In the digital age, the allure of anonymity online has become increasingly attractive.
While many individuals seek solace in the cloak of anonymity, the reality is far more nuanced. Despite popular belief, anonymous browsing isn’t as safe as one might think.
The Myth and Reality of Incognito Browsing
Internet users often misconceive incognito browsing as an invisibility cloak for their online activity. This is factually incorrect. When in incognito mode, your online activities are still very much detectable.
Broadly, there are 3 aspects to consider:
- Internet Service Providers (ISPs): ISPs can, and often do, monitor and record your internet activity, even when you’re in incognito mode.
- Websites: Websites you visit will also know that you were there, although they may not know who you are – unless you log in or give them any personal data
- Current network: If you’re connected to a school or office network, for example, the network administrator can see your activity, even if you’re using private browsing.
On the Trail of the Digital Footprint
Every connection request passes through multiple points. It’s like a digital breadcrumb trail where each point could potentially observe, record, and share your activity.
In essence, employing incognito mode only prevents the storage of browsing history, cookies, site data, and forms on your device, but does not hide your activity from everyone else.
From Basic Browsing to Secure Surfing
So, how can one browse safely? Black suggests these steps:
- Use a VPN: This will mask your IP address, encrypt your data, and route your connection through another server.
- Employ HTTPS protocol: Always ensure the website uses HTTPS (as opposed to HTTP), indicating secure communication over the Internet.
- Install robust antivirus software: Updated and top-notch antivirus software can protect against malware and viruses.
- Avoid suspicious websites and links: Websites that don’t have “https” in their URLs or email links from unknown senders could lead to harmful content.
However, even these measures may not offer the same level of absolute security.
Remember to maintain a degree of skepticism with respect to digital privacy, as hyperbole and misconceptions can easily give a false sense of security. As Black aptly mentions, “Believing that incognito mode offers complete security can be likened to believing in a digital unicorn. It feels ideal, but it’s not the reality.”
The key takeaway here? Anonymous browsing isn’t actually safe, and understanding this fact puts you one step forward on the safe surfing journey.
By Steffan Black, a cybersecurity expert at Zenshield