How to Set Blog Security to Maintain Anonymity

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

You have a blog and you really need to make sure you aren’t identified as the author. Don’t do anything that involves making a credit card payment, such as register a domain name, buy a blog software license, or sign up for web hosting. Your credit card information isn’t on your blog, but it ties you to the domain of your anonymous blog is a quick route to identification.

How IP addresses link to your blog

The primary technical consideration for maintaining anonymity online has to do with your IP address. An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is a numeric identifying number assigned to every single device that connects to the Internet, from your computer to your smartphone. An IP address identifies the device uniquely and works like a mailing address to tell other computers how to find that device.

Every time you go online, you leave a history that includes this IP address, whether all you do is send an e-mail or post a comment on a blog.

This means that if you set up an anonymous blog and the IP address of the device you use to post to the blog can be traced to you, the blog can be attributed to you as well. In fact, some webmail services even include the IP address as part of the header in e-mail messages you send.

An IP address can be permanent — a web server is typically always located at the same IP address — or it can be dynamic, which is the case for most home computers on the Internet. If you access the Internet via an Internet Service Provider, sometimes the IP address is assigned at the time you actually connect to the service.

That means your IP address changes, but it can still be traced to the ISP and the right legal pressure can force an ISP to give up the records of which customers used what IP addresses when.

Curious to know what your IP address is? Visit www.whatismyip.com and you see the number at the top of the page.

Clearly, hiding your IP address is necessary for the highest level of identity protection. This is not a simple process, but there are ways to do this. Look into:

How to use blog software safely

Even after you implement a good IP address strategy, there are some other important technical ways of protecting yourself. You may not need to do all of these, but remember that every additional precaution lessens your chances of being identified. Here are eight recommendations:

  • Use a web browser that is up to date and known to be conscientious about security holes. Mozilla Firefox is a good choice; Internet Explorer is not.

  • Run your browser in Privacy Mode (Private Browsing in Safari).

  • Install and regularly run antivirus software on your computer.

  • Consider encrypting your hard drive. TrueCrypt is a good open source tool for Windows and Mac.

  • If you write your posts on your computer, delete them from your computer and use software intended to permanently remove files from your computer. The Mac makes this easy — simply choose Secure Empty Trash from the Finder menu. On the PC, look into installing software such as Eraser or Ccleaner.

  • After you go online to post to your blog, make sure to clear your cookies, passwords, and browser history. The technique for doing this will vary depending on which browser you are using, so be sure to read through the documentation provided to make sure you know how to accomplish these tasks.

    Clearing your history means that your computer is clean if others use it or it is lost. You should also do this if you use a public computer.

  • Be cautious in how you participate in commenting on blogs, using forums, or signing up for services using your anonymous identity. Many of these services collect IP addresses when you post to them, or when you sign up.

  • Blogging in public is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, using a publicly available computer — in a library or Internet cafe — means muddying the waters in terms of who posted to a blog from that computer. On the other hand, if you’re in public, others can likely view your screen, you can be seen, and you don’t know what software might be on the computer you are using.

How to keep up-to-date on technical blog issues

Keep up to date on the technical issues involved. Don’t assume that you’ve set things up that will protect you permanently. The Internet is a very fluid place: Technology and tools change constantly, and having all your bases covered today is no guarantee that you will be safe tomorrow. For instance, simply upgrading your browser to the latest version has implications for security!

This goes for legal issues around anonymity as well. Know the laws in your country, or those that apply to you, so that you can be deliberate about what laws you violate (if any) or what the consequences might be if you are identified.