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2,862 Tutorials

How to cloak your web activity in anonymity

Stop ISPs and websites snooping on you

Browsing online can be a very public activity. But it needn't be. Follow these PC Advisor tips and you can present an invisible face to an enquiring world.

Mobile-phone carrier AT&T (which holds the US iPhone contract) has announced plans to snoop on web traffic to discourage people from sharing pirated music and movies. The firm hasn't provided details – such as whether it intends to spy on its own ISP customers only or on all traffic
in its network – but the move is significant.

Piracy is and should be illegal, but using indiscriminate spying to catch pirates goes too far. Add to this the many websites and services that save records of what you've searched for, posted or looked at and it seems as though browsing online is about as private as standing on a street corner with a megaphone, shouting out your plans.

Conceal your online trail

We tried JanusVM, a program that attempts to counteract this epidemic of indiscriminate snooping by disguising the source of all your internet traffic. The software's creators request a donation, but they allow you to use the application for free. It'll definitely cost you some speed online, however.

Still, if you want to stay unknown as you perform sensitive tasks, JanusVM may be worth the price in slower performance.

JanusVM is a collection of free, open-source privacy tools, such as Tor, which links you with other Tor users to mask your virtual location. These tools are packaged in a virtual appliance that makes setup and configuration a breeze.

Grab JanusVM at janusvm.peertech.org or from our DVD. To use it, you'll need the free VMWare Player from VMWare.com, which lets you run virtual PCs within Windows distinct from the operating system.

Once you've downloaded and unzipped JanusVM, start up VMWare Player, click Open and browse to the JanusVM folder. Soon after selecting the only file there, you'll see the JanusVM startup menu.

At the top of that screen are two commands you need to run from the command prompt to set up Windows to use JanusVM. One is for the PC you installed JanusVM on; run the other, as needed, from any other networked machine with which you want to use the application. It works with Windows XP, 2000 and Server 2003, as well as Linux. We also used it successfully on a Vista system.

After running one of the two commands, you'll see a new desktop icon. Double-click it and click the Connect button (to change the default user name and password, head to the JanusVM menu).

A system tray icon will appear, indicating that you're using Tor and other privacy-protection tools. Regrettably, whereas our laptop's Wi-Fi connection ran at 1.5Mbps without the software (according to DSLreports.com), it dragged along at just 350Kbps with it. Browsing was noticeably slower, but it was still functional.

To stop the service and restore your speedier, traceable connection, right-click the tray icon and choose Disconnect.

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