You are under constant observation while surfing the web. But there are ways and means to make it more difficult for third parties to sniff and spy. We show you what possibilities are open to you.
Every time you visit the Web, you reveal a lot of personal information without knowing it. In addition to the current IP address, the Windows version and the web browser and plug-ins used are also transmitted. This information could be used by malicious attackers to exploit known vulnerabilities and break into a foreign system. But the advertising industry is also interested in your surfing behavior. We show you which possibilities exist to prevent snooping and to be able to be halfway anonymous on the web.
Cookies Log The Surfing Behavior In The Browser
As soon as you open a web page in your browser, information is stored on your computer. Most of these are cookies, i.e. small text files in which your IP address and the date and time of your visit are recorded. The more such cookies are present, the easier it is to create an exact user profile. You experience the effects every day in practice: If you search for air travel with Google, for example, personalized banners are displayed with a high degree of certainty on all websites visited afterwards, which advertise cheap flights. To prevent this type of espionage, you must instruct your browser to automatically remove cookies and other items stored by websites.
Delete saved cookies
Automatically Clean Cookies From Your Hard Drive
All common browsers offer you the option of automatically deleting the cookies stored on your computer during a web page surfing session.
Users of Microsoft Edge proceed as described in the previous section, but under “Delete browser data” they do not choose “Delete” but set the slider under “Delete this data after each session” to “On”. You can choose which items are to be automatically removed when you close Microsoft Edge by selecting the desired entries. The range includes the “browser history”, “cookies and stored website data” and “passwords”.
Firefox users switch to the “Privacy Settings”, open the drop-down menu under “History” and decide to “create according to user-defined settings”. Then activate the option “Delete the history when closing Firefox”.
In Opera, click on “Basic settings” in “Settings” and mark the option “Delete local data when exiting the browser” under “Cookies”. And in Internet Explorer 11 it is sufficient to activate the option “Delete browsing history on exit” in “Internet Options” under “General” and to save the change with “OK”.
Surfing Without Leaving Traitorous Traces
Whether “InPrivate” (Microsoft Edge and IE11), “Private Mode” (Firefox) or “Private Window” (Opera) – current surfing aids offer special incognito operating modes. The great common feature of these functions: No information is stored on the computer. This is especially interesting if you are on the web on a different computer.
To open a new InPrivate window in Microsoft Edge, click the button with the three dots and choose the command of the same name (key combination: Ctrl-Shift-P).
Firefox users click on the “Menu” button and choose “Private Window” (Ctrl-Shift-P).
In Opera select “Menu” and “New private window” (Ctrl-Shift-N) and in Internet Explorer 11 click on the cogwheel icon and select “Security” and “InPrivate-Browsing” (Ctrl-Shift-P).
Very good: In all four browsers the incognito tabs are highlighted graphically so that you can see at a glance that the corresponding mode is activated.
Disguise Identity By Using A Proxy server
As soon as you open a web page in your browser, your IP address is stored in the server’s log file. In principle, there is nothing wrong with it, after all, the operator of the website wants to know how many visitors come daily. However, there are situations in which the surfer wants to prevent his IP address from becoming known.
For example, if an employee of a company visits a competitor’s homepage, he wants to prevent the IP address – and thus also the domain – from appearing in the server’s log files. This is where proxy servers come in.
Put simply, proxy servers act as a kind of switch between your computer and the web server. Your browser sends the request to the proxy server, which processes it and then transmits it to the web server. The answer of the web server takes the opposite way. The web server’s log records the proxy server’s IP address instead of yours, so the operator does not know you were there. So much for the theory. In practice, however, some pitfalls lurk.
First and foremost, the data is transmitted unencrypted and can not only be spied on the proxy server, but also manipulated. This makes it possible for the NSA, for example, to provide free proxy servers to access the users’ data. However, the use of free proxy servers is not only not recommended for security reasons. Because such offers are used by thousands of surfers, the data transmission rate drops to its knees.
Fee-based offers are usually faster – but the security situation cannot be determined. For this reason, you should not use web services via proxy servers that require the entry of passwords. The same applies, of course, to online shopping and home banking.
Those who, on the other hand, value a plus in anonymity when “normal” surfing, will find numerous proxy server lists on the web, for example www.proxy-listen.de/Proxy/Proxyliste.html . To see for yourself how a proxy server works, look for a fast server in the list and note the IP address and port. You then need to enter this information in Firefox (“Settings -> Advanced -> Network -> Settings -> Manual Proxy Configuration”).
Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11 and Opera do not allow you to configure a proxy server. For example, if you click on “Show advanced settings” and “Open proxy settings” in the “Preferences” of Edge, you will land in the Windows settings. The proxy server configured here is valid system-wide. Set the controller for “Use proxy server” to “On” and enter the IP address and port number. Important: To prevent internal requests from being routed via the proxy server, activate the option “Do not use proxy server for local addresses (intranet)”. Save the changes with “Save”.
VPN: Tap-Proof And With A Foreign IP Address
Even before it became known that the NSA, CIA and the like were monitoring a large part of Internet traffic, PC users were looking for ways and means to trick international floppy hats. It is not a question of disguising illegal or even criminal activities. On the contrary – users simply want to surf the web anonymously. For this reason, more and more users are going online via a VPN connection (Virtual Private Network).
In simple terms, this is software that establishes contact with a remote server via an encrypted connection known as a tunnel, so that your own computer becomes part of this network and is now on the Internet with its IP address. Among other things, this technology is used by companies to provide employees with tap-proof access to the company LAN from home. The biggest difference to a proxy server: The VPN server forwards the requests directly to the web server – the data packets cannot be manipulated. The only disadvantage: Fast and stable VPN services cost money.
In addition to the well-known providers that have been offering their services for several years, such as Hidemyass, VyprVPN and Cyberghost, new services are also vying for customers’ favor, making it difficult to choose the optimal service. A detailed list can be found on the website VPN Comparison.
Very good: Most of the VPN services offer a free test phase so that you can get an idea of how the software works and how it is equipped. The basic procedure is always the same. You install the software provided by your trusted VPN service, use your access data to identify yourself as an authorized user and establish the VPN connection with a single click. Since all providers operate VPN servers in different countries, you can choose whether you want to be on the Internet with a German, English or US IP address. The latter is then interesting in order to avoid geo-IP-barriers and to be able to use streaming services which are not officially available in Germany.