The digital age has led to many great advances in communications; however, it has also brought on a new age of spying and snooping. Most of us are no strangers to the frequent news stories of governments, secret organisations and underground hackers breaking our privacy but how can you combat this?
Boosting Your Anonymity with Mint
While it’s virtually impossible to become totally anonymous online, you can take measures to ensure our privacy is at its best.
Step 1 – Starting with the basics, use HTTPS instead of the standard HTTP when browsing. This means that anything that’s transmitted over HTTPS is secure (hence the S part at the end) and encrypted.
Step 2 – When you’re browsing, consider using the Incognito or Private browsing modes available in a browser. This disables your web history and web cache, allowing you to browse without the details being stored for later scrutiny by someone else. However, it doesn’t stop any data or search tracking.
Step 3 – Although using Google may seem like the obvious choice for a modern Internet search, the company does track all searches made by an individual. Instead, consider an alternative search engine, such as DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t store personal data or track you.
Step 4 – If you’re regularly on the Internet then consider installing some of the browser plug-ins that enhance your privacy. For example, for Firefox, use Ghostery, NoScript and Adblock Plus to block trackers, adverts and other data mining techniques.
Using VPNs and Tor in Linux
The previous steps can aid your online privacy but to really become anonymous you need a Virtual Private Network and Tor.
Step 5 – A VPN is a remote server, or cluster of servers, that establishes a connection with your computer. The end result is that your computer’s identity on the Internet is hidden behind the VPN remote server; so you could live in the UK but have an IP address (the computer online identity) belonging to Iceland.
Step 6 – Most good VPNs charge a monthly or annual fee but it’s worth the expense. We use CyberGhost, www.cyberghostvpn.com, which offers VPN connections for Windows, Mac, Mint (as well as other Linux distros), Android and iOS devices. Details for each OS can be found at https://support.cyberghostvpn.com/hc/en-us.
Step 7 – Another option is to use Tor. Tor is an open network that you can attach to that hides your IP address behind countless nodes around the world. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers and is very easy to install and use. Start by navigating to www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en and clicking on the Download Linux 64-bit button.
Step 8 – When the download has finished, drop into the Terminal and enter the Downloads folder, cd Downloads/. Enter ls to check the tar.xz Tor file is present, then enter:
tar -xf tor-browser-linux64-8.0.4_en-US.tar.xz
(Tor is updated regularly, so if your version is different press Tab to autocomplete the tor-browser- filename). When the files are unpacked, use:
to enter the new folder.
Step 9 – Enter the command:
which reveals a couple of entries: a folder called Browser and a file called ‘start-tor-browser.desktop’. To start the Tor setup, type:
This command launches the Tor setup, where you are offered two options: Connect or Configure. For most users, the Connect option will suffice. Click Connect when you’re ready.
Step 10 – After the connection is established, the Tor Browser launches. This is a customised version of Firefox and from here you can securely browse the Internet without fear of being viewed or tracked. Mixing both a VPN and Tor makes for an extremely secure and private connection to the online world.