Over the past few years, the issue of online privacy has become a common focus for both technology companies, governments, and users.
From new laws regulating how personal data is collected and used, to security software like the best antivirus and VPN services that prevent people’s most sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands: everyone seems to be more aware of the dangers of surfing the web.
Even web browsers do their part. No matter if you are using Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, Opera or others – they all give you the possibility to keep your browsing activities secret.
Known as Incognito Mode or Private Browsing, this is a useful feature for easily restricting the data your browser collects about you. Each session is like a fresh, clean page that is erased as soon as it is closed.
However, going incognito is not as private and anonymous as most users think. As the 2018 research found (Opens in a new tab)There are a lot of misconceptions about the degree of protection gained from private browsing.
Next, let’s debunk some of the myths and understand the real benefits you can enjoy when you switch to incognito mode on your favorite browser.
What is incognito mode?
Depending on your browser, the feature will have a different name. Google Chrome calls it Incognito mode; Private browsing is how Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Apple Safari refer to it; InPrivate mode is the term chosen for Microsoft Edge.
Different denominations but the same result. Turn on the option to have a blank slate that keeps your browsing history private.
This is due to the incognito window It does not record the web pages you visit. in the same vein, Biscuit – Text files stored on a device to collect personal data – It will be deleted once the session is terminated. I will too Automatically log you out of your accounts While Stop browser extensions in use.
Besides web browsers, there are some other services that offer incognito mode. These include: Reddit, YouTube, Google Maps and the Google Play Store.
Why use incognito mode?
The biggest difference between private browsing and a normal session is that your browser and the sites you visit will not remember you once you close the incognito window.
This degree of confidentiality can be really useful in some circumstances.
For example, it gives you the possibility Log in to multiple accounts at once. This is very useful for those users who want to separate their work and personal activities.
You may want to open an incognito window each time Accessing the Internet from a device that does not belong to you. Since your browsing history will be deleted, no one will be able to go back to your searches.
Likewise, private browsing is ideal if you like it Keep some sensitive inquiries confidential. This could be because you are looking for the best gift for your partner, or some search for health issues that you don’t want to have a history of.
Many users also go incognito to Get the best deals on flights and hotel rooms. Since the site doesn’t remember you, it won’t be able to apply the price hike to returning customers.
What incognito mode does not protect
While useful in some use cases, the protection gained from private browsing is very limited.
First, an incognito window cannot give you anonymity online. This is mainly because Do not hide your IP address It does not encrypt your internet traffic. This means that your ISP, school or workplace can still snoop on your browsing activities.
Incognito mode offers very narrow security protections, too. He. She It does not prevent you from infecting your device with malware. What’s more than cookies and whatnot Web trackers It can still collect your data while the session is open.
In 2020, Google has already been sued (Opens in a new tab) To track users browsing in incognito mode. While 2019 research revealed (Opens in a new tab) More than 90% of the pages visited in private mode leaked people’s data to third parties.
Close a private session It will not erase all traces of your browsing activities from your device as well. The file you download or the pages you bookmark will remain on your device even after you close the incognito window.
Likewise, the Online activities will be logged each time you log into your accounts Whether this is your social media page, Amazon or Google profile.
How do you really surf safely?
As we have seen, incognito mode or private browsing can only protect your data to a certain extent. To truly secure your identity and device when browsing the web, you need to equip yourself with some extra tools.
1. Protect your device with antivirus software
A reliable antivirus should be the first step in your malware defense plan. This is because it can create a layer of protection between your device and the files you download or the pages you visit. It generally works by regularly scanning your smartphone or computer for viruses, rootkits, spyware, and other types of malware.
If you’re new to the world of antivirus software, Malwarebytes might be the service for you. As our cybersecurity expert Mike Williams noted in his review, Malwarebytes is perfect for beginners because it’s “so straightforward.” Its focus on the essentials and usability is actually the area where the program shines the most. You can either choose its free version, premium paid plan (Opens in a new tab) or privacy package (Opens in a new tab) A multifaceted defensive strategy.
2. Secure your anonymity with a VPN
Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN is your best bet for enhancing your online anonymity. This is because it hides your true identity and location, while encrypting all data in transit within its VPN tunnel. As for how the software works, there are a wide range of additional benefits to using a VPN as well. However, it should be noted that some web trackers will still be able to track some of your activities.
There are a lot of VPN services out there, but not all of them have the same privacy and security features in place. Our #1 recommendation for security and performance is ExpressVPN. If you’re not ready to invest money in it, be sure to check out our guide to the best free VPN available right now. Many of these apps can cause more harm than good unless chosen carefully.
3. Add an extra layer of security with Tor Browser
Although complete anonymity and bulletproof security are impossible to achieve, Tor Browser can get you really close to it. Even better because it’s 100% free to use. Built on what’s called onion routing, it routes traffic through at least three servers and encrypts the data every step of the way. You can also combine the use of Tor with your regular VPN software. For example, Proton VPN has done an admirable job of facilitating integration between the two programs.
Beware that these additional layers of encryption may slow down your connection speeds. Therefore, we recommend that you only use Tor when your privacy is of the utmost importance. For your daily activities, you may want to consider one of the best anonymous browsers instead. Above all, Mozilla Firefox is a reliable choice thanks to its enhanced security features.
4. Choose your privacy, and go to a private search engine
If securing your browser is an important step, so is choosing a privacy-focused search engine. DuckDuckGo is probably our favorite right now. While it’s minimalistic compared to its more popular counterparts, it promises to never store any of your personal information. In addition, ads are not allowed to follow your activities from one site to another.
There are also alternatives. For example, Surfshark, one of the best cheap VPN providers, offers its own search software with the Surfshark One security package. Neeva is then another private, ad-free search engine, developed by a former head of advertising at Google to bring back user-first search.
5. Stay on top of your digital hygiene
Using a variety of security software is just the starting point for being more private online. Being aware of how different websites track you and how to reduce this is another important step to staying on top of your digital clean-up.
Things like clearing your cookie history regularly, using privacy-friendly browser extensions, and customizing the data you share with your apps are all tactics to enhance your privacy. We have written more details about ways to surf the web anonymously here.