How to best protect your Privacy on the Internet – Complete Guide

Most of us think of a proxy server when trying to protect our identity on the Internet. But is that enough? I don’t think so. There are two reasons why I think using a proxy alone might not be able to protect your privacy on the Internet.

The first reason is that most of the websites are now using technology that gives away information that you are using proxy. Only the new proxies are able to pass off your modified IP address as genuine while most such tools are detected and hence the websites get a little deeper into your computer to find out your identity.

The second reason expands upon the first reason. I said that upon finding out you are using a proxy tool to access it, the website starts looking for something called browser independent cookies. These are basically Flash cookies. Normal computer junk cleaners just cannot detect them and hence, they are not easily removed when you run the junk cleaner.

protect your Privacy on the Internet

Browser Independent Cookies Fail Proxies

Since this post is about protecting your privacy on the Internet, we will not delve deep into cookie formats. In short, the normal cookies are small and can easily be removed using most of the system cleaners out there. I use CCleaner for the purpose but you may use any.

The problem with Flash cookies is that they are a little bigger compared to normal cookies and hence are missed by the computer junk cleaners. You need special programs to clean them up or you can do it manually. Read my research on Browser Independent Cookies for complete information on cookies that can give away information even if you are using a proxy. Though your IP address is changed when you use a proxy, a look at the Browser Independent Cookies aka Flash cookies lets the cat out of bag. Thus, you need few other steps in addition to just using a proxy.

Protect Your Privacy On The Internet

Factors To Be Considered

For average users, privacy is not much of an issue just because they are ignorant about the spies following them all over the Internet – Facebook, Google, Internet Marketing Programs and other websites. Basically, though it appears that the spying is so good that you are offered adverts based on your browsing habits, it is not really as good. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

After much research, I came to the conclusion that we need to address two factors for staying private on the Internet. They are:

  1. Remove all sorts of cookies and
  2. Use a VPN proxy

For normal cookies, you can use CCleaner, Comodo System Cleaner or any other cleaner software, you might have been using.

To remove Flash cookies on every start-up, I recommend running a command upon boot. In the autoexec.bat present in your system drive, just add the following line and save it. You will have to select “Show Hidden Files and Folders” under “Folder Options” to be able to see autoexec.bat. To open the file for adding the command to delete Flash cookies, right-click on the file and select EDIT. Add the following without quotes:

"C:"
"CD \"
"DEL *.SOL /S"

The above takes care of deleting all the Flash cookies present on your system drive every time your computer starts. If you don’t want autoexec.bat or if your copy of Windows bypasses autoexec.bat, you can create a custom batch file using AutoStarterX. If you face any problems, contact me for assistance. I will be glad to assist you.

The next factor is using a good proxy plus VPN that can encrypt your data as it passes through the different gateways and servers all over the Internet. I’ve been testing plenty of free VPN systems for the past one year and found SpotFlux to be the best. It does not slow down your computer as with many other VPNs with encryption facilities. Plus it provides a secure channel from your computer to the server you are accessing.

I am still researching the VPNs available in market and have checked things like Jumpto, EPIC, UltraSurf, etc. If you have used or know of other free VPN services, please share with me so that I can review them and compare them with SpotFlux.

You may also check out privacy tools like Ghostery, PrivacyFix and Web Shield.

Maybe I am being paranoid or maybe I am just being careful. In any case, I am sharing what I do to protect my privacy on the Internet. Please share what measures you take to protect your privacy on the Internet.

Posted by on , in Category Security with Tags
Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN

12 Comments

  1. Dan

    These days I pretty much stick with AV/Firewall/Browser security settings (using Comodo Dragon as default, permanent InPrivate re IE11, with a secure non-ISP DNS) and behavior blocking, with app and online antiloggers; I have a few good manual scanners always updated and ready on USB as backups/double-checks; I set IE/Dragon to encrypted Google, and use HTTPS wherever possible…NEVER giving financial/vital data over non-secure links, nor storing passwords in email. For me, this has worked pretty well so far blocking intrusions/intercepts as far as can be for a user (of course, how secure FaceBook, banks, AV companies themselves are, well…that’s why I try to be brief there too). Finally, in hedge against PC theft/loss, I ensure all possible OS/app files are deleted and erased so most folks with sub-government tech can’t easily retrieve/microscope client/financial/work data (I don’t think many crooks or snoops just shell out $16K USD or more for things like EnCase or just anybody easily buys government-grade retrieval apps).

    My security layering of course lacks in “hyper” encryption, meaning with ISP and all I get no better than 1024 bit encryption in most cases, if that; but I’m not downloading torrents, nor am I trying to elude governments and ISPs…the only ones likely to monitor and crack security for even academic exercise, in my regard.

    Native HDD encryption is not available in my version of Windows 7, and plainly any HDD/USB encryption app would be too cumbersome on resources. In regard to my WIFI, I add only protections against ARP spoofing to stay off snoop’s Wiresharking or redirectors; VPNs (and there are lots of them) may not only change IPs (MACs in some cases, for IPv6 users), but enhance encryption against spoofs, yet I’m finding more and more sites which don’t respond at all if you’re on ANY VPN (even if settings don’t block cookies or scripts)…as example, my State’s Secretary Of State business names search index will not respond to ANY search terms simply if ANY VPN has been used…that is, this is typical of sites which appear to be evolving not just anti-ToR tech, but anti-proxy tech…perhaps because “Anonymous” and other groups attack sites via VPNs, per media.

    That’s my peculiar privacy protection in a nutshell, and why. Thanks for the invite to the world to share, and have a great day!

  2. Fran

    I’ve found that Windows has blocked the use of anti-loggers and most of these secure programs. It’s infuriating to find that I can’t protect myself because trying to use secure programs messes up the system and can even make it crash. I loathe Windows 8 but I needed a new computer. What a waste of money.

  3. Arun Kumar

    Thank you, Dan, for sharing all that. I am sure to pick up some of your tips especially when researching certain things. Am not a hacker or anti virus but when researching certain things/elements about our society I don’t want my ISP etc to be suspicious about my intentions.

  4. Arun Kumar

    Do you mean that SpotFlux or GetPrivate won’t run on Windows 8? I did not get to try those Windows 8 as it (Windows 8) slowed down my machine. May buy a better configuration later.

    BTW, I also read that Microsoft is doing away with regular cookies and will implement its own system for tracking users on the Internet. That would be another bad move from Microsoft.

  5. Kev

    Hi Arun….Good info on deleting flash cookies. I didn’t know about this before reading this article. Thanks. As far as VPN’s, I use Riseup VPN as well as their email service. It’s all about privacy with them. Check it out….Riseup.net

  6. Kev

    Also I ran a test of Riseup on ssllabs.com and they have a A rating for their server….;)

  7. Arun Kumar

    Hi Kev,
    Thanks for sharing the information. I will check it out for sure. 🙂

  8. Arun Kumar

    That is good. I might as well join some of their mailing lists. Thanks again, Kev

  9. Barniferous

    I’m all for protecting my privacy. I clear cookies and the internet file cache regularly, and use a paid proxy.
    But *.sol files are MacroMedia Shared Object Libraries. They remember the user settings and save some interface info (log on/off instructions, how-to info, etc.). It doesn’t hurt to delete them (as you’ve observed) but they are not used for tracking, and I don’t think they can be. I’ve found nothing in them that I can identify to indicate that they are being used for tracking.
    The Adobe web site says, “The data is not sent to the server and is not accessible by other applications running on other domains . . . ” (http://help.adobe.com/en_US/as3/dev/WS5b3ccc516d4fbf351e63e3d118a9b90204-7d80.html)

    I’ve done some checking, watching the data going up the wire when I visit a macromedia site, and I don’t see any indication that the info in the *.sol files is being sent up the wire to the web site.
    Hope this helps.

  10. bb

    It should be noted that Microsoft boldly admits that their business plan includes legally exploiting anything they can, so adding code in the OS to block privacy software and creating new cookie alternatives is not really so much of a surprise. I only use MS products because NOT using them would cost so much more. (Listen up, Apple.)

  11. Arun Kumar

    Thank you. There is much hype associated with Flash cookies so I was a little worried. Thank you for commenting and informing more about the SOL files. 🙂

  12. Francesco

    very good article

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