A surprisingly easy way hackers stay anonymous online

Staying anonymous online like real hackers is easier than you might think

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Let’s face it – we all hear about hackers now and then. The rise of bitcoins and the boom of Cyber Security has grown public interest, and this is natural. However, the media depicts hackers like mythological creatures, not just the humans they are. They do advanced stuff and easy stuff, but everything is still doable. One of the easiest “hacker things” is staying anonymous online. In this article, we are going, to tell the truth about this, and explain how hackers hide their identity. This is an easy method, but it will still make you untraceable.

Why do hackers stay anonymous online?

Everything on the Internet can be traced, and some things are actually traced. As a result, you can assume there will be someone watching at everything you do online. Actually, this does not happen in real-time: the provider collects user behavior and just store it for a while. In case something happens, they can look at the logs and check the details. So don’t worry, nobody is going to care about what you do unless you do something bad.

The thing is, hackers do illegal stuff quite often. They shut down services, steal information, destroy data, and so on. If you are doing something illegal, you are going to want to do that under the radar. This is the main reason for hackers to stay anonymous online.

However, staying anonymous online is not for hackers only. A lot of people decide to hide their identity, for several reasons. This is the case of government opponents in countries with censorship like China, or Russia. But even normal people wants to stay anonymous online. The modern mass surveillance may be creepy to some of us.

The secret of staying Anonymous Online

It all starts with a coffee…

Yes, you got that right – everything starts with a coffee. Or a tea, a sandwich: anything you could get in a small coffee shop. This is the first, great step to be anonymous online. At this point, you might be wondering what does this means… well, let me explain.

Hacking from a coffee shop the best way to protect your identity and stay anonymous online
Hackers love coffee.

On the Internet, everything is traceable. No matter how much you try to disguise yourself, someone with the right power will get to your exact physical location. Hackers know that, and they don’t want to be connected at all to what they are trying to do.

If someone tries to trace you, they will only get to the coffee shop.

This is why hackers do their attacks from coffee shops. This is not always true, but it is a really good precaution. If someone tries to trace you, they will get to the coffee shop, not to your home. This is it. By simply going to the coffee shop down the street you are becoming anonymous online. Well, not quite. In fact, just going to a coffee shop is not enough. You need to select the coffee shop carefully, and put in place some extra precautions.

How to select the right coffee shop

Not all coffee shops are equals. In fact, selecting the right one can make or break your anonymity. A right coffee shop is a small place, definitely not a chain. It should be managed by a few people who focus on their job: creating a great coffee experience.

Most likely, they are going to offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. If the coffee shop is just a small business, they are going to have a home Internet connection. This means they are going to have a simple router with no security, and most importantly with no logging.

Someone may identify the coffee shop – the coffee shop won’t be able to identify you.

Avoid any coffee shop where you have to register to the Wi-Fi using emails or phone numbers. If you want to stay anonymous online, just look for free Wi-Fi (even with a password is OK, as long as you don’t have to enter your data).

Ideally, you want a place that is small and cozy, but that has still room to stay somehow away from the counter and the staff. You want to have some privacy on your table. As a recommendation, never go to the same coffee shop twice, and select crowded cities. You don’t want people to remember you. Be nice, and be the average guy. This is what hackers are.

You could look like a student preparing for exams on his laptop. Maybe you could look like a photographer editing some pictures, but try to look natural. Go to a place where people use their laptops, you don’t want to be the only one in the shop.

Don’t screw it up!

Ok, now you are connected to their Wi-Fi. At this point, you might think you are anonymous, and you are unless you do something wrong. Now, you don’t want anyone to know that you are accessing the Internet from that coffee shop. Therefore, here are a few don’ts.

  • Never access your personal email, Facebook, Google account: they will remember you connected from the coffee shop
  • Don’t use Google Chrome, it is associated with your Google account and sends data to Google
  • Don’t log in forums, online services or anything with your account
  • Never check your online bank account, PayPal and so on – money-related services heavily log anything you do

This means that you want to disconnect from everything before you get into the coffee shop. You want to get in with a virtually blank PC, this is how you are going to be almost completely anonymous online.

At this point, the hacker is almost completely anonymous. But he’s a hacker: he wants to be 100% sure. This is why hackers continue to the next points.

Hackers use Linux, and keep it small

Windows is a good operating system, but it wasn’t designed for hacking. Nor was Linux, but you can easily adapt it for that. However, let’s stick to anonymity. Windows actively looks for updates, reaches out to the Windows servers, and talk with them. The same is true for a lot of its default applications, as well as some applications you might install.

When trying to stay anonymous online, you want complete control. You want to know which part of your system are trying to access the Internet, and to do what. You want more than that: you want to define what goes to the Internet, and what does not. Actually, you could do that with Windows, but it will be painful.

With Linux, it is a whole different game. You can select the distribution that meets your needs, and configure it to be silent. You might have heard about Kali Linux, a distribution packed with hacking tools. This might be a good starting point, but a smaller distribution might even be better. In fact, you want to have only the tools you need.

Hacker’s PC has a short life

Many hackers do not limit themselves to just using Linux. They go with a live distribution, something that you don’t have to install. They keep it on a USB stick, o better yet a Micro-SD card. Every time they boot the PC, it comes with a blank operating system: a fresh install. When they power it off, everything is lost. This implies the following statement:

At every power-off, the PC destroys cookies and caches and everything else.

Of course, you need to use an additional drive like a USB stick to save what you need to save. But keep it to the bare minimum, and never install the operating system.

If you don’t go this way, someone may use a cookie to track your navigation. If you go home and connect to your accounts, the cookie will identify that you were the one in the coffee shop. With a live install, you avoid it.

Hide your session!

Even if you delete cookies once done, increase your security. In fact, if you use cookies while hacking and delete them afterward, someone may be able to follow the steps you did. Even if they can’t get back to you, they can have a better idea of what you did, and this might even reveal behavior that could lead to you.

Hackers don’t risk that, and they disable cookies – at all. They never store it. Still, they add this trick to the live install, not as a replacement for it.

Change your MAC address

A MAC address is a unique identifier burnt inside of your network card, even the Wi-Fi one. This identifier has a simple purpose: it allows your PC to talk over the network. Its purpose is not to identify you, but someone could use it in that way. In fact, there is no such database that associates a MAC address with the owner of the device.

However, in case someone gets access to your PC – or simply to your network – he can identify your MAC address. It remembers it was the one doing the attack, and you are busted. The solution is simple, you just need to change your MAC address.

Hackers change their MAC address to be truly anonymous online.

Now, home routers don’t store MAC addresses and do not log traffic. They keep track of them only for the time needed to make you navigate, and for about 10 minutes after you leave. Thus, you don’t need to hide your MAC address in such a network, but why risk? Real hackers cannot tolerate this risk, and they don’t.

Hackers in the fog

At this point, you are pretty much anonymous. They may only find you in real-time. This means someone has to track you down while you are hacking and go to the coffee shop while you are still there.

If a hacker is doing something really illegal, this might happen. This is why they try to delay their geolocation as much as they can. This article is about staying anonymous online, and we already explained that. However, we can give you a hint on how hackers delay their geolocation.

To delay geolocation, hackers use intermediary hops and encryption. They use three approaches and combine them for better results.

  • A proxy: they ask a remote server to get web pages on their behalf
  • A VPN: they guide all their traffic to a remote server, that then contacts the Internet on their behalf
  • TOR (Dark web), which is a series of dynamic connections between almost anonymous nodes

Each method you add makes your connection slower. No matter what you do, never start with TOR. If an intermediary node is someone trying to geolocate you, you might get discovered before you know it. For the proxy or the VPN, pay with bitcoins. You don’t want to be tracked because you paid for a VPN.


And this is how hackers stay anonymous online. Without any effort, you can do the same: protect your privacy, and protect your identity. What do you think about remaining anonymous online? What is the precaution you would add? How are you going to use this knowledge?

What would you need to read next? Just let me know in the comment, and register to ICTShore.com to stay up to date with hacking stuff and get our latest tools.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio