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What does a VPN hide? | NortonLifeLock
A virtual private network (VPN) can hide a user’s internal protocol address (IP address) and block their location and browser history, allowing them to share and receive information on public internet networks more privately.
Whether you’re searching something online or communicating via social media, you’re leaving digital footprints in the form of your browsing history, cookies, and cached data.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the government, and other third parties can track what you search, visit, and download.
Even if you use a private browsing mode, your IP address can still be collected.
When you download and enable a VPN prior to browsing, a VPN can offer online privacy and increased security by helping hide your online identity and encrypting your traffic. Hackers and third parties will only be able to see the IP address of the remote VPN. This prevents them from accessing your location, browser history, or the personal information you may have sent or received during that browsing session.
Here are the seven main things that a VPN hides:
1. Search History
You can clear your cookies and search history from your browser. But chances are your ISP has recorded the websites that you’ve visited. VPNs can hide your search history and other browsing activity, like search terms, links clicked, and websites visited, as well as masking your IP address.
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Can you truly remove your search history?
No. You’re removing the file references from your directories, but your operating system won’t simultaneously erase this data. It only moves the information to a special area on your Mac or PC’s hard drive.
If you use a VPN each time you browse, third parties will only be able to see the IP address of the remote VPN. This disables them from pinpointing your location, ISP and, potentially, other personal information.
2. IP Address
Your IP address identifies your device on the Internet or a local network. It’s the key data that connects you to your location, ISP, and web search history.
IP addresses can share sensitive information about you that includes your physical location such as your city, state, ZIP code, and country. It can trace back to your home ISP, which could reveal your name, home address, phone number, and credit card numbers.
Instead of sending information directly from your IP address, the VPN server’s IP address is associated with your activity.
For example, if your VPN service provider has servers around the world, you could appear to be connecting to the internet from a different country.
3. Medical Diagnosis and Health Conditions
Medical providers often operate through private client portals. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has set standards in the exchange of protected health information (PHI). This is the diagnosis, procedures, and counsel between doctors, clients and medical facilities.
HIPPA requires healthcare facilities to operate on private networks. These secured portals encrypt your medical information from outside parties. VPN networks allow medical professionals and patients to safely access confidential medical information untampered.
4. Travel accommodations
Travel and airline websites associate the information that you’re researching with your IP address. When you visit online travel booking websites multiple times to find better deals, a cookie has likely already locked into a price.
A cookie is data sent from a user’s computer to a website. They can identify your past travel searches, online profiles, all the way to your home address. Any action like clicking on a link can trigger an “event. ” Marketers use analytics tracking tools to track website traffic and user behavior. It only takes a short amount of time for advertisers to bombard you with retargeting ads.
VPNs can block tracking technologies, allowing you to search travel websites anonymously and avoiding advertisers altogether.
We already mentioned that your IP address can identify your geolocation. Browsers and websites use this information to map web traffic from different cities, states, and countries.
For example, when you use Google Maps, you must enable your phone to detect your location. Websites use the same technology.
One side benefit of using a VPN is known as geo-spoofing. This means a VPN “fools” websites and other online services into thinking you’re in one location when you’re really in another.
This could provide access to geo-restricted services or help save money while doing online shopping. But remember to always check your service agreement rules and observe government laws and regulations.
6. Personally identifiable material
A VPN can hide your online identity by masking your IP address. It encrypts your location and the data you send and receive, helping protect your personal identifiable information (PII). This data can come in the form of your bank information, as well as Social Security and driver’s license numbers. If a hacker gains access to your computer, your PII is could be vulnerable via audio files, messages, and passwords.
Even secure websites can become vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Using a VPN network can increase your protection when you go online, from hackers and cyber thieves.
BitTorrents (torrents) are metadata files and folders that are shared and downloaded between users on a network. This gives users access to movies, music, and other forms of media content.
Though torrenting isn’t illegal, downloading copyrighted material like movies or songs is a violation. Since your ISP can track your activity, so can the government. Using a torrenting service without a VPN can sometimes lead to warning letters or even hefty fines from the government.
Even if performed legally, torrenting can be dangerous. Downloading unknown files can result in you downloading malware. These viruses can infect your computer and corrupt your files. VPNs can prevent online peers from seeing your IP address, which could help prevent hackers from singling you out.
How to choose a VPN
When choosing a VPN, consider your needs for the device. User-friendliness, speed, secure encryption, and price are all important factors to examine. You also want reliable customer service, should anything out of the ordinary occur.
Consider using a secure VPN network that provides powerful protection and is capable of connecting other devices in your home. Research online reviews, but be careful of sites that promote affiliate websites. You can also talk to your tech-savvy friends and get their insight on recommended products.
Most importantly, when purchasing a VPN, it’s best to buy from a software company that you trust. So, no matter where you are, you can search the internet knowing that your connections are safer.
Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
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How do I Hide My IP Address? – Avast
What is an IP address, anyway?
An IP address is a series of numbers that identifies your device or network on the internet. Activity on the internet is a series of two-way communications between clients — software, such as a web browser, that requests data — and servers, which reply to clients with responses. Every client has an IP address that tells servers who is making the request.
So, it’s easy to understand what an IP address is and also why they’re important. IP addresses let search engines like Google know where to send the results of a search, help websites know who’s visiting their site, and make sure you receive the emails that are addressed to you.
In other words, IP addresses undergird how the internet works in general. Thankfully, it’s very easy to find your IP address if you need this information.
Three ways to hide your IP
Now, let’s take a look at three tools you can use to hide your IP address. Each offers its own blend of privacy, security, and practicality.
1. Use a VPN
A VPN is an intermediary server that encrypts your connection to the internet — and it also hides your IP address. A VPN encrypts all your traffic, not only in your browser but also in other apps, and then passes traffic onward to its destination. They’re a popular privacy solution, and as such, there’s a strong incentive for VPN providers to design tools that are as easy to use as they are secure.
Here’s how to hide your IP address with a VPN: Simply download a VPN such as Avast SecureLine VPN, log in, and turn it on to protect both your IP address and your internet traffic.
How does a VPN hide your IP address?
When you’re using a VPN, your IP address is hidden because your traffic takes a detour through the VPN server. When your traffic — sites visited, online apps used, uploads, downloads, etc. — reaches its destination, it does so under a “virtual” IP address assigned by the VPN.
There’s only one party who’ll be able to see your actual IP address: your VPN provider. That’s why you should choose a trusted VPN provider that isn’t going to keep logs on your activity.
Avast SecureLine VPN is a safe, secure, and convenient way to mask your IP address. It’ll hide your online activity from your internet service provider (ISP), employer, school, and anyone else on your network, including a snooping cybercriminal. And we never keep any logs on sites you visit, apps you use, or content you view.
2. Use Tor
Comprising thousands of volunteer-run server nodes, Tor is a free network that conceals your identity online via multiple layers of encryption. When you access Tor, typically by using the free Tor Browser, your traffic is relayed and encrypted through a series of three relay nodes, each of which decrypts one layer of encryption to learn the identity of the next node. When your traffic leaves the final node, it’s fully decrypted and sent to its destination.
The relay system hides your IP address, but not without cost: because Tor’s encryption system is so thorough, it takes a long time for your traffic to complete its journey. You’ll be sacrificing browsing speed for Tor’s anonymity. This is a worthwhile tradeoff when it really counts, such as for whistleblowers and political dissidents. But if you’re simply seeking to hide your IP address, when comparing Tor and a VPN, you’ll find a VPN to be a far more convenient and faster solution.
How does Tor hide your IP address?
When you use Tor, each relay node along your traffic’s pathway through the Tor network knows only the IP address of the node immediately before and after it. Even if an attacker manages to intercept your traffic while it travels from the final node to your destination server, it’d be very difficult at that point to parse your original IP address.
3. Use a proxy
A proxy server handles your internet traffic on your behalf. A proxy sits in front of a client or network of clients, forwarding requests while also receiving and delivering responses from servers. You may need to manually adjust your device’s proxy settings if you want to use a proxy.
Unlike a VPN, most proxies won’t encrypt your traffic, and they also won’t hide your IP address from anyone who can intercept your traffic on its way from your device to the proxy. Proxy servers, especially free web-based proxies, tend to be less reliable than VPNs. That’s why proxies are best used as a quick, temporary solution as opposed to a long-term privacy plan.
How does a proxy hide your IP address?
Some proxy servers can mask your IP address with a fake one. You’ll appear as though you’re based in the same country as your proxy server. If you’re using a proxy to hide your IP, be aware that not all proxies offer equal protection.
Transparent proxies conceal neither your IP address nor your use of a proxy.
Anonymous proxies hide your IP address but not your use of a proxy.
High anonymity (or elite) proxies hide both your IP address as well as your use of a proxy.
Some sites or content platforms may block traffic from known proxies, so you’ll have to be careful if you’re trying to use a proxy to access media.
Why should I hide my IP address?
Your IP address identifies you online, and in today’s data-driven world, your online activity is very valuable. It’s important to hide your IP address so that you can regain control over your privacy while you’re online. Among other sensitive info, your IP can reveal your shopping and buying habits as well as your physical location. So why hide your IP? You’ve got plenty to gain, and not much to lose.
Hide your IP to browse anonymously
Advertisers and marketers can track you across the internet and analyze your browsing habits with the goal of marketing to you more effectively. Unfortunately, even hiding your IP address won’t stop them, because tracking cookies also deliver this information — which is why you should regularly take the time to delete cookies from your browser.
To take private internet browsing to the next level, consider a dedicated private browser like Avast Secure Browser. It includes a range of advanced anti-tracking features to let you use the internet without leaving any clues behind that companies and individuals can use to follow your activity.
Hide your IP to shield your location
Hide your IP address behind another IP in a different part of the world and no one will know where you really are. This includes websites and services that host geo-restricted content. For example, if you’re traveling abroad and want to access movies or TV shows that are available only for your home country, you can use a VPN or proxy to unblock that website with a false IP address in the correct location.
Many IP addresses are linked to a real-world address, or at least to a general location. If you’re frequently using false IP addresses to change your online location, no one will be able to figure out where you actually are.
Can my IP address ever truly be hidden?
While it’s not possible to hide your IP address from everyone, you can achieve an effective level of privacy sufficient for everyday needs. With a VPN, the only entity that can link your online activity to your IP address is your VPN provider itself. This is why it’s so important to choose a VPN provider with a reliable reputation for security, and one that doesn’t keep logs of user activity.
Your ISP can see the type, timing, and amount of traffic you’re sending to the VPN server, but they won’t know the specifics. The same goes for Tor. Many proxies don’t encrypt your traffic, and so your ISP will be able to access your activity if it wants to while you’re using a proxy. And, as mentioned earlier, all the websites and services you use while connected to a VPN will see only the VPN’s IP address, not yours.
The primary purpose for hiding your IP address is to protect your online activity and location from third-party observers: websites, advertisers who use ad tracking techniques, and cybercriminals. When your safety and privacy is at risk, it’s important to be proactive.
What is IP masking?
IP masking is the technique of concealing your IP address by adopting a false one. This is how hiding your IP address works — they’re two ways to refer to the same thing. If you’re interested in learning how to mask your IP address, you can apply the same techniques described in this article. After all, the only way to hide your IP address and still use the internet is to mask it behind another one.
Your traffic is always going to need an IP address online, since that’s how websites and services know who’s making the requests and where to send the replies. Clients use IP addresses to reach servers, and servers use IP addresses to send requested data back to the correct client.
That request-and-response system is part of the TCP/IP model, which governs how devices on the internet communicate with one each another. IP addresses are classified in a variety of ways: IPv4 vs. IPv6, public vs. local, and static vs. dynamic IP addresses. Read more about IP addresses here.
Hide your IP the easy way with a VPN
Avast SecureLine VPN lets you hide your IP address by choosing from any one of our blazing-fast servers located in dozens of countries all over the world. With your online activity securely encrypted and our no-logging policy, you’ll be able to easily access blocked content, disrupt tracking techniques, and browse the internet freely, with complete confidence in your online privacy.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN? – CactusVPN
VPNs are an excellent way to protect your online privacy and data. Besides unblocking geo-restricted content, that’s probably the second main reason people use VPNs in the first place.
There’s just one thing that’s probably on your mind – can you be tracked if you use a VPN?
Let’s find out in this quick article.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN?
Yes and no.
No, your web traffic and IP address can’t be tracked anymore. The VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address by routing your connection requests through a VPN server. If anyone tries to track them, they’ll just see the VPN server’s IP address and complete gibberish.
Yes, there still are some ways your online browsing might be tracked even if you use a VPN:
Malware is malicious software and code that were programmed to take over a network or device. Unfortunately, VPNs can’t protect you from malware infections. They can only protect your online data, not your hardware.
The best a VPN can do is offer a firewall-like feature that blocks connections to malicious domains. But even that’s not enough to stop malware infections. You might just accidentally download a malicious file from a legit site or interact with a phishing email, for example.
If that happens, hackers can use the malware to track everything you do – what you browse online, what passwords you type, what files you save to your hard drive, what you talk with your friends, etc.
The best line of defense against malware is a strong anti-malware program (also called anti-virus software). If you’d like some recommendations, try Malwarebytes or ESET.
Besides that, do the following to further protect your data from malware attacks and phishing:
Use password managers like LessPass and 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) or MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) on all your script blockers like uMatrix and uBlock anti-phishing browser extensions like NetCraft, MetaCert, and PhishDetector. Alternatively, use Stanford’s Anti-Phishing Browser our anti-phishing protection tips.
Cookies are small text files that websites place on your device whenever you visit them. Most cookies are harmless and necessary to help sites run well. However, some persistent cookie and third-party cookies are pretty bad for your privacy since they let sites and advertisers track your online preferences and behavior.
Due to how cookies work, VPNs can’t protect you from them. They’re not programmed to intercept files that download to your device, after all.
On the plus side, VPNs should protect you from ISP supercookies – tracking files that are stored on your ISP’s servers, and get inserted into your data packets when you go online. Since a VPN encrypts your traffic, your ISP shouldn’t be able to insert supercookies into it anymore.
Besides that, VPNs should theoretically stop hackers from intercepting your cookies and creating forged ones over unsecured WiFi by encrypting your traffic.
Clear your cookies whenever you use a VPN. Here are some guides for the most popular browsers:
Besides that, you should also use incognito/private mode in your browser (it automatically deletes cookies when you close a tab), the Cookie AutoDelete (Firefox, Chrome, Edge) and Self-Destructing Cookies (Opera) browser extensions, and CCleaner (a cool tool that removes cookies across all platforms, and only costs around $25 per year).
3. Browser Fingerprinting
This is a tracking method websites use to monitor visitors by linking behavior patterns to them. Browser fingerprinting does that by assigning a unique identifier to you every time you visit a site. Said fingerprint can contain a lot of data – your time zone, screen resolution, web browser and OS version, system fonts, etc.
For a complete list of all the data browser fingerprinting collects about you, check out Device Info.
Unfortunately, browser fingerprinting is a pretty accurate tracking method. According to the EFF’s research, only one in 286, 777 other browsers will share the same fingerprinting with a different user. So, your own fingerprint has a very good chance of being unique and standing out.
Because so much data is collected, a VPN can’t stop websites from tracking you with browser fingerprinting. The most it can do is hide your IP address, but that won’t really make your fingerprint less unique.
Due to how it works, you can’t completely protect yourself from browser fingerprinting – unless you were planning on going off the grid and living in the woods any time soon.
Still, there are some things you can do to make your fingerprint less unique:
If you post personal information about you on social media (email address, phone number, whereabouts, etc. ), someone can still track you even if you use a VPN. Please understand there’s no way a VPN can hide all the information you voluntarily make public.
Even worse, somebody could use all that information to dox you.
For starters, don’t post (too much) personally identifiable information on social media. And definitely don’t tell random people on the web your current whereabouts. Do strangers really need to know your home is empty on weekend nights or that you’re very drunk at club X or bar Y?
What’s more, you should also take steps to make your social media account more private. Here are useful guides for most platforms:
5. VPN Logs
VPN logs contain data about how you use a VPN. There are two types of logs:
Usage logs – They track your IP address, the sites you visit, and the files you download while using the nnection logs – They track timestamps, bandwidth usage, and your IP address while you use a VPN.
Both types of logs are bad for your privacy. After all, you’re using a VPN to stop ISPs, advertisers, and governments from tracking you. What’s the point of doing that if the VPN will track you instead?
The best thing you can do is use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs. If you’re looking for one, we have great news – CactusVPN stores zero logs.
6. VPN Leaks
A VPN leak is when your IP address or DNS queries leak outside the VPN encrypted tunnel. If that happens, anyone can track your web browsing and IP address even if you’re using a VPN.
There are different types of leaks:
WebRTC LeaksDNS LeaksIPv6 LeaksTraffic Leaks
But they’re all equally disastrous for your privacy.
Test the VPN to make sure it’s not leaking. You can use our testing guide to check for all leaks.
If the service is leaking, consider switching to a VPN that offers leak protection (like CactusVPN). You simply turn on the DNS leak protection switch from the CactusVPN app.
Also, here’s what else you should do to prevent leaks:
Disable Teredo and SMHNR on Windows 10 (they cause DNS leaks). Disable IPv6 if your VPN doesn’t support IPv6 traffic. Disable WebRTC in your browser + use uBlock the kill switch to protect yourself from traffic leaks.
Can VPNs Be Tracked by ISPs?
Contrary to popular belief, your ISP can actually track your VPN connection. It’s not invisible on their network.
Here’s what they can see:
The source of the connection (your IP) connection’s destination (the VPN server IP) long you’re connected to the you connect to the much data you exchange with the port your connection uses. Whether or not you use OpenVPN (if they use DPI).
So quite a lot of things. They’re only concerning if your ISP plans on blocking your VPN connection, though.
If they use IP blocking, you just need to connect to a different VPN server to get around it. And if they use DPI to drop or block your OpenVPN connections, just use obfuscation (available in CactusVPN through obfsproxy).
Do ISPs Usually Track VPNs?
Not really. They don’t have much of a reason to bother with tracking VPN connections across their networks. It’s a time investment that doesn’t really pay off.
However, there are some situations when they might focus on VPN connections:
When the law forces them to do it. Basically, when governments ban VPN usage or censor certain sites (so they force ISPs to monitor and ban VPNs to make sure people don’t unblock them) they’re worried their users are using VPNs to do illegal things (like illegally downloading copyrighted content) they don’t like that their customers are using VPNs to bypass bandwidth throttling.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN and It Disconnects?
Yes, there’s a chance you can be passively tracked if that happens. And, unfortunately, VPN disconnects can happen no matter how good the service is.
Basically, if your VPN disconnects, and you visit a new site before it can reconnect, the site will track your real IP address. Also, your ISP will be able to track your connection to that site.
The best way to protect yourself from this is to use a VPN with a kill switch. That’s a feature that completely shuts off your web access when your VPN connection goes down. Your Internet access will only resume when the VPN connection is up and running again.
If you’re looking for a VPN with a kill switch but are bummed out you can’t find one, we have good news – CactusVPN offers a built-in system-level kill switch. Simply turn on the Stop internet traffic if VPN connection is dropped toggle from the CactusVPN app Settings.
What’s more, we also offer an app-level kill switch, so you can selectively pick which apps can’t access the web when your VPN connection goes down.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a Free VPN?
There’s a pretty good chance that might happen. While free VPNs are appealing, they’re not 100% reliable or trustworthy. We outlined why in our guide to free VPNs vs paid VPNs, but here are the highlights:
Free VPNs might have poorly-configured encryption or protocols, resulting in VPN VPNs might sell your bandwidth to third could also log your data and sell it to might expose you to malware.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN Server in Your Country?
No, using a server in your country is just as safe as using a server in any other country.
What If You Live in a Country with an Oppressive Regime?
As long as the VPN doesn’t keep any logs, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Even if the authorities were to seize the VPN server, they wouldn’t be able to find any of your data on it. There isn’t any to begin with.
Need a Hard-to-Track VPN?
CactusVPN is the right tool for the job. We offer powerful encryption, secure protocols (OpenVPN, SoftEther, SSTP, IKEv2), DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and obfuscation.
Special Deal! Get CactusVPN for $3. 5/mo!
And once you do become a CactusVPN customer, we’ll still have your back with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
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Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN? What Do You Think?
Are there any other ways you might be tracked when you use one? If you know any, please tell us about them. Also, don’t forget to include ways to prevent or limit that kind of tracking.
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Frequently Asked Questions about does vpn hide ip
Does VPN really hide IP address?
A VPN is an intermediary server that encrypts your connection to the internet — and it also hides your IP address. A VPN encrypts all your traffic, not only in your browser but also in other apps, and then passes traffic onward to its destination.Apr 8, 2020
Can you be tracked if you use a VPN?
No, your web traffic and IP address can’t be tracked anymore. The VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address by routing your connection requests through a VPN server. If anyone tries to track them, they’ll just see the VPN server’s IP address and complete gibberish.Sep 15, 2020
How do I hide my IP address with VPN?
Here’s how to hide your IP address:First off, check your current IP address by Googling, “what’s my IP?”Sign up for a VPN. … Download the VPN app onto your device. … Install the VPN app and run it.Sign in using the account credentials you created in step two.Select a server or server location.More items…•Mar 31, 2021