I recommend first of all that no one should use internet explorer. Ever. I’m skeptical of other closed source browsers as well, such as safari and Opera. Safari has had it’s fair share of exploits published. Firefox is the all around best choice, with google chrome homing in on a close second but not nearly the same amount of flexibility as firefox.
Lesson 2: Browser extensions.
There are ways to add on to your web browser called extensions. These can range from simple toolbars to complex security services. They can be good or bad, depending on who uses them and how they are used. Your antivirus may want to install a toolbar to help protect you, and a piece of malware may want to install toolbars for entirely different reasons. Know your add ons well. Here are some of the best BHOs (browser helper objects) for firefox:
Ghostery, NoScript and adblock make for a powerful anti-tracking base to start with. Let’s go a little farther, shall we?
Lesson 3: Host File and blocking traffic completely
The Hosts file contains the mappings of IP addresses to host names. This file is loaded into memory (cache) at startup, then the OS checks the Hosts file before it queries any DNS servers, which enables it to override addresses in the DNS. This prevents access to the listed sites by redirecting any connection attempts back to the local (your) machine. Another feature of the HOSTS file is its ability to block other applications from connecting to the Internet, providing the entry exists. You can use a HOSTS file to block ads, banners, 3rd party Cookies, 3rd party page counters, web bugs, and even most hijackers. This is accomplished by blocking the connection(s) that supplies these little gems. Example – the following entry 127.0.0.1 ad.doubleclick.net blocks all files supplied by that DoubleClick Server to the web page you are viewing. This also prevents the server from tracking your movements. Why? … because in certain cases “Ad Servers” like Doubleclick (and many others) will try silently to open a separate connection on the webpage you are viewing, record your movements then yes … follow you to additional sites you may visit. In many cases using a well designed HOSTS file can speed the loading of web pages by not having to wait for these ads, annoying banners, hit counters, etc. to load. This also helps to protect your Privacy and Security by blocking sites that may track your viewing habits, also known as “click-thru tracking” or Data Miners. Simply using a HOSTS file is not a cure-all against all the dangers on the Internet, but it does provide another very effective “Layer of Protection”.
Lesson 4: Proxy servers
In computer networks, a proxy server is a server (a computer system or an application) that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource available from a different server. The proxy server evaluates the request as a way to simplify and control their complexity. This is where real anonymity begins. All internet traffic gets funneled through a 3rd party and it appears that all browsing is done from a different physical location. The easiest and most widely known proxy program is the TOR network.
This will slow down your internet experience, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. But if privacy is more important than speed, you can always just enable it when needed, and disable when you need speed.
These tips together will help you remain a bit more private on the internet. But nothing is ever fool-proof. So don’t blame me if you follow this guide and get in trouble for doing something stupid. This is just for people who don’t like being tracked by ad servers, not really for complete anonymity.