The internet used to be an environment where anonymity was the norm. People could surf the web, say what they like, download with freedom, and generally live without fear of surveillance.
Now, things have changed. In 2019, web users have to contend with organized crime, repressive governments, copyright investigators, and data-hungry search engines. Sometimes it seems as if anonymity is a long-forgotten dream.
However, that isn’t the case. As we’ll see in this blog, there are plenty of ways to stay anonymous online – even in 2019.
- Install a reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Our first recommendation is probably the most important. You simply can’t guarantee any level of online privacy without a VPN. Period.
VPNs apply encryption to everything that leaves your computer or smartphone and anonymizes your identity by assigning IP addresses from across the world. With those measures in place, you can be confident that snoopers won’t be able to detect your browsing activity or the files you torrent.
However, be sure to pick a VPN you can trust. Too many providers make big claims but fail to deliver where it really matters. Check out VPNPro’s review of Private Internet Access for a provider which won’t let you down.
- Start using a password manager
Password managers are another essential tool that privacy fans shouldn’t be without. These apps store the passwords you use for online services, keeping them safe and sound behind a wall of encryption.
They make it easy to handle numerous passwords that would otherwise be tough to remember. And they should help you avoid the temptation to use weak passwords for every platform.
Strong options include DashLane, Roboform, and LastPass. Most feature cross-platform compatibility, so you can use them with your laptop, tablet, and smartphone – providing full spectrum protection.
- Make a point of sanitizing your online presence
If you’ve been using social media for a decade (as some of us have by now), you may well have left an extensive archive of personal information in your wake. This information can be used by identity thieves to create profiles, by cyber-stalkers, or by future employers to parse your suitability for certain roles. So it’s vital to remove any compromising info.
This year, why not make a point of searching Google for sites which display your personal information? You can then apply to have the information removed.
Similar processes apply to platforms like Facebook. But you can go deeper than that. In a world where data leaks are depressingly common, it makes sense to ask Twitter, Facebook and other platforms for the data they hold about you.
You can then request that they delete sensitive information. That way, if leaks do happen you should be shielded. And you’ll minimize the chances of personal data falling into the hands of marketers.
- Boost your malware and virus protection
This might seem obvious to some people, but many of us are lax when it comes to updating antivirus and antimalware packages. However, malware is one of the key tools used by identity thieves, and contracting an infection is extremely easy.
From app repositories and phishing emails to fake websites, torrents, and streaming sites, there are countless ways for malware to enter your system. And when it’s there, it can start harvesting information about everything you do online.
So be sure to update your virus and malware libraries at regular intervals. And when browsing the web, combine antivirus apps with a VPN to maximize your safeguards against infection.
- Why not use a private search engine?
By now, nobody should have any illusions about Google. The search giant routinely gathers and stores vast amounts of information about everyone who uses its services.
This information allows Google to build in-depth profiles for their own purposes and to sell on to marketers. And it can also theoretically be used by governments to carry out surveillance.
Thankfully, a movement is emerging to challenge Google’s supremacy. Private search engines like DuckDuckGo and StartPage offer searches without any profiling or cookies. And they encrypt your data as well, so the sites you visit won’t know how you reached them.
With their indexes growing all the time, it makes sense to switch. So try a few search providers and pick one which delivers the goods.
- Get used to paying in cryptocurrencies
Finally, if you want total online privacy, you’ll need to stop using mainstream credit cards (or even PayPal).
Data leaks from major businesses like Target and British Airways have shown how vulnerable our payment details are to hackers. Moreover, if you pay by credit card for services like VPNs, it’s relatively simple to link your card to a VPN account.
Instead of using your card, it could be time to start using BitCoin or other crypto-payment systems. Many businesses accept payments via BitCoin wallets (and most VPNs offer this service). These payments are almost totally anonymous, so whatever you buy, you should be in the clear.
Change your digital lifestyle to stay anonymous in 2019
The internet should be a place where we can feel free and safe, but in an age of hacking, government surveillance, malware, and corporate greed, this simply isn’t the case.
However, as we’ve seen, web users have options when guarding their anonymity. By sourcing a great VPN, fine-tuning your password practices, updating your antivirus software, and learning about anonymous payments, you can minimize your online footprint and stay one step ahead of the snoopers.