Surf the Net anonymously

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By Prashant Vadgaonkar (TECHTRONIKS)

Published: Sat 17 May 2014, 8:06 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:18 PM

Internet penetration across the urban and rural areas has grown significantly over the past few years but that growth has also exposed the user to serious safety, security and privacy concerns. Be it a user of a wireless or wired computer or a smartphone user, there is someone who is tracking the oblivious user by way of the IP addresses of devices.

The Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a unique numerical identifier assigned to each and every device on a computer network and helps track the computer but also opens him up to unprecedented privacy and security vulnerabilities. Even a casual user of the internet is susceptible to hacking since his or her IP address is pretty much like an open book! IP addresses are routinely used to pinpoint a persons’ location and to link his or her distinct online activity into behavioural patterns and used for promotional purposes by retailers and marketers.

But now there is device available which can be used to camouflage your IP address and thereby provide a veil of security. Safeplug is a device which effectively blocks out the IP address thereby providing a security blanket and is based on the “Tor” concept. The tool comprises a small box which plugs into the network at home and helps anonymize web surfing.

Tor, initially a US Naval Research Lab project, is a free software which provides online anonymity with necessary controls and censorship. Tor, which was an acronym for The Onion Router (Tor) simply directs internet traffic through a free worldwide network which obscures a user’s location or usage pattern from third parties or from someone carrying out internet traffic flow analysis or surveillance agencies.

Tor makes it very tricky to track internet activity such as visits to websites, messaging, chats, online posts and all kinds of communication and is aimed at protecting the personal privacy of users. Tor, in technical terms, refers to layers of encryption akin peeling the layers of an onion. Tor encrypts the source data such as the IP addresses and relays it through virtual circuits comprising of multiple hops or relays. The relay in each layer decrypts and exposes one layer of encryption only to the next layer and passes the data. Thus the last layer decrypts the innermost layer and pushes the original data to the destination without knowing the source IP address. With the layers concealing the hop at each stage, the technique ensures that at no point the data can be unscrambled to reveal the original IP address. Tor is a tool used extensively by criminals and hackers to disguise their online activities and also by surveillance and intelligence agencies.

SafePlug designed by pogoplug.com is an innocuous looking box which can be used by simply plugging the device into the Internet router. Then one has to direct the web browser to pogoplus.com/safeplug and activate to start using the internet securely and discretely.

Though the SafePlug device which is available for $49 may impede internet browsing speeds significantly on account of its design it helps block advertisements and can be a great solution for anonymity of home users.

prashant.vadgaonkar@hotmail.com


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