Psst… What if I told you that you weren’t as private as you thought you were when you were using Chrome’s incognito tabs? What if I told you that Chrome’s incognito tab only makes your cookies, information, and internet history appear private?
You would start to worry wouldn’t you. Internet security and data anonymity can be really important in the modern age. However, if you aren’t particularly tech-savvy then you may wonder how to remain safe online without getting lost in a world of jargon and tech related things.
There are some really simple ways to stay anonymous online, beyond chrome incognito, that can be accessible to all users.
There are many non malicious reasons why you might want to browse the internet with anonymity: data protection, gift purchasing, remaining private while at work. Here’s how to browse the web without surveillance and remain a ghost on the internet.
What Is Google Chrome’s Incognito Function?
On Google Chrome, if you want to browse the internet ‘privately’, it provides an incognito function that doesn’t save your cookies, internet searches, or data. However, many Chrome users don’t realise that this only relates to your own device.
If you don’t want your internet search history to be visible to others who use your device then Chrome’s incognito will work for this. But, your internet searches, data, and information will be available to the website you are visiting, your school, your employer, and your internet service provider will still have access to this information.
The only effect Chrome’s incognito tab has beyond your own device is redacting your cookie information so that websites can’t target ads to your device. Chrome makes explicit reference to this as soon as you open the tab, so if you have read this, here’s how to go really private.
Use A VPN
VPNs are a useful, but not foolproof, way to try and stay private while you browse. The function of a Virtual Private Network is that it encrypts your data by changing your IP address through redirecting your internet traffic to a virtual server, this means that if a website were to look at your IP address, for whatever reason, then your location would be hidden and your data would be safe.
ExpressVPN or NordVPN can be great choices if you want this level of security while you browse the internet, each have their own free trials and also payment plans available, which have slightly different features.
Although, while a VPN will encrypt your IP address to a degree, a VPN is not a completely secure way to browse the internet. With a VPN you are still at risk of many internet safety attacks such as malware, viruses, trojans, bots, and spyware.
If you are at the hands of one of these security attacks then a VPN will not protect you or your data – your browsing history, and everything else, is at the will of the hacker. In the same vein, you can put a lock on your door, but someone can still kick it in.
Even so, with the popularity and commerciality of VPN services, some VPNs will sell your data to other parties for profit. If you use a protected VPN service such NordVPN then this won’t happen, but smaller VPN services that are free will sell your data.
What is more, if someone did want to hack your computer and data, then they can easily get a hold of an encryption key which will decrypt your data, the more advanced hackers can actually utilise the VPN’s virtual server to be redirected back into your system, they don’t even need an IP address.
Although these are problems that many mundane users won’t face, if you have something to hide from potential hackers, such as a large inheritance, then internet safety should be paramount.
If you are trying to remain anonymous completely, the arm of government is still strong enough to see your data. Even though you have a VPN enabled, your ISP (Internet Service Provider, such as Verizon, AT&T) still knows you are using a VPN. The government, if they really wanted to, can use this information to court order your ISP to provide your data.
Although there is a way to change which server you are going through so your ISP does not have access to your information, especially if your IP address has been rerouted.
Changing Your DNS Server
A DNS server stands for Domain Name System. The main function of your DNS server is to translate domain names into IP addresses that your computer can understand. Each domain name will have its own IP address. Essentially, each device has an IP address, each domain (website) has its own DNS server that understands each IP address.
So, your ISP will have its own unique DNS server that it puts you through in order to send you to your favourite website, this means your ISP controls the websites you are looking at.
In order to bypass this, you can change your DNS server manually to a generic DNS server such as Google. This is particularly helpful to bypass an ISP’s censor block on certain websites.
- Enter your WiFi or Network setting on your device
- Select ‘Change adapter options’
- Double click the WiFi displaying your Network options
- Select ‘Properties’
- Scroll down to ‘Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)’ and select ‘Properties’
- Select the option ‘Use the following DNS server addresses’
- In the ‘Preferred DNS Server’ box write your preferred DNS server, for instance Google’s DNS server is 184.108.40.206 – you can find more online
By following these same steps you can also manually change your IP address.
After Step 5
- Select the option ‘Use the following IP address’
- In the ‘IP address’ box you can enter an IP address you would like to use.
Changing your DNS server won’t offer you full protection either, but a combination of a good VPN and a DNS server change means you should be able to go online and browse with a decent amount of anonymity. Through these methods your educator, employer, or significant other won’t be able to see your data history.
Although, it is worth bearing in mind that you will still need to have an incognito tab open so that your search history doesn’t save to your device; A VPN does not mean that your search history is no longer stored on your device, it is.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Illegal To Have A VPN?
It can certainly feel like it’s illegal to have a VPN, but it’s actually not. It is your digital right to hide your IP address, just be aware that if they wanted a court could order your ISP to give them your search history and data rights, in the name of the law. So do be careful what you are using a VPN to look for, the law is still the law.
Are VPNs Safe?
Pretty much, yeah. A VPN does encrypt your data and re-route your IP address but the right kind of hacker could easily decrypt a VPN’s reputed IP address. As mentioned previously, a hacker could actually use the virtual server as a means of accessing your data and device without an IP address.
Also mentioned, some VPNs, especially free ones, will encrypt your data but will sell it on to advertisers anyway in order to make money. In order to have the safest VPN you should find one that is trusted by software engineers and ultimately you will have to pay in order to get full encryption from a VPN.
How Do I Turn On Private Browsing In Google?
As mentioned, Google’s private browsing function is called ‘Chrome Incognito’ and opens a separate window where your search history isn’t saved onto your device. To turn this on simply open Chrome’s Incognito function.
Simply find the vertical three dots which symbolise settings in the top right corner of your browser, right underneath the big red X, and select ‘New Incognito Window’. Or an easier way is the Ctrl+Shift+N shortcut that is already built into google. Make sure if you want to turn private browsing off that you escape the window, this is the only way to turn public browsing back on.
Can I Manually Delete My History?
Yes. Through the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+H, or by selecting the settings option indicated by three vertical dots, you can access your history. In your history you can manually and individually select which websites you have visited that you don’t want to come up on your search history.
It is of course still possible to access your full history through other means, but in the most simple way this will help you erase your history and cookie preferences on a specific site.
Who Can See Your History?
Well, your history only applies to your specific device. Although if you have multiple devices synced to one google account you can actually see your history on that device too. But essentially, your history will only be visible on your specific device. In terms of governing bodies, your internet history is accessible through your ISP.
Can A VPN Or Incognito Tab Bypass A Censorship Block?
No, if you, or someone else, has enabled a censorship block on your ISP then a VPN and Incognito tab will not bypass this. This is because when you search for a website your search engine requires a DNS server to find the IP address of that website. A censorship block puts a block on a specific IP address within your DNS.
In order to bypass these censorship blocks you must change your DNS server to a generic one like google.