Anonymous Browsing ApplicationsThis is the 21st century, the so-called Digital Age, an age where information is more public than it is private. The sheer growth and pervasiveness of the Internet have led to additional concerns over privacy issues for a great number of people.

As we are entitled to our privacy in the physical world, why not so in the virtual one too? There are a lot of genuine reasons for why many persons wish to stay anonymous on the Internet, reasons ranging from simple precaution over personal issues, to more extreme behavior such as hiding browsing activities from a spouse and averting coercive authority.

We are not here to debate the legal, moral or ethical issues surrounding anonymity on the Internet, but merely to provide you with reviews of several methods available for you to achieve it. The programs listed here are classified as free software, and you should never have to pay a penny for any of them. After all, privacy is a fundamental right of ours, and we should not have to pay to obtain it. Indeed, if you have already paid for any of these programs, then I recommend that you demand a refund.

You will find that these programs are of the most help at internet cafes, libraries, schools, workplaces, and public or prepaid Wi-Fi hotspots, and any other frequented place where there is surely a greater need for discretion. On the other hand, depending on your reasons, they are also perfect products for use in your own home in order to prevent curious or prying eyes and even your ISP from taking advantage of the opportunity to monitor you. Although there can be no guarantees of achieving 100% anonymity online, the following free programs do a great job toward furthering that goal in the ubiquitous ether we know as the Internet.

Ultimately, anonymity comes down to two essential program elements:

  1. The Browser - this is your primary point of entry to the World Wide Web and the primary means through which others can access data about you. If you are serious about your anonymity on the Internet, it is essential that you harden the configuration of your browser to prevent it from revealing your private information.
  2. The Networking Software components that work with your browser - this is the nuts and bolts of the anonymity machine that deals with network data traffic and where to route it. Normally, our network data flows straight through the ISP on its way to and from our home networks, meaning that our ISP can easily snoop on us all the time and record everything we do. Specialized software allows us to obfuscate our network data so that it is encrypted as it passes through our ISP and so that its ultimate destination is not traceable. In other words, exactly what we communicate and with whom remains private from 3rd-parties.

There are a few types of connections which enable anonymous surfing:

  • P2P - peer-to-peer is a decentralized network that routes data through multiple peers as identifiable data pieces by location-independent keys. It is generally secure but could potentially be insecure as a peer could log information about the data passing through it.
  • Proxies - routing machines named proxy servers continuously act upon your transfer requests to forward data, allowing you to avoid direct communications with the tell-tale point of contact where the data packets usually would be handled. It is secure to a degree, though in fact routes can only be technically random and any logging of this passing data means vulnerability.
  • VPN - a virtual private network that securely tunnels all of your information from one point to another, in essence meaning your data transfer appears to initiate from a remote machine. Generally very secure but could potentially be insecure as the remote server could log information easily about the data that you send or receive through it.

With the popularity of portable USB devices increasing, it is now possible to run portable versions of software which do not need to be installed or interfere with the client machine configuration. JonDo and Tor, for example, and many other anonymity programs listed here are now fully portable and may work under restricted conditions such as being behind a corporate firewall. However, this does not mean to imply that we sanction the breaching of your company's acceptable use policy.

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