The Computer Corner

REG COMPUTERS

By Charles Miller

Alternative Browser Gives You Ultimate Online Privacy

 

A recent conversation I had with a businessman client led to a discussion of online anonymity and some ways to achieve more of it. An unfortunate reality of the world we live in is that some other countries are governed by totalitarian regimes that impose censorship on the Internet and  monitor the online activities of their citizens. China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, and North Korea are names that come to mind. These countries are also known to actively monitor the activities of individuals, dissidents, and opposition parties outside their borders.

So my friend who does business in some of these countries has a valid reason for preferring not to be identified as someone who visits opposition websites, even if that is just for informational purposes. He does need to read the news and stay informed, but better to do that without getting his name on the lists kept by the secret police in certain countries. In an effort to be anonymous, he was using a virtual private network, more commonly known as a VPN.

Unfortunately, the purpose of a VPN is to provide security and not anonymity. Using a VPN is what you should do when doing online banking, because the bank needs to know who you are and where you are, and the VPN can actually make this easier for the bank to do. But a VPN does a poor job of concealing your identity.

A better solution is one that is also free of cost. The Tor Browser is available from the Tor Project website at www.torproject.org. The Tor Browser is used in place of Internet Explorer, Safari, or Chrome browser you now use but does not necessarily replace it. The Tor Browser routes all your Internet browsing through the Tor network so that your apparent geolocation bounces around the globe, making it appear that one minute you are in Hungary, then two minutes later in Australia, then maybe in Japan or Chile. In other words, it is exceptionally difficult for websites you visit to track where you are really located.

However, when using the Tor Browser, be prepared for some web pages not to work as they usually do. For example, if you try to use the Google search engine, you will receive a message reading “Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. Please try your request again later.” English translation: “Google is an advertising company, so we want to know who you are and where you are. Using the Tor Browser prevents that, so get lost!” And do not even try using the Tor Browser to access your bank’s website, or you might have to explain why you logged in from the Republic of Kazakhstan.

But if you are among the millions and millions of Internet users who say they do not like having their online activities tracked, the Tor Browser is something you might want to give a try. There are things advertisers have no business knowing, and it really is creepy to visit Amazon.com and see that the company already knows you came there looking to order hemorrhoid medications.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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