Online privacy and anonymity is a subject that should never be taken lightly by all and sundry.
The reason is that cybercrime is on the increase such that safeatlast.co reported that nearly 700 million people were faced with a cybercrime issue or the other in 2018 alone.
However, one of the ways people try to protect themselves online is by using a Proxy server which masks their IP address and gives them a more secure internet experience.
That said, the basic thrust of this article is to find out;
Does the proxy server offer online anonymity or not?
Can IP address be traced if you are using a proxy server?
Is it enough to use only a proxy server?
What other means or tools can I use to protect myself online?
Before getting on a proxy server, let us get an understanding of IP Addressing. The IP address refers to a string of numbers separated by periods. IP address comes in a set of numbers like 192.168.14.1. The full IP address range starts from 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255.
These and more are what you will learn in this article. So……. Let’s get started!
HOW A PROXY OPERATES
A proxy server serves as a link between your browsing gadget and the internet. When you are using a proxy server, it replaces your real IP address and thus preventing it from being tracked by third parties, including government surveillance agencies and cybercriminals.
Details on how a proxy works can be found below:
Basically, if you want to view contents on certain websites, the first thing you’ll do is to turn on the internet and type the exact URL of the site after which your Internet Service Provider [ISP] will supplicate on your behalf and then link you to the web URL you entered initially.
It is worthy to note that during this process, your real IP address will be seen clearly by the website in question, which means you can easily be tracked to your current location if the situation warrants.
This is where you need a proxy. When you are accessing the internet using a proxy, it will first transfer your request from your browsing gadget to the ISP you are using. After this is done, it will further shift the information to the proxy server and then finally to the website you intend visiting.
In short, what a proxy does is to hide your real IP and reroute your request to allow you to surf the web with a higher level of anonymity. What’s more, if you would like to get more information on what a proxy is and how it works, check out this in-depth Oxylabs blog post.
WHY YOU MIGHT WANT TO USE A PROXY
Apart from the fact that proxies help in hiding your real IP address, below are some other reasons you might need a proxy:
- You want to access some geo-restricted contents in your current location.
- You don’t want your browsing behavior to be spied upon by cybercriminals.
- You want to view specific contents without revealing your real IP address.
- You want to make contributions on the website without your identity being revealed.
- You want to bypass blocked contents at your workplace or college.
- You want to circumvent security restrictions and filters.
- You want to carry out sensitive tasks anonymously.
- You want to engage in Web scraping or web data extraction.
DO PROXIES REALLY HIDE ONE’S IP ADDRESS AND IS IT ENOUGH TO HAVE THE IP HIDDEN?
Perhaps you still doubt the effectiveness of proxies you may be asking yourself – Can IP address be traced when I’m using a Proxy server? Well, the answer is…. No!
Once you are connected to the internet using a reliable proxy server, the first thing it will do is to reroute your internet request, hide your IP, and then grant you anonymous access to the website you intend visiting at that moment.
This means that your IP address will remain masked or hidden such that the websites you visit will not be able to trace you to your current location.
However, some giant websites deny proxy servers access to their platform. Once they discover the visiting server is a substitute or proxy type, they will block it immediately, which could delay your browsing experience.
That said, there are numerous benefits of using proxy servers, including Speedy internet access, utmost simplicity, ability to bypass geo-blocked services and circumvent security restrictions or filters, to mention but a few.
The plain truth is that using a proxy server does not guarantee you of optimum anonymity, especially in this age where there is an increasingly widespread of cybercriminals hunting for data to steal online.
For instance, the proxy provider can easily manipulate your data because your real IP address would be revealed to them, which may further expose you to greater risks.
Not that alone, proxy servers also use a very weak encryption certificate which attackers can effortlessly maneuver and apply to their advantage.
The above and other compelling reasons why you should not rely solely on proxies for online anonymity; you need to make use of sophisticated technologies that are designed with a higher layer of security, and fortunately, you will discover them later in this article.
WHAT OTHER THINGS SHOULD BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION BY THOSE WHO WISH TO PROTECT THEIR PRIVACY ONLINE?
Suggested below are some of the robust tools you can leverage to improve your online anonymity:
#1. Use a VPN Software [Best option]
Virtual Private Network, VPN is an online security client that gives you anonymous access to various web contents simply by hiding your real IP address and encrypting your inbound & outbound data.
Connecting to the internet using a VPN could be a wise choice because it is equipped with robust encryption certificate and military-grade privacy & security features.
That said, a good VPN allows you to:
Access geo-restricted services
Gain access to the dark web
Bypass ISP Bandwidth throttling, etc.
Some of the best VPNs that provide optimum security and privacy include – NordVPN ($2.99/mo), Surfshark ($1.99/mo) and ExpressVPN ($8.32/mo).
#2. Use TOR
TOR [The Onion Router] is a free browsing client that allows you to connect to and surf the internet without revealing your real IP address to any third party.
The fortunate thing is that TOR is easy to download and also supports the vast majority of device OS, including Android, Windows, Mac OS, Linux, among others.
However, the major drawback of TOR is that it does not encrypt your internet traffic, which may expose you to certain risks.
To further enhance your online privacy, we suggest the following tips:
- Keep your primary e-mail address and phone number private
- Avoid using easy-to-guess or common passwords
- Grant access to only trusted mobile applications and browser extensions
- Be extremely careful when sharing your social security number
- Use two-factor authentication.
- Change your online passwords regularly.