Have you ever had the feeling that someone is watching over your shoulder as you type in your credit card details to pay for that item you just purchased? While there might not actually be someone standing right behind you there might as well be if you haven’t taken measures to remain secure and anonymous online. So the question we are going to answer today is how to stay anonymous online?
It has never been as important to stay safe and secure online, not to mention anonymous. Hackers and ISPs have eyes on the internet, which means you are being watched all the time.
There are ways to make it almost impossible for hackers to get hold of your personal information. There are also ways to browse the internet anonymously so your ISP cannot see what you are doing. Here we look at some of the most common options.
Use a VPN to stay anonymous online
One of the best ways to browse anonymously is to use a VPN.
A VPN is the shortened term for Virtual Private Network.
A Virtual Private Network not only keeps whatever you are doing private, it is also a great tool for additional security. It can work alongside virus and malware software on your computer to provide you with an extra layer of security. This makes it impossible for hackers to obtain your personal information.
How a VPN allows you to browse securely?
A VPN essentially puts a virtual tunnel between the World Wide Web and your computer. This provides the answer to remaining secure and to the question of how can I browse anonymously.
Before any information leaves your computer, it travels along the tunnel and is encrypted using military grade AES encryption.
This means that your personal information is encoded and has to be decoded once it reaches its destination. If a hacker were to come across the information, they would not be able to read it, so it would be useless to them. For instance, if you travel in Canada and connect to a public Wifi with a VPN, you won’t risk anything.
Without encryption in place, hackers could read and steal your personal information and use your credit card. In a worse case scenario they can even take over your life by stealing your identity.
How to stay anonymous with a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network provides everything you need to be able to browse anonymously online in a single app.
Whenever you browse the internet using your ISP, you are given an IP address from the server.
Anyone who wants to find out about an IP address can use a tool online to type in that address. They can then find information such as where the user is located.
Your ISP provider can see what you are doing online. For example, if you like to use Torrent clients they will know and send out a strong warning telling you to cease doing so.
If you connect to an alternate server from anywhere in the world, your connection is secure as any information passes through a virtual tunnel. This means that even your internet service provider cannot see what you are doing.
You might be located in the UK but have connected to a VPN server in Hong Kong or the United States. To anyone looking it seems that you are in fact located half way around the world from your actual location.
You can take advantage of the fact that you are anonymous and gain access to content that has been geo-restricted, such as Netflix or Amazon Video.
Now you know the advantages of learning how to stay anonymous and browse securely we will now go onto the steps needed to do that with a VPN.
How to set up and use a VPN?
Using a VPN to remain anonymous is one of the easiest and best methods out of all the ways to do so and we are going to show you how to take advantage of IP address masking using the steps below.
1. Sign up with a provider
We highly recommend ExpressVPN thanks to the provider’s offering:
- Military grade encryption;
- VPN split tunnelling;
- A Kill-switch;
- AES-256 encryption;
- A strict no logging policy.
Alternative providers include CyberGhost, NordVPN and Surfshark. So choose a provider, and go ahead and sign up with your details using the secure portal.
2. Which plan – monthly or yearly?
You are going to have to choose whether to pay monthly for your subscription or yearly.
With all providers, paying yearly is your best option as this is where the biggest savings can be made. If you do decide to go with ExpressVPN, and we highly recommend you do, you could save 49% on paying yearly.
On top of this, if you pay for a plan for 12 months you get a total of 15 months. Yes, the provider gives you three months totally free of charge.
3. Install apps on devices
In order to be able to gain access to the thousands of servers available you will need to install a small app onto the device or devices that you use to browse the internet.
There are numerous apps available and the whole family can make use of the VPN on different devices up to the limit allowed by the provider.
So choose apps, download and install them and then continue on to the last step to find out how to stay anonymous online.
4. Connect to a server
All that stands between you and a secure connection is clicking a button. Open up the dashboard by clicking on the icon left by the installation. If you have chosen ExpressVPN, the dashboard will look like the one below.
To connect to a server simply click with the mouse button in the dropdown box and choose a server from the list and click connect.
Your own IP address is now masked and you take on one from the server you connected to in whatever country you chose.
Alternative Solutions for how to browse anonymously
A VPN is by no means the only way to remain anonymous while online but it is one of the best ways and the easiest ways.
However, if you are wondering about alternative solutions to browse anonymously online there are the following ways. However, these solutions are not as easy to use as a Virtual Private Network.
Tor is marketed as being a free global network allowing you to browse the internet securely. The initials stand for “The Onion Router”.
You need to download the Tor browser, which is based on Firefox web browser.
While it may provide you with some anonymity, it is not without vulnerabilities. If you do plan to use this as a way to remain secure and anonymous it is important to understand what it is able to protect you against and what it cannot.
Therefore, Tor is a much more complex solution to remaining anonymous than using a VPN. Therefore, we are not going to take you through all the steps needed for how to set it up and use it.
One of the main downsides to Tor is that while data is encrypted, it does so when passing through the network, the encryption of your data between the destination website and Tor relay is going to depend on the website. This means that only websites that start with HTTPS are secure.
This is not as safe or as secure as using a VPN and taking advantage of the military grade encryption offered. Additionally, this won’t work at all if you want to stream online. People seeking to watch Sky Atlantic abroad or to unblock and get access to SYFY while outside of the US will not be able to use the TOR network.
Another solution to stay anonymous and browse the internet securely is to use proxy servers. Again, this is not as secure as using a VPN.
When using proxy servers the internet sees the proxy instead of your computers IP address. This means your true location is masked as the proxy provides you with an alternative IP address.
This works in a similar way to a VPN but it is not as easy to set up. A proxy does not provide you with the encryption that a VPN does so anyone looking can still see your information.
Proxy servers are confusing as there are device based ones and web-based proxies.
If you want to use a web-based proxy, you have to pay a subscription. This money would be better spent on a VPN plan as it is more secure and comes with many additional benefits.
You have to sign up to the site and use the proxy site to visit the website you want to visit by clicking on the “Visit anonymously” button.
Alternatively, you might use a system-based proxy, which means even more fiddling around as you have to go into the settings on your device and change the proxy settings, and you still have to sign up with a proxy service.
Again, we will not go into the full details of how to set it up, we will let you go down this route if you choose to use it.
You can save yourself time and confusion by signing up with a VPN provider and become secure in one single click of the mouse button after installing a small app.
A simple and primitive way of how to browse anonymously is to use a browser add-on with your web browser. There are numerous add-ons for Firefox, Chrome and other browsers.
HTTP Nowhere for example is one such add-on for Firefox that prevents users from going to sites that do not have HTTPS encryption.
Ghostery is another privacy add-on that aims to stop tracking along with blocking ads.
However, none of the browser add-ons offers the same enhanced security and encryption that a VPN does and we do not recommend them as your only source of security. However, it does not hurt to use these add-ons alongside a VPN.
The importance of remaining anonymous
It has never been as important to stay anonymous online as it is today.
There have been many instances in the media recently showing why encryption and security is needed.
Hackers can steal your identity
With the technology available today more and more people are choosing to shop online. This leaves you wide open to hackers who can steal your credit card details. If you’re trying to save money on your flight ticket, you can always follow our guide and many advice.
Combine this with posting other personal information such as your address, name, age and date of birth on social media websites and anyone in the know can steal your identity.
Freedom of speech
Another issue and good reason to learn how to stay anonymous online is freedom of speech along with movement.
In some countries around the world, there is no such thing as freedom of speech with eyes and ears on the internet tracking your every move.
In some countries, say the wrong thing online and you could end up spending a lengthy amount of time in jail.
Freedom of movement
You cannot do anything online without someone prying and this includes your ISP.
If you visit a somewhat shady website, your internet service provider might send you a polite letter asking you not to visit such sites. Buy personal items online and it is not only you that knows you have an embarrassing medical problem.
When you travel outside of your own country, you are often blocked from gaining access to the streaming websites and portals that you pay monthly to watch in your country.
Even websites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have eyes on you and know exactly where you are located. How to overcome these blocks is easy with a VPN.
These are all good examples of why it is essential to browse anonymously.
We have presented to you several methods as ways to how to browse anonymously online and remain safe.
However, out of all the different ways the most secure, and what we think is the best method is take out a plan with a VPN.
Only a Virtual Private Network offers military grade encryption coupled with the option to connect to one of thousands of servers from around the world to provide you with an alternative IP address.
It does all of this and more and all by one click of your mouse, which means once installed you are safe, secure and anonymous within minutes.
Of course, there is nothing stopping you from combining different methods, although they are not needed. However, you could use a VPN alongside the Tor browser or a browser add-on if you feel the need.
We hope we have given you some good ideas for staying anonymous and secure online and you take full advantage.
Alison has joined the team in the early stage because she wanted to share with us the experience she had while using VPNs over the last few years. As she’s travelled a lot, she tested many VPNs and wanted to share this with you. Alison cares about staying anonymous and not leaving any footprints on the internet. Therefore, you won’t have the chance to see her face ;).