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Safe Web Surfing: Ways to Protect your Online Privacy


Surfing the web leaves you exposed to many of the Internets harshest elements.  You leave behind tracks of sites you've visited, cookies are written to your computer, unencrypted email can be intercepted and read without your knowledge. Basically, most of the information you receive and transmit over the Internet can be routinely monitored, logged, analyzed and stored by third parties.

Here are some ways to protect yourself and your privacy when surfing the Internet and sending email:

Email Encryption

HushMail.com - Encrypting your private email

As more people start using the Internet to conduct their daily business, nearly everyone now needs to consider the issue of online privacy and whether to use an encryption solution to secure their electronic communications. Sending an unencrypted e-mail is like posting a letter without an envelope.

In addition to the basic human right to privacy, email users must consider the importance of keeping business communications secure from rival organizations and should only send data in an encrypted format. The same concerns apply to the transmission of medical records, sensitive legal, military or personal information. Every time you send email, you trust your messages and privacy to nameless and faceless individuals or organizations that frequently have no guidelines and no concerns for your privacy or security.

HushMail keeps your online communications private and secure. Not even a HushMail employee with access to our servers can read your encrypted email, since each message is uniquely encoded before it leaves your computer. A HushMail account lets you communicate in total security with any other Hush member anywhere in the world.

Anonymity on the Internet

Anonymous Web Surfing

Anonymizer.com makes a decent program called Anonymizer Private Surfing 2.0 that lets you surf at work without being monitored by your boss, shop online with extra security, download pictures, movies and music in complete privacy, keep your personal information away from spammers and importantly, stay invisible to the Web sites you visit and online advertisers.  You can also give the free online version a try which slows down your web surfing a bit but gives you a sense of how it works.  The important thing is shielding your IP address, amongst many other important security features.

Here is an anonymous browsing site that lists all known anonymous web surfing services. Some services have now become fee while others have a "free" version.  Experiment to see what works best for you. 

Proxy Servers

A proxy server acts as a buffer between your computer and the Internet you are accessing (e.g. Web sites or FTP archives). The data you request hits the proxy first, and only then it transmits the data to you.

What is an anonymous proxy server?
Any web site can track your movements through its web pages and monitor what you are looking at by your IP address, a unique ID assigned to each computer on the Internet.

It is thought  that governments and organizations publish dummy websites on controversial topics for the purpose of monitoring interested parties. Also, this information, in combination with your e-mail address, can be used to increase the number of targeted advertisements fired at you by the marketers.

Using only your IP address and the information about your operating system, a Web site can automatically exploit security holes in your system using some not-very-complex, ready-made, and free hacking programs. Some of such programs may just hang your machine, making you reboot it, but other, more powerful ones, can get access to the content of your hard drive or RAM. An anonymous proxy prevents this by hiding your IP address so that no one can access your computer via the network.

In most cases, however, proxies do inform the target server about the address of the computer that made the request, transmitting your IP-address in different forms. Anonymous proxy servers don't transfer the information about the IP-address of the client, and thus effectively hide the information about you and your surfing interests. Besides that, some proxy servers can also hide the very fact that you are surfing through a proxy server! Anonymous proxies can be used for all kinds of Web-services, such as Web-Mail (MSN Hot Mail, Yahoo mail), web-chat rooms, FTP archives, etc. TOP

Can a proxy make me anonymous to HotMail, Yahoo! Mail, etc, so that I can send anonymous e-mail?
Yes. As long as you are connected to the HotMail server through an anonymous proxy server, your IP address is hidden, and all e-mail that you send with the web-forms on the HotMail server has no track of your true location. It is so for all web-based e-mail services, like mail.com, as well as for web-based chat boards like Yahoo! Chat. There is a possible trap, however: many of such services use a secure connection when you send e-mail or when you logon to your account. Therefore it is very important to make sure that your proxy supports HTTPS and configure your browser to use the proxy for the Secure protocol in addition to the ordinary HTTP. A4Proxy, a web anonymizer developed specifically for managing large lists of proxy servers, can check them for HTTPS support.

To learn how to set-up a proxy server in your web browser, check out this site for detailed instructions.


Hushmail - Email Encryption

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