surfing, but also instant messaging and other applications which are bounced so much around a giant network of Tor servers called Onion Routers that it's impossible for sites or people to be able to track a user's activities.

Anonymous Web proxy service

With these services, you configure your browser to point to an anonymous Web proxy. These systems are public and are set up and advertised for anonymous proxy usage. Proxy servers, such as Safeproxy CGIProxy, have been around for years. These sites open another site, say ebay.com, in a proxy pane. That way, ebay won't see the user's IP address and the proxy can block ads and some cookies.

Proxify is a Web-based anonymous proxy service which allows anyone to surf the Web privately. All that a user needs to do is enter a URL in a form given on the site proxify.com. Proxify hides the user's IP address and its encrypted connection prevents monitoring of his network traffic.

Anonymous server

With these systems, you configure your browser to point to an anonymous Web proxy. These systems are published in constantly updated lists on many Web sites on the Internet. You normally do not know who is running each of these anonymous proxy servers. You hope it isn't someone who is recording your traffic.

Through browser

The Internet browser Browzar promises to be your private window on the Web. It offers users a way to surf the Internet while disclosing only a limited amount of personal information. In an attempt to protect the privacy of its users, the application does not store cookies or a history of previously-visited Websites, nor does it maintain a cache or offer to auto-complete online forms.

Downloading anonymously

For those who want to download/upload files anonymously, there are services that mask a user's PC's IP address for a small fee, while still allowing him to use large bandwidth. The cost is usually a monthly fee or the purchase of a special software product.

These P2P-friendly services include Anonymizer.com, The Cloak, and A4Proxy. There is even a special non-profit project dedicated to P2P downloading anonymity: Mute Anonymity.