Staying Anonymous on the Internetz, for the Blissfully Unaware

FreeTheLlamas@gmail.com

So, this is basically for those people who have no idea that out there on the internet are a bunch of dangerous angry people out to get you.  So here goes… regardless of what it is you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and where, there are a few good precautions to take before you do anything on the internet in order to keep yourself anonymous and safe.  There are a few levels of safety to paranoia that this incorporates… so make your own choices.

These apply universally to both Mac and PC users, so huzzah.

1.  PeerGuardian (Free & Awesome, essential)

2.  LittleSnitch (Fully Functional Demo, $30 app, essential to have)

3. Tor/Vidalia (Free, crazy overboard for everyday stuff)

4.  Proxies (Free/Pay, I don’t use so whatever)

5.  The SeedBox! (They cost, but this is one of the few that’s well worth it)

PeerGuardian

http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/

The most commonly used and viable option for most users out there, this functions mainly by incorporating a few standard blocklists via BlueTack that operate by denying any and all connections through a lengthy list of IP addresses that it references.  The list of IP’s that this app blocks can be somewhat arbitrary at times, but overall it does a pretty damn good job keeping out those you don’t want connecting to your computer.  By arbitrary I mean that the P2P block list includes the IP’s of Microsoft and Apple… so the only way to get the auto time updates and MSN chat to work are either to figure out how to create an allow list or just disable the entire app for a few hours when necessary.

The thing about this that I just explained above is the blocklist… and this app does come with a few pre-installed, but if you ever want more just check out this very nice site called I-Blocklist where you can find additional blocklists to add, depending on how paranoid you are and how much you love keeping your cable.  You can add and manage blocklists under the File -> List Manager tab (Shift++L)

The important thing to know about this is that unless you remove it from your login applications it will automatically start and run in the background of your computer, and you won’t even be able to see it unless you go out of your way to add the PeerGuardian app tab to your menu bar… Which is relatively simple to do if you are aware of it.  The thing is you have to go to the PeerGuardian app itself, and then right click on it and select ‘Show Package Contents’.  Then follow the file path Contents -> Resources and locate the app called ‘PGagent’.

Now all you have to do is add that to your login items, pploader and pplogger have already been added for you during the install.  The next time you log out or reboot you will see that the PG tab has been put in your menu bar, and it allows you to both enable/disable lists as well as activate the app itself (adding pgagent to your login items is managed by opening system preferences, going to accounts, clicking on the ‘Login Items’ tab, and just clicking + dragging the app onto the list).

Just remember, this app blocks a lot of stuff, some harmless and some part of the government conspiracy world takeover plot thing, so if your favorite website or video game won’t load properly just disable it… don’t forget to turn it back on after you’re done though.

Little Snitch

http://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html

This app is really amazing, and it functions merely by giving you control over not what comes in, but what signals go out.  This gives you enormous power over the apps you have, and lets you know whenever anything you are using tries to contact the outside world, for good or for evil.  This is one app that is a must have for everyone, especially so because it’s got a fully functional free demo that will run for three hours before it simply asks for you to restart it.  To get the full version is a bit of a bummer at $30, but it’s worth it for a lot of folks.

As shown above I tend to allow the majority of apps to call home, but a select few I do deny, for any number of reasons.  This is generally great for privacy and all that, but remember that if the app can’t call home you won’t be getting any updates until you allow it too.  Worth every damn penny.  Btw, I modded my copy so it has the golden snitch as an icon, I thought it was pretty awesome 🙂

Vidalia

http://www.torproject.org/vidalia/

In essence, this is the ultimate road to anonymity for the super paranoid, or for those who honestly need it.  This functions mainly through the use of routing your signal through up to fifty computers around the world to completely mask your identity, and is helpful to many out there who need to stay hidden or want to access blocked information.  Like the Chinese.  Or Alcoholics.

Vidalia is a cross-platform controller GUI for the Tor software, built using the Qt framework. Vidalia runs on most platforms supported by Qt 4.3 or later, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux or other Unix variants using the X11 window system.

The great thing is it’s free, and it works through the donation of bandwidth by hundreds of other users out there.  Here’s a screenshot of the app next to my firefox plugin.

Personally I hardly ever use this, considering that I honestly don’t need the level of security it provides and the speeds are pretty slow, considering that everything you do is routed through dozens of computers spread all over.  Here’s an excerpt from the really informative info page.

Tor can’t solve all anonymity problems. It focuses only on protecting the transport of data. You need to use protocol-specific support software if you don’t want the sites you visit to see your identifying information. For example, you can use web proxies such as Privoxy while web browsing to block cookies and withhold information about your browser type.

This leads to my next point, proxies.

Proxies

http://foxyproxy.mozdev.org/

http://www.raynersoftware.com/netshade/ (thanks to Register! for this one)

Proxies are what you use if you really don’t want stuff like your internet searches or perhaps your browsing to be linked back with you, and it’s really available from a multitude of sources around the internet.  Personally I once used a site called proxify on occasion, not sure if it exists still but anything along those lines is good.  There is also a firefox plug-in that I have installed called FoxyProxy that is used by thousands of others (Free!).  I honestly don’t use proxies on a daily basis, but it’s a good thing to know about.

The way this works is essentially that you connect to a proxy, and as it’s name suggests, any requests you make on the internet are filtered through it and requested for you.  Therefore as far as the companies sending you the info are concerned they really have no idea what’s going on.  Pretty nifty.  Also, hidemyass.com and the aforementioned Privoxy are both capable sources to use, as well as netshade.  BTguard is a notable choice as well, and it has a few nice features such as the encryption of all your data both ways so anybody eavesdroppers will have no idea what you’re up to 🙂

Proxies in general can range from being free to ad sponsored or straight up subscription or purchase based, depends on what you want from the host.

SeedBoxes

Essentially, the idea of a seedbox is rather than do the torrenting or general P2P yourself on your computer… which is a security nightmare…. you have it all done offsite in some other country, with blazing fast speeds to boot.

This system involves some servers and a ridiculously fast line in some foreign country where restrictions are somewhat more lax, and what you do is rent a space on that server within which you can manage torrents, seeding, and everything you would normally do on your computer.  In essence, your web browser becomes your new torrent app, and this free’s you from all those worries you’ve ever had over safety.

The main fact is that the torrenting is being done offsite under a different IP address.  The speeds many seedboxes offer start at around 100mb/s, and go up into the Gigabit range, insane compared to the consumer speeds most of us are used to.  This means that if the swarm can support it, you can be done downloading GB files in minutes, compared to previous overnight sessions.

Seedbox.fr Example

The great thing is that these places have great outgoing speeds to you as well, so after any files is downloaded you can transfer it to your computer  fast (up in the mb/s range).  Here is a slightly dated but still informative page of many sites.  Also check out wikipedia, they have a few good links.  This speed applies to seeding as well, meaning ratio’s can be saved FAST.

Also, if you are in college, you could potentially get a seedbox for 10-15 bucks a month and avoid all the issues of on campus P2P, and if you get BTguard as well to encrypt data both ways… they’ll never know 😀

Hopefully this was of some help to somebody out there, just a overview of your options as a Mac or PC user 🙂

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~ by FreeTheLlamas on April 1, 2010.

One Response to “Staying Anonymous on the Internetz, for the Blissfully Unaware”

  1. for top of the line SB offerings, checkout Pulsed’s rTorrent options. lots of storage, and a wonderfull utorrent type gui to handle your torrents 🙂 suitable for beginners and power users as it has all the nice gui etc. but also ssh (shell) access…

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