HOW TO BROWSE ANONYMOUSLY

Anonymity: browse anonymously


I can see you hiding in the shadows over there and so can the logs of all the web sites, FTP servers and other nooks and crannies you visit on the web. The sort of information gathered by these logs and which is available to the webmasters of the sites you visit include the address of the previous site you visited, your IP address, your computer’s ID name, your physical location and the name of your ISP along with less personal details such as the operating system you’re using and your screen resolution. If someone was snooping through your dustbin to gather information on consumer trends or tracking your every move to see where it is you go everyday you wouldn’t be too chuffed would you. Well the web is no different, it’s still an invasion of privacy and a threat to security and you don’t have to put up with it.

Proxy servers: how to browse anonymously

Every time you visit a web site, detailed information about your system is automatically provided to the webmaster. This information can be used by hackers to exploit your computer or can be forwarded to the market research departments of consumer corporations who by tracking your activities on the internet are better equipped to direct more relevant spam at you. Your best defence against this is to use what is known as a proxy server, which will hide revealing information from the web sites you visit, allowing you to surf the web anonymously. These work by altering the way in which your browser retrieves web pages or connects to remote servers. With a proxy server set up, whenever you ‘ask’ IE or Netscape to look at a web page, the request is first sent through an external server which is completely independent of your ISP’s servers. This third party server then does the requesting on your behalf so that it appears that the request came from them rather than you and your real IP address is never disclosed to the sites you visit. There is nothing to download and the whole process takes less than a minute.

There are two different ways to use proxy servers and both have their advantages and disadvantages. The first method is to use a web based service.
What this involves is visiting the proxy’s home page each time you want to browse a web site anonymously. The core component of such a system is the dialog box where you enter the address of the web site you want to visit.
Each time you enter the URL of the site you want to browse via the proxy into this box, your personal information, IP address and so on is first encrypted before being sent to the site allowing you to maintain your anonymity.
Two of the best examples of this type of web based proxy service are Code:
http://www.seezin.com
and http://www.proxyfounder.com

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Obviously one disadvantage of using a web based service like seezin or proxyfounder, however, is that you have to visit the proxies home page each time you want to surf anonymously.
You could choose to select this page as your default home page, but it’s still quite awkward if you’re forever site hopping at the speed of light.


The second main ‘con’ is that you often have to put up with extra adverts on the pages you visit. These are automatically inserted into the pages by the proxy – they have to pay for service somehow. More sophisticated and convenient solutions are also on offer yet they come with a price tag.

The second method you can use to protect your privacy via a proxy server involves adjusting the settings of your web browser so that you can surf anonymously without having to visit the home page of your proxy each time.
To do this you will first need to know the name of your proxy server and the port number it uses. This information can be gleaned from either a public proxy server list or the FAQ referring to a private subscription based service.
Once you have the name of the proxy server you wish to use, select ‘Internet Options’ from the ‘Tools’ menu of your browser. Now select ‘Connections’ followed by ‘Settings’ and tick the ‘use a proxy server’ check box.
 To finish the job all you have to do now is enter the name of the server in the ‘address’ box, the port which it uses in the ‘port’ box and go forth and surf anonymously.

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Free, manual proxy servers as advertised on anonymity sites, if you can find one at all, are likely to be highly oversubscribed, and as a result the speed at which they retrieve web pages can deteriorate.
In which case you can go in pursuit of a public proxy server list and select an alternative from it, which can then be set up manually. To locate such a list you can investigate sites such as Code:
http://www.publicproxyservers.com

however, this method isn’t problem free either, so before you get too carried away and go jumping on the anonymity bandwagon there are a few things you should be aware of.
It’s very easy to use proxies to protect your privacy, but often the disadvantages of using them far out weigh the benefits.
You see, the problem is that, like the proxy servers provided, public proxies are nearly all over subscribed and so they can slow down web browsing considerably.
Digging out fast reliable proxy servers is an art form in itself and is a skill which takes considerable practice.


You could find a list of public proxy servers and then experiment with each one until you find one that runs at a reasonable speed, but this can be very time consuming and frustrating.
Instead, your search would be much more efficient if you got a dedicated program to carry out this task for you.
There are literally dozens of proxy seeking programs around which can do just that, and many of them are available as freeware.
What these do is scan the internet for public proxy servers.
These servers are then tested for speed and anonymity (not all of them are truly anonymous, even if they claim to be!) and once you find one which suits your requirements you can select it as your default proxy with the click of a button.

One of the most significant advantages of using an automated tool to locate proxy servers is that you do not have to keep editing your proxy settings manually each time you wish to try out a new one.
Instead, what you do is enter ‘localhost’ or ‘127.0.0.1’ into the ‘address’ box and ‘8080’ into the ‘port’ box of your browser’s proxy settings menu and then forget about it.


All future proxy switching is then orchestrated from within your proxy seeking software, which subsequently relays the information to your browser or whatever type of application you are attempting to make anonymous.
For those of you who are curious ‘localhost’ and the IP address ‘127.0.0.1’ are the names by which every computer on the internet refers to itself.
Here’s a good selection of links, which should help you to get started – Code:
http://incloak.com/proxy-list/?anon=4
http://www.proxifier.com/proxychecker/

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You may find that even when using these programs you have difficulty finding good proxy servers. It is for this reason that many people choose only to use proxy servers temporarily whilst doing something which may land them in trouble with their ISP, or in a worst case scenario with the law.


The most obvious example of a situation in which you would want to cover your tracks is when scanning for public FTP servers and subsequently uploading to them.
Most other net activities are unlikely to incur serious consequences so under these circumstances you can safely surf the web without a proxy.
If you’re really serious about protecting your privacy, however, your best bet is probably to invest in a dedicated, stable proxy such as the ones offered by Code:
hxxp://www.ultimate-anonymity.com

These aren’t free, but may be worth the expense if you aren’t keen on continuously switching proxy servers.

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