Cover your tracks

a) Securely erase the rough drafts of the post you made from your laptop or home machine. If you used a USB key to bring the post to the cybercafe, you’ll need to erase that, too. It’s not sufficient to move the file to the trash and empty the trash - you need to use a secure erasing tool like Eraser or Ccleaner which overwrites the old file with data that makes it impossible to retrieve. On a Macintosh, this functionality is built it - bring a file to the trash and choose “Secure Empty Trash” from the Finder Menu.

b) Clear your browser history, cookies and passwords from Firefox. Under the Tools menu, select “Clear Private Data”. Check all the checkboxes and hit “okay”. You might want to set up Firefox so that it automatically clears your data when you quit - you can do this under “Firefox -> Preferences -> Privacy -> Settings”. Choose the checkbox that says “Clear private data when closing Firefox”. In case you cannot install programs on the computer, use the IE Privacy Cleaner tool from the USB stick to wipe temp browser data.

firefox options

It’s very easy for someone to view the websites you’ve visited on a computer by reviewing your browser history. More sophisticated snoops can find out your browsing history by checking your cache files, which include stored versions of webpages. We want to clear all this data out from a public computer so that the next user doesn’t find it. And we want to eliminate it from our personal computer so that if that computer were lost, stolen or seized, we can’t be linked to the posts we’ve made.

Other considerations
It’s not enough just to protect yourself when writing to your own blog. If you’re going to post comments on other blogs using your “nom de blog”, you need to use Tor when posting those comments as well. Most blog software records the IP a comment came from - if you don’t use Tor, you invite whoever runs that site to track your IP address back to your computer. Tor’s like a condom - don’t practice unsafe blogging.

- Just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your blog pretty. The “Presentation” tab in Wordpress has lots of options to play with - you can pick different templates, even upload photos to customize some of them. But be very, very careful in using your own photos - you give a lot of information about yourself in posting a photo (if the photo was taken in Zambia, for instance, it’s evidence that you are or were in Zambia.)

- If you’re really worried about your security, you might want to go a step further in setting up your Firefox browser and turn off Java. There’s a nasty security bug in the most recent release of Java that allows a malicious script author to figure out what IP address your computer has been assigned EVEN IF YOU ARE USING TOR. We don’t worry too much about this because we don’t think that or Google are running these malicious scripts… but it’s something to seriously consider if you’re using Tor for other reasons. To turn off Java, go to “Firefox -> Preferences -> Content” and uncheck the box for Enable Java.


- If you’re the only person in your country using Tor, it becomes pretty obvious - the same user is the only one who accesses the IP addresses associated with Tor nodes. If you’re going to use Tor and you’re worried that an ISP might be investigating Tor use, you might want to encourage other friends to use Tor - this creates what cryptographers call “cover traffic”. You also might want to use Tor to read various websites, not just to post to your blog. In both cases, this means that Tor is being used for reasons other than just posting to your anonymous blog, which means that a user accessing Tor in an ISP’s server logs doesn’t automatically make the ISP think something bad is taking place.

A final thought on anonymity: If you don’t really need to be anonymous, don’t be. If your name is associated with your words, people are likely to take your words seriously. But some people are going to need to be anonymous, and that’s why this guide exists. Just please don’t use these techniques unless you really need to.