What is Anonymous Surfing?

Fri, Dec 26, 2008


Anonymous browsing is simply browsing the World Wide Web with most of your identity hidden. This is primarily done through what is known as an anonymous browser based proxy. These are the websites that you can use to input the address of the web page that you wish to visit, and the service will take you to that website with information such as the location of your computer and the IP address hidden from the web page. For example, when the user tries to access something on a certain part of the web, the proxy will talk to that file as an ambassador of the user, maintaining the privacy of the user. The practice of anonymous browsing can also maintain the privacy of the user from potential loggers spying on the user’s connection.

Effectiveness of Anonymous Browsing

As anonymous browsing also lets the user bypass restrictions placed in the Internet Connections such as a simple firewall, it is a widely used technique. It is especially often used in schools and offices where there are heavy restrictions on web pages that are and are not accessible. Students will anonymously browse to gain access to social networking websites blocked by the school’s tech office, which deemed the sites as harmful to the students. Office workers will also anonymously browse as this can help them bypass the restrictions set by the employers, or to not leave behind any tracks in case that the employers are monitoring their Internet usage.

Risks With Anonymous Browsing

Although anonymous browsing seems to be the solution to complete anonymity, it can potentially be harmful. This is because by the user anonymously browsing, they are using an anonymous proxy, which does not encrypt data when it is sent to the proxy server. Thus, important information such as logins, passwords, and credit card numbers could potentially be recorded and leaked by a proxy server administrator who has malicious plans. Users that are constantly looking to anonymously browse could also fall into Internet traps where web pages display a wrong security measure, which the user might believe and give out too much information. This could lead to an even greater disaster than non-anonymous browsing, as the proxy server itself and any proxy chains attached to that proxy server can see all of that user’s information.

Features to Look For in a Web Proxy Service for Anonymous Surfing

A good web proxy service will setup a TLS or SSL tunnel with the anonymous surfer. This will prevent network sniffers from eavesdropping on the person who is anonymous surfing.

Some proxy servers support FTP, while others only support HTTP. Some, but not all, anonymous proxy servers support HTTPS. Make sure to select an anonymous proxy server which support the protocols you want to use.

In addition to hiding your IP address, an anonymous proxy server will typically remove traffic such as:

* Cookies
* Scripts
* Pop-ups
* Banners
* Referrer information

These options should be configurable by the end-user to enable to proxy server to work with web sites which require cookies or pop-ups.

Web Proxy Services for Anonymous Surfing

Anonymous web proxy services tend to be somewhat unstable, the list of current anonymous web proxy services changes constantly. In addition, some anonymous web proxy services are free services and others are not. Most of the current proxy services offer some version of limited free service, and then try to upsell you to a monthly subscription.

Anonymous browsing is a very easy way to browse without needing to worry too much about information such as the IP address being released publicly. Nonetheless, it is critical to double check whether a certain anonymous browsing service is honorable or not to prevent any, potentially even worse, disasters from occurring.

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