Monday, July 17, 2006

Anonymous Surfing on the Internet

Many friends have asked me if there is a way to surf the Internet anonymously. And, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Your identity on the Internet is your IP address. Every time you visit a website, the website records your IP address. What can you do with a IP address you ask? A lot. An IP address reveals your geographic location, your ISP and much more. Therefore, the key to remaining anonymous on the Internet centers on hiding your IP address.
Though there are many commercially available services to hide your identity on the Internet, there are free ones that work just as well.

Today, I will be talking about two of them, Tor and JAP. Tor, believe it or not, was actually developed by the US Navy. However, they abandoned the project some years ago. Luckily, EFF, a not for profit organization, came along and finance the projected. Tor uses a network of “Onion Routers” to hide your identity on the web. Here is how it works, you click to request a website. The request is then routed to the Tor network, where it bounces around randomly before it finally reaches the website. The website can only see the last IP address and not your IP address. Tor’s ability to hide your presence on the Internet is determined by the size of the Onion routers, more routers make it more difficult to discover your really IP address. Tor supports Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.

JAP is another service that hides your identity on the Internet. It works differently than Tor. JAP uses a static IP address. When you surf to a website, the website sees JAP’s IP address and not yours. I like JAP for a number of reasons. When you use JAP, it displays a meter which shows the level of anonymity. In addition, with Tor, your ISP knows which sites you surf to. This is not the case with JAP, your ISP can not detect which sites you surf to.
Some might say think Tor and JAP are for the paranoids. But, these are uncertain times. In the United States, since 9/11, the NSA has conducted warrant-less wiretapping of Americans. The US government requested information from search engine giants Yahoo!, MSN and Google. Though, I am not sure if “requested” would be the best word. It is more like demanded. Legislation is being drawn requiring ISP’s to keep a record of all customers activities on the Internet.

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