Beyond Incognito

2 minute read Updated

Block your computer from making requests to known ad and malware servers.

I read an article on Medium titled How to encrypt your entire life in less than an hour. The article provided a number of tips for staying secure digitally. One of the tips was to use the Tor browser because popular browsers such as Safari and Chrome were not private enough – even in private mode.

What the author didn’t tell you was that it’s possible to increase your privacy without switching browsers using Dan Pollock's hosts file. A quick look at the file describes exactly what it does…

Update 2019-08-13: Still no longer using a hosts file. I switched to Vivaldi after the Firefox ZeroDay exploits last month and surf using WireGuard.

Update 2019-05-17: I no longer use a hosts file and instead rely on ghacks-user.js with recommended plug-ins when not using Tor Browser.

Update 2019-06-26: After two zero-days dropped in Firefox over the last week or so I’ve written up an evaluation of Firefox alternatives.
Use this file to prevent your computer from connecting to selected internet hosts. This is an easy and effective way to protect you from many types of spyware, reduces bandwidth use, blocks certain pop-up traps, prevents user tracking by way of "web bugs" embedded in spam, provides partial protection to IE from certain web-based exploits and blocks most advertising you would otherwise be subjected to on the internet.

I’ve been using Dan’s hosts file for years, install it on all of my machines and encourage other to do the same. Not only does the hosts file do a great job blocking ads, it also improves privacy without forcing you to download a new browser.

And if you’re on a mobile device and not able to update your hosts file, go beyond incognito with IceCatMobile, and pass on Tor.