Online privacy has become a top concern among millions of Internet users both here in the U.S. and abroad. Each time you visit and/or interact with a website, you send sensitive data through your ISP and to the respective server. This data can be picked up and used for malicious purposes, such as making online purchases with your credit cards, wiping out your bank account, creating new lines of credit under your name, etc. The good news is that you can protect yourself from such disasters by anonymizing your Internet activity.
Virtual Private Networks
A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to mask your real Internet Protocol (IP) address while simultaneously encrypting your data. If you're in a coffee shop, for instance, and want to prevent prying eyes from snooping on your traffic, you can connect to a VPN and then connect to the shop's WiFi.
The only real downside to masking your web traffic with a VPN is that it will likely slow down your connection. With all things considered, however, this is a small price to pay for the peace of mind knowing that you are browsing the web anonymously.
Another way to anonymize yourself online is to use a proxy server. Much like a VPN, it acts as the middleman between you and the Internet. If someone attempts to check your IP address while you are connected to a proxy, he or she will see the proxy's address instead of your real address. Unlike VPNs, however, proxy servers do not encrypt 100% of web traffic, which means they are able to accept thousands of connections at the cost of lighter security.
When given the opportunity, opt out of websites' programs that collect, store and use your personal data. The truth is that most people are completely oblivious to how their information is being used. Taking a proactive approach will reduce the risk of identify theft and malicious attacks.
Google even allows its users to submit a request to remove their phone number, physical street address, and to opt out of Google Street View.
What About Bitcoin?
Some people assume that purchasing products and services online using the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin gives them a veil of anonymity, but unfortunately this isn't the case. Even if you mask your IP address using a VPN, Tor, etc., there's still a record detailing the transaction. Whenever Bitcoin is transferred between two parties, the transaction is recorded in a public ledger known as a “block chain.” Granted, this doesn't necessarily mean that your name and/or address will be on display, but Bitcoin transactions can be traced back months or even years to determine its source of origin.
Using a service like TOR instead of your internet browser will anonymize all your connections online. No more will websites be able to track what you do, where you go, and collect personal data on you. If your wondering what TOR is, go ahead and read our article on it here.
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