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How to Stay Anonymous Online

Eric GriffithBy Eric Griffith

232

If you want to stay inconspicuous while online, here are some products, services, and best practices to put to use.

Some might say that the Internet was built on anonymity. Without it, the Internet might not have become what it is today—a place where free speech reigns supreme (maybe to a fault). However, as social networks prevail—and über-companies like Google do all they can to market to you more effectively—your privacy on the Web comes into question. The good news is that you can take back control of what others see and know of you online. Here's how.

CHECK YOUR STEALTH Put your PC through an Internet anonymity test to see just how stealthy it really is. Whenever you connect to Web sites, you're basically telling them your IP address—if nothing else. Based on that information alone, sites can tell a lot about you, such as your general location. If you want to get an idea about what you're telling the Web, check out sites like What the Internet Knows About You and Stay Invisible.

The key to keeping all of your data from hanging out is a good firewall. Don't rely on the firewall in your broadband router alone. For true security, you should couple it with a good software firewall and load it on every PC you use. Our security expert Neil Rubenking recommends the free firewall from ZoneAlarm or the free firewall in the Comodo Internet Security 4.0. Once you've got the firewall installed, use Steve Gibson's ShieldsUP! to check for open, or vulnerable, ports on your system. ShieldsUP! won't  tell anything if you have a router-based firewall in place, but it's good info if you're brave enough to hook a computer directly to a broadband modem.

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