As LastPass recently faced a possible security issue, and other top-notch companies keep falling prey to security breaches, some of us, users, may want to think twice before trusting our personal information. But since it’s usually after some database has been hacked that we realize this, it doesn’t hurt to start effecting changes in our often overlooked surfing habits. Not all our habits are dangerous but some could potentially cost us our credit card information or worse.
A good way to protect our information on the web is to surf the web anonymously, like using Google Chrome’s Incognito mode. To go incognito full-time though, you may want to take a look at the following anonymous web browsers.
Tor or The Onion Router is, according to its own site, “free software and an open network” that basically defends you against network surveillance or traffic analysis. To allow anonymous surfing, this open-source tool re-routes network traffic through Tor nodes, which are Tor-running computers owned by volunteers from all over the world. Not only does Tor bring anonymous internet surfing to your browser, it can also hide your country of origin for any application, prevent websites from tracking users (and their physical location) and help users bypass websites blocked by their Internet service providers (ISPs) or government.
The Tor Browser Bundle includes Mozilla Firefox, which is usually fairly fast, but with Tor, it will be a little slow as all traffic needs to pass through different Tor nodes before being displayed on your browser. Other than Tor being a bit slow, which is inevitable, Tor also blocks websites with flash content and that require browser plugins, like Java and ActiveX, since these can be manipulated into revealing a user’s IP address. The rewards can totally outweigh these drawbacks though.
If you’re ready to try Tor, like our former WordPress guy, Jorge, said, you should probably use the Tor button to switch Tor on when you actually need to access a website anonymously. Also, note that while the network traffic between you and the Tor network is anonymous, the connection between the last Tor node and your final destination cannot be encrypted by Tor so always proceed with care when communicating sensitive information.
SRWare Iron [Cross-Platform]
If you regularly use Google Chrome, but aren’t so comfortable with Google knowing your every move on the Internet, you might want to try SRWare’s Iron web browser. Both Google Chrome and SRWare Iron are based on the open source Chromium project, so you’ll notice few differences. On the internal side, Iron, of course, has disabled Chrome’s information-collecting features, such as URL-tracker, error reporting, etc. which Google needs to improve our favorite search engine. Aside from internal differences, Iron works pretty much the way you’re used to in Chrome. Chrome extensions and themes will also work on Iron. To check it out in Windows (portable version available), head to the website. If you’re on a Mac, you can download Iron here. Linux users can go to this thread.
Abandoned Web Browsers: Ghostzilla & OperaTor
Ghostzilla is a dated web browser program for Windows that doesn’t exactly hide your typed addresses but it does make your web browsing session very inconspicuous as it stations itself inside an active program window. As you type web addresses on Ghostzilla (which uses the Mozilla browsing engine, hence the name), it loads websites in a transparent layer, and shows single images in black and white. Additional images will only surface if you hover your mouse over. Please note that even if you use Ghostzilla, your school or company will still be able to log websites you accessed.
OperaTor (v. 3.5) is a software bundle that combines the acclaimed and portable Opera browser, and Tor. OperaTor is actually no longer maintained, but you can still try it by following the directions in this post to replace OperaTor’s old Opera 10 browser with the new version.
In addition to these somewhat older browsers, there are also other types of software that can help you attain anonymity online: Proxy software. We have discussed a few of these applications, such as Toonel, JAP/JonDo, and , which can help you reach sites like Hulu outside of the US.
If you would rather not download anything, you can make use of websites that facilitate camouflaged web surfing, anonymous search engines that do not record your IP address, such as Yauba and Startpage, and web-based proxy services, like AnonyMouse.
What anonymous web browsers do you use to stay hidden on the Internet?