What Is an IP Address?
An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique string of numbers and decimals that identifies a device that is connected to the internet. Just like your physical address, IP addresses allow computers on a network to find each other and communicate.
For instance, when you visit a site, your computer sends out a request to the site’s server using your IP address. Indeed, IPs are an integral part of the internet.
Your public IP address is not only unique, but it is also visible to everyone on the internet. Your IP address will also reveal crucial information like country of origin, city, ZIP code, region, latitude, and longitude.
Why Should You Hide Your IP Address?
There are many reasons you may want to hide your IP address. First, it can leak out your real location. In worst-case scenarios, ill-will parties can use the IP address to launch targeted attacks against you.
And that is not all. The same IP address can be used to track things like your browsing history. Your ISP can use your IP address to track your online activities. Actually, any interested party can know much about you based on your IP address.
If you like to keep some online activities to yourself, then this can be annoying. And depending on where you live in the world, you may find it to be outright dangerous.
So, if you are still wondering if you should hide your IP address or not, know that it can expose you. Governments, ISPs, companies, and other interested parties could be keeping tabs on you. Here is how they monitor your online activities:
- In most nations, ISPs are required to record logs on your online activities, including browsing history and transactions.
- Your ISP can also monitor traffic to control your internet speeds, especially when you are on online streaming or file-sharing platforms.
- Governments and law enforcement agencies can monitor your data without your consent or a warrant.
- The same government agencies can use IP addresses to censor and restrict internet access for their citizens.
- Advertisers can track users’ online behaviors to tailor offers that suit them.
- Through your IP address, companies can monitor your P2P downloads, looking for copyright infringement.
- Hackers usually use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to target unsuspecting users. These criminals use dirty tricks to intercept your crucial data, such as your name and address, phone number, and even your bank details.
Therefore, protecting your IP means keeping personal information private and keeping a watchful government at bay. Journalists can benefit from hiding their IP addresses if they are reporting on sensitive subjects or in dangerous areas. Likewise, average users can prevent their ISPs from blocking certain kinds of traffic.
BitTorrent users can download files without being blocked. Actually, there are many legitimate reasons why you should hide your IP address. And it’s clear that most of these reasons have nothing to do with illegality, but more about protecting online privacy.
How to Hide my IP Address?
#1. Hide IP with a VPN
The easiest and most reliable way to conceal your IP address is to use a VPN. It only takes a few minutes to set up a VPN. Here is how your VPN service hides the IP address from prying eyes.
First, your VPN provider will assign you a virtual address. Essentially, your VPN server acts as a middleman between the internet and your device. So, the apps and sites you visit will only see the server’s IP and not your real IP address.
Reputable VPNs usually have several global server locations, so you can choose your IP address to come from anywhere in the world. Moreover, most VPN providers will only charge you a few dollars per month to access these multiple servers.
Most commercial VPNs use shared IP addresses, so all VPN users linked to the same server will remain hidden behind the same IP address. Such VPNs will not only mask your IP address, but they will also make you indistinguishable from other users.
In addition to the above, VPNs are one of the safest methods of hiding your IP address.
A reliable VPN will offer advanced encryption and security protocols. Some may even provide dedicated torrenting and P2P profiles.
If you are planning to hide your IP with a VPN, look for the one with the following features:
- Leak protection – VPNs are supposed to encrypt all the data before it goes to the internet, but sometimes leaks may occur. For the best protection, look for a VPN that has IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leak prevention.
- Private DNS servers – To reduce chances of your IP address being exposed to third-parties, look for a VPN provider that runs its own DNS servers.
- No logs – Choose a VPN that does not store records of your sensitive online activities, especially the ones linked to your IP address.
- Kill switch – A VPN service with a kill switch feature will disconnect your device from the internet if the VPN connection drops.
#2. Hide It with a Proxy Server
A proxy server works almost like a VPN. It redirects your internet traffic via an online server to conceal your real IP address. You may use it to bypass geographic restrictions and secure your online activities. The most common proxies are SSH, SSL, and SOCKS.
While they are easy to work with, proxy servers come with some risks. Unlike a VPN service, the data on a proxy server isn’t encrypted. Besides lacking encryption, these proxies don’t have other security features offered by reputable VPNs. If the proxy connection drops, your real IP could be exposed.
Due to their weak authentication, it is easy for an attacker to intercept your data. In fact, some attackers may pose as a potential proxy server only to steal your data.
#3. Hide an IP Address with Tor
If you are looking for a no-cost way to mask your IP address, then the Tor network might be a good option for you. The Onion Router (Tor) is a decentralized anonymity network that operates via a network of volunteer servers.
When you connect to Tor, your traffic travel through a series of servers before reaching your target destination. The site your visit has no way to trace you back to your original IP since it has gone through various nodes changes. Sadly, the multiple layers of protection come at a massive performance cost. That’s why Tor is much slower than a VPN.
The easiest way to mask your IP using Tor is to install the Tor Browser. It works just like any other browser, such as Firefox or Chrome. But, it may not help you much if you intend to stream content or download files.
#4. Configure Your Device
Another free option to hide your IP address is to change the setting on your device. Here, you have two options to accomplish your mission. You can adjust your IP address on your router or change it on your devices, such as your smartphone and laptop.
Other than the above IP masking strategies, you can also change networks to renew your IP address. Connecting to a different network will automatically alter the IP address. So, if you use your smartphone’s data or a public Wi-Fi, your IP address will differ from the one you have at home. But you should be aware that connecting to a public Wi-Fi means compromising your security. Open networks are easy targets for attackers.
Unplugging your modem may also change your IP address. Typically, when you lose the connection to your ISP, you will lose the old IP. Once you re-establish a connection, the ISP will assign you a new IP.
Hiding your IP address is a smart step towards guarding your online privacy. While there are several alternatives, nothing beats the safety and reliability of a VPN. Premium VPNs use robust security protocols to protect your privacy and anonymity.
However, you shouldn’t stop at that. You need to take additional measures to keep your online status protected or anonymous. Besides hiding your IP address, consider making your social media profiles private, especially on major sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.