Friday, October 17, 2008

SPECIAL REPORT : How to avoid Big Brother snooping on your on-line browsing

Today, there are a myriad of different bodies and agencies who are spying on you.

Recently, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced plans by the government to monitor and record details of every phone call, email, text message, and internet records of every web site you visit.

Many people believe that such activity already takes place, and that this is merely bringing it out into the open.

This article will look at ways to remain free of illegal government spying when browsing online.

There are many software packages which claim to be able to 'anonymise' or 'hide all traces' of your online activity. Most of these are, at best, innefective, and at worst, operated by intelligence services to monitor you directly.

The software we will be looking at today uses a special means of anonymising your browsing, using a system called Onion Routing.

How this works is to set up a chain of computers in between yourself and the website you wish to visit. When you type, for example, 'policestatebritain.blogspot.com' into your browser, instead of connecting directly to the blogspot server, your request is first sent to one PC, then another, then another, then finally sent to blogspot.com. The web page you have requested then travels back to you along the same path.

The effect of this is that it is impossible for anyone monitoring your connection to see what websites you are looking at, or for anyone monitoring the website to see which people are looking at that website.

The preferred choice of software for most people to accomplish this is called 'tor', which is an acronym of 'the onion router'.

Tor is free software, both in terms of cost, and of availabilty of the source code. This is important because it allows anyone in the world to view the programming code which makes up the software, and to determine if there any sections of code which might compromise their anonymity.

(One other such piece of software, known as 'JAP', for which the source code was not available, was later discoevered to have been altered by German Intelligence Services to record visits to certain websites)

Using tor is fairly simple.

A piece of software is downloaded and installed to your PC, and you then set your browser to use this software.

Advice on installing and running tor can be obtained from the official site at https://www.torproject.org/download.html.en

New users may find it useful to use a GUI controller such as the Vidalia package, found at http://www.vidalia-project.net

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