There could be any number of reasons why someone would want to be an anonymous web browser while surfing the web. Perhaps you don’t want anyone snooping into your private life by knowing what sites you visit. Perhaps you’re up to no good and you want to keep the authorities off your trail (we hope that’s not the case). The most obvious reason for wanting to browse anonymously is for security reasons. You don’t want anyone stealing your bank information or even your identity, right? Neither do we. That’s why we’d like to share how easy it is be an anonymous web browser and browse the web privately.
Anonymous Web Browser: Method #1. Free Web Proxies
Web proxies, simply put, are servers (computers) that act as a third party in between the website’s server you are trying to access allowing you to browse anonymously without relaying any information to the target server. In other words, if you don’t want someone to know you’ve been to a site, visit this server instead (called a proxy), which in turn visits the site for you and then relays the information back to you. It’s kind of like sending a friend to convey a message for you and bring back a reply so the other person doesn’t know who you are. Here’s a diagram that helps explain it a bit better (found on the Wikipedia page for “Proxy server”):
There are several other uses for proxy servers but they happen to be an awesome tool to help Internet users browse anonymously. Simply put, there are two different types of web proxies: one replaces the way your browser connects to the internet so that all of the information is routed through the proxy and allows it to be an anonymous web browser; the other is a web site which you visit when you want to browse anonymously.
Proxy servers tend to come and go, so find a website listing that tries to keep up with working proxies. For instance, check out proxy4free.com for quite the extensive list of web proxies and you’ll be sure to find one that works. TryCatchMe.com worked fine for this test. Once you’ve found one that loads, you’ll find a box someplace on the site where you can enter a website you want to visit and browse anonymously.
The request for the site will then go through the third party site (the proxy) and allow you to view the site anonymously.
While you surf anonymously via a web proxy, you’ll notice that the URL in your browser’s address bar is another site that doesn’t even come close to resembling the site you’re viewing. You can also see the URL of the site that you’re browsing anonymously somewhere in the browser window. Most web proxy sites have some variation of this which shows you exactly what’s going on. Be happy that the middle-man server is disguising who you really are.
There are also several other sites that provide quick and reliable proxy server connections:
Anonymous Web Browser: Method #2. Use VPNs
Another way to surf anonymously is to use a VPN. You can either set up your own VPN server or use a commercial one like HideMyAss or BTGuard. While a proxy will allow you to surf the web anonymously, a VPN will connect all of your applications (instant messenger, email client) securely through the VPN service. As a result, all of your data is routed through a secure server and the target host will know nothing about you; thereby making you an anonymous web browser.
Anonymous Web Browser: Method #3. Incognito/Private Browsing
Every web browser has a special anonymous browsing mode that will prevent it from storing browsing history or cache on the computer. This method of anonymous browsing allows you to browse privately without leaving any trace of your activity on the local computer and is generally used to “cover your tracks”.
On Google Chrome, it’s called Incognito mode and can be activated by going to the File menu and selecting New Incognito Window. The browsing window then turns blue.
On Firefox, it’s known as Private Browsing and can be activated by going to the Tools menu and selecting Start Private Browsing. You’ll then notice that Private Browsing remains in the title bar.
On Safari, go to the Safari menu on a Mac (the Gear icon in Windows) and select Private Browsing. There will be a Private Browsing label in the address bar indicating that you are now browsing anonymously.
Anonymous Web Browser: Method #4. Secure Browsers
In addition to the methods stated above, there’s one more way to make you an anonymous web browser; that is to use a secure web browser that you can carry around. Both of the followings secure and anonymous web browsers are cross platform, so they will operate on Windows, Mac and Linux. Plus, they are portable, which means you can load them on your thumbdrive and use them anywhere.
SRWare Iron (Iron, for short) is a free, open-source, secure and anonymous web browser based on Chromium so it offers exactly the same features as Google Chrome. It comes with a built-in ad-blocker and more importantly, does not provide reporting, information-gathering and tracking capabilities so that you can web surf anonymously without being tracked.
The Tor Browser Bundle utilises the Tor network coupled with a pre-configured browser called Aurora (based on Firefox) to allow you to browse anonymously. By sending your requests and data through the Tor network, you are camouflaging critical information about yourself: IP address, location, browser, etc. and will allow you to access sites which are blocked.
The Tor Browser Bundle is cross-platform and portable, so you can run it off a thumbdrive without installing any software.
Web browsing anonymously not only protects your privacy, it is good practice to maintain security of your sensitive information. You can never be too careful when browsing the web, especially in public places. If you have any suggestions on how to browse the web anonymously, please feel free to tell us in the comments.