Data collection is a lucrative business and software companies will dig deep to gather as much intelligence as possible about your online activities in order to sell it to businesses profitably. Most free software are magnets for information collection and while it is almost impossible to alienate them, there are ways to ensure anonymity while handling sensitive information online.
To make your online presence anonymous from the operating system level, Tails comes in handy. Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System), is a Linux-based operating system, which ensures security of a user’s information at the OS level. Installing and running tails is simple as all you need is a DVD, SD Card or USB key to install a live version of the OS and run it independently from your current operating system. Tails comes with advanced encryption technologies that allow for encryption of communication up to the destination server. It also has an IM client, pre-configured with off-the-record (OTR) messaging.
If you are looking to encrypt messages between a source and a client, SecureDrop is available to actualize your wish. SecureDrop was created only recently due to the aggressive pursuit of leaks and whistleblowers by the US government and although its co-founder committed suicide, it still operates as a Tor service. SecureDrop is very difficult to setup but worth it if you are really handling or conveying sensitive information through monitored channels.
Tor is perhaps the most dominant and well-known software to enhance anonymity online. The Tor Browser Bundle is based on the Firefox browser and is easy to install as well as configure. During installation, you will have to make a choice between connecting directly to tor or through a bridge relay –choose what you feel will work best for you. Due to its security features to enhance anonymity, the tor browser isn’t very fast. Security wise, it provides multiple encryptions and re-routing of data randomly across its network to counter spying. Although Tor provides anonymity, avoid downloading torrents, using plugins or opening documents on the browser while on the tor network as your anonymity might be compromised.