How to browse the internet anonymously (11 easy and effective ways)
Concern for internet privacy has become an ever-increasing trend as most people seek to browse the web anonymously.
Internet service providers, browsers, search engines, hackers, and governments are among the parties continually monitoring what we do online. Even incognito browsing fails to provide the anonymity we need when browsing online.
That said, several ways exist to prevent these parties from tracking your online actions while hiding your identity. With 2021 being a more technological year, browsing anonymously can seem impossible under any circumstances.
Nonetheless, if you want to stay anonymous online, this guide comes in handy to know effective ways to protect your web anonymity.
Ways to browse the internet anonymously
Whether you want to stream, surf, or download anonymously, there are fitting ways to keep your online experience private.
These methods play a vital role in preventing websites and browser plugins from tracking your IP addresses. You could also avoid geographical locations, device identification, browser, and operating system detection. Without any ado, here are effective methods to stay anonymous online:
1. Use a VPN connection
Today, VPN (Virtual Private Network) has become a standard tool to safely and anonymously browse the internet. Once your device connects to a reliable VPN server, your connection becomes secured and private. The software uses unique protocols, offering encryption to all your online traffic, making your data inaccessible by individual parties.
Having a robust VPN connection also hides your IP address because the tool allows you to use an IP address from the VPN server.
Typically, IP addresses are unique numbers used to identify internet connections and often reveal user location and identity. Hence, a VPN tends to hide your IP address, making those monitoring your online activities only to see the VPN server’s IP address. Any website you visit will never see your IP address, in turn hiding your location and identity.
If you need to surf or stream content, either in school or at work, anonymously, a VPN is an ideal option for you. This software helps you to remain anonymous whenever you are without compromising your privacy. The best part is that top VPN providers never log your activity on any website you visit. For this reason, they guarantee private browsing through their safe and secure VPN connections.
By deploying a masked IP, the VPN enables users to secure connections that ensure any third-party can no longer trace their online behavior. But truth be told, not all VPN providers promise and deliver the anonymity you need.
Some of these VPNs may fail to guarantee the safety and privacy you need. Therefore, it is crucial to consider trusted and reliable VPN providers only. And here, the prime factor is considering a VPN provider with a zero logs policy.
A zero logs policy is vital in ensuring the VPN provider does not register your online action hence unlikely to provide any evidence regarding your online activities. However, with many VPN software out there, it can become tricky to determine the most trustworthy provider. Below are some VPN services that we recommend after thorough testing.
NordVPN is the ideal VPN as a whole if you wish to surf anonymously online. It is an easy-to-use VPN software with numerous servers available globally. With this, you can readily choose any server that suits you best and browse the web with little difficulty. NordVPN also helps you to download torrents and even use streaming services such as Netflix. More so, NordVPN boasts responsive customer support to resolve any queries from users.
On top of typical VPN functionality, the provider boasts added security features, too. For instance, if you need to visit an HTTPS alternative for a specific HTTP website, NordVPN will automatically redirect you to the safest version of the website.
That enables you to browse the internet anonymously and safely anytime without fear. Among the advantages of using this VPN are its high-quality features available to users at a low cost. You can go through our detailed NordVPN review to learn all about it.
This is one of the most trusted VPN providers, denoted by its large number of servers worldwide. ExpressVPN offers robust security options that apply to all your devices once you subscribe.
The VPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android operating systems and suitable for those who love surfing, browsing, and downloading from the internet. With ExpressVPN, you can concurrently work with up to five devices when you connect to the internet under a single subscription.
ExpressVPN is very user-friendly as it involves a few clicks, installing the applications, and connecting to a secure server. The app will run in the background, enabling you to browse and stream as usual. Besides, you are unlikely to notice any changes though you remain safer and more anonymous. Feel free to read our in-depth review of ExpressVPN for more details about this VPN service.
Why I cannot use a free VPN
Alongside paid options, there exist several free VPNs, allowing users to browse the internet anonymously. However, free VPN providers rarely guarantee the safety you seek when aiming for totally private browsing.
It is always recommended to consider paid VPNs as most free VPN providers are unreliable when it comes to private data security.
Some free VPN services may even record your browsing activities and sell the data to third parties. Instead of a free VPN, opt for a cheap but reliable VPN provider to remain anonymous and secure online.
2. Choose the right browser
Can you be completely anonymous online? This is an issue that most people ask, but the answers lie right where they are.
Browsers are another excellent option for browsing securely and anonymously. However, different browsers accompany individual degrees of guaranteeing user privacy and safety.
It is important to pay close attention and pick only the right browser for all your internet activities. Luckily, some secure browsers exist today. Below are a couple of well-known web browsers for security and privacy available today;
Mozilla Firefox stands out among the mainstream browsers when it comes to valuing user privacy, facilitated by its multiple security features.
The browser accompanies protection against phishing and malware, including giving users a warning automatically if a website needs to install add-ons. Firefox also includes useful extensions that make it very secure in the protection against tracking and privacy breaches.
Notably, Firefox is open-source, a unique product module where users can check the code making up the Firefox’s software. This shows that Mozilla tries to prove its transparency while accompanying built-in add-ons, solely for Firefox. The browser has done its part to provide user safety, especially when vising any website anonymously.
Users can also make some advanced tweaks to the browser to make it even more secure, feel free to read more about strengthening Firefox privacy and security in our detailed guide on the topic.
Apple’s browser, Safari, seems to have made critical improvements to its privacy terms lately. The introduction of new features to stop digital fingerprinting and Intelligent Tracking Prevention has made it secure and private.
Digital fingerprints being removed means that other parties are unlikely to follow the track of your online activities when using Safari.
On the other hand, the Intelligent Tracking Prevention automatically removes first-party tracking cookies placed by websites in the browser after seven days. Such an approach prevents websites from tracking visitors for a prolonged period, offering protection to user privacy.
Safari also thrives in enabling useful extensions to improve user online privacy.
With Tor browser, users get the best experience to browse anonymously. Tor (The Onion Router) is an exciting option for users because it offers an encrypted and anonymous communication browser. The browser works similar to mainstream browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, and Safari but allows users to remain anonymous when browsing.
Tor contains thousands of servers worldwide and encrypts any data traffic sent. The process involves breaking down data traffics and sending them to different servers before reaching their destinations. Thus, this encrypted browser tends to be slow, but nobody can see what you do online.
The best part concerning the Tor browser is that it only encrypts what you do online by protecting what goes through the browser alone. Tor also allows users to access sites on the dark web, but you should proceed with caution. However, due to the risk of this unregulated part of the internet, using a VPN and Firefox browser comes in handy.
3. Browsing with a proxy
Determining how to be completely anonymous on the internet also involves using proxy servers to safeguard your privacy and user data.
With free proxies, all you do is send a piece of request information to the proxy server, and it then sends the data to the website at hand. The website only recognizes the IP address of the server but not yours.
Unlike VPN encryption, it is easy for the website to unravel your IP address and online traffic when on proxy servers. This is because proxy servers lack the level of encryption offered by VPNs. Other parties will also monitor what you do through the proxy’s IP, while a VPN prevents them from knowing your identity.
Most people consider proxy servers an alternative to VPNs despite lacking advanced security features. Specifically, proxy servers only prevent particular online restrictions, and this is where they are most convenient. When it comes to security against traffic data and user privacy, consider your most preferred VPN provider.
4. Consider changing your search engine
Specific search engines such as DuckDuckGo are great alternatives to Google, Yahoo, and Bing when you need to browse anonymously.
Anonymous search engines allow users to search different terms, including links, without any traces. Standard search engines like Google often collect user data.
Contrarily, DuckDuckGo and other privacy-focused search engines never keep any user history; even the website you visit will not recognize your search terms.
Still, the website will know that you visited the page, usually registered with your IP address. DuckDuckGo allows you to search the web with more anonymity than a regular search engine.
DuckDuckGo rarely offers optimized searches due to a lack of adequate budget and human resources like Google. Nevertheless, it is recommended for those focusing on privacy. This search engine offers similar results to google based on the search terms.
For this reason, DuckDuckGo stands out in offering truly anonymous browsing. Trying this private search engine can therefore help you keep your privacy secure. Another great alternative to DuckDuckGo is StartPage, which also is privacy-friendly and delivers real search results.
5. Incorporate the right browser extensions
Several browser extensions exist today that can enable you to maximize online safety and privacy. These extensions are typically easy to install and use. Adblockers, password managers, and VPN browsing extensions are among such addons.
You can also find specific addons and extensions in your respective browser’s store to minimize tracking. Simply search with phrases like “ad blocker” or “anti-tracker,” and you’ll find multiple options there. Ensure that you read readers’ reviews and comments about those addons. Below are two such top browser extensions we can recommend.
Privacy Badger and Ghostery
Both of these browser extensions are tested to work for detecting and blocking third-party tracking cookies. Once you install Privacy Barger and Ghostery, you tend to block third parties monitoring your online activities. These are excellent extensions for you, more so when it comes to your privacy.
6. Be cautious of big data and tech companies
Let’s face it; Facebook has continually shared user’s data with different advertisers. This is why various groups get well-tailored ads based on their interests on individual Facebook feeds. The trend has become even worse, with Facebook now tracking what you do when not using this social media platform.
For example, if you are looking for vehicle insurance, you will likely see various relevant ads on your Facebook feed. Though the company allows you to change this in their privacy settings, you will still see other ads. They will continue to spy on you and collect your information even when you turn off their tracking.
Like Facebook, Google also allows turning off add personalization, but they will continue to track and collect your data. Generally, these big companies continue monitoring their users regardless of the settings to disable such practices. Using a VPN and related methods can help users fight big data privacy concerns and browse anonymously online.
7. Use private internet connections
Whenever you visit different coffee shops, airports, hotels, and other public areas, you will likely find open WiFi. It is provoking to use such connections, but unprotected WiFi hotspots accompany countless perils. Most malicious actors target such stations and steal personal data or compromise private information for users.
Some tend to monitor the user’s internet usage or plant malware in the connection, providing means to access your traffic data. Ideally, you can consider using a VPN and other safety tools to help you browse safely and privately in unprotected connections.
You can also consider a personal LTE hotspot or modem tethered to your device’s LTE connection via cable or Bluetooth.
Can you be completely anonymous online when using a public hotspot? The short answer is NO. But using a tool like a VPN helps you protect your connection. A VPN tends to encrypt your connection while hiding your data from snooping eyes. Using a private internet connection hence enables you to browse the web anonymously.
8. Try BugMeNot
The internet carries a staggering amount of information, which at a time can become hard to access. This comes in the form of some sites demanding to create an account before you access certain information. In such a case, the website requires first-time users to set a password and provide some personal information.
BugMeNot.com is an internet service that offers registered passwords to protected websites regardless of the site you need to access. Using this site, all you need to do would be to enter the URL of the site you need to access and search in its database. BugMeNot will provide a particular credential that you can use to access your desired website without creating an account.
However, using this site is a hit-or-miss thing because it may fail to provide valuable information regarding the platform you need to access. BugMeNot is a handy service when you need to access specific anonymous websites on the web. But keep in mind that it can disappoint at times.
9. Have an anonymous Email account
When BugMeNot seems to disappoint, and it is necessary to access protected sites, you can try an anonymous email account.
Giving your email address to every other website out there means you are ready to receive endless junks of emails. It is essential to create an anonymous email with either Tor Browser or VPN on to set an account without any visible connection.
Let the new email be entirely separate from your personal or business email account and without any link. Gmail and Outlook are likely to ask for identification, so we recommend going with email providers such as TorGuard Email and Mailinator. They work the same but with a different domain address.
Mailinator is a free disposable email address where you can create without visiting the provider’s site. When accessing protected sites, you can quickly make up an email via inserting any username and including the Mailinator server address at the end. The email address will become active, and you can use it to access protected sites.
Since Mailinator has no signups or passwords, it can become problematic when one user chooses the same username. This means that you can see the other user’s emails, and the same thing happens to both users.
TorGuard is a VPN provider that also prides itself in providing anonymous emails. TorGuard’s anonymous email service, PrivateMail.com, has become an excellent solution for users seeking full-featured and less temporary emails, unlike Mailinator. When you register, the email comes with a 10MB offshore storage account and a paid monthly or yearly plan.
Users get an option of choosing a unique username and either one of its five email domains. It also comes with secure payment methods such as Bitcoin and PayPal to keep user data private. The email service offers Self-Destructing Emails, OpenPGP encryption, among other features.
SEE ALSO: Best secure email providers
10. Use anonymous digital currency for payments
Users often make online payments when purchasing products such as antiviruses and VPNs. Making payments via bank transfer or credit cards compromises your privacy as it leaves a digital trail that leads to your location.
Even if you are paying for a safety tool such as a VPN, using anonymous digital currency is crucial.
Moreover, given the every-rising digital threats, using standard payment methods is not safe because they are linked to your personal email address, phone number, or even business address.
The use of Bitcoins, Gift Cards, and other digital payment methods helps make your payments private. Here it’s worth noting that Bitcoin payments remain untraceable to a greater extent, while gift cards are great if you have trust issues with digital currency.
11. Use I2P
Invisible Internet Project, commonly referred to as I2P, is an anonymous, decentralized network allowing users and applications to browse anonymously. The software will enable users to send a message as a group but through different nodes. Though it offers the anonymity you need, the network uses an elaborate tunnel that works best with the Tor Browser.
The prime benefit of using I2P is that it applies in all activities than traditional VPNs as it uses different nodes, tunnels and sends multiple packets. It is also compatible with most programs such as torrents, games, browsers, and other P2P tools. This tool has a sheer number of users despite not being that popular as Tor and other VPN providers.
From the article, it is no secret that different ways exist today to help you stay anonymous while using the internet. Some of these methods seem more effective than others, but all these forms are useful when used correctly. If you need to stay away from the prying eyes of scammers, government agents, or other malicious actors, the tips mentioned above will help. Below is a recap for you:
- Always use a VPN when going online
- Consider browsers that offer in-built add-ons and extensions to anonymize your web browsing
- Use Tor Browser to keep third-parties away from tracking your traffic data
- Integrate a proxy server to access the web without revealing your IP address
- Access the web using trusted private browsers
- Install browser extensions to block websites from spying on your traffic data
- Opt for using private internet connections (such as mobile data) or VPN when in public WiFi hotspots
- Consider services like BugMeNot to access free but protected sites
- Create an anonymous email address to protect your real identity
- Adopt anonymous digital payments like Bitcoin when conducting online transactions
- Secure your internet browsing experience with the Invisible internet project, I2P
There you have it. The afore-mentioned is the list of practical ways to cover your tracks while remaining anonymous online.
It is recommended that you combine ideal tools while using the most appropriate ones to maximize your internet anonymity. Begin with your browser, followed by its extensions, VPNs, and other steps that keep you anonymous throughout your internet surfing experience.
About the author
Thuranira is a privacy expert who is always excited about security empowerment through technology.