The Dangers of Anonymous Web Surfing

The Dangers of Anonymous Web SurfingAnonymous web surfing is simply using the Internet without revealing information about yourself – the browser you are using, your IP address, your computer system, your location, etc.

You may not be aware of it, but when you go to a website, the server at the other end gets the IP address of the computer you are using to be able to return information back to your browser. In fact, all internet servers and services have some form of logging, and it’s not just your IP address that is being retrieved from your Internet session. The exact time that you accessed a web site, as well as usage history (i.e. links on the website that you clicked, actions that you performed, data that you entered) are recorded.

Companies use these logs for statistical, marketing, technical or legal purposes. In the office, it is likely that your company’s servers and firewalls are configured to keep track of employees’ Internet usage.

Anonymous surfing is done through an anonymous browser based proxy (a.k.a anonymizing proxy). This kind of website allows you to enter the URL of the web page or website that you want to visit, and the service will direct you to it while hiding your information from the other server. The website you visited will have no way to determine your IP address or location, because it would seem that all requests for information came from the proxy.

In reality, however, things are not that simple. Although companies offering anonymizing proxy services promise not to divulge your information, law enforcement agencies do have access to these records, and it is not unlikely that these will be used for surveillance purposes.

Also, you might get away with anonymous web surfing for while in your office or school, but sooner or later, the system administrator will notice that you are using an anonymizing proxy and even see the websites you visited embedded in the URL sent to the proxy or from DNS queries. This will definitely put you on a watch list and may be grounds for disciplinary action.

More importantly, anonymous surfing is not the same as encrypting sensitive information such as login credentials (i.e. username, password) and credit card details when transmitted over the Internet. Some users may lulled into a false sense of security and will not know that the credit card information they typed in are unencrypted and easily retrieved by hackers or server administrators with malicious plans.

There is plenty of information on the Internet on what to look for in a web proxy service for anonymous surfing. Consider also that anonymous web proxy services tend to be unstable and the current list changes constantly. Some services are offered for free, while some are not. Others are available for free but with limited features. To get the full benefit, you must pay one or more fees.

In the end, while anonymous web surfing is an easy way to navigate the Internet without worrying about your information being made public, it pays to do your homework to determine which anonymizing service suits your needs.