There could be a number of reasons why you don’t want your identity being known while using the web. You could be a drug dealer, pedophile or hacker. These kinds of jerks exist, will always exist, and are going to be using the internet whatever you do. You could also be some kind of activist, living in a country where censorship is prevalent, working as a journalist exposing government corruption, be (or be helping out) a woman trying to escape an abusive relationship…these kinds of people also exist, and outnumber the criminal community many times over. If you’re a black-hat hacker or something similar, I don’t really want to help you, but I also know there’s little I can do to stop you. This post is intended for honest people.
Not strictly speaking an anonymizing tool, but a logical place to start. All operating systems are vulnerable in some ways. Windows gets a lot of flak about this, but much of that has to do with it being so popular and, of course, closed-source. Using a temporary operating system that doesn’t use your hard drive and disappears when you shut your computer down, gets around most of those problems.
There are a variety of options, so I’m just going to go ahead and recommend Virtualbox with the Linux variant Tails over that. The idea is to boot from a USB pen drive instead of the hard disk – anybody who gets remote access to your computer will see a bare-bones operating system, instead of your wedding photos, bank statements and whatever you’re working on.
If I go any further on this topic, I’d have to write an entire book; but rest assured that all the help you need can be found online.
The Coffee Shop Method
Anonymity online means, as often as not, obscuring your IP address. Using free wifi does that effectively – anyone listening will know what city you’re in, but not much beyond that. If you are at all concerned about police or intelligence agency surveillance – and journalists even in democratic countries should be – you will also need to change your MAC address. This is easily done through the Windows registry, control panel or a tool called SMAC – I’m not giving detailed instructions, but a quick internet search should tell you all you need to know.
Virtual Private Networks
VPNs are (usually) paid services that offer an encrypted IP link to their servers. Once your traffic is decrypted and enters the “normal” internet, any computer yours is communicating with will see the IP address of the VPN, not yours. Bear in mind that governments can still subpoena logs from a VPN, depending on where the server is physically located. This can be a problem for activists and journalists, but generally won’t happen unless a real criminal act is suspected.
The Onion Router was created by the US navy, and is still used mostly by spies, diplomats, academics and other government types. Similarly to a VPN, data between your computer and the rest of the internet is encrypted (meaning that a listener can’t read it), but your communications are encrypted through several random jumps, not just one.
TOR is quite easy to use, and forms the gateway to both the Deep Web and Dark Web. I wouldn’t recommend visiting the latter, but I guess that’s up to you.
I shouldn’t even need to tell you about this, but even enormously skilled hackers have been caught out by the simplest things. Even if your internet connection is as secure as you can make it, logging into your public webmail or Facebook account puts up a giant sign as far as your real-world identity is concerned. If a connection is 90% safe, it is unsafe. Get a modern router, make sure you are using at least WEP2 encryption. Don’t use your real name as a handle unless it really is important to identify yourself, don’t visit message boards that seem fishy, don’t do searches that reference your physical location and be just a little more suspicious than you’re inclined to be.
This article was originally posted on ESIST.Tech
by Marie Miguel