Hiding Your Identity

By Sheryl Canter  |  Posted 2003-09-16 Print this article Print

Not just for spammers, anonymous remailers let you send e-mails that contain no trace of your identity.

You may know anonymous remailers from their somewhat shady association with spam, terrorists, child porn rings, and so on. But remailers—tools that let you send e-mail and post to newsgroups without revealing your identity—have practical and legitimate applications. For instance, they can be useful when you need to blow the whistle on corrupt practices in your workplace, discuss ideas in a politically oppressed country, or participate in a self-help group.

If you just want to hide your identity from casual observers, a Web e-mail from a Yahoo! address or an AOL screen name will work fine. But this technique wont stop anyone from figuring out who you are. Your message header reveals your IP address—the server through which you connect to the Internet. Using that IP address, a dedicated investigator can obtain your name, address, and phone number. Also, these messages arent encrypted and can be read as they leave your computer.

Anonymous remailers hide your IP address by removing header information. In its simplest form, a remailer server acts as an intermediary. You send your message to the remailer, the remailer strips off the header, and then forwards your message to its destination. The receiver sees the remailers IP address rather than yours.

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Sheryl Canter joined PC Magazine as an Associate Editor in 1991, and has been a Contributing Editor since 1993. As a speaker, writer, and editor, her specialty is in demystifying computer technology to make it interesting and accessible to a wide audience.

A software developer since the early 1980's, Sheryl is currently writing programs for Windows and the Web. .

For more on Sheryl Canter, go to www.SherylCanter.com.


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