Choosing the best VPN isn’t just about streaming videos or accessing sites that are blocked. In fact, a much more essential role for these services is keeping privacy and anonymity strong. Whether you are hiding from Big Brother or want to avoid the seriously damaging effects of identity theft, an anonymous VPN can help protect your privacy while on the internet.
If you frequently use the internet for business, banking, shopping, or other activities that could compromise your private data, then check out what a VPN does, how it can keep your information safe, and what the best anonymous VPN services are on the market right now.
|Hotspot Shield||Try Now|
What is an Anonymous VPN? Does it Really Exist?
An anonymous VPN is one that keeps your identity totally concealed. This means that nobody can trace where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing on the internet, no one can read your information, and no one can access your data. Regardless of your reasons for using one, we can all understand the value of an anonymous VPN, but some are skeptical that such a service is really available to the public. Do anonymous VPNs really exist? The short answer is yes, but it’s complicated. Most VPNs out there that claim anonymity are not truly anonymous.
That being said, there are top quality services that really do hide your identity and boost your privacy when online. Of course, you have to know which service you are using and choose the best anonymous VPN services to reap these benefits.
How VPNs Help Protect Your Privacy & Anonymity
VPNs, or virtual private networks, cloak your information on the internet the same way a firewall does on your computer. The type of encryption algorithms and connections used will determine the extent of anonymity being provided. While the details of the technology can be more than the average person would understand, a simple explanation of how a VPN works can be displayed with the following analogy. Imagine you are traveling through a tunnel. Whatever goes through the tunnel cannot be seen by the outside world. The VPN is the tunnel, and your private information is you traveling through that tunnel. Once information goes in, nobody can see it. The added bonus is that with a VPN, nobody knows who sent the information either, keeping you anonymous.
Additionally, VPN services use several means of encryption and cloaking to hide your data from prying eyes. When the information is encoded, only someone with the code can read the data, so even if it would be intercepted somehow, it would all be gibberish anyway. The exact methods are discussed below, but here are a few situations where a VPN helps protect your privacy:
Public WiFi Connections
Everyone does it. You are out and need to connect to the internet, so you sign on using the local coffee shop WiFi. The problem with this common practice is that the moment you connect to an unsecured network, you toss your privacy out the window, putting yourself and your personal information on display for anyone who is interested in seeing it. And, there are plenty of people who would like to get their hands on your private data. The multi-billion dollar industry of black market selling of identities tells us how valuable this information is.
Despite the frequent warnings, people feel compelled to ignore the danger and log on unprotected. The simple solution to this serious problem is to use a VPN whenever connecting to the internet outside of your trusted networks. Whether you are signing into Gmail, placing an order from one of your convenient mobile shopping apps, or sending a work file, the VPN will hide this data from hackers that sit on public WiFi networks, waiting for some unsuspecting surfer to feed them their personal information. A good, anonymous VPN will ensure your information is hidden from view.
Possibly even more insidious than hackers, are the government agencies that are constantly watching over your internet activity. Though they aren’t going to turn around and sell your information to the highest bidder (we hope), government surveillance is an inherent invasion of privacy that most people do not appreciate. For this reason, VPNs are used to block even the most advanced government investigations, keeping your identity safe no matter what you are doing online.
Companies like to keep an eye on internet activity because it helps them market to you better. If you’ve ever noticed an uncanny email notification offering you a discount on the pair of shoes you were just looking at, you’ll understand what this means. Corporations pay thousands of dollars every month to aggregate this information in the hope to subtly manipulate their consumers into choosing their products and spending more money with them. Reluctant to be a company’s lab rat, people opt instead to cloak their internet activity, taking the controls out of marketing corporations’ hands.
Whether you are downloading a movie and don’t want to end up on some third-party advertising list or are visiting sites you’d rather not have people associate you with, a VPN will help keep your identity anonymous and your reputation clean.
People visiting outside of the US can also take advantage of a VPN for browsing sites that are geo-blocked within that region like Netflix, Google, or Facebook.
How to Reach Maximum Anonymity With a VPN
So, what makes a VPN really anonymous? VPNs apply different levels of encryption, but the strongest is generally believed to be the AES-256-CBC encryption. Additionally, VPNs utilize several methods for keeping your information totally anonymous including:
If the IP address you use cannot be connected back to you, then no one can trace any activity back to you either. Anonymous VPNs use multiple IP addresses to avoid tagging you to a specific address and giving you a clear identity.
Disposable Email Addresses
Disposable email addresses keep your identity safe by tagging it to a temporary name and identifying marker. Services that let you sign up with this type of email address are keeping your identity safer since the email address is not linked to you and can’t be traced back to you.
By routing your information through multiple VPN servers, you lose the direct connection that links you to the activity in question. Much like a TOR (more on that below), chaining or double-hop VPNs can throw a tracker off your scent.
A company that keeps logs of your internet activity or traffic is essentially storing your private information. This can hardly be considered anonymous, so the first and most basic criteria would be no logs. Some VPN services claim that they delete the information frequently enough so that nobody can access it or trace it back to you, but the logs still exist, so your information is not totally private.
Certain countries have strict third-party information sharing laws which would legally obligate a company to hand over the logs they’ve kept on customer activity if requested. For this reason, which jurisdiction a VPN service operates under will have an impact on how anonymous it really is. For example, the US does not have a mandatory retention law, so logs are not required. If, however, logs are kept, the US government can request them.
How you pay for your service is another possible identity breach, which is why truly anonymous VPN providers will accept many forms of payment. A credit card is nothing more than a paper trail to your identity. Instead, the best services will take anonymous payment methods such as bitcoin or Ripple, because these cannot be traced back to you.
What is TOR & Does it Work?
TOR, aka The Onion Router, sends the information that has been double encrypted through a series of twists and turns across the internet, making it nearly impossible to trace the route. It bounces you around from one node to the next, throwing snoopers off the trail. Since you only see the previous node, you cannot get a clear picture of where this person is coming from. This is the most effective form of data concealment known today, so a true anonymous VPN will feature TOR over VPNs.
The downside to TORs is that the information is not encrypted on the exit node. So, theoretically, this could pose a problem if someone is sitting at the end of your journey and looking to capture your information. Additionally, TOR connections tend to be slower. The reason people prefer this method is because it truly can create anonymity on the web.
The solution is to run your TOR over a VPN for the best of all worlds. Find a VPN service that supports this practice, and you have the anonymity, speed, and quality you’ve been looking for.
What are the Best Anonymous VPNs?
ExpressVPN has won the right to claim one of the top places in the VPN industry. With 2,000+ servers across 94 countries, strong anonymity policies and tools, and a 30-day money-back guarantee, ExpressVPN ranks high on everyone’s list, but even more so for those who wish to remain anonymous while surfing. This company also keeps no logs of user activity, so it wouldn’t have information to hand over to governments even if they asked.
NordVPN covers most of the points we touched upon. It keeps no logs, takes bitcoin, uses double encryption and shared IPs, and utilizes TOR over VPN for maximum privacy. As such, it is a natural choice for anyone who wishes to remain hidden while traveling through the web. Whether you are trying to evade a government surveillance system or just attempting to download a blocked movie torrent, NordVPN has more than enough power to keep you safe.
Hotspot Shield has unlimited bandwidth so streaming is a dream. Its customer support is readily available, and the blog is helpful for self-troubleshooting. What’s more, you can use up to 5 devices with a single Hotspot Shield account, and a single account can be as low as $2.50/month if you sign up for a long-term contract.
And, what some members will really like, is the fact that Hotspot Shield offers a free account too. Of course, it’s not as good as the paid version (limited bandwidth, limited reach, ads, etc.), but you are still getting a reliable VPN that will cloak your location and might be all you need.
If you like fast downloads, good privacy standards, and a company that’s easy to work with, then PureVPN is your guy. This service offers extra add-ons like its handy kill switch and firewalls for further protection, and the split tunneling keeps you even more hidden. Additionally, PureVPN takes the gold in the locations department, servicing members from close to 150 locations. With more than 75,000 IP addresses, users can hop from one address to another without ever being noticed.
As the name implies, PrivateVPN excels at keeping your data private. While it’s not the weathered veteran of ExpressVPN and others of its ilk, PrivateVPN prides itself on making privacy and anonymity its top priority. PrivateVPN not only uses the resilient 286-bit AES encryption, but it goes even further, combining this with a 2048-bit DH key that keeps your identity even more elusive. Additionally, this company has an excellent mobile app for iOS and Android devices that makes connecting to your account and the internet a cinch.
Read our in-depth reviews of the top VPN services for more information on maintaining internet privacy.