The internet commonly provides a false sense of anonymity, whereas there is only pseudo-anonymity for most users. Pretty much everyone is identifiable online by their IP address , a unique identifier assigned to you by your internet service provider (ISP).
However, there are tools which can help you mask your actual IP address and provide an additional layer of protection for your online identity. This can be achieved with the use of Tor Browser or Virtual Private Network (VPN) services.
Tor Browser is a free and open source software customised to work with the Tor network, based upon Mozilla Firefox, which encrypts your browsing traffic and gives you a new identity, i.e. a new IP address. It is also particularly useful for accessing blocked websites on your network. There are some drawbacks however, as the Tor network provides generally slow internet speeds and users’ identity can be exposed if they do not use Tor Browser properly.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service which enables users to connect to the public internet through a private network, providing an additional encrypted layer of privacy and masking the users’ actual IP address. There are many VPN providers, but users should still take note and be aware of possible security aspects such as:
- Jurisdiction, i.e. in which country is the company providing VPN services based. Countries which are members of the “Five Eyes” mass surveillance alliance (USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia) should generally be avoided;
- No logs policy, meaning that the VPN provider doesn’t log your internet traffic made through their network;
- Regularly performed independent security audits, which are usually documented on the VPN provider’s website;
- Price - some VPN services are quite expensive, but you should be vary of “completely free” VPN apps , as their business model is almost certainly based on tracking users. However, some paid-service providers offer free plans with limited possibilities, such as lower speeds and a smaller number of servers .