Protecting Your Privacy Online, Anonymously



Hiding your IP or making it appear to be something other than what it actually is really isn’t a terribly difficult chore. In addition to the tools and services we’ve reviewed in this article, a simple search for “open proxy” in your favorite search engine will yield many more options, as well as lists of open proxies you can use. When surfing the Web with the major browsers, it’s a trivial matter to set the browser to use a proxy instead of connecting directly to the Internet. The problem comes from finding reliable proxies that will work consistently.

In the case of Anonymizer, the anonymous-IP service is easy to setup and use, providing a clear picture of what is going on. The built in phishing/pharming/malicious file filter is also a major added bonus. Being limited to just one IP address per day that is limited to the United States, could, however, be a sticking point for some. Anonymizer also does not have an online interface at this point, so it’s limited to just your local PC installation. The Anonymizer Anonymous surfing product is only $29.99 a year, though, which among the paid services is a good deal.

NetConceal provides more choices when it comes to proxy selection, but it pales in comparison to Anonymizer’s easy to use management interface. As a paid product, though, NetConceal is only $24.95 and there are no yearly subscription fees.

Vidalia’s packaging of the Tor network is a superior choice compared to NetConceal, and with Vidalia’s cost being zero, it’s also an even better deal. The ability to connect into a global network of proxies with Tor is a very good thing, and while not all of the Tor proxies are of the same quality, most work well.

On the online proxy side, and Megaproxy are similar, while the fact that Megaproxy’s proxy was not reported as a proxy is a huge bonus and one that likely gives it an edge. Then again on the free side of the equation with, you’re not limited to just 60 sites in five hours – which is a strong negative for the free Megaproxy service. Both Megaproxy and have paid services that improve speed and performance while providing additional privacy and security measures. is $38 a year while the paid Megaproxy service is almost the same at about $40 a year (listed pricing is $9.99 for 90 days).

If you need an online service that you want for free, Anonymouse is the way to go. If you’re willing to pay, Megaproxy might have an edge thanks to its improved anti-caching features.

If you don’t mind just having a U.S. IP address, then Anonymizer is a solid service. If you’re looking for something more, then Vidalia is a great place to start.

It’s important to note that none of these services can entirely protect your IP and your identity but they all will move you in the right privacy direction.

Happy (anonymous) surfing !

  • I found using a product like SafeSpace much better for protecting my privacy and it prevents malware infection too. Kinda two birds with one stone so to speak.
  • Fbender
    You forgot to mention email privacy like Mailinator !!! (which I just used to sign up for this tom's acct (but had to use an alternate domain :) - you guys write about privacy but don't believe in allowing it?))
  • bberson
    I think this proxy stuff is over-rated and the concept of privacy is distorted. There are plenty of ways to toss your privacy out the window on the Internet and your IP address is at the very bottom of that list. And if you really need to hide your IP then (a) I can't help but wonder about the legality or propriety of what you're up to, (b) your first inquiry should be whether your anonymizing service is subpoena-proof. Many are not. The Tor network is interesting in this respect, since if nothing else it substantially complicates inquiry efforts.

    Let's separate fact from fiction and potential from practice...

    Is your IP anonymous? Mostly, unless you have your own assigned address space (I do) or you're doing your surfing from a business or enterprise that has its own assigned address space. Finding out who is behind an ISP's dynamically assigned IP takes a letter from an attorney. Hardly an automated process.

    Can your IP address reveal your geographic location? Yes, but only roughly. It will not reveal your address. At best it will reveal your town and in some cases, even that may be somewhat inaccurate depending on how your service is provisioned.

    On the other hand if you fake your IP, any web site that uses geolocation services to target advertising, will offer you ads that are irrelevant. I'm on the fence with this. Which is worse? Relevant ads or irrelevant ads? Those of us who are experienced pretty much ignore all ads anyway.

    Can your IP address be used to track you? Absolutely not. I can walk out the door right now and although I'll have to stop typing, I can guarantee you that nothing about my IP address will have given away the fact that I went to get a bottle of Coca-Cola from across the street.

    Can your IP address be used to track your activities? Yes, to a limited extent, but due to the prevalence of dynamic IP addressing and the number of proxy -based systems (frequently used more for security in large companies than for privacy), generally nobody bothers. Cookies are a more reliable way to associate a person (or at least a computer) with their browsing habits. But for that to happen successfully some cooperation is required among the sites that place those cookies on your computer. Don't even get me started about cookies - another overblown source of panic.

    SSL proxy connections. All very well and good for keeping prying eyes out of your local data stream but useless once the data leaves the proxy and finds its way to the web server. So at least it'll keep your ISP and your neighbor's young hacker kid off your bits 'n bytes.

    Some of the other options really slay me. Why block info about your OS and your browser version? Seriously! And why strip HTTP Referer header info? A lot of this is used to help improve the web browsing experience for a viewer and in the case of referers, helps protect the site from abuse.

    There are some other interesting purposes for web proxies that aren't directly related to privacy, such as circumventing ridiculous limitations on certain web services. It might help with the quality of your search results during your stay in China, or help facilitate access to P2P applications that are blocked from USA IP addresses, or help travelers gain access to USA web services that block or offer reduced functionality to offshore IP addresses.

    A final note is that web browsing these days often involves a lot of extra plug-ins, multimedia widgets, peer to peer gadgets and so on. Not all of these blindly play along with proxy settings or proxy stacks. Some will do their own thing and some simply won't work at all. You'll have no idea if one of those pieces are dancing to their own beat until you run packet capturing software - a job not well-suited to those without propellor beanies. Those of us with the beanies know better than to care.
  • Man, there are so many things wrong with the comment above..too lazy to list them personally. But he's obviously not up with current times on what you can do with an ip address.
  • You can do whatever you like
  • scout123
    IP Check makes & Co look really naked

    The privacy test IP Check uncovers that web proxy providers like can indeed not provide any privacy protection. Any arbitrary website is able to circumvent web proxies and to uncover the user's IP address and browser data, which should be actually protected by the proxy.

    The respective security leaks are supposed to be present since up to 10 years in the code of these services. The question arised, whether anybody had seriously checked them for attacks before... You may find a demo of the numerous possible attacks here:

    In the following, you moreover find a detailed description of the tests:

    You find the main page of the IP Check itself here:

    The question is: are web proxy providers intentionally deceiving their users regarding the security of their systems? Or do they simply lack the necessary competence in the area of IT security? Is it all about making money, or also about collecting detailed data about the users? In any case, it should be clear that the currently available web proxies are at the best suitable for the circumvention of Internet censorship, but in neither case for anonymous surfing.

    It is possible that the IP check wil be blocked by some web proxy providers because of this demonstration. This would not be astonishing, as there is even in theory no protection against some of the used leaks. Whoever wants to make himself convinced should therefore do it now, before censorship will take place. However, you might realize any censorship of the Ip check as a confession that the web proxy providers are helpless against the attacks that are shown.
  • In a very short answer to Mr. I question the legality of what you're doing: stalkers. It's not what I'm doing, it's what I'm trying to avoid being done to me. I can move around, or I can move my IP around. Can someone tell I've stepped out for a Coke? No. Can someone sit on a corner, in the general area of the IP, waiting for the day I come by? Sounds stupid, yes? Ask law enforcement tasked with picking up the pieces when the stalker finds the stalked, even after very elaborate steps have been taken to protect the stalked. Stalkers are obsessed, and tracking an IP is only one of their tools. I choose not to give it to them.