It’s always a good idea to be as anonymous as possible online, including when you are on Usenet, the old school, no-censorship social media discussion platform where you want to be free to speak without fear of retribution. Luckily for all of us, the best usenet providers TechRadar recommends all take privacy, security, and anonymity seriously.
By the way, if you want a primer or refresher on what Usenet is and how it all works, check out our Usenet guide. Otherwise, read on…
History of Usenet
Usenet was established in 1980 as an early decentralized network for discussions and sharing files between computers. It launched three years before the modern internet and over a decade before the ubiquitous World Wide Web information system.
Many say that Usenet would have been the foundation of our modern internet (instead of the U.S. military’s ARPANET) but missed the mark because of its complexity for the average user.
Usenet’s name comes from Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP), a dial-up protocol that facilitates file transfer and email exchange between computers. Dial-up networks were the original way for Usenet users to share files, but nowadays, it’s the internet.
One of the main benefits of Usenet is its speed. It lets users download content at rates of up to 1 gigabyte per second, much faster than alternatives like torrenting and IPTV services.
How Usenet works
Usenet is a network separated into different topics called newsgroups hosted on a worldwide network of servers called news servers. You can find newsgroups clustered around different types of content, such as movies, documentaries, e-books, games, etc.
Every Usenet user can upload files (called binaries) to various newsgroups for other users to download. You can also upload text files to participate in online discussions.
Most internet service providers (ISP) have stopped providing Usenet servers because of high hardware and bandwidth costs. Hence, you’d need a dedicated Usenet provider to grant you access to news servers, and they usually charge for their service– expect to pay between $10 and $20 a month.
You’ll also need a client (called a newsreader) that lets you access files on the Usenet network. Lastly, you’ll need an indexer that allows you to explore files across Usenet, comparable to how a search engine like Google lets you explore the internet.
One of the drawbacks of Usenet is that it’s challenging to set up and use, especially for non-technical users, which is why most people don’t use it to download files, preferring alternatives like torrenting and IPTV platforms. On the bright side, a smaller user base means less attention from copyright enthusiasts or ISPs seeking to block pirated content.
How to stay anonymous on Usenet
1. Enable SSL encryption
SSL (Secure Socket Layer), is a protocol for encrypting connections between networked computers. Make sure you enable SSL when connecting to your Usenet provider so your ISP will be less likely to throttle your Usenet traffic speeds and monitor your activity.
To enable SSL, get a Usenet client that supports it. Fortunately, most Usenet clients/newsreaders support SSL, but don't enable it by default, so remember to manually enable SSL any time you want to connect to Usenet.
All the Usenet providers TechRadar recommends support SSL encryption as well, so choose one of these providers to remain anonymous.
2. Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts the traffic between you and your ISP and masks your IP address. For instance, you can be in the UK and browse through an IP address based in Hungary. As far as your ISP is concerned, you’re a Hungarian user.
Using a VPN gives you an extra security layer for Usenet and all your other Internet activity. VPNs are usually a standalone service with its own cost, but you are in luck because many of the top Usenet providers include a free premium VPN service.
Reasons to stay anonymous on Usenet
Depending on your country, many ISPs monitor all your Internet activity, including Usenet. Hence, it’s necessary to protect your privacy as much as possible to avoid surveillance.
2. Avoid Throttling
ISPs often analyze customer network traffic and give low priority to certain types of traffic like Usenet. Staying anonymous can reduce the chances of your traffic getting throttled, which leads to poor speeds.
Is Usenet secure?
Of course, Usenet access is secure as long as you use a Usenet client/newsreader and a Usenet provider that supports SSL encryption to protect the connection between your computer and the Usenet servers you’re connecting to. Just adhere to the precautions we mentioned above to browse Usenet safely and securely.
Usenet is an age old social media platform that is a lot more open and decentralized compared to popular corporate alternatives. Usenet Providers and Client developers take user privacy seriously by building encryption into the Usenet client - server architecture. Optional VPNs are also included with some services for even more security. Just be sure to turn on SSL and use the optional VPN for a safe and secure Usenet experience.
Are you a pro? Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up to the TechRadar Pro newsletter to get all the top news, opinion, features and guidance your business needs to succeed!
Stefan has always been a lover of tech. He graduated with an MSc in geological engineering but soon discovered he had a knack for writing instead. So he decided to combine his newfound and life-long passions to become a technology writer. As a freelance content writer, Stefan can break down complex technological topics, making them easily digestible for the lay audience.