Anonymous navigation, incognito mode and many other similar terms are becoming commonly used terminologies thanks to the numerous implementations of different navigation methodologies to surf the web without leaving a trace.
Available on all the most common browsers and on all the most widespread operating systems, these operating modes have given rise to some minor misunderstandings and, if on the one hand they actually make it possible to leave no history of visits on the devices, on the other they do not allow certainly to surf anonymously.
Through the use of traditional browsers it is not possible to leave no traces on the web of the own navigations, vice versa through the use of specific technologies it is actually possible to navigate incognito.
Anonymous browsing through traditional browsers
All the most modern programs for surfing the Internet, the so-called browsers, have operating modes called anonymous browsing or incognito browsing. By activating these options, our browsing sessions will be anonymous (or unknown, if you prefer) but only locally, on our device will not be stored any cookies or any other system data capable of recognizing our device to the sites we connected to. The moment we reuse the browser, it will be as if we had never been on the sites that we have viewed in anonymous mode.
The most common use of these features concerns access to particular sites and you do not want to make other users of the device participate. These options are definitely valid in cases where you choose not to leave traces on your PCs or on your devices, so as not to show others which sites you have viewed and which searches you have made. The most widespread cause of all is that of porn or red-light sites: employees who do not wish to leave ‘certain’ tracks on company PCs, porn lovers who do not want to share their passion with their partner or whoever. In short, for incognito browsing there is something for everyone, but two points must absolutely be emphasized: anonymous browsing through traditional browsers does not make it safe from ill-intentioned and does not cover its own tracks if not locally (ie on the own device), anonymous surfing proves useful in many other situations which, for those who work with the web or seriously enjoy themselves, are on the agenda.
The incognito browsing mode of web browsers
The anonymous browsing offered by web browsers does not allow real incognito browsing nor does it increase the security of your raids on the web. The incognito browsing windows through desktop or mobile browsers on your PC (or on the office one) or on your smartphone (or tablet), allows you to make an Internet browsing session during which all the data collected at local level (therefore only on your PC or smartphone) once the incognito window is closed, they will be deleted and no trace will remain on your device. In practice, browsing incognito with your web browser and logging into a specific website, once the anonymous browsing window is closed, the username and password (and also all the websites visited) will not be saved in the memory of your device, PC, tablet or smartphone.
Warning! This does not mean in any way that you have navigated as a really incognito hacker, it just means that if your wife, your boss or your parents control your browser history, they cannot see the sites you have visited. Unfortunately, the company server, its network connection provider, the owners of the websites visited, the DNS servers, the data collection systems of which we are not aware, the NSA and I don’t know how many others, will be perfectly aware of everything you have done on the net: the IP address of your computer, that is the unique identifier of your connection to the Internet network, your workstation and the physical location of your device, where you have navigated, which sites you have visited, to who you wrote the emails and what services you had access to. In short, many (too many!), Despite your anonymous and incognito browsing window, will know very well everything you’ve done on the Internet.
The usefulness of incognito browsing through traditional browsers
Although the anonymous browsing methods offered do not offer certainty from the point of view of privacy, it is a case of particular browsing methods useful in many cases of daily use. Let’s examine the most frequent and interesting ones, and open to some workarounds. Instead, for what concerns the real privacy, we will deal with the thing below.
Navigate to particular sites without letting others know
Leave no trace of improper navigation sessions: if the need is to hide the history of your visits from your family or work colleagues or anyone else, the most immediate and rapid method is to use the incognito window offered by all the most modern browsers web. Open the menu of your browser and choose to open a new private window (either anonymous or incognito, depending on the program used). A new window will open, characterized by a different color and a symbol that recalls a mask to be placed on the face: now you can browse inside it in a protected manner, that is without leaving a trace in the history and without saving any of them on your device. Surf on your favorite online gaming site, on the betting site, on the porn site or red light (by the way, if you are interested in privacy in pornographic material, you should consult this reference) and, at the close of the window, there will be no local trace (ie on the device you used) of what you did.
Use multiple accounts on the same website
Very interesting in these times seasoned daily by the use of social networks also for work, the possibility of accessing the same website with different accounts without necessarily having to log in and out for each identity we want to use. As an indication, you can use the smooth browser with your main account and then, for each secondary account that you intend to use, open an anonymous or browsing in incognito.
Just an example to make you understand better: if you have two Twitter accounts, to post first on one and then on the other with the same browser, you must necessarily log in (ie enter the account with the respective username and password credentials) first with one, then exit that account, then log in with the second account and, in case you need to return to the first account, repeat the procedure. Through the anonymous browsing mode, everything is simpler and faster: in the normal mode window use your main account, then open a window for anonymous browsing and from that you access your secondary account.
By doing this, you can use the two accounts simultaneously and without having to complicate your life with repetitive login and logout procedures. In fact, in this way, the web browser keeps the cookies used by the incognito mode not saved but also separated from those used by the standard session. Finally, when the browser is closed all cookies relating to the anonymous session will be deleted and therefore also the credentials relating to the login done in this mode, while those relating to the standard session will remain memorized for subsequent access to the website visited.
Access your accounts using public access points
By using a PC station at the university, at a friend’s house or in general, more generally, using a computer, not ours to access our online services, we could endanger the security of the accounts themselves, which is why in all these cases it is advised strongly to use the browser incognito mode. If, for example, we access our webmail on a public PC using the standard browser mode and, once all our emails have been consulted, we leave the workstation without having logged out from our account, we will literally leave it at the disposal of whoever accesses it to the PC after us. And so a little for all the online services you use every day.
Avoid the risks associated with the use of public access points
By using the incognito mode in this situation, you will have the certainty that once you have finished using the public PC’s browser in this mode, all our credentials for accessing online services will be removed and not stored on the machine. A use of this type of anonymous browsing mode, while not eliminating all the risks, allows you to use your accounts online in a quiet manner even on machines owned by others or on public devices without the worries of having to correctly perform the procedures of exit from them and without having to think about manually deleting their tracks and credentials.
Workaround for the limitations of access, identification, and history
Different websites, such as resource portals, online newspapers, and magazines, offer a limited number of free accesses over a defined period of time, which means that over a week or a month we will have free access to the site’s resources only for a limited number of times. As in most cases, the site checks based on the cookies that are saved on your system, to avoid this limitation, incognito browsing can be effective because it does not allow the cookies of that particular site to be saved .
Workaround for the limitations through the incognito mode tabs
Here is that the results of my personal searches will be different from those of any other and precisely tailored for me: in this way you will get non-objective results and will be shown appropriate resources for the user who carried out the research at the expense of objective results and not influenced by the research already carried out. The solution of using incognito browsing is also valid for all those specialized services such as Expedia or Amazon , which like Google perform a collection of data on users’ habits and preferences.
Incognito is a panacea even for cases involving online advertising in the round. It is useful to avoid too intrusive advertising, in fact, if you go to sites full of advertising banners through anonymous browsing you will see white spaces instead of advertising ones, this for the lack of profiling of cookies by online advertising circuits. In addition, to avoid being overwhelmed with products that have been searched on sites that store our preferences like Amazon or Google.
Once you have done an online search for a possible purchase on sites like the ones described above, but also the search for a vacation or a trip or a hotel, it is possible (indeed, how much more probable) that from then on all the Web pages with advertising banners are found to be inundated with offers and promotions related to the product or service previously sought. In all these cases, but also to prevent other people from knowing our online habits (in the case of shared computers) it is extremely useful to use the incognito search in the search phrases on the engines and on the dedicated portals because at the end of the session of anonymity any information stored will be deleted and therefore not made available in subsequent navigation sessions (even standard).
Beyond the incognito, the true anonymous surfing
Incognito, as mentioned, is a feature included in all modern web browsers and allows you to surf the Internet without leaving traces on your computer or on your mobile device. The addresses of the sites visited will not appear in the chronology, no profiling information will be stored on the device used and even no information on the credentials for accessing online services.
The incognito browsing or the various anonymous browsing modes offered by the various web browsers should not, in any case, be assimilated to the concept of real anonymous online browsing , as already specified above, our privacy will only be local, that is, at the device level, and unfortunately, all our network adventures will remain easily recoverable from multiple organisms. There are advanced services that allow you to camouflage or obfuscate your online identity by acting at various levels of intervention, these services really allow you to browse incognito and be untraceable except with appropriate professional techniques and only in exceptional cases.
With the incognito mode offered by common web browsers, the identity of the user remains perfectly visible, the IP address of your device is not obfuscated in any way (which makes it perfectly distinguishable among the billions of devices connected to Internet) and who is at the level of network connections knows perfectly well who we are and which sites we are visiting. There is no protection for your privacy through the incognito mode of web browsers, this concept must be clear: even if you use anonymous browser navigation, you will be perfectly recognizable and traceable anywhere and whatever you do.
Now let’s see some tools that allow you to have a special eye on our privacy while browsing online.
Privacy Badger is an add-on for web browsers that blocks third-party trackers and advertising circuits . This is a free extension available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox , created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The task performed by the extension is to identify and block third-party content that monitors user activity during navigation. Privacy Badger keeps track of the third-party domains that are embedded in the scripts, images and advertisements of the sites visited. If it appears that a third-party server is monitoring the user without his consent, the extension will automatically block the upload . It is therefore an essential add-on to take care of your privacy while browsing online: to be aware of what our behaviors are monitored online and to prevent it being tracked without our consent.
HTTPS Everywhere is an extension for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera Browser which activates the encryption of its online communications between its web browser and the sites visited, thus making its navigation much safer. This extension is used to make Internet sites use the HTTPS connection protocol if they support it, and it is very effective for protecting yourself from man-in-the-middle attacks (that is, someone who fits between our device and the server to which we are going to connect, stealing valuable information and credentials).
A fast, secure, easy to use browser. Opera has everything you need for unbeatable web experience. From today it also offers an integrated function for blocking advertisements and, in the desktop version for developers, it also allows the use of a free VPN without too many complications. Opera is the first browser that can block advertisements without having to install additional components and, based on the tests performed, the function blocks advertising integrated in Opera Browser speeds up the loading of web pages by 90%. Opera Mini, the mobile version of Opera created specifically for mobile devices, is one of the most popular browsers in the world that can be used on almost all smartphones and tablets, reducing data consumption by up to 90% at no additional cost.
Tor is a network of computers and servers that hides the identity of your device on the Internet. In practice, your PC becomes the node of a subnet created specifically to carry out anonymity online and making the connection through various computers scattered all over the world bounce (just like in hacker films!). Thanks to the use of Tor, it is possible to become really anonymous on the net (except for extreme cases, it will be really difficult to be traced), as well as going beyond regional complaints and restrictions with extreme ease, all at the expense of navigation speed that will be significantly more slow as the whole procedure has a cost in terms of performance. Tor Browser is a particular version of Firefox already pre-configured to use the Tor protocol and network , and is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux; to use other protocols under the Tor network , such as Torrent and FTP, a particular configuration will be required that is not available to everyone. In any case, the use of Tor Browser is already a great panacea against the evils that afflict our online privacy.
A VPN , that is Virtual Private Network , is a private communication network, which is implemented through a public data transmission infrastructure, such as the Internet. The purpose of the VPN networks , born mainly at the corporate level, is to provide a transmission medium with a performance level of a direct and private connection, but through a public and shared network . In practice, I create a private network using a public network, with obvious savings in terms of costs and with a minimum performance decrease.
A VPN is ideal for security anywhere and from any device and, on the privacy side, a VPN can be useful in many ways and the fact that in recent times these services have had a real boom is to testify to the goodness of these solutions. Our communication instead of passing through our operator’s server only passes through a set of nodes (other special servers) that protects our connection and filters our data during navigation. The procedure is very similar to that of TOR , but instead of having nodes created with other TOR users’ computers (those that made them available), there are real dedicated servers specifically configured for this kind of communications. We find several free VPNs, but the best results in terms of performance and protection are obtained through paid VPNs : among the most interesting, also recommended by the creators of Opera, we find the ultra-fast SurfEasy. We also remind you that a VPN allows you to always have secure connections, that is even when we connect through Free Wi-Fi or, more generally, through any type of public network.
Tails is a live operating system (that is, it should not be installed, but that is started directly from a device) that aims to preserve privacy and anonymity online. Ideal to use the Internet anonymously and to avoid censorship filters , practically in any place and on any computer, without leaving traces unless you want to do it explicitly.
Tails is a complete operating system designed to be booted from DVD , USB memory or SD card, and that works independently of the original operating system installed on the computer. This is Free Software based on Debian GNU / Linux. It allows you to use the Internet completely anonymously and withholding censorship and geographical restrictions, forcing all connections (all with all protocols!) To the Internet to use the Tor network , avoiding leaving traces on your computer unless be explicitly asked and using the state of the art cryptographic tools to encrypt files, emails and instant messages. The top for privacy and security.
This small and incomplete retrospective on the tools that can be useful to promote our privacy and our online anonymity has the sole intent to give stimulus to find solutions to really get a safe surfing on the Internet. The proposed solutions are only the tip of the iceberg, but they are a decidedly good starting point and, if integrated together and used in symbiosis, they can really help to realize their own effective system for safe navigation and respectful of the Internet privacy.