3 Most Popular Security Tools For Internet Anonymity

Internet anonymity has assumed a great deal of importance more than ever now because your only privacy is constantly under attack. The good news is that you can make use of Internet anonymity tools to protect your privacy and security. The aim of this article is to provide you with some information about three most popular security tools for Internet anonymity.

The Onion Router (Tor)

If Internet anonymity is what you are looking for, you need Tor, which makes use of a large network of computers in order to route the traffic to your website through several encrypted layers for obscuring the point of origin of the traffic. It is an important tool as far as whistleblowers and political dissidents are concerned. It helps them to share information anonymously. You can also use it for ensuring your Internet anonymity.

The Onion Router

All that you have to do get started is to download the Tor Browser Bundle. The Firefox’s customized branch also incorporates browser extensions to enhance privacy and connects you to the Tor network automatically. Though this package offers everything needed to successfully use Tor, you will have to change your behavior when it comes to web surfing in order to ensure Internet anonymity. You should comply with the Tor warnings because it is not a magic pill for Internet anonymity.

Tor, developed to protect the online communication of U.S. Intelligence, may substantially reduce the browsing speed as your data has to hop through a number of layers. The data transmitted across Tor may be encrypted at the relay nodes, but privacy can be compromised if the site requested for does not use SSL. Further, your online activity may be monitored as Tor is widely used by journalists, political dissidents and criminals.

VPN

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection enables you to browse the Internet securely as it makes you to appear as though you are from another place. This is achieved by creating an encrypted virtual tunnel from your computer to the server of the VPN provider. As a result, it appears as though you are using a specific server. As the Internet traffic is routed through this encrypted tunnel, your data will not be exposed to eavesdroppers.

VPN

If you are serious about maintaining Internet anonymity, you must consider using a VPN solution. This is because VPN, especially stealth VPN offered by some providers, disguises your traffic by hiding your real IP address from the world and making it difficult for others to decipher your traffic. VPNs are the best bet when it comes to bypassing censorship.

However, it important to choose a quality VPN provider that does not store communications logs or data. Further, the VPN provider should be one that implements server randomization and proper load balancing so that you are always connected to different VPN servers.

Proxy Sever

A proxy server can be defined as an intermediary between the Internet and your computer. The traffic that is routed through proxy servers will appear as though it is coming from the IP address of the server and not your computer. Proxy servers are not required to devote resources for the purpose of encrypting all traffic passing through them. Therefore, they can accept connections simultaneously from tens of thousands of users. Proxy servers make use of different protocols, HTTP/HTTPS and SOCKS (Private), to communicate with the Internet.

Proxy Sever

HTTP and SOCKS proxies do not encrypt data. On the other hand, HTTPS proxies offer encryption to the same level as any of the SSL websites. However, proxies are not designed to provide protection to all of the Internet traffic. Typically, it protects only the browser. Further, many proxies pass on the original IP address of the user to the destination site. This makes proxy servers less suitable for security or Internet anonymity. Finally, the proxies are required to be configured separately for each of the application such as browser, email, third-party apps, etc. Moreover, some applications may not support proxies.

As such, you need to judiciously choose one or more of these tools, depending on your specific requirement, in order to maintain the required level of Internet anonymity.

Government Websites Converting To HTTPS For Internet Security

The American government through the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has finalized its strategy for the adoption of HTTPs-Only Standard for all its publicly accessible web services and federal sites. This strategy is meant to bring in a new robust baseline for Internet security and user privacy across all APIs and government websites. This step is a new formal memorandum to all executive agencies. The OMB passed this proposal to the public for comments and so far received a tremendous lot of it. The US government is not the sole proposer of this new strategy as other internet bodies are calling for a default encrypted internet. In fact, Firefox and Chrome browsers which carry the highest amounts of traffic also support the idea of migrating to HTTPs from plain HTTP. This is how the US government is changing to HTTPS for improved Internet security.

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The US government has come up with a memorandum that requires all the federal agencies to deploy their domains using a variety of guidelines. These guidelines are practical and reasonable for efficient deployment of HTTPs. For the newly developed sites and web services, the memorandum requires that all their federal agency domains and sub-domains adhere to the policy. Existing sites have an obligation to make priorities based on the risk analysis. Sites that involve the exchange of personal information, those that experience high traffic levels, identity, and other sensitive data should migrate immediately.

The unencrypted HTTP protocol subjects data to interception, alteration, modification, tracking and eavesdropping of user data. A majority of the federal sites in the US use the open HTTP protocol hence creating privacy vulnerability through exposure to Internet security threats. To address this, the US government wants such websites to adopt HTTPS-Only policies to protect the privacy of all visitors to their sites. The conversion is expected to begin now for them to adapt to the fast-paced Internet security landscape. This proactive strategy of the government will support the broad Internet adoption as well as promote better adoption of privacy standards by the federal sites.

The US government also require federal agencies to make all the existing sites as well as web services accessible via secure Internet connection i.e. HTTPs by December 31, 2016. Intranets are also being encouraged to use the HTTPs service. So far, the government comes up with a public dashboard that will aid in monitoring the progress of how these sites adopt the use of HTTPS. According to the recent reports, about a third of the sites have adopted the use of HTTPS although the degrees of Internet security vary. The existence of dashboard and grading in security suggests that federal sites looking forward to upgrading to HTTPS should go for the top level security. The OMB expects that the move will eradicate the common pitfalls of inconsistencies in deciding the type of content to be secured and that which should not.

HTTPS-Logo_w_600

The OMB affirms that though the adoption of HTTPS-Only standard comes with a cost, it is going to be outweighed by the Internet security benefits that come with it. The cost of procuring a certificate coupled with admin and maintenance cost will vary based on the technical infrastructure and size of a site. The timeline that the OMB has provided in the memorandum is enough for the responsible parties to adjust and adopt it.

All browsing activities by Internet users will be considered sensitive and private. This step is going to foster stronger privacy and improve the confidence of the people in their government. Perhaps, there has not been any virtue of consistency in most federal sites that use HTTPS as it leaves most American vulnerable to online threats. This step of providing private browsing experience to the people will therefore will position the government as the trusted leader in Internet security.

Tor On Mobile Devices Will Give More Internet Anonymity To Users

With 4G mobile functionality available on most mobile platforms, users would now be able to download video and other types of data with ease while they are on the move. The complete implementation of 4G would mean more available bandwidth to the mobile phones and transfer of data between phones would become easier.

Following the launch of the 4G services, companies such as Apple have hinted at introduction of Tor mobile apps that will support Internet anonymity on mobile phones. Apple’s iOS9 would have this feature. Tor apps would, therefore, be freely available to users of iPhone and iPad that run on the iOS9 operating system. Tor apps have been made available on android devices for many years now.

Tor On Mobile DevicesThe Tor software enables Internet anonymity for users browsing the web. Tor apps encrypt and mask the users’ browsing data such as IP addresses and offer Internet anonymity. Commonly associated with crime and black market sites, Tor’s popularity in this area is bigger because it is known to provide a greater level of anonymity to both the publisher as well as the viewer of uploaded content. Security concerns however, Europol, the premier law enforcement agency in Europe has concerns of a different nature. The increased bandwidth provides additional possibilities for exchange and download of HD images and video. Enforcement agencies are therefore concerned that child pornographers would take maximum advantage of the 4G functionality. They would use Internet anonymity on mobile devices to their advantage. They believe that this type of masking and encryption of users’ identities would encourage troublemakers to operate at a level where they cannot be easily traced. Though Tor is known to slow down a user’s browsing speed, using the network along with 4G services would help to speed up the data transfer process.

According to Europol, Tor Internet anonymity platform has been identified as a leading player in both the creation and subsequent distribution of child pornography content. This finding was based on a report by the Virtual Global Taskforce that outlined important issues in the different ways in which the Internet anonymity software was being used by pedophiles. In their report on the techniques and methods used to commit offences and stay away from detection, it was cited that in about 40 hidden services that were reviewed and were purportedly proving child pornography material, Europol detected more than 300,000 active users. Some of the factors that were attributed to the use of the Tor Internet anonymity software for upload and circulation of child abuse material were the secrecy that the network software provided, the demand for new material to be uploaded regularly and the anonymous environment which allowed the offenders to reveal their desires more explicitly. Europol also has concerns that the Internet anonymity software technologies offered on mobile phones would add on a new layer of strain for the investigators to identify child abuse offenders.

Tor on Mobile Devices – Will It Be the Offenders’ Nemesis

orbot
The Orbot app is popularly used to access Tor by android phone users. This was revealed by the Tor Project, the non-profit organization that is responsible for the maintenance of the network software that provides Internet anonymity to its users. This information was obtained when they were asked to provide numbers of mobile users who used Tor. Orbot is easy to use and booting the app helps to access the Tor network by clicking on a button. Once the Internet anonymity software is on, certain apps have their traffic directed through Tor. Europol’s concern is that there are over 6 million installs of Orbot on android devices. Out of this number it has been observed that there are over 1.2 million who use it actively. However, nothing more is obvious about these users. Orweb browser, which is additional software that provides extra privacy and security has had 4 million installs from the Google Play Store and purportedly has 900,000 active users. In spite of the concerns about the secrecy that the Internet anonymity software will provide to child abuse offenders, security experts feel using Tor on mobile devices may have its own pitfalls. In spite of the fact that the Internet anonymity software hides IP addresses of the users, other data that can be traced to the users include the location of the mobile and data that is transferred to other mobiles through apps that are not configured to route data through Tor. Another pertinent point that works against offenders is that Orbot has had some bugs in software that leaked website addresses visited by the user when the VPN feature (of the app) was used. However, the company has claimed that these bugs have been fixed for the present.

California Representative Defends Library Supporting Tor

Zoe Lofgren

Zoe Lofgren, California Representative, wrote to Jeh Johnson, the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), defending the right of library in New Hampshire as regards offering Internet anonymity. In her letter that demanded an explanation, she stated that the possibility of DHS employees persuading or pressurizing public as well private entities to degrade or discontinue their services, which would help US citizens protect their anonymity and privacy, has disturbed her a lot. Meanwhile, a congressman in California is trying to have a clear understanding about the idea of Internet anonymity and as to why the DHS singled out one small library in New Hampshire.

Towards the end of summer season this year, an agent from the Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, a subsidiary of DHS, put pressure on the Kilton Public Library in New Hampshire. The agent persuaded the library to disable the Tor relay which it was making use of to connect to a network that offered Internet anonymity. Librarians working at Kilton, located in West Lebanon, unanimously voted for the library to continue to offer Tor relay services. In fact, they also decided that they would step up their game. In the meantime, a number of other libraries have also started joining the movement.

Tor software
Tor relays, like the one that the Kilton Public Library is using, bolsters the Tor network which allows Internet users to access the World Wide Web without the surveillance of the authorities. This network is dependent on volunteers who donate bandwidth.

The library decided to temporarily stop the use of its Tor relay following the pressure put on them initially by the enforcement authorities. However, the library decided to reverse its decision and reboot its Tor relay. The local community has whole heartedly supported Kilton Public Library’s decision. Further, news outlets as well as civil rights groups all over the country have taken note of the issue.

Lofgren wrote in her letter addressed to Jeh Johnson that the product Tor network has been developed on the basis of research carried out at the DPRPA and Naval Research Laboratory in the United States of America. She also drew his attention to the fact that Tor network is being made use of by journalists, dissidents, intelligence sources, activists and other individuals who are concerned about their privacy and Internet anonymity. Tor enables them to keep details of their browsing activity private. The version of the Internet anonymity network that is being used currently continues to receive significant amount of funding by way of government grants.

The gist of the questions posed by Lofgren in her letter is as follows:

Question #1: Is the interference with the offering of the Kilton Public Library to protect the privacy of the Internet users the result of the policy of the DHS to persuade private or public entities from providing such services or is this an independent action by an agent without any kind of authorization?

Question #2: If an agent of the DHS has acted independently, what steps are being taken by the DHS to ensure that agents do not interfere in this manner with privacy protection services that are being made available to the public?

Question #3: Is there any other instance wherein a DHS agent was involved in either pressurizing or persuading private or public entities in either stopping their offering of privacy or Internet anonymity services or reducing the effectiveness of the services provided by them?

Further, Lofgren has requested the DHS to submit to her office relevant copies of the DHS guidance, policy or memo, if any, that deals with the issue of deterring or supporting the provision of privacy protection services by private entities, public entities or individuals.

It was Alison Macrina who helped the Kilton Public Library to set up its Tor relay system. Alison Macrina who founded the Library Freedom Project is passionate when it comes to this issue. According to her, libraries are the most democratic among public spaces. It is, therefore, important to ensure protection to an individual’s intellectual freedom, unencumbered access to information and privacy or Internet anonymity, she noted.

Jacob Appelbaum 2015 – Encryption, Cyber Security, Privacy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrbAaq_S1cw

Encryption, Internet Security, and Privacy. More and more people are being connected using the internet, but what are some of the challenges the Internet meets?

A Smartphone Designed To Preserve Internet Anonymity

An Australian-based smartphone company, Ncryptcellular, has designed a unique handset which gives users maximum privacy and Internet anonymity when browsing the net. These devices have gained tremendous popularity all around the globe since their launch. They are available in 3 versions which include the Ncrypt Mega ($1465), Ncrypt Super ($1314) and Ncrypt Slim ($1182).

Ncryptcellular
These Android-based gadgets are fitted with unique open-source apps and custom Internet anonymity tools, which allow owners to conceal identity information, encrypt voice and data communications as well as generate forged traffic designed to confuse government metadata breach attempts.

The company’s chief technical officer, Alex Kesik, says that these Internet anonymity smartphones were created as a response to people’s concerns that state agencies could be snooping on their web usage. A marketing campaign seeking official distributors has already been launched, spawning immense response from potential retailers keen on buying the smartphones wholesale and then selling to their native countries.

Ncryptcellular devices
Ncryptcellular devices are increasingly becoming popular amongst business and personal users, most of who want their online activities to remain anonymous. They have cutting-edge security features such as connectivity to the Tor network, and an integrated XMPP app which can also be linked to the onion system. In addition, there’s a Secure Talk, Secure Text and encrypted SMS service that ensures not only your web activities are kept safe but also everyday phone communications.

Furthermore, the Internet anonymity devices contain Anti Listening properties capable of detecting coded IMSI-Catcher surveillance programs, which may have been implemented as proxy Wi-Fi base stations. Ncryptcellular smartphones prevent such security breaches from happening, by determining what type of data each particular app can access. They also contain properties which spoof GPS web locations, allowing owners to alter their GPS details so as to confound any attempts towards hacking.

Though this software may be allowed to operate on other smartphone brands in the future, as for now they are only available on Oppo units which were selected because of their sleek design and comprehensive manufacturer warranty.

Experts Disagree Gov.’s Proposals For Encryption Access

A group of computer security experts have come out in opposition to demands by the US and the UK governments to be granted special access to encrypted communications. The move, the experts argue, would put the most confidential data and infrastructure at risk.

National Security Agency

The 14 elite cryptographers and computer scientists from around the globe have a formidable influence in the ensuing debate between the law enforcers pushing for less Internet anonymity and advocates of online privacy. Encryption has come to the fore following Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures that government spying was at a record high. The fact that data is being put online at previously unseen speeds has helped to fan the already heated debate on Internet anonymity.

Naturally, technology companies have been dragged into this face off. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google have increased their efforts to encrypt corporate and customer data since becoming aware that the NSA and other government agencies have been hacking into information centers and intercepting digital communications.

Commercial encryption efforts, law enforcers argue, sabotage their attempts to monitor crime. The UK prime minister even threatened to ban the use of encrypted messages completely. The NSA director, Michael S. Rogers, has suggested that technology companies develop digital keys that can be used to circumvent Internet anonymity and offer access to encrypted data. However, such a key would be shared among different people so that no one person could have full access to the information.

The debate on Internet anonymity is still a long way from an amicable resolution. The timing of the report by the elite group of experts was, for instance, quite opportunistic. The report was released just a day before FBI director James B. Comey Jr., and deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, Sally Quillian Yates were to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee against the use of encryption technologies that provide the ironclad Internet anonymity that prevents the government from doing its job efficiently.

The report by the technologists is the first of its kind. In the report, the experts claim that by granting the government access to encrypted information, important infrastructure such as the banking system and the power grid would be seriously compromised. Some of the big names behind the report include Whitfield Diffie, considered a pioneering influence in public key cryptography, and Ronald L. Rivest, one of the forces behind the RSA public cryptography algorithm.

The level of trust the government would need to be granted what they need would be unimaginable. This would be especially difficult since the government has been experiencing widespread breaches that would result in the keys falling into the wrong hands. Moreover, the demands would have a ripple effect as other countries such as China would feel obliged to enforce similar measures, and this would put the very people the “back doors” are supposed to protect at risk. The adverse economic impact of compromised Internet anonymity would also be substantial, not to mention an affront to the moral authority developed countries currently wield in the rest of the world.

Encryption

The government’s stand is that end-to-end encryption makes it harder for them to do their job by forcing them to pursue targets rather than the companies supplying the technology. However, those in support of the report released by the experts believe that this report conclusively explains why the government’s proposal is not at all workable.

The Battle Over Privacy And Internet Anonymity

The Conflict

NSA leaksIn 2013, Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, leaked classified details containing the extensive surveillance and spy activities conducted by the U.S. government through the NSA. His revelations indicated that the NSA was collecting phone records of millions of Americans, had unlimited access to the major email service providers such as Yahoo and Gmail, and also had direct access to Facebook, Skype, Apples, and YouTube servers, all of which handle millions of users worldwide.

The revelations sparked a global outrage. In the post-Snowden era, millions of internet users are more aware of the possibility that their traffic may be monitored at any given point in time with little or no oversight and regulation. Even corporates collect billions of user metadata from internet traffic to predict user behavior patterns, lifestyle choices, and other statistics. Unfortunately, some of these practices are unregulated and collect an overwhelming amount of private data.

Internet Anonymity and Privacy Tools

Internet users are now rebelling against tracking and snooping by adopting privacy tools and plugins that block ads. Private search engines such as DuckDuckGo and anonymous browsers insulate against intruders who steal data and compromise on users’ online anonymity. The four major search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Chrome and Safari, all have an in-built feature that enables users to browse the web privately.

DoNotTrackMe, for instance, is a browser plugin available for the four browsers, which prevents ads and social networks as well as notorious data collection companies from tracking you across the sites you visit. Adblock Plus is another popular browser plugin that works in a similar fashion as DoNotTrackMe, but focusing chiefly on ads.

Cryptography is, undeniably, one of the few proven and trusted mechanisms for enforcing internet anonymity. Today cryptography is no longer a mere branch of computer science, but a mainstream concept. Virtual Private Networks ride on cryptography. They create a barrier between the tracking and monitoring agencies, and the users who use to maintain their internet anonymity.

The Onion Router (Tor), which is founded on cryptography, makes monitoring, eavesdropping and snooping almost impossible. Tor masks user IPs and bounces off traffic through multiple relays spread across the globe. Using cryptography to hide in the network makes it even difficult to uncover a communication’s source.

The Future of Privacy and Internet Anonymity

Protection LockTo promote privacy and internet anonymity, search engines, browsers and other web services may result to embedding encryption and security into their services. For instance, Tor users may be familiar with Disconnect.me, the network’s choice of search engine, which was designed by former Google engineers. The browser is now available to mainstream internet users as a browser plugin. Working like a VPN, Disconnect.me blocks requests from web analytics companies, preventing them from tracking your activities on the internet.

Such significant steps in the battle for privacy and internet anonymity are bound lock horns with corporate giants, marketing and advertising firms. What is certain, though, is that the battleground will expand exponentially as people gradually become aware of the massive privacy violations conducted on the internet. User behavior on the internet will also change significantly, and people will put privacy needs before user experience and interactivity.

Regaining Online Anonymity Through Tor Project

Though total online anonymity may be hard to obtain, using Tor project makes it harder for government surveillance programs or any other party to track the Internet activity of its user. Tor project is the most reliable solution to privacy oriented persons, press reporters, protest organizers, and political activists who are in search of online anonymity.

Anonymity Online TOR

There are several methods of going online by use of Tor network. However, the most famous is the Tor Browser. This is cost free software that helps users to go online via a distributed network. To achieve total online anonymity, users are informed to deactivate all their extensions including JavaScript, Flash, having in mind that this undermines access to some services and sites.

Users can also connect to a Tor network while using other browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer after making some adjustments to the network settings. There are more programs that enable users to connect to a Tor network such as TorChat anonymous messaging service and the BitTorrent client.

Tor browser is cost-free software that provides online anonymity. The browser directs internet traffic via free, worldwide, volunteer operated network that consists of more than 4000 relays. It conceals the location of the user and other communicated information from anyone doing traffic analysis or internet surveillance.

Tor is aimed to protect the user’s personal privacy, ability and freedom to carry out confidential business activities without being monitored. With Tor, a user can regain access to websites anonymously. The sites accessed will be unable to track them, or alter what they show them on basis of their previous activity simply because they don’t have an idea of who they are or where they are located.

Tor network is also the most efficient censorship circumvention tool that allows its users to access otherwise restricted content or destinations.

When using Tor project, the original data is encrypted and re-encrypted several times after which it is sent via a virtual circuit comprised of successive, arbitrary selected Tor relays. The last relay decrypts the final encryption layer and passes the original information without revealing its source to the recipient. By doing so, the possibility of the original information being comprehended in transit is significantly reduced and, more importantly, conceals its routing.

The internet address of the recipient and the sender are not in cleartext at any place along the way, as a result, any person eavesdropping at any area along the channel of communication, cannot identify the both ends directly. Furthermore, it appears to the recipient that the exit node (the final Tor node) is the source of the information rather than the one who sent it.

online anonymity

The ongoing trends in technology, policy, and law threaten  online anonymity as never before, this is undermining our ability to read and speak freely online. Furthermore, the above trends threaten our critical infrastructure and national security by making exchange of information among governments, organizations, and individuals more vulnerable to internet surveillance. Every new user and relay gives additional diversity, improving the ability of Tor network to bring online anonymity back to the web.