Anonymity – VPNs, Tor, and PeerBlock

So for some time, I have always been a person of anonymity. Currently my IP bounces between about 3 different VPNs, giving my position to be anywhere between Switerland all the way to Russia. Why you might ask, simply because there’s just some things in this world I do keep close to my chest and don’t like to be followed. Am I admitting to doing anything illegal, hell no I’m not, caring for your personal identification in a world where it’s so easy to track and comprimise your good name should be everyone’s main mission. Unfortunately it’s the hackers that normally know this information the most. This is why I’m labeling this post under the “Hackers, Crackers, and Phreakers….Oh My” blog, but also keeping it just in the “Security Blog” category.

Lets Visit Another Country 
So first off I’ll talk about VPNs. A VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network, and the quick and dirty definition from Wikipedia states:

A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that uses primarily public telecommunication infrastructure, such as the Internet, to provide remote offices or traveling users an access to a central organizational network.

VPNs typically require remote users of the network to be authenticated, and often secure data with encryption technologies to prevent disclosure of private information to unauthorized parties.

Basically what you should pull out of that is Remote Users (US) connect to a Central Network (Located Afar) and allows for data to be encrypted to prevent disclosure to unauthorized parties (Big Brother). To understand the way this works, you must know how we normally connect to the internet. In much the same way, we connect to Comcast/Verizon/ETC and are given our IP address through them, and connect to their Network. With a VPN in place, we connect to Verizon and get our IP 123.123.123.123, but then connect to our VPN Network in Bumfuck Somewheres, connect to their Network, and are given an IP from them being something totally different. All data during this time that’s sent, is encrypted by this VPN, and tunneled to Bumfuck Somewheres, bypassing our Internet Providers eyes, and from the VPN sent to whom we were sending it. In turn, when Big Brother goes looking at the data, they don’t see Comcast/Verizon/ETC, but instead they see an IP hosted in Bumfuck Somewheres and never know you were some guy living in California in the US.

 

Let’s Talk About TOR

Tor in the most basic sense that I can discribe is a VPN built like a P2P network. Instead of a Central Network to connect to, you’re instead connecting to any one of a crap load of Networks which on every connection changes. In theory, you should never be connected to the SAME network on the TOR network, and thus never be given the SAME IP address. So that’s basically the same, you’re masked by the Network you’re connected to, and everything is encrypted through that connection making tracing you harder to do.

 

You Get What You Pay For

Price: Tor=Free    VPN=Free/Premium
Speed: All depends on Network connected to, VPN-Premiums are normally faster
Anonymity: No one solution provides the best, but a Premium VPN that destroys session information (like logon/logoff times) plus an added layer of TOR will provide some good Anonymity.
OpenPorts: Tor=You Cant 🙁      VPN:Depends on VPN Host

 

PeerBlock (or PeerGuardian)

So you can’t just count on the fact that you’re IP address is somewhere else and you have a new identity. This doesn’t mean your identity can’t be found, for more complete anonymity you must change your lifestyle on the internet: Sites track cookies, log visitors, Organizations monitor P2P and Torrent Networks, so much goes on to track you that the only way to be Anonymous is to disconnect from the internet. Since you’re already connected, here’s a tool to help fight trackers: PeerBlock (formerly known as PeerGuardian). PeerBlock uses lists of IPs that are known to be connected with this privacy-exploiting organizations like Governments, Education Sectors, Music/Movie Industry, Non-Profit Organizations, etc. Using these lists, PeerBlock stops your computer from connecting to these networks and thus helps to limit their ability to see you. Take for instance downloading a Torrent File that some Non-Profit organization decided to “monitor”. Since Torrents and P2P networks rely on sharing the file, the Non-Profit organization will share this file they’re monitoring, and when you go to let UTorrent download from any and all peers, because you don’t know who and who not to download from, they instantly see you connecting to them and downloading that file. Now they run their search, create a profile on your IP and start sharing it with other organizations until you get tracked and BAM they know all about you Mr. Robertson.
Let’s have PeerBlock step in now. PeerBlock jumps in right when you decide to let UTorrent look for peers, it instantly sees that the Non-Profit organization is on the Block list, and before you EVEN CONNECT to it, it blocks the connection and they never know about you. So they never see you, you don’t have to ever see them, PeerBlock does it all for you.

Let’s Mash It Together Now…Anonymity

So now we got our tools of the trade to be a bit more Anonymous. I’d say this is the best setup for someone new and wanting to stay at a price range of FREE:

FREE

Use Tor, Peerblock, GoogleChrome’s Incognito Mode. Connecting to TOR will hide your IP as some other IP somewhere else in the World on the TOR network, and then PeerBlock will stand in the background blocking all unnesseccary connections, ads, flash files that track, etc. Add on GoogleChrome’s Incognito Mode, with AdBlock extension set to run in Incognito Mode, you can stop cookies from being saved, internet history, etc. Nothing’s saved on the computer and no connections get logged.

 

Premium

Use a Premium VPN that doesn’t log your connection information and gives you the choice of where you’re connected to. I use nVPN.net as one of my VPN’s and they do allow Port Forwarding. After you’re connected to the country of choice using VPN, go ahead and connect as well to the TOR network (this will slow things down a bit though since Tor is slower…ie not for downloading) . Now for anyone to track you by IP, they’d have to Track your TOR IP, find out where that server is located, get the connection log for whom connected to that TOR server at that time, find you out of the bunch, trace it back to nVPN, and then hit a brick wall with no Logs being kept at nVPN. Now even if some legal thing happens that they have to relinquish the logs, they’d need to go through the country that nVPN server was connected at for you, then go through where nVPN company is located, then trace back to you. It’s a lot more complicating than that, believe me. Then use PeerBlock and the GoogleChrome Incognito Mode.

 

Now I think you’re about set for some Anonymous surfing. This is also a good way (using Tor or VPNs) to access restricted sites while you’re in other countries. Connect to an American Tor client or VPN and you’ll be able to use Pandora, Youtube, etc.

Cheers!

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