Is anonymous Web surfing really anonymous?

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Old 01-31-13, 06:43 PM
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Is anonymous Web surfing really anonymous?

I don't trust "free" anonymous surfing, but perhaps I could buy software that's reliable, and fast. I've tried some free anonymous surfing, but it's very problematic, and very SLOW.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!
 
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Old 01-31-13, 07:50 PM
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Since every computer has a unique identification it is all but impossible to be anonymous on the Internet. However, using a free dial-up service (if available in your area) is pretty close to anonymous. Unfortunately, free dial-up service is not widely available and is, of course, very slow if you are doing anything but text-based work.
 
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Old 01-31-13, 08:00 PM
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The only true way to surf anonymously is to use proxy servers.
However, even they have issues.

Basically that's how the anonymous services work. You pay to use their I/P address so that yours does not appear.
 
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Old 01-31-13, 09:56 PM
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Even paid proxies are not anonymous because the connection between your computer and the proxy is not secured. Your ISP can still see (and thanks to the demands of our increasingly fascist government keep infinite logs of) everything you do. What you want is called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service.. Basically it creates a secure, encrypted link between your computer and the remote server, keeping everything hidden until it goes through the anonymizer. The key is to use one that is NOT based in the US or Canada. There are a few good ones based in Sweden and Switzerland where privacy laws are very strict and no records are kept with regard to backtracking an IP through the anonymizer. Those are the ones that can be considered 'truly anonymous' - especially if you pay with a disposable credit card/Moneypak/Bitcoins.

That said, I use one called iPredator. It's relatively fast, and it costs 15 Euros (about $20) for 3 months of access. You can ask them for a free 3 day trial to see if it works for you. https://www.ipredator.se/?lang=en
 
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Old 02-01-13, 03:14 AM
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What happens when you use something like " start private browsing" in FF? Is that anonymous?
 
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Old 02-01-13, 04:13 AM
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That VPN service sounds interesting Matt but I am thinking that between their service and your router there may be vulnerabilities so nothing really is anonymous with computers. As for start private browsing in Firefox and In Private browsing in IE there are ways to find out what that computer did if you know your way around programming and hacking. So nothing is completely private anymore.
 
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Old 02-01-13, 06:22 AM
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It's all different levels of anonymity. Clicking the 'private browsing' feature of your web browser typically disables cookies and auto-filled form fields. Whatever site you're surfing will still know where (approximately) you are located by your IP address.

Proxies and VPNs hide your IP address, since any website will see their IP address, not yours.

When you connect to sites with https (SSL), it's substantially more secure as no one between your computer and their server can see what you're sending (thus why banks, etc. use it).

But all of these security methods are able to be gotten around depending on how hard someone wants to try. As some security experts say, the only truly secure computer is one in a concrete block... not plugged in.
 
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Old 02-01-13, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by hedgeclippers View Post
That VPN service sounds interesting Matt but I am thinking that between their service and your router there may be vulnerabilities so nothing really is anonymous with computers.
Actually VPN is completely encrypted from point A (your computer or router) to point B (the anonymizer). It can use the strongest encryption algorithms available (AES, Blowfish, Twofish, etc), which is why banks, corporations, even government agencies use it for connecting one site to another. There are no known vulnerabilities in a properly set up VPN running OpenVPN/OpenSSL (vulnerability comes from viruses on the client side, improper settings and/or weak passwords). All an outside observer (man in the middle) sees along any point between A and B is an encrypted data stream (called a 'tunnel'). They can not see what is being sent through the tunnel.
 
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Old 02-01-13, 08:10 PM
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"Private Browsing" just means that your computer (theoretically) doesn't retain any log of the "conversation" in the communication with the world. If you use a firewalling router it may keep a log of connections, the sites that you visit might keep a log of connections, and any packet switches between the two might also keep records.

The only true way to be anonymous, which only works if everyone participating is truly working toward anonymity, is to have a whole bunch of computers acting as a non-logging transparent proxying network. Essentially, you establish settings on your computer that points you to a computer on this proxy network for your default route. When you make requests, the computer you connect to uses an algorithm to split the various requests that you make through other computers on the same proxy network, which then retrieve the content that you've asked for from the public servers, which reply to those proxies, forward the traffic back to your proxy, and back to you. So long as every proxy server in the network is truly set up to not maintain persistent logs then it's fairly secure, but if someone participates with the intent of thwarting the anonymity then it might not work.

But, there are other methods to break anonymity. If one has an account on a site (like this forum as an example) and has ever logged in pre-proxy-network, then it really doesn't matter if they switch to using a proxy network later. Also, ad services that set cookies can reveal a browsing pattern that could help lead back to the originator. Plus, Flash and Java have their own issues that could compromise anonymity.

I guess that the only truly anonymous way to access the Internet is to boot a computer to an OS that runs memory-resident only without using a hard disk drive, and to use a peripheral for the network connection instead of the integrated network controller, and to use someone else's network to connect through. That eliminates the MAC address of the card being known to an OS that's permanent on the machine, the OS itself isn't permanent on the machine, and if the card and computer are stored separately, then it's harder to even demonstrate that this equipment was what was used.
 
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Old 02-01-13, 08:16 PM
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Wow....some reply TWX....I can see the wheels really spinning there
 
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Old 02-03-13, 05:21 PM
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At one point I cared a lot, but at some point I stopped playing online as a l33t h4x0r and decided to live in the real world again.
 
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Old 02-03-13, 08:52 PM
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Thanks much for all the good feedback, folks!
 
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