• February 4, 2023

Opinion: How to be truly anonymous in the digital world

Bans, deplatforming and censorship have increased in recent months. So do cybersecurity attacks.

Companies including Twitter
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alphabet
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YouTube and Apple
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have targeted agitators, journalists and heads of state. In the meantime, hackers are becoming more sophisticated, especially as huge stores of information are available online.

Regardless of your political affinity, bans are a type of public persecution that can be worrying because it undermines freedom of expression, the rule of law, and democracy. Abort culture is on the rise and social media giants are their main enforcers.

In an increasingly digital world, coordinated efforts by businesses, not governments, lead to digital execution. This overreach of companies will not decrease overnight because it is politicized. It will likely get bigger and more depressing.

Apart from prohibitions and deplatforming, privacy is more important than ever. Reducing the amount of information that can be used against you is something everyone should consider.

While this article is not a foolproof guide, it should provide enough information on how to achieve adequate anonymity and privacy. Some of the suggestions may make sense to you. None of this is illegal or unethical.

First of all, you need to understand how you can be compromised in the first place.

Digital ID

When you sign up for an online service, you provide personal information. Over time, this data accumulates and creates your digital identity. Once this information has been logged and blacklisted, people with matching digital ID records will be able to determine that they have been banned from services they were registered with and are not allowed to create accounts for new services. This is because many companies share and act on personal information and lists of people they consider disruptive or “inappropriate”.

Personal data is not a helpful identifier, but a risk and liability. Use anonymization to hide your digital identity while gaining access to services in order to be immune to these malicious attacks (or at least to mitigate the damage caused by digital exclusion).

Double identity

The first step is to break your communication down into two identity sets: public and secret. The first is for mundane and conventional communication and activities such as shopping online or discussing the latest episode of a person’s favorite show. The second should only be used to give your opinion on sensitive issues.

You have most likely given away a large amount of personal information. Now all you have to do is create the secret identity. The difference between the two is simple: a secret identity cannot be traced back to your real person, while the opposite is true for the public person.

To create a secret identity, you don’t just have to create new profiles on different platforms. Indeed, Using certain services and platforms ensures that both service providers and government agencies share your communications when certain conditions are met.

While flying under the radar, stay away from such services and focus on more reliable, privacy-conscious providers whenever possible.

Whonix

Windows is known for collecting data and send it to Microsoft, and macOS isn’t much better. If you want privacy and anonymity, you should use an operating system designed for that. Enter Whonix.

Whonix is a fancy name for a fully functional system running on your current system (known as the “host operating system”). It consists of a robust anonymization suite and set of tools that fill in most of the loopholes that could allow third parties to watch your activity.

Your online secret person should be using Whonix while you can still use your regular operating system for public activities. One word of caution: make sure you read and understand this installation Guide and specially Tips on how to stay anonymous to get the most out of this operating system. If you’re more tech-savvy, your best bet is to install Whonix on a disposable USB drive – a 32GB USB stick will do just fine. Here is a handy instructions if you are up to the task.

Tor Browser

Now that you have a robust operating system, the next thing you need is a browser that can help keep your browsing history and activity safe from surveillance. goal is such a browser. It’s preinstalled in your Whonix package so no additional downloads or installations are required.

When browsing with your secret identity, you should only use Tor. It protects you by making your personal information appear identical to any other Tor user, allowing you to “hide in the crowd”. Tor encrypts traffic using a layering scheme. In addition, your cookies are actively cleaned up after surfing so that third-party trackers cannot follow you.

There are many other privacy-related functions the Tor has in its arsenal, but for our purposes it is only necessary to remember this: it must be your browser of choice for all of your Whonix-based endeavors.

Finally, remember that no tool is perfect. There are bugs and special use cases.

Data protection-oriented email providers

Consider privacy-conscious email providers. One such provider is Rise upHowever, creating an account can be tricky as it can only be done through an invitation from another Riseup user. However, there is one Reddit list from email providers who value anonymity, security and data protection. Make sure you choose a provider that offers email access through Tor (this list).

Anonymous accounts

Most social networks require you to provide a phone number before creating an account. Of course, you should under no circumstances provide personal data.

Same goes for your phone. You should buy a disposable handset in a location that is far from where you live, pay for it with cash (no credit cards), and make sure you don’t activate it or use it in your home as this can be used to track the handset call you back Use this phone only to create accounts for services you want to use and remove the phone. Don’t give it to anyone.

This allows you to create accounts for Clearnet-based services that you can communicate with without fear of being identified. Note that this does not protect the accounts from being quickly deleted by service providers.

Dark network

Sometimes you may want to reach out to other like-minded people without fear of censorship or having your accounts deleted all the time or Shadows forbidden from “hard-working” service providers. Enter the dark web – don’t confuse it Deep webof which it is a part.

The dark web describes the encrypted online content that is not indexed by traditional search engines and that can only be accessed through specialized browsers such as Tor (which come with your Whonix installation). Although the dark web has a bad reputation for being a hotbed of shady activity, you can find it too lots of legitimate and pretty useful content available through its proprietary “.onion” links.

Once you’ve installed Tor on your Whonix, the first thing you need to do is find a search engine. I suggest you go for Duck Duck Go (Tor-only link to DuckDuckGo: https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/). Unlike Google, this search engine does not track your searches, nor does it collect or share your personal information.

However, you can switch from google too Duck Duck Get into your clearnet efforts also.

Some guidelines before you start searching for content: Don’t click every link you come across. The dark web can be a dark place for the uninitiated. You will come across websites that sell drugs, guns, killers for rent, illegal pornographic material, and worse.

However, if you know where to look, you will find a wealth of interesting and useful websites – from whistleblowers to scientific paper databases and bastions of independent journalism.

There are also picture boards, chat rooms, and forums where like-minded people can coordinate and discuss topics of the day, from religion to science to literature. The dark web is a tool like any other and it is up to you to use it responsibly and to enrich it with valuable content that needs to be shared and promoted. Finally, make sure you follow all of the precautions listed under the links above before you start surfing.

Social Development

So far I have told you how you can be safe by implementing technical measures. However, you must also understand that disclosing personal information can expose you.

By this I mean not just using your real name or publishing your Clearnet email address, but other, seemingly inconspicuous data – with slang that can be traced back to a specific region and one recognizable style and speed of inputTo exchange information about your partner or children or comment on local news.

Such data is quite harmless on its own, but is combined with others digital fingerprinting techniques can result in a reasonably accurate profile that can destroy anonymity as details accumulate. To get around this, vary your writing speed, insert random typos in your discourse, discuss different topics when commenting on messages, meddling comments on stories about places far from your physical location, and never discussing your family members.

Finally, avoid trusting strangers – this should be a must in your daily life, and it is even more important in an online environment. These are just some of the ways you can be more secure. However, absolute security and anonymity are not possible.

I hope this guide has provided at least some insight into what some of us may find necessary. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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Jack

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