When browsing the internet you will need a browser to make the experience comfortable to yourself. Google has done an intensive job on marketing their Chrome browser ever since they released it. This resulted in a big market share in the browser industry. But if you care about covering your tracks Chrome is not the best choice to go with. We understand that most regular users prefer a known browser that looks clean and is simple to use. Next to Chrome the most popular browsers are currently:
- Safari (iOS/MAC)
- Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer & Edge
People using Windows who have very little knowledge about computers usually find themselves using the default browser Edge or on older Windows system Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer has built a very negative reputation and with the release of Edge Microsoft hoped to get rid of that reputation. Although Edge is far better than Internet Explorer it does not seem to get rid of the bad reputation left by Internet Explorer. Still even ignoring the bad reputation Edge is still not on the level of the other major browsers. It lacks functionality and extensions.
Safari can be compared a little to chrome. It’s simple, clean and easy to use. However it’s only available for iOS and MAC systems. The support for extensions isn’t as great as other major browsers and as a more intensive internet user you will want to give other browsers a try.
Firefox has profiled itself as the go-to browser for developers and other more intensive computer users. It’s has great support for developers and an amazing library for extensions. If you like FireFox it’s definitely a good choice but mostly you either love it or hate it. If it doesn’t seem to be your thing continue reading and see what else could be your fit.
Vivaldi is a fairly new browser. After Opera 12 the Opera browser received a full rework. Where Opera used to be a browser with a focus on customization the new reworked Opera thew that all over board to try to compete on the higher level with Chrome. Vivaldi is what Opera could have been. It’s built on the chromium engine allowing users to use chrome extensions and it’s by far the most customizable browser you’ll find. If you like to make your browser experience perfect to your likings and needs you should definitely give Vivaldi a try.
You could describe Opera as another Chrome version with less Google control. They use the chromium engine which allows for chrome extensions and the browser is clean and fast. Just like Chrome the focus is to provide a simple to use browser that simply looks clean. If you’re used to chrome, don’t want the customizibilty of Vivaldi or the developer options of Firefox this should be the one to try.
Once you have chosen a browser you will want to install some extensions. After all this article is covering how to stay as anonymous as possible. You should probably be sitting with Vivaldi, Opera or Firefox open as your browser right now. Now let’s see which extensions you should install and why.
Having an ad blocker is definitely a good choice. Not only to make browsing more fun by blocking annoying ads but also because they can be dangerous. There have been multiple occasions where malware has been spread through advertisements. Next to that ads needs to be loaded onto the page which takes data and slows down the page loads. For ad blockers I highly recommend uBlock Origin. But feel free to try some others!
Tracking blockers are also nice to have. As you might or might not know websites try to collect data everywhere and not only when you’re browsing their own site. They track which sites you go to when leaving their site and in case of big sites such as Facebook and Google this can go much further. As example the Facebook “like” buttons you see on many websites aren’t just sitting there doing nothing. It’s also a way for them to see what you’re doing when you’re not on Facebook. If we look to Google we can see a similar situations. The majority of the websites trying to reach people use Google Analytics on their websites.There are extensions that block these “buttons” and “analytics” and much more and keep you a little more safe from big brother. The extension called Disconnect is my recommendation for this.
Years ago it was easy to circumvent a ban by simply registering a new account on a website or forum. However the techniques have improved a lot and simple measures usually don’t cut it anymore. The first and oldest technique in the book are cookies. A website can store a little file of data in your browser called a cookie. Cookies are used for many things, sometimes necessarily for the proper working of a website. But they can also be used to know who you are. Cleaning your cookies through your browser or 3rd party software such as CCleaner can solve this. Or you could also use incognito mode which most browsers offer nowadays.
The most known and obvious way to recognize a person is their IP address. And IP address is a unique identification to your computer. Many ISP’s use dynamic IP’s and resetting your router or simply waiting would change your IP address. However more and more ISP’s have been transitioning to static IP’s for their users which means you always have the same IP. This makes it easy for a website to recognize you even if you are not logged into an account. To hide your IP-address you can use proxies or a VPN. There are free VPN’s available however those IP’s are usually known by websites and some may even block access to their website if you’re on a VPN. We will cover more about proxies and VPN’s in another article.
The biggest issue and the hardest to overcome is browser foot-printing. To give an easy example, if you set your browser language in Dutch because you speak Dutch, a website can already split you from A French user. If your English is good you might want to consider setting your browser language to United States English as it’s the most common browser language. But this is just one example, there are many factors than can make your browser a danger to be identified.
The size of your screen, the size of your browser, your operating systems, your browser version. They are all factors that can help identify you. Of course there’s gonna be others with the same specifications as you however they are factors that on top of others factors can help to identify your browser and thus you. Try to keep your browser up to date so you have the same version as most users using the same browser. If you have an unusual screen resolution you might want to window your browser rather than using full screen to use a more common size.
This is a newer form of finger printing and is very efficient. HTML5 which is now the standard for websites allows making drawing through code. The bad thing here is that the way the drawing are rendered are different based on multiple factors such as your graphics card and the way your computer handles and renders graphics. With canvas finger-printing website owners are able to narrow you down to under 1% of their users. Then together with other finger-printing techniques they can get really close or even fully identify you. There are some ways to block canvas finger-printing on most browsers (not on Chrome) but they are browser specific and depend on which version you’re running. This is still not very common at this point and mainly bigger websites such as Facebook are using this technique. But it’s a matter of time before more websites will start using this.
It’s nearly impossible to stay anonymous these days with general browsers and setups. At least for the big players such as Facebook and Google. You can still slip through most regular sites right now if you try hard enough but it’s only a matter of time before that ends too. If you really want to stay fully anonymous you will need to accept slow browsing and half broken sites as one of your little options will be using Tor Browser. More about that in another article.
For regular personal browsing we recommend using extensions such as Disconnect and uBlock origin just to keep the tracking to a minimum. For specific browsing tasks that require as much anonymity as possible we recommend using a fresh installed browser (even chrome) in United States English as language. Do not tinker with any settings and don’t install any extensions. Just run your proxy or VPN and use the browser as it is.