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How To: Hide Your Identity Online

There are a number of reasons you might want to hide your identity when you’re online. Some are good (making sure you’re not tracked and loaded down with cookies by sites, for instance) and some arepossibly illegal (P2P file-sharing networks), but the fact is that you can surf anonymously.   It’s essentially about hiding your IP address, the numbers that identify you online— much like your street address at home.   It’s not especially difficult to mask your identity to surf. There are several services that offer the ability for free. Or you can go to awireless hotspot that doesn’t require a password or registration, if you can find one.   Proxify will hide your IP address, and you have theoption to block cookies, hide your referrer information, remove ads, and minimize page caching. Everything is done through an encrypted connection. It’s free to try, but there’s a paid version thatcosts around $50. BeHidden will let you surf free, but with a 50MB daily limit. The Cloak is free, once againencrypted, and you can customize your anonymous proxy to delete cookies and Javascript. All are easy to use.  

The Cloak Screenshot
The Cloak Screenshot

  All of these are fine if you just want to surf sites. But what if you want to use an anonymous IP for chatting, for instance, or other reasons? In that case, there’s software you can buy,which sends you through an anonymous public server to mask your identity — think of it as a buffer.   A4Proxy does the job well, costingaround $38 and offering complete anonymity and the ability to access all manner of things, from websites to chat to webmail services. Anonymizer is perhapsone of the best known in the field, with several products to keep your identity hidden online, ranging from $29.99 for their Anonymous Surfing to $119.99 for Safe Surfing Professional. However, youcan download a free, seven-day trial version.  

Anonymizer Screenshot
Anonymizer Screenshot

  These are just a couple of products on the market — a simple Google search can locate dozens more. Two that have garnered good reviews from users are Hide IP Platinum and ProxyWay. The former has all the features you’d expect, you can change your anonymous IP whenever youwish, and it’s IE 7.0 compatible. The latter has products ranging from the free version to ProxyWay Extra. At a shade under $200, it’s not for the casual user, by any means, but it has a verypowerful proxy tool that can work well with CGI proxy servers and can do virtually everything except make your morning coffee.  

ProxyWay Screenshot
ProxyWay Screenshot

All these products are for PC, which doesn’t exactly help you a lot if you use a Mac. But there is a new product that can be your salvation for anonymous surfing — at least, if you use OS X 10.4. The Internet Anonym VPN for the Mac OS uses an encrypted tunnel connecting the user’s computer and a Steganos VPN server. It protects the data sent from interception, even from the client’s ISP. Currently, it costs $14.95 a month for a healthy 25 gigabytes of traffic, but there’s also a good deal on an annual license. The main window of the software displays data usage, so you can keep track.

Steganos Internet Anonym VPN Screenshot
Steganos Internet Anonym VPN Screenshot