I am a retired hacker. I was never a criminal, but I stopped hacking because even the most innocent actions are now viewed with a stink eye by the government, and I want to enjoy what few freedoms we still have.
Then something happened...
Governments started punishing people for OTHER perfectly innocent activities, such as inquiring about the status or actions of their government, trading information about laws and legislative activity, publishing information about law enforcement, and so on. This was all very normal in the 1800s, in fact newspapers had columns dedicated to evaluating our government. That stopped with corporate ownership of newspapers. When it moved to the internet it became international, and the U.S. and other governments want to stop it.
When I saw CHILDREN being arrested for simply logging in to government sites, and not doing anything to try to hurt or harm, I was astonished further to discover that they were being charged as adult terrorists. Is it the fault of a child of 12 that the U.S. government doesn't hire the best companies for security, or that a web page or computer is left open?
This is the new "peace." Complete and utter obedience to a legal system that has no internal or external accountability. This is WHY you should be concerned with being anonymous for NORMAL day to day activity. You never know when some innocent thing you've done is now viewed with suspicion, or treated as criminal - EVEN WHEN YOU HAVEN'T BROKEN A LAW.
Merely possessing a photograph on your computer, in the temporary cache, that you never knew you had and had never seen - that can be a felony that gets you 20 years in prison and a LIFETIME as a sex offender. A Photograph.
Thanks to this iron-clad draconian law of criminal possession, agents can place images on your systems and then use that as evidence to arrest you. You WILL be found guilty. You WILL NOT ever recover from this attack.
It is best to avoid gathering attention to yourself, even where you are absolutely a white knight who is totally clean.
That is why. Innocent people are thrown in jail for life, marked as offenders for life, and even killed in cold blood. Sometimes, states like Texas and New York EXECUTE people that are known to be perfectly innocent of the crime. That's Why enough for anyone.
As long as you can be killed where you have done no wrong, you should be concerned with privacy.
I2P, and TOR, to start. There are many other software on the market, and only the free open source software is recommended for both anonymity and privacy. I personally favor these two and use them both. I find them equally useful for diverse purposes. I will not explain or reveal how I make individual use of them, but I can and will show you how to use them in general.
Start with I2P. It's easiest to get started and understand.
1. Download I2P from http://www.i2p2.de/
2. Read and follow the simple instructions for installing I2P.
3. Configure Firefox to use a proxy "http://localhost:4444"
4. ALWAYS use it with the proxy ENABLED. Do NOT turn it off.
5. For websites that you need to use without a proxy, set an EXCEPTION in the firefox proxy settings. "Gmail.com", "yourbank.com" etc. separated by commas.
6. Install "noscript" and "adblock" for Firefox. Leave them on ALWAYS, and set exceptions for your bank or whatever you really need to allow.
7. Learning to use exceptions for security purposes is a simple, and elementally necessary step for true safety.
8. ONLY set exceptions when something you need to use is not working. I can use my bank with I2P enabled, so I do not have an exception for that.
9. Be AWARE that sites with exceptions are not as safe. Do not use them more than you must, such as to conduct banking.
10. Almost all applications can be set up to use a proxy. The chat engine, instant messenger, and other online software I use are all set to use I2P.
11. Start a NEW nickname that you ONLY use in the internet space. NEVER use this nickname in connection with your IDENTITY or the REAL WORLD. NEVER.
12. Never use your IDENTITY in the internet space.
13. In the case of banking, or where you MUST use your real ID, NEVER give more information than required, and never share that required information with any other website. In my case, I have a set "real world" profile, and a different "internet" profile. The addresses and phone numbers and names are all different. Nothing I have online connects to the real me.
14. This sounds like a lot, but it's not. It's just a set of habits and customs that will only protect you. None of it is hard to do. None of it is dangerous to you.
15. On some systems, you may have to set I2P to start up again each time you restart your computer. Refer to the I2P manual for how to do this on your system. For windows it's as easy as creating a shortcut and dragging it to the startup menu location. For linux it's as easy as adding a line to "init.d".
16. Learn how to use the I2P search websites such as http://eepsites.i2p
17. Use I2P torrent and file sharing websites.
When you are ready to go further into the world of anonymous life...
1. Download Privoxy. http://www.torproject.org/download.html.en
2. Download Vidalia if you think you might need easy configuration.
3. TOR is included in either of these. DO NOT use the package manager in Ubuntu or Debian, get it from the website!
4. Again, set your proxy, but now set it to "localhost:8118", or use a different browser for TOR. Konqueror, Chrome, and others work WELL with TOR.
5. To set privoxy up correctly follow the instructions at: www.antagonism.org/anon/anon-browsing.shtml.
6. It may be difficult for a non-technical person to set up privoxy. Use two browsers if this is you.
7. Linux systems can set the entire OS to use a proxy, so that every application will default to the proxy. THIS IS BEST.
8. Windows is similar, but IE and other software can AND DO break the rules and violate your proxy settings. BE CAREFUL on windows, and read this: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en/itprovistasecurity/thread/152a4bc1-2a9d-4171-8e0f-0782a7ce99e9
9. Now learn to use Tor searches: http://board.planetpeer.de/index.php/ and read or search for TOR.
10. Congratulations! You've just become a free person, who is very nearly impossible to identify except through your own mistakes. If you don't trade in criminal activities you're unlikely to ever be found. It takes incredible resources to hunt someone via the "invisible internet", and the FBI will resort to 'real world' methods. They won't do that for a non-criminal who just blogs.
As Tor and I2P become more widespread, and many applications are already including this technology, both speed and availability of information will increase. It's already shown a tremendous upsurge since iMule and Vuse both went I2P, and various torrent sites are now using Tor. Eventually Tor will merge with other technology and ensure end-to-end privacy and anonymity worldwide. As more people use it, the harder it will be for any government to interact at all with our private activities. The goal is to make it totally impossible, and the interim goal of making it nearly impossible has already been met.
As corporate controlled governments try to crack down on file sharing, music, video, history, freedom of speech, and all other aspects of freedom IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT WE FIGHT BACK.
I2P is far more than just an interference that makes it harder to spy on you. I2P makes it as close to impossible as it can be, which means that law enforcement will become frustrated with millions of false hits and resort to old-school investigation - where they actually need real evidence and leads.
As governments crack down on freedom, people like me are out there making sure that we have alternatives TO government itself. There is online money, anonymous. You can buy and sell as an anonymous person now. Risky? No more than any bank these days. Delivery? There are re-shipping agencies in EVERY nation on Earth. That's gone on for years as even corporations have sought some degree of insulation from excessive regulation by government.
Searching on the regular nets? Only Google has shown that they are unwilling to censor information beyond the minimum required to do business. In that, they often do only the most marginal job required to keep them out of legal trouble. Given that google has some of the best lawyers on Earth, I'm not worried that they can't defend against the U.S.
Still, they ARE in the business of tracking you! They sell this information, or make financial gain from it in SOME way. Thus, even the BEST use of normal internet provides WAY TOO MUCH potential liability for you. Be safe. Use I2P or Tor, or both.