Digital cloaks of invisibility: how to be anonymous & secure online

Cyberspace can be our bestfriend and worst enemy.  
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You’d be surprised how many ways your personal data can be exploited as you surf the web. 

Cyberspace is our modern playground. All of us use it, but most of us aren’t literate in how it works, its numerous dangers or how to protect ourselves. Knowing how to achieve and maintain anonymity is a crucial first step to personal Internet security. 

This is particularly important in contemporary cyberspace, where visibility has become a pervasive norm. On one level, our most personal data is visible to others (via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), whether they be friends or strangers. 

On another level, we’re visible to just about every corporation and government body who might be interested in tracking us. This issue in particular is very difficult to understand without basic computer literacy. 

But knowledge and literacy are power. They allow us to exert our will on the Internet and defend ourselves against all forms of exploitation and harassment online. 

It’s important to understand that you’re not anonymous. If you don’t use encryption software, it’s obscenely easy for corporations or hackers to collect your data. Even with all your new digital anonymity toys, you’re never truly incognito — but you can be much more difficult to track.

Firefox

First things first — use Firefox. It’s open-source and not-for-profit. Other browsers (Safari and Chrome) track your data and browsing habits to make money. Once you’re on Firefox, download these browser extensions: Privacy Badger, Adblocker, Disconnect.me, HTTPS Everywhere! and Better Privacy. These extensions will make you much more difficult to track and will give you control over who’s able to watch you. 

Tor Browser

The most common way to anonymize your cyberspace journey is to use Tor Browser (https://www.torproject.org/) or a VPN. 

The Tor Browser is a free and independent Internet browser (much like Firefox) which allows you to encrypt and disguise your browsing habits. Downloading and using Tor Browser disguises your IP address to look as if you’re somewhere else in the world. The cost — Tor is very slow. But if you’re in a pickle and you need to be anonymous, this is the go-to. Be sure to read the instructions to maximize your anonymity. Familiarize yourself with ways that you can accidentally give away your identity. A good example of something not to do while browsing on Tor is to use Facebook, as it immediately reveals whoyou are.

Virtual private network (VPN)

Typically, you can buy membership to a VPN, which anonymizes your browsing by convincing host websites that the VPN accessed them, not your own computer. If you take this route, be sure to research your VPN before signing up to make sure they protect against organizations like the Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) or the National 

Security Agency (NSA). Private Internet Access and Feral Hosting are superb VPN services, according to the Safe Hub Collective.  

This is a great start to becoming familiar with proper cyberspace security. Though it’s just a start, it’s a springboard to researching other safe practices. Although the Internet disguises many dangers to the blind user, this knowledge will allow you to enjoy the full extent of your surfing without worrying about exploitation from capitalists and hackers alike. 

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