Yesterday, another event by Neue Gesellschaft took place in Hamburg. I invited the main commisioner of data privacy and freedom of information of the City of Hamburg (Hamburgischer Beauftragter für Datenschutz und Informationsfreiheit). He was responsible for for several proceedings with Google Street View, whose actions met massive protests in Germany, and Facebook. While the discussion was lively, a lot of participants felt that all these actions were all feeble attempts to protect data thoroughly. On top of that, his homepage, previously via hamburg.de, was offline for sometime now because tracking tools were used unknowingly, by the provider, storing the IPs of users surfing there.
This led some people to the question how to avoid these things. How can you surf the net anonymously? So this is what encouraged me to write a little walkthrough.
One solution is to change your proxy.What is a proxy?
In computer networks, a proxy server is a server (a computer system or an application program) that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource, available from a different server. The proxy server evaluates the request according to its filtering rules. For example, it may filter traffic by IP address or protocol. If the request is validated by the filter, the proxy provides the resource by connecting to the relevant server and requesting the service on behalf of the client. A proxy server may optionally alter the client’s request or the server’s response, and sometimes it may serve the request without contacting the specified server. In this case, it ‘caches‘ responses from the remote server, and returns subsequent requests for the same content directly. (Wikipedia)
You can manually change your proxy in your browser. Say, you’re in Germany, but you want to use a Japanese one; get a list of Japanese Proxys.
- Find a proxy host.
- Search Google for “Proxy list” to find hundreds of websites that list public proxies. When looking at the list of proxies, find one labeled “anonymous”.
- Open your browser, and click on Tools>Internet Options.
- Click on the “Connections” tab, and then the “Lan Settings” button.
- Locate “Proxy Servers”, then click the box for “Use a proxy server for your lan”.
- Copy the IP address (the string of numbers that looks like 220.127.116.11) from the proxy list you found, and paste it into the “Address:” box.
- Copy the port number from the proxy list, and paste that into the “Port:” box.
- Click “OK”, and then click “OK” again.
Another convenient option is to use TOR, that’s short for The Onion Router. http://www.torproject.org/
The Tor anonymity network is a system aiming at online anonymity. Tor is an implementation of onion routing. It works by relaying communications through a network of systems run by volunteers in various locations. By keeping some of the network entry points hidden, Tor is also able to evade internet censorship. Tor is intended to protect users’ personal freedom, privacy, and ability to conduct confidential business.
Users of a Tor network run an onion proxy software on their computer. The Tor software periodically negotiates a virtual circuit through the Tor network. At the same time, the onion proxy software presents a SOCKS interface to its clients or users. SOCKS-ifying applications like Polipo may be linked with the Tor onion proxy software, which then multiplexes the traffic through a Tor virtual circuit.
It’s pretty neat, small, and easy to install. Sometimes your browsing might slow down a bit. I would advise to install Vidalia directly, it lets you control things directly and you also get stats. As always, FAQ makes all the difference. There also is a browser plug-in called the TOR button which allows you to directly turn it off and on for each page.