How to be anonymous online (Using a VPN)

Published 2017-03-26

If I care about one thing about being online, then it must be privacy. A common mistake I always see is that people think if they are not doing anything wrong then they do not need to be safe. That's not a good mindset to use when browsing the web. A great solution for this is a VPN.

What's a VPN and why should I care?

A VPN enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computers were directly connected to the private network. Not only does this hide your IP-address, but also your location and websites you visit from your ISP. It's also useful for browsing websites that happen to be blocked by your ISP or website administrator.

Every day you give access to your personal data to thousands of websites and services located all over the world. On the way to its final destination your data passes dozens of hops, routers and networks.

Your data can be logged, monitored, analyzed and stored by your ISP, your network administrator, a site you visit, your network peers, or even worse, a hacker.

For example, your network peers may be snooping and peeking on your private Internet activities, looking for a way to compromise you and damage your reputation. And a hacker who gave you a free access to his unsecured WiFi is waiting to take over your email account and gain access to your bank account.

Okay, this sounds scary. How can I get a VPN?

There are a lot of VPN providers out there, so I understand it's difficult to choose. (Trust me, I know. I had to do this myself.) Here are a few points that you need to consider when choosing a VPN:

  • Logging of any kind (If your VPN provider keeps logs, it is a wise decision not to utilize their service.)
  • Location of HQ (If your VPN provider is operating in a five, nine or fourteen-eyes country, you may want to reconsider. Read here why this matters. )
  • Their policies (Not everyone may want to do this, but for your privacy's sake I recommend you to check the VPN provider's ToS. Some of them may not care too much about your privacy or not at all, which is quite ironic.)

I myself use since they have proof that they don't log, but also have a lot of countries to choose a server from, a fast network and accept secure payment methods such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and PaySafecard.

If you're unsure what VPN provider you should choose, then you can consult That One Privacy Site for comparisons and reviews.

What about a free VPN?

Definitely not recommended. Free VPN's are absolutely not trustworthy and may even be more dangerous than not using a VPN at all. The most notorious example of this was Hola. Well, we all had to say "Adios" to that service. And they're not the only one.

Okay, so a paid VPN is all I need?

It's a great start, but you would need to add a few add-ons on your browser. I use Firefox for my browsing since it's open-source, but if you're used to Google Chrome, I can definitely recommend Iridium. It's pretty much Google Chrome without it sharing data to Google.

Here are the add-ons I use:

WebRTC Control WebRTC exposes your internal network IP(s), without user interaction. WebRTC will basically render your VPN useless if enabled, so let's disable this! I will never run Firefox without this add-on.

uBlock Origin is able to block tracking, malware domains, banners, pop-ups and video ads - even on Facebook and YouTube. Not only great for blocking ads, but safe as well!

HTTPS Everywhere will force all websites to load on the HTTPS protocol. This add-on requires no back end to work. Simply download, install and done.

Noscript prevents Adobe Flash, Java, Javascript and other plug-ins from untrusted sources from being executed. You can choose what runs.

So I think this concludes my tutorial on how to be anonymous online. It is however worth a mention that you will never be completely anonymous online, this is a good way to start and help to slow down malicious entities.