How to stay private online: a comprehensive guide for beginners

Online anonymity is a precious commodity on the modern internet. While the average web surfer is a lot safer from hackers, cybercriminals, and other malicious third parties, a gullible user can still be exploited in many different ways without ever suspecting any danger.

Aside from lack of technical knowledge, the discussion on safety and privacy has taken a drastic turn in the last decade. Today, the biggest threat to anonymity comes from big tech corporations. With apps, websites, and other systems altered to maximize data collection, these businesses seize private information and use it lavishly.

One of the main data points that get extracted and stored for profiling is your IP address: a sequence of numbers that makes your device unique and identifiable in transmitted data packets. Tech giants have many systems that latch onto information that can be used to identify you. The whole situation creates a feeling of being watched, and these companies stop at nothing to profit from our data.

While information collection does not cause any direct damage to the user, over time it affects your every connection to the internet. Suddenly, even the website that you never visited before starts showing very personalized ads, as the reach of companies that track user data expands much further than just one page.

As we look at the history of the web and where we are now, it is clear that staying private is no longer possible unless you choose to go fully off-grid. However, with the help of internet privacy tools, there are ways to create blind spots in digital surveillance and regain some control.

In this article, we will discuss the best ways to fight back and regain anonymity online. As we cover the most optimal privacy tools, you will learn how to use them simultaneously for the strongest effect. For example, if your public IP address is banned on a page you want to visit, you can find a website unblocker to hide your identity and continue browsing. As you take a closer look at these apps, you will see that most of them use a VPN or a proxy server to change your IP and the information attached to your connection requests. If you are looking for a good website unblocker, Smartproxy is a top provider in the proxy server industry that also works on complex privacy tools that benefit from an IP change. But more on that later: let’s take a closer look at effective privacy solutions and their use cases.

Hide your connection with a different user-agent

If we zoom in on web connections, our devices send HTTP requests to connect to websites. In their header, the recipient can see your IP address, the main component of a digital identity, but that’s not it. HTTP requests also have a user-agent – a text element that provides information about your browser and operating system.

While presenting this information during each connection might seem excessive and unsafe, there is a good reason for adding user-agents.

Because popular websites receive traffic from many different users and devices, they have to create and maintain a lot of versions of the same page to make sure that everyone can view the content in comfortable conditions. A user-agent informs the web server about its browser and operating system so it can pick the best possible variant for the connection.

Of course, this noble necessity for this data also has a dark side. Most tech companies collect as much information about your connections, and the consistent appearance of an identical user agent makes it easier for them to keep track of you, even if other data about the connection changes.

Fortunately, you can change this information with a user-agent switcher. They usually come as browser extensions, and even the slightest adjustment will keep your connection much safer.

VPNs

VPNs, also known as virtual private networks have become a go-to option for many web surfers that look for a private browsing experience. Instead of sending your data directly to the web server, VPN connections encrypt web traffic before it leaves your device, creating a tunnel between you and a remote server.

While VPN use results in slower internet speed, VPNs let you change your IP address at will. However, their main downside is the small number of servers for millions of users, which makes connections less stable and unpredictable.

Proxy servers

Proxy servers are a simple but very effective solution for hiding your IP address, or even using multiple addresses at the same time. Modern companies use robust proxy networks to automate many different processes without risking exposure and main IP ban.

Proxies for peer-to-peer communication

An utopian idea for many web privacy enthusiasts, there is an idea that if everyone shared their IP address as proxy servers, our devices and browsing sessions would become infinitely harder to track. Peer-to-peer (P2P) IP sharing creates secretive residential proxies, and top providers pay good money for users that are willing to share their IP addresses. That being said, it is better to use other proxies and not give up your IP since you can never know how the other party will use your digital identity.

Thankfully, there is a tool that already uses P2P communication for maximum secrecy – the ToR browser. With the help of onion routing, it uses volunteer servers as relays to encrypt and bounce your connection until it reaches its destination in secrecy

Summary

In 2023, online anonymity is a precious asset that must be protected at all costs. Instead of running an unprotected connection where third parties can steal your data, you can use proxy servers, user agents, or ToR browser connections for a safe and private browsing experience!

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