Myth: I am invisible if I use ‘incognito’, ‘private’ or ‘guest’ browsing

Alternatively referred to as Private Browsing, InPrivate Browsing, and Private Window and informally as porn mode, Incognito is a mode that prevents some type of information from being stored locally.

Pages you view in incognito tabs won’t stick around in your browser’s history, cookie store, or search history after you’ve closed all of your incognito tabs.

Any files you download or bookmarks you create will be kept.

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However, you aren’t invisible.

Going incognito doesn’t hide your browsing from your employer, your internet service provider, governments and other sophisticated attackers, or the websites you visit.

For example, when you visit any web page the text, video, etc. that is loaded is stored on the computer. In addition, any searches or forms that are filled out are stored in AutoComplete fields.

 

Do you want to be fully “invisible”?

Sorry to disappoint you, but IT IS NOT POSSIBLE.

No matter what you do or tools you use, if someone invests enough time and resources, can and will track you down. The Internet was not done with this purpose in mind. You leave traces anywhere you go, no matter what you do. Everything gets logged somewhere: your IP address gets logged by your Internet provider, the URLs you visit, and so on.

Fortunately, you can do the job of someone who tries to detect you, very, very hard. But not impossible!

For that, you can use several layers of obfuscation.

The more layers you use, the more complicate is for someone to detect you.

– Use an anonymous proxy

Even if this can help you to bypass certain limitations (like location, age, etc.), there are some risks associated with it. For example, if you don’t know who owns that proxy, you should not trust the service: don’t enter any confidential data, credit cards, user names and passwords.

Usually, proxies don’t use encryption, even if there some proxies which allow encryption of the traffic between your browser and their servers. This allows a sniffer or man-in-the-middle to intercept your traffic. If you use a proxy, only the HTTP traffic goes through it. So, if you want to read emails, chat, play, etc., then you will not be anonymous.

– Use a VPN solution.

There are even plenty of free VPN solutions around.

The same risks as above apply here with the exception that a VPN solution encrypts the traffic between your computer and the gateway. This reduces the risk of being intercepted, but it doesn’t make it impossible.

– Use the Tor browser, or even better, the Tor Browser Bundle.

Even with Tor, there are some restrictions. Don’t forget that Tor does nothing else than to download the content of your target URLs from other computers and delivers you the content. On each peer there are traces left. Read the warnings when using this service in details here.

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Additionally, independent of the above:

– use only browser extensions that are trusted and deactivate all others. Ideally, you should not use any extensions if you want to be anonymous.

– use the HTTPS links whenever possible. If not sure, use HTTPS Anywhere to get some help.

– deactivate or minimize the usage of cookies

Note that these steps just protect your privacy, don’t really make you anonymous.

 

If you care about improving your security, there is a free eBook you can download.

 

This article appeared first in German on TCA Distribution (http://tcadistribution.wordpress.com/)

 

All these and many more topics are in the free eBook "Improve your security" available here: www.improve-your-security.org.

About the Author

ImproveYourSecurity
Sorin Mustaca, (ISC)2 CSSLP, CompTIA Security+ and Project+, is working since 2000 in the IT Security industry and until 2014 for Avira as Product Manager, where he was responsible for the known products used by over 100 million users world-wide. Serving the security needs of so many different users made him think that there are other ways of to help the users: teachning them about security.

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