Essential Apps And Tips To Hiding And Protecting Your Online Identity
There are lots of great reasons for keeping your real identity masked while you're online. Maybe you're discussing some controversial topics on a forum or simply concealing your activity from nosy parkers. And with all the security leaks and revelations about the security services spying on our online activity, it makes sense to be a bit more cautious. Think of it as the equivalent of switching your house alarm on when you go on holiday.
Step 1 - Hide your IP
IP addresses, which are activated automatically every time you go online, contain information about your location, other programs you are running, the type of computer you are on and even some details (associated with other applications and programs) about who you are. Hackers use this information to spy on you, so blocking your IP gives you extra protection. There are lots of IP-blocking programs out there to choose from. Hide My IP, Easy IP Hide etc., and they apply to smartphones as well as PCs. Check the app is compatible with your device and enjoy safely surfing away from prying eyes.
Step 2 - Cloaking your identity
For added protection, don't just hide your IP, but use applications to encrypt the information you send online every time you access the internet. So much information is being transmitted without our direct knowledge, and this information is not as secure as it should be. Passwords, web queries, previous sites you've visited, and details on forms you have filled in are all stored in the ether. Identity cloaks are especially useful if you're trying to enter somewhere difficult.
Perhaps you want to visit a website whose laws in your resident country are ridiculously convoluted (such as some of the gaming legislation) or rejoin a forum which has unfairly banned you. Programmes like Identity Cloaker will supply you with IP addresses and allow you to connect to the internet via secure proxy servers. These store your personal data safely and provide background information that the websites you visit can read.
Step 3 - Safe storage
We've all heard about the Fappening (and some of us are very familiar now with Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar-winning charms), but it's not celebrities who are at risk of their photos being snatched from the cloud, even if we're not as in demand. Apps such as Picture Safe for the iPhone provide you with secure vaults for your uploads. Instead of automatically adding every picture to the Camera Roll - and, therefore, the hackable iCloud- they can be placed in a secure area. This is a discreet option for anyone keen to preserve their privacy.
General tips for staying hidden online
Sometimes, we want to be ourselves online, such as when connecting with friends on Facebook. At other times, we want to conceal our identities.
Don't use an image you've used on another profile. Reverse Image Searches are surprisingly efficient and will root out other times images have been posted. So that picture of you building sand castles when you were three years old might look nothing like grown-up you, but if it were on your Facebook, it would identify you.
Beware of private messages
All of us have "made friends" online, and it is tempting to lower our guard once we're familiar with other members of the communities we visit. If you really do want to maintain an air of mystery, do be wary of slipping into the habit of sharing personal information. The same goes for filling out questionnaires or helping out people with research.
Check where you're logged into
Are you logged into Chrome at the moment, maybe after playing some games online? Have you got into the habit of checking the "keep me logged in" box? You are easy to track down. Log out, clear your cache and stay logged out unless you need access to a site.
Using the same password for different logins is tempting, but that makes you so hackable! Ideally, use different email addresses and passwords for different online accounts - web-based emails, such as Gmail, allow you to create multiple associated addresses. If you struggle to remember a multitude of passwords, save them on an encrypted USB stick for reference.