Some people think that they are on the web they are relatively anonymous internet surfing. I’m afraid nothing could be further from the truth, when you request a web page all the information is passed to your web browser in clear text, your IP address is left in the web server logs and it would be relatively trivial to find out who and were you lived from that information from your ISP.
I’m afraid there’s more, your employer will have a full and exact list of all websites accessed, how long and when they were accessed. I have sat in security meetings with huge charts displayed on the wall with the exact web sites that employees have accessed during the previous month and I can tell you there are some amazing sites! Do these people know they can be traced I suspect not as they certainly wouldn’t be surfing those sort of sites at work if they did.
Anonymous Internet surfing by default simply doesn’t happen but it is possible. The most basic way of protecting your identity is to use an anonymous proxy to hide your IP address when you are surfing. Your communications can still be intercepted as the majority of that web traffic is in the clear but it’s less likely unless someone is deliberately targeting you, the main benefit is that your IP address is not left in the logs of the web servers and your web browsing will remain more private.
This is where many people make a really big mistake, this is what usually happens;
- User decides they want keep their surfing anonymous
- They search the internet for information and discover about anonymous proxies
- They look for a list of free anonymous proxies and find one near them
- They add the anonymous proxy settings to their internet browser and feel much more secure and private!
Unfortunately as is often true, anything that is free on the internet often comes with a hidden cost. Our privacy seeking internet surfer is indeed now masking their IP address from web servers they visit, all the logs will store the IP address of the proxy server as that is what is actually visiting the web site. The Proxy server is then passing back all the requests back to the user, all the users web traffic now goes through this proxy server.
Of course many hacking groups realise the value of proxy servers for privacy and it is why you’ll often find these lists prepared by hacking groups themselves then carefully allowed to drift out onto the internet by various means. Our hapless surfer may come across one of the many lists which are riddled by hacked servers which have had proxy servers installed onto them (usually without the owners knowledge). These servers specifically are monitored and data logged – you are in fact sending all your web traffic directly to a bunch of criminals or hackers, not such a great idea.
This really happens and more often than you think so please if you are going to use an anonymous proxy, make sure it is legitimate and the owner can be trusted. Don’t just use a free one you found on an internet list – not only will you have a limited anonymous internet surfing capability, you could very well be sending all data to a bunch of Eastern European Identity Thieves.
Of course there are commercial and secure services that can secure your identity and protect your privacy. I use a service which completely encrypts my who data stream with a US Military grade cipher (AES) and then uses a selection of high speed private proxies to make my browsing completely secure and anonymous and also safe from anyone who tries to eavesdrop.