How to Surf Anonymously & Hide Your PC: Part 1 – Anonymising Your PC



Anonymous PC image

If you want to be anonymous in real life, buy a big coat. Online, and for your PC, it's more complex. Why do it? To shore up your identity, safeguard data, secure eCommerce and give peace of mind.

Better Anonymity with wpCop.com

UPDATE: Feb 2013

This guide is old. The theory is good but the practise is worn.

For up-to-date advice please check out my new site wpCop which, while niche targetting WordPress security, also covers the bases for PC, web and server security.

Particularly:-

Guvnr, BTW, has relaunched to front as the blog for both wpCop and, shortly, my server installation guide vpsBible.

If you've got any security-related questions, pop by the the wpCop forums.

Hope that helps.

guv

This guvGuide helps you find the level of anonymity to suit you, to take control of your identity, to enjoy faster, safer surfing and, in Part 1…

…to lock down a secure computer.

A comprehensive guide, spread over 5 posts:-

Setup Unmanaged VPS (4 Noobs!) ... with vpsBible
Secure WordPress. Properly. ... with wpCop, the platform's dedicated security website
Olly 'the_guv' Connelly's vpsBible.com site and 'WordPress 3 Ultimate Security' book.

Secure Your PC

If allowed to sneak into your PC, spyware can do anything from report on your on- and offline habits to recording your keystrokes, such as credit card details. So. First up. Let's look at your security suite.

Install a decent firewall

ZoneAlarm is part of a good security suite

You need this to help keep out nasties. ZoneAlarm is good and free for the Basic edition. Update the software and set it to update itself daily. And lose Windows firewall, which is less secure, though not bad, by disabling the service. If you're connected via a wireless router, that may have an in-built firewall, but check with the device manufacturer. If so, and it's turned on, you don't need another, slowing down your connection. If in doubt, having the second on your machine isn't a bad thing. If you have a laptop that roams connections, you need a firewall installed in that machine.

Operating system security updates

Microsoft Updates image

For Windows Update you can automate the process by applying the “express” setting at the web page. I prefer the “custom” setting, allowing me to choose just the updates I want, and keeping Microsoft from spying on and slowing down my machine. But, I have to remember to apply future system updates manually, generally every few weeks.

Update your web browser

If you're using Internet Explorer, Windows Update will include these security fixes. For other browsers, they inform when an update is available. When there is, do update.

Your anti-virus/malware suite

You need three programs. One for anti-virus, two for privacy, or malware. OK, many use just one for privacy. Here's my personal recipe…

  • AVG Free   Protection against viruses, spyware, adware and identity-theft, or so it says on the box. With 5 years' use, I say it's great, but I hear a lot of praise also for Avira. It has a built-in Resident Shield (a firewall) but I turn this off in favor of ZoneAlarm. Whatever anti-virus software you go for, it'll need propping up with those anti-malwares…
  • SpybotS&D (Search & Destroy)   This privacy software will scan your machine for malicious cookies, also called tracking cookies and often referred to as malware. These cookies, rather than being helpful to you, log your web behaviours, for example, often to sell the result to ad companies. Spybot also has a facility called Tea Timer but I disable it, using instead…
  • SpywareBlaster   Another privacy ware, distinct from Spybot. Where Spybot seeks out and deletes spyware, SpywareBlaster blocks their activity on your machine. Used together, you have powerful privacy.

You can set all three to update their virus definitions, and run automatically. I prefer to update the two, somewhat less important, anti-spywares about once a fortnight, then running a scan with Spybot (SpywareBlaster blocks all the time.) I set AVG to auto-update, then forget about it.

Virus checking

Scanning for viruses with AVG

Something newly downloaded? Run it past the virus-checker. Because apart from the fact it could be infected with a virus, suspect software can also have a secondary purpose, a piggyback spyware, for example. For AVG, right click on the file and, from the context menu that pops up, select “Scan with AVG Free”. Nice and fast, and secure, so don't be lazy!

Wireless routers

If you use one, make sure you have the latest encryption protocol, currently WPA2. And don't forget to enable the protocol in your router's configuration.

Proxy server

A proxy server is an agent that sits between you and the web, processing data on your behalf. You are hidden behind it and, most importantly, so is your IP address. So when you navigate to a site, where normally that site and interim routers would see your PC, now they only see the proxy. And you are anonymous. Geddit? There are two types.

Remote proxy server

These are simply websites that you go to, then surf from. They act as the middle-man, hiding you. The problem is they slow down your web connection, are often ads-heavy and can douse you with malware. Proxify is an example of a remote proxy that many recommend. Then again, many don't. Personally, I don't trust any remote proxies, and I'm not convinced in their frequent claim to give anonymity. Hence, no links here. An immensely better solution is a…

Local proxy server

This is still an agent, a middle-man, but now it sits on your computer. The single most important step in this guide, setting up your personal proxy is a topic unto itself. So, hey, lucky you 🙂 There's a video tutorial to keep it simple, coming up in Part 5 of this anonymity series. Watch out for that.

First steps to anonymity

With the above steps taken, your PC is anonymous and secure, a baseplate to surf from. But how do you actually surf safely?

Part 2 of this series, published tomorrow, summarises secure surfing with a level of anonymity to suit you. Parts 3 & 4 detail what best to do with cookies and javascript and, in Part 5, we set up the proxy server.

Jump to another section of the anonymity guide:-

8


About the Author:

Olly Connelly (yeah, that's me) blogs at guvnr.com, polices WordPress security at wpCop.com and helps noobs build web servers at vpsBible.com, so if you've got sleeping problems you know where to come.

Discussion

  1. the_guv  February 6, 2010

    @Berger .. grab a feed .. there’s one (actually there’ll be a few) on the way at my about-to-launch sister site, vpsBible.com

  2. Berger  February 5, 2010

    How about setting up a proxyserver on the VPS and surf the net from your pc through your own vpsproxy.
    Any tutorial ?

  3. the_guv  February 3, 2009

    @ linkedUp, I agree with Hercules, Symantec’s a waste of money.
    Cheers Hercules.
    @Gigi, you need the three to be safe as can be, but once installed, they are pretty hassle-free. You do have to run the anti-spywares every few weeks, unless you always use a proxy.

  4. Hercules  February 3, 2009

    AVG or Avast, why pay the extra.

  5. gigi  January 25, 2009

    It seems a lot to do. Do you really need 3 anti-virus packages?

  6. linkedUp  January 22, 2009

    So you wouldn’t recommend symantec? That’s what I’m using.

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