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Contributor(s): Mark Wicklund

A nym (pronounced NIHM and a shortened form of "pseudonym,") is a name invented by or provided for an Internet user in order to conceal the user's real identity and, in some cases, to expressly create a new and separate Internet identity. Among reasons to have and use a "nym" are these:

  • You want to comment or take part in controversial political or other discussions on the Internet without revealing your opinions to colleagues, friends, or employers
  • You want to send spam (unrequested bulk e-mail) without anyone being able to trace it to you
  • You are a self-declared cracker that wants to talk about it without being identified
  • You simply feel strongly about protecting your privacy on the Internet

There are a number of legitimate reasons for communicating anonymously. The example of a battered spouse seeking help in a Usenet news group or a Web site discussion is sometimes cited.

To use a nym instead of your real e-mail name when sending and receiving e-mail, you can use the services of a remailer , a company with a Web server that accepts e-mail from you and forwards it to its destination with a different return address than yours. Incoming mail to your nym is forwarded to your real Internet address. Some remailing services forward mail through several remailers to make it even harder to trace the source of an e-mail note. There are free or public remailer services. Andre Bacard, author of The Anonymous Remailer FAQ and The Computer Privacy Handbook , divides remailers into: (1) PSEUDO- anonymous remailers, who know the names of the people for whom they are providing anonymity service, and (2) more serious anonymous remailers, who never know your name. Bacard believes that, for most people, the PSEUDO-anonymous is sufficient. It's also much easier to use. Most remailer services disallow the use of spam. Remailing is often combined with encryption using Pretty Good Privacy ( PGP ).

Some companies also allow you to surf the Web anonymously by first linking to an intermediary site that in turn connects you to any Web site you select without that site being able to learn anything about you from your request message.

This was last updated in April 2005

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