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How to Keep Your Data Private and Browse the Internet Anonymously

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 (5:00 am) - Score 75,639

Sadly switching DNS servers isn’t enough to avoid the more sophisticated ISP-level web blocks but you should consider swapping anyway as the free solutions tend to be of a generally better quality than the one provided by your ISP.

Internet Proxy Servers

Proxy’s (application gateways) are servers that essentially sit in-between your internet connection and the website or online service that you want to access. Internet providers and local network managers often use them as a means of retaining tighter control over the flow of network traffic, indeed Proxy’s even play a part in many web censorship/filtering systems. Ironically the same method can also be used to defeat unwanted web filters.

In practical terms, when somebody visits a website or server through a third party Proxy, then the remote website or service will only see the proxy’s connection details (e.g. IP address) and not yours. As a result you can often use this solution to both circumvent your ISPs filtering system and retain greater control over personal data. Some ISPs will attempt to prevent this by imposing blocks on common proxy servers or related sites but this is a losing battle, proxy details often change far faster than an ISPs ability to adapt.

On top of that there are many different types of proxy server and not even some of the world’s most repressive regimes (e.g. Iran, Syria, China etc.) have been able to stop them. Here are a few examples of related solutions.

Web Based Proxy Servers

This is perhaps the simplest method. An internet user need only visit a special website and type in the web (URL) address that they’d like to visit, after that the website will redirect your request through their proxy server and bring up the remote site (one you requested) without exposing your IP address to the site.

There are thousands of such solutions around the web, many of which can be used for more services than website browsing and most are only a Google search away. Two familiar examples have been listed below but they’re by no means the best for what you might want.

Google Translate
http://translate.google.com

Coral CDN
http://coralcdn.org

Google’s translate system makes use of a proxy connection to work its language conversion magic, although at the same time you can also use it to access websites that might otherwise be unavailable (doesn’t always work). Coral CDN is even more sophisticated and works by asking the user to simply append “.nyud.net” to the end of ANY web address. Try it with ISPreview here (http://www.ispreview.co.uk.nyud.net) [this can be quite slow].

It should also be said that most web browsers and internet software will often have an option somewhere that allows you to connect through a proxy server every time you go online. This won’t work with the above examples but there are plenty of free proxy’s you can try, just Google around and then enter the IP and or Port number/address of the proxy accordingly (usually that’s all they require).

Sophisticated Proxy Client Software (e.g. TOR, Telex)

Sophisticated client software solutions, which effectively do all of the leg work for you, also exist. These make use of multiple proxy’s and popular web servers (often ones that change faster than the censors can manage) to help redirect traffic and thus protect your privacy or freedom of speech.

Many of these solutions exploit the fact that censorship systems don’t usually block all internet traffic and thus are capable of intelligently finding ways around such restrictions. Two of the best known examples are as follows.

Telex
https://telex.cc

Tor
https://www.torproject.org

It’s important to stress that free proxy server solutions can often be almost perilously slow (you’re limited by the proxy’s speed), which means that you might have to do some hunting before finding a good one. Commercial solutions are also available but if you’re going to pay money then a VPN might be better (we’ll tackle that next).

Paid solutions will usually be faster and can also help you access UK online TV content, such as via the BBC’s iPlayer service (e.g. if you use a UK proxy), which is handy if you live outside of the country (ex-pat). Likewise free and paid solutions make using internet banking a lot easier as many UK banks would otherwise ban non-UK IP addresses from accessing their service.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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