Saturday, March 5, 2011

Anonymity on the internet: Tougher than you think

The internet provides an imaginary wall of protection for some. But you really aren't as secretive as you may think when you are online. Unless you have been living under a rock  for the past 22 years, you should know what an IP address is. It is a footprint left specifically by you on the internet wherever you interact with something. If you are doing something shady or just simply want to protect yourself from other IP address related problems there are ways to protect yourself. The first major way is a web proxy.

A web proxy is an internet site that you access with an internet browser. The proxy server will then relay information that you tell it to (through a URL) back to the server, and then back to you. You can imagine it as a ping pong table. Your connection lands on the table, hits the other paddle, and comes back to you to hit again. A list of web proxies can be found at proxy.org - the proxy authority. Some web proxies are unreliable or may not relay information back to you in a desired fashion. Images may be unreadable, website layout may be different, and some sites may be completely unaccessible. The next step up from a web proxy is Tor.

Tor works almost the same way as a proxy and it does the same job (How tor works). When you download the Tor browser bundle back you will run the initial installation processes. Tor will begin working when you click the Tor browser button or use Tor button in Firefox. Tor can be configured in Google Chrome and I assume internet explorer as well. Here is how to do it:
1) Run the Tor browser
2) After the connection is set, start google chrome or your browser of choice.
3) Go to the tools menu or the wrench option.
4) Click "options"
5) Navigate to "under the hood" on the top.
6) Click "change proxy settings.
7) Click LAN settings.
8) Check the box under "proxy server"
9) Under address put "localhost" and the port will be "8118"
10) Congratulations. You are now running TOR in Google Chrome.

Random Information

With any proxy you may notice a delay in the amount of time it takes information to get relayed back to you. This is made more apparent if you have a slow internet connection. If you can access a proxy you can also access sites that are blocked by most blocking softwares. Proxies can be used to evade bans, but due to the large number of people that use proxies that server may already be banned from your destination.
Additional Options
Linux users can use Openvpn to remain anonymous. Read more about it if you are interested.

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