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Be completely anonymous online

Be completely anonymous online
Piyamas Dulmunsumphun | Dreamstime

I know it'd be really nice to pretend that the internet is just a fun place to learn new things and watch cute videos. Sadly, you know that's just not true. Advertisers, hackers and cybercriminals are all trying to grab your personal information online, not to mention the NSA. They track the sites you visit, which ads you click and what you buy.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could just go about your online business anonymously, without anyone spying on you? Luckily, there's a way to be anonymous online, and you don't even have to install anything on your computer to do it.

Unlike most security programs, you install the program on a DVD or USB flash drive and carry it with you. When you want to use a public computer or any computer that's potentially unsecured, just pop it in. When you reboot the computer, the secure network will boot instead of the computer's usual operating system.

This must-have program is called Tails. It stands for The Amnesic Incognito Live System, and it routes all of your internet traffic through the Tor network, an anonymous network designed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. This network makes it hard for anyone to see what sites you're visiting.

Tails also includes several state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to help make sure any data sent or received is protected by end-to-end encryption. Basically, you'll not only be anonymous, but attackers will be severely limited in their ability to eavesdrop on your communication.

Finally, because Tails is a separate operating system, no trace of your activities will be left on the computer after you're done. The computer "forgets" everything you've done.

I highly recommend reading the comprehensive documentation and support at the Tails website. That way, you'll know how to use Tails and also what its limitations are. For example, if you have weak passwords or fall for an email scam, Tails won't protect you. To create the best possible password, click here.

While this is a powerful tool, nothing is completely secure and law enforcement has many online and offline resources to track down criminals. Do not use this tool for illegal activities; you will be caught.

Also, think of Tails as more of a set of tools than a single program. You'll need to learn how to use every weapon in your arsenal in conjunction with each other in order to maximize your security.

Note: This program is best suited for more experienced and advanced tech users.

Download instructions

To download the Tails operating system onto a USB drive or DVD, navigate to the Tails download page using my blue link buttons below.

On the Tails download page, click on the large green button located on the right of the screen labeled "Install Tails 3.9.1." This is the most recent version at the time of writing.

When you download Tails, you'll get an ISO file. This is because you're basically downloading an entire OS, and an ISO file is the easiest way to download it. ISO files mean that you'll have to burn the file to a DVD or a USB drive. This is a different process than moving files or burning a movie or music because, in effect, you're storing an entire operating system.

Tails offers detailed instructions on how to download and use Tails. If you're still a little confused, click here to familiarize yourself with the system. Be sure to follow the detailed instructions on Tails's site for download and usage.

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