Anonymous and safe surfing on the Internet

When you move around on the Internet, you leave traces in the form of data – the IP address of the computer you are using to dial in to, which other website you have previously visited, the location of the computer or smartphone, the operating system and browser version. If you want to surf safely and anonymously without completely revealing your digital identity, there are certain rules of conduct to follow. In addition, you have the option of using tools to protect your data.

Do I surf anonymously? Browsers reveal a lot about the user

Before thinking about how to surf anonymously, would it be good to know what information a browser reveals when, for example, a website is accessed? All browsers manage the visited pages in a list, which can also be viewed and examined afterwards. This list has different names depending on the browser. What they are called and how to delete them is explained in another paragraph. As an alternative to regular manual deletion, modern browsers also offer an incognito mode. If this mode is activated, the browser deletes the history automatically after the end of the session and deletes any stored cookies and the cache. Passwords and previously entered user IDs as well as data entered in form fields are not saved either. These measures can thus prevent other users of the same computer, tablet or smartphone from finding out which pages you have visited on the Internet. But even in an internal network, an administrator or even a potential attacker has many ways to intercept and analyze the data transmitted by a browser. As far as anonymous surfing on the Internet is concerned, these measures offer no security.

Websites to test anonymity

In order to be able to get an idea of what information your browser reveals to you, there are some Internet pages that display this information. A particularly good overview can be found on . This page not only lists general information such as IP address, host and provider name, but also geographical information about your own location. Further details about the browser used, including the plugins used and the availability of Java, provide detailed information about the traces you leave on the Internet. Another page offering such a test is provided by the JonDonym project. The „“ test page offered there shows very precisely where your browser reveals vulnerabilities and security holes. It usually also gives tips on how to fix them. Most of the data listed on the test pages is read via JavaScript, so switching off JavaScript support in the browser can significantly increase your ability to surf the Internet safely.

Safe surfing: Disable JavaScript in Browser

JavaScript is a programming language that executes program code on your computer as a reaction to a mouse click (e.g. on a link) that originates from a foreign server. If you don’t know the originator, this code can pose a security risk to your computer or smartphone. Especially if you are logged in as an administrator and are browsing on unknown, untrusted sites, the risk of an infection of the computer with viruses, Trojans and other malicious programs by running JavaScript is present. It is therefore advisable to switch JavaScript off in the browser if you are logged in with administrator rights on the one hand and are browsing on unknown, untrusted websites on the other. You can find out how to deactivate the script on Google or, for example, on this page. Better still is the use of a script blocker like NoScript . This plugin, which is available for all common browsers, effectively prevents too much information from being passed on via the browser.

Surf anonymously: Delete the history – instructions for Chrome, Firefox & Co.

As mentioned before, it may be necessary to delete the history of the browser if you share the computer with more than one user. After all, not everyone should know which pages you have visited online.


Delete chronicle in Firefox:

Open Firefox and click on the Firefox button in the upper right corner. Then click on „Settings“. Starting with Firefox version 29, this menu item is located in the upper right corner when you click on the three horizontal bars.
Now click on „Privacy“ in the tab. Under „Chronicle“ you will find „Recently created chronicle“ and click on it.
Here you can now select the time until which the chronicle should be deleted and then clean up the browser history with a click on „Delete now“.


Empty browser cache in Chrome:

  • Click the three horizontal lines in the upper right corner. Then select „Settings“ from the menu.
  • On the left side is the point „History“. Go to it and then to „Delete browser data…“.


Manually delete individual entries in the history in Apple’s Safari:

  1. In the menu „History“ select the item „Show history“ (Safari 6.1 or higher) or „Show entire history“ (Safari 5, up to 6.0.5).
  2. In the History list, select the entries or ‚Day‘ folders you want to delete.
  3. Select „Delete“ from the „Edit“ menu or press the delete key on your keyboard.

Delete the entire Safari browser history at once:

  • From the History menu, select Delete History.
  • If you are sure, confirm this by clicking the „Delete“ button in the dialog box that appears.

Internet Explorer

Delete history in Internet Explorer under Windows:

  1. Open Internet Explorer and click on the wheel in the upper right corner.
  2. Now select „Internet Options“ from the context menu.
  3. In the tab „General“ you will find the submenu „Browsing history“. There you press the button „Delete…“.
  4. This will open a window with the name „Delete browser history“. Check the boxes for the data you want to delete. Then click on „Delete“ to permanently remove the history.

Surfing the Internet anonymously with TOR, VPN and proxy servers

As already described above, anonymous surfing on the Internet is not possible without modifications to the technology. On the contrary: your own identity can be traced unambiguously via the individual IP address assigned to you by your Internet provider. Your origin and even the Internet provider are also transmitted each time you access a website. If you don’t like this, you can protect your privacy by using a proxy server and thus concealing your identity. Unknown surfing nowadays usually works by redirecting your Internet traffic via so-called proxy servers and the remote terminal you are communicating with no longer gets its own IP address. A popular network for anonymization on the Internet is the Tor network. It can be used to anonymise various communication channels on the Internet, such as browsing, e-mail traffic and instant messaging. Incognito surfing can also be done with the JAP tool or the JonDoBrowser, a Mozilla Firefox (similar to the Tor browser) adapted to anonymous surfing and data protection. It is also possible to manually set up a surf proxy server to connect anonymously to the Internet in order to surf undetected.

Anonymous surfing with Tor

Tor (abbreviation for The Onion Router) is a service that allows you to surf the Internet incognito. It is a decentralized system that connects users via a network of so-called relays instead of a direct connection. Like the onion that gives it its name, the Tor network consists of several layers. Tor takes all data that enters or leaves via the Internet connection and sends it to servers around the world before it reaches its destination. This anonymizes the data traffic. The Tor network has more than 4,000 nodes spread across dozens of countries around the world. This high number of nodes is designed to guarantee anonymity and sufficient connectivity for Tor users. Any user can volunteer to contribute to the functioning of Tor with a server. For ease of use, Vidalia is available with Tor. This is a graphical user interface for starting, stopping and configuring Tor. It allows you to surf anonymously in all major operating systems: Mac, Windows or Linux support Vidalia. For Android phones there is a similar app called Orbot. Anonymous surfing is possible with Tor technology. The service ensures that an action on the Internet cannot be associated with the person who is performing it. This, of course, makes Tor an important tool for protecting people who fight against totalitarian regimes, such as journalists, reporters or political dissidents.But Tor’s disguise is also used for dubious purposes, such as distributing illegal content, doing illegal business, spying or communicating with criminal groups. The technology behind Tor has a major drawback for the user, slowing down the browser considerably. This is due to the numerous jumps between servers through which data is transferred.

Anonymous networking with VPN

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection is used to connect participants of different private networks with each other. A VPN is also a great solution to unblock restricted websites. For example, an employee can access a computer in the company network from home. The VPN thus acts in the connection like a network cable, which is plugged into the router of the foreign network. The VPN establishes an online connection from the original network to the other network, e.g. the company or university network. The connection is established via a so-called VPN gateway. This may sound complicated at first, but it is not for the user, since the providers of these services take over the technical details. The user himself simply installs software on the computer or an app on the smartphone/tablet and can then surf directly. The VPN connection enables anonymous surfing through the complete encryption of data traffic. This means that no data can be viewed from outside. Another big advantage is that VPN protects privacy and secures the freedom of the Internet. A monitoring of Internet activities by the Internet provider or a restriction of the services used is not possible with VPN. The location remains secret because the IP address remains anonymous. Access to the network is via one of several VPN Internet access points. Third parties, whether they are government services or company employees, have no access to the Internet activities. Important VPN providers include Suissl and CyberGhost.

The IP disguise with proxy servers

A web proxy server, also known as a proxy, is a server that is connected between your computer and the target server. It acts as an intermediary, so to speak. It intercepts data transfers between your computer or smartphone and the service you want to use. Proxy servers not only forward data, they also open the contents of the data packets and forward them in modified form. This is often desired for the protection of a network (company, organizations). A proxy server has different functions, such as working as a kind of firewall, because (possibly dangerous) data packets do not go directly to your device, but first through the proxy server. It can also be used to disguise your IP for privacy reasons. Because the proxy server provides the data for you, you do not personally go to the website you want to visit. Proxy servers are also used to increase performance: If, for example, a company often visits the same websites, the proxy saves them and thus enables faster access. Proxy servers are mainly used as an intermediate station from the intranet to the Internet – for example in companies or schools – to block various websites for users, to control the incoming content or simply to disguise the origin of the IP address.

Tips for anonymizing mobile devices

On mobile devices like smartphones or tablets, you should only turn on WLAN and GPS when you really need both. Apart from the fact that the services require power and reduce battery life, apps can use them to find your location. In addition, Android systems can prohibit the use of WLAN information for location purposes. As of Android 4.3, you can also remove the check mark for „Detection function always available“ under WLAN – Menu – Advanced. Otherwise WLAN sample requests will be sent even when WLAN is deactivated, even in standby mode. To identify users, Android contains an ad ID that cannot be deleted. This ID can then be reset, which makes it more difficult for website providers to recognize it. Of course, you should always not allow so-called „interest-related ads“. Even the automatic synchronization with the Google account does not help anonymity.

Anonymous surfing in Chrome, Firefox & Co.: Don’t stay logged in!

To really surf anonymously, it’s not enough not to sign in to Facebook or use a wrong email address. Most Internet services store information about you in cookies. The more you use a provider’s service, the more accurate its image of you will become. Good examples are the suggestions on Facebook or Amazon: The pages suggest friends, pages, or articles based on previous searches that have been customized for the user. You reveal a lot about yourself if you stay logged in to Facebook, Google and Amazon and the like. It is therefore advisable to log out of these services if you don’t need them.

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