Proxy Your Way to Online Anonymity-Wired

June 28, 2012

Jack Donovan

Wired: June 25, 2012

 See the World Wide Web from behind a mask.  [Jorge González/flickr/CC]

Whatever your reason for desiring anonymity, you’ll find it hard to make yourself truly traceless on the web. Even if you refrain from signing in to any services, your IP traffic is logged almost everywhere you go. Even if you’re not worried about Big Brother, this can be disconcerting. Worry not, there’s still one thing you can do to get invisible — put all of your network activity behind a proxy. This masks your IP address using a virtual detour that makes it appear that your connection is originating from somewhere else in the world, like Brazil or China. Here’s how to set yourself up for backdoor browsing.

This how-to was written by How-To Editorial Assistant Jack Donovan, but you wouldn’t know it from his IP address.
In essence, proxies are public servers that route network traffic to the World Wide Web. You don’t need to know a guy who knows a guy to find one; several free proxy lists are available on Google and updated daily. With a simple search for “proxy list,” you should have no problem spotting exactly what you’re looking for on the front page, such as this site. Don’t concern yourself too much with choosing a port type or SSL configuration if you don’t know what they are; just make sure you exclude transparent proxies from your search (this type of proxy only routes information and foregoes anonymity filtering). Feel free to get creative with the list of countries; it doesn’t matter where your proxy server is, as long as it’s not in your next-door neighbor’s house.Pick Your Proxy

Take Cover

Depending on your needs, you can put as little as a single browser behind a proxy, or your entire computer. Some might prefer to have a single browser dedicated to anonymous browsing, but if you consider yourself a particularly paranoid surfer, you don’t need to configure each browser separately.


In Firefox, open your Preferences/Options menu and click the Advanced tab to the far right. In the Advanced settings, click Network and then the Connection button. In the Connection panel, you’ll be given the option to select a manual proxy configuration. Here, you can enter the proxy address you pulled from the list. The address will be in the format of four octets, followed by a colon and between two and four additional digits (i.e. 555.55.55.555:8080). The numbers before the colon are the actual address, and the numbers after represent the port number. Ensure that you’ve clicked the option to use the proxy for all protocols, apply the changes, and enjoy your new position as the wizard behind the curtain.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome pulls whatever proxy settings you have on your computer’s preferences and applies them to the browser, so if you want anonymous browsing in Chrome, you’ll have to go all or nothing. If you’re sure you want to put all of your network traffic through a proxy, simply follow the instructions for your operating system below.

Internet Explorer/Windows

In Internet Explorer, click through the Tools menu and select Internet Options (you can also access these options through the Windows Control Panel). Navigate into Connections and select LAN settings. Check the box to use a proxy server for your LAN and enter the address you pulled from the proxy list, with the numbers before the colon in the address bar and the numbers after the colon in the port number box. Save all changes and start roaming the web anonymously at last.

Safari/Mac OS X

In Safari, open the Preferences menu and click the Advanced tab. From there you can open your OS X proxy settings — alternatively available in your System Preferences — with which you can add your proxy address to any of the given protocols (if you’re not sure which to pick, just configure them all). The numbers before the colon in your proxy address go in the address bar, and the numbers after go in the port number box.


In Ubuntu, proxy settings can be set in the Network Proxy menu under the System tab. Select the radial option for using a manual proxy configuration and input the proxy address you obtained into the designated address bars, with the numbers after the colon in the port box. For full anonymity, check the box to use the proxy settings for all protocols.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

If you’ve ever seen the movie Hollow Man, then you’re certainly familiar with the idea that invisibility can corrupt a perfectly good human being. Just because your traffic is tougher to track doesn’t mean you should exploit the darker side of the web, and you may find your homemade proxy setup to be as weak as cardboard to the FBI if they’re provoked. Use anonymity for peace of mind (and the occasional world travelling prank on location services), but heed our warning: You haven’t just scored a free pass to unlimited torrents and Undernet forums. Go forth and use your newfound powers for good instead.

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