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How to Hide Your IP Address | PCMag
We are all individuals worthy of love, but we are also numbers. Consider: When you were born, you were given a name and a social security number. When you got a car, you earned a driver’s license number. And when you get online, you receive an IP address. Most of us try to keep these numbers private to protect our privacy, but your IP address is distressingly public, by default. There are many ways to hide or change this number, such as using a VPN, and it’s much easier to do than you might think.
What’s an IP Address?
Simply put, an IP address is the identifier that allows information to be sent between devices on a network. Like your home address, it contains location information and makes devices accessible for communication.
These aren’t random addresses; they’re mathematically produced and allocated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), a division of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). These are the same people responsible for sorting out domain names and other factors critical to internet communication.
The allocation of these addresses isn’t random either. IANA doesn’t directly provide you with an IP address. Instead, they allocate blocks of numbers to different regions. For example, the United States has a reported 1, 541, 605, 760 addresses allocated to it, which is about 36 percent of all the IP addresses available (at least, under IPv4, as opposed to IPv6, but that’s a story for another time). Meanwhile, the Vatican has a mere 17, 920 addresses. This is probably more than you will ever need to know about IP addresses, but you can now impress your friends with these handy factoids about Papal networks.
Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe
Because there’s a finite number of IP addresses (4, 294, 967, 296, under IPv4) and only so many available by location, mere mortals like you and me generally don’t have to worry about our IP addresses. Our ISPs assign them to us (and sometimes revoke and recycle them), our routers use them, and we continue happily along—until we need to change something.
Although very few of us are actually in charge of our own IP addresses, there are some ways to force a change. Search the internet and you find all sorts of arcane command-line magic words that will, allegedly, get you a new address. There are even some websites that can do the same. You can also disconnect your modem for a period of time, and see if your ISP assigns you a new address when you come back online. Or you can call your ISP directly and ask for a new address, but that might lead to some tedious questions.
Instead of changing your IP, it’s probably easier to simply hide it.
Hide in Plain Sight, Use a VPN
When you point your browser to a website, a request leaves your computer, heads off to the server where the website lives, and returns with the information you’ve requested. Along the way, location and identifying information is exchanged and, sometimes, intercepted by attackers, snoopers, advertisers, and nosey government agencies.
With a virtual private network, or VPN, another layer is added to the equation. Instead of contacting a website’s servers directly, the VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between you and the VPN service’s server, which in turn connects to the public internet and retrieves the information you requested as normal. This passes back through the tunnel to your computer, ensuring that no one can intercept your web traffic, and that an observer will see the IP address of the VPN and not yours.
The best VPN services go even further, providing bonuses like ad blocking, malware protection, and extra protection for other devices. Some VPNs, such as TorGuard, even offer static IP addresses for sale. Unlike the address assigned by your ISP or acquired by your VPN connection, this is a permanent address, but usually restricted to certain countries.
Using VPNs does add an extra step to your web surfing and that generally means a slower experience. But my extensive hands-on testing has shown that the top-tier VPN providers will slow you only marginally. If you have good enough connection, you might not even notice the difference. Indeed, the fastest VPN I’ve tested actually improved upload and download speeds.
And let’s not forget your mobile devices! They have IP addresses, too. And you’re probably using them in a wider variety of locations than your home computer, including on shifty public Wi-Fi hotspots. While using a VPN on a mobile device can be a little annoying, it’s good to at least use one when connecting to a network you don’t completely trust. All the major VPN companies have VPN apps for Android and for iPhone, too.
In general, VPN apps are identical regardless of the platform. There are a few differences with iPhone VPN apps, however. Apple makes it slightly more difficult to use certain VPN protocols on iOS devices. Thankfully, developers are meeting that challenge and providing the best and most secure options for everyone.
While most of the VPN services I’ve reviewed have a subscription fee, some do not. There are many free VPNs available, although many operate with restrictions on data and other features.
Why the Secrecy?
There are many reasons to hide yourself online. IP addresses can be used to discern your physical location, and can sometimes do so with remarkable accuracy. These addresses also act like personal identifiers, a little like a phone number, letting advertisers and adversaries track you online. They can also be used to launch targeted attacks against you.
You may even be hiding from a watchful or oppressive government. Journalists are especially likely to hide their IP addresses when they’re reporting in dangerous areas or on sensitive subjects. Of course, I’m not encouraging anyone to break local laws, but I do want people to know how to keep themselves safe, should the need arise.
Hiding your IP address via VPN also makes it possible to watch region-locked content. The BBC, for example, provides free streaming if you live in the UK. If you want to watch from another country, just connect to a VPN server in London and your traffic will appear to be British. The same is true for streaming services like Netflix, which have different content offerings depending on your country. Because of this, Netflix blocks VPNs and VPNS try to keep working to keep Netflix accessible.
Encrypting your traffic with a VPN will also make it harder for your ISP to block certain kinds of traffic. BitTorrent users, for example, may want to use a VPN to prevent their downloads from being blocked. Most VPN services allow BitTorrent traffic, and file-sharing in general, but it’s not universal. Make sure you’re not breaking the VPN’s terms of service when you start leeching seeds.
Tor and Beyond
Even with a VPN, your data moves in a more-or-less straight line between your computer and the stuff on the Internet. But when you make your path more circuitous, you not only hide your IP address but make yourself much harder to find, too.
Tor, which is short for The Onion Router, uses a series of computers distributed across the globe to hide your IP address and make your digital trail harder to follow. Instead of a single request from point A (your home) to point B (the website’s server) and back again, your computer sends out layered requests, each one encrypted individually. You’re then relayed from Tor node to Tor node (A to C to R to Z and finally to B) before finally exiting the network and reaching your destination.
Even if someone intercepted your traffic between nodes, the layers of encryption ensure they could only discern the previous and next jumps, and still wouldn’t know where the chain began or where it ended. The theory is that the attacker would have to map your entire path through the Tor network in order to figure out who you are. Of course, not everything works perfectly in the real world, but Tor is very transparent about its limitations and actively works to improve the network.
Tor is most often associated with secret and seedy Dark Web websites, like Facebook. But it’s also one of the best anonymization tools out there, and it’s used every day by people concerned about security and others seeking to avoid the restrictions of oppressive government censorship. It’s also free.
If Tor sounds like the way to go, but you don’t want to muck around with relays and onion requests, just download the Tor Browser. This is a special customized version of Firefox that makes getting on Tor a snap. But although using a VPN may impact your browsing speeds, using Tor will definitely slow down your web surfing speeds.
If the Tor Browser isn’t quite your cup of tea, NordVPN ($89 for 2-Year Plan + 3-Months Free at NordVPN) also offers Tor over VPN, for extra protection. With these kind of specialized features, it’s easy to see why it’s an Editors’ Choice winner.
There are many reasons you might want to hide your IP address. Fortunately there are also many techniques, apps, and services that can help you do it. While some of them may seem arcane and scary, they’re quickly becoming easier to use and more powerful, as you’ll see if you explore the links in this story.
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5 Reasons to Hide your IP Address Online – Government Technology
Most people don’t think about it, but everything you do online can be tracked. It’s how ad networks know what you’ve been searching and are able to predict what products you might be interested in, and it’s how websites know when to cut you off from their content due to geographical restrictions.
This is all done through your IP address. Your IP address is like an identification number connected to your device that tells websites where your Internet traffic is coming from. Companies like Google can keep long records of your search history by connecting each of those searches to your IP address.
The good news is that there are ways to mask your IP address to maintain your privacy online. It starts with connecting to a virtual private network (VPN), which creates a secure connection to their servers. They can route your activity through their network to give your packages of data a new IP address. A good VPN service won’t log your activity, so there won’t be any way for someone to track your browsing data back to you.
There are plenty of reasons you might want to use a VPN and hide your IP address. Here are just five reasons to get you started.
You may not realize that when you signed up for Google or Facebook, you gave these companies permission to track your browsing history in order to serve you relevant advertisements. This type of targeted marketing might seem convenient to some people, but others will find it intrusive.
If you’re uncomfortable with ad networks like this watching your every move online, you don’t have to stop using their tools completely. Instead, hide your IP address with a recommended VPN like CyberGhost or PIA and they won’t be able to tell that the searches are coming from your device.
Hide Your Activity from Your ISP
Like ad networks, Internet service providers (ISPs) can track your online activity through your IP address. There are currently no restrictions in the United States that stop ISPs from doing so. This can put your data at higher risk because most people have no choice with their ISPs whereas they do have a choice in which ad networks to use.
Though your ISP may protect your data now, they could turn around and start selling it without your explicit consent. By handing over your browsing history to advertisers and marketing analysts, they’re now profiting off more than just your monthly Internet bill.
Hiding your IP address prevents this data tracking. When you connect to a VPN, the only thing your ISP can see is that you’ve connected to that network. Everything beyond that—including your searches and the new IP address you’ve been assigned—will be protected from your ISP’s prying Your Sensitive Research Private
If you work in a profession where you conduct a lot of sensitive research, you may not want that research traced back to you. This might be the case with journalists, law enforcement, political candidates, celebrities, and more. Hiding your IP address keeps these searches private and otect Your Data from Government Surveillance
It’s no secret that some countries keep an eye on their citizen’s Internet activity, and there’s no guarantee that others won’t start doing so in the future. You may be doing nothing wrong, but that doesn’t mean you want the government to be able to freely spy on you. If you value your privacy, use a VPN to hide your IP address from the government so they can’t see what you’re up Around Geographical Barriers
If you don’t live in the US—or if you’re traveling abroad—you might have a difficult time accessing various websites and services. Streaming services such as Netflix, for example, limit the content available to international users due to copyright laws.
However, masking your IP address can help you get around these barriers. Your IP address is tied to your location, but if your VPN provider routes your data through a server in another country, it will look as if the traffic is coming from that new location. The website or streaming service won’t know you’re actually located in another country, so it will unlock these content restrictions for you.
Hiding your IP address is a matter of principle. If you want your Internet activity to stay private, then you’ll want to use a VPN. Not only do VPNs hide your IP address, but they’ll encrypt your data to add an extra layer of security to your Web browsing.
Hide My IP Address: 4 Easy Ways [UPDATED]
Borrow a different IP address to go anywhere online and stay hidden.
The reasons why you might want to mask your IP address may include: Hiding your geographical location, preventing Web tracking, avoiding a digital footprint, or bypassing any content filters, bans, or blacklisting.
There are a few ways to hide your IP address…that unique number assigned to the network connection on the computer.
Four ways to hide your IP address:
OPTION 1 – Use a VPN Service – The Best Way
Sign up with these services and when you go online, you’ll be showing the world a different IP address…one that’s on loan from the service you’re using.
There are many more advantages to using a personal VPN service over a proxy such as high-speed bandwidth, usability, a secure connection, private access to blocked sites, and the ability to choose the country and city where you appear to be.
There are hundreds of VPN companies you could choose from…many of them shady or poor quality.
Don’t know which VPN is right for you? Try our new VPN Simplifier!
OPTION 2 – Use the Tor Browser – The Slowest Choice
People from all over the world use Tor to search and buy products and communicate with others with restricted Internet access, such as what exists in some foreign countries.
The Tor Browser (like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) is a free software program that you download onto your computer that conceals your IP address every time you go online anonymously. This free process is layered with heavy-duty encryption, which means your data is layered with security and privacy protection.
OPTION 3 – Use a Proxy Server – The Riskiest Method
A proxy server (sometimes called an “open proxy” or just “proxies”) can be used to re-route your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, or Edge) around a company or school content filters.
There are risks involved in using free proxies to mask your IP address: Many will slow down your internet connection, some are run on compromised machines, and may not be legal in some countries.
A safer solution is to use proxies managed by a company such as Smartproxy.
OPTION 4 – Use Public WiFi – The Long Distance Way
An IP address doesn’t travel with you. So if you simply go to a coffee shop, bookstore, or hotel lobby and tap into their Wi-Fi, you will temporarily hide your usual IP address. How so? You’ll be using their network’s IP address for as long as you’re online.
Try it out. First, click show my ip to see your current IP address, and then visit any place with free Wi-Fi, log in to their Internet and check it again.
However, if you don’t use a VPN, your Internet activity is at risk of being spied on or intercepted by a bad guy without your knowing it.
How likely is that?
Who knows! But don’t make online purchases or check your bank account while drinking your Grande Espresso.
Use a VPN service for high-speed bandwidth, usability, a secure connection, private access to blocked sites, and the ability to choose the country and city where you appear to be.
Don’t know which VPN is right for you? Try our VPN Simplifier or compare VPNs.
Frequently Asked Questions about warning hide your ip address and location
What happens if I hide my IP address?
Hiding your IP address prevents this data tracking. When you connect to a VPN, the only thing your ISP can see is that you’ve connected to that network. Everything beyond that—including your searches and the new IP address you’ve been assigned—will be protected from your ISP’s prying eyes.Oct 4, 2017
How do I hide my IP address and location?
Four ways to hide your IP address:OPTION 1 – Use a VPN Service – The Best Way.OPTION 2 – Use the Tor Browser – The Slowest Choice.OPTION 3 – Use a Proxy Server – The Riskiest Method.OPTION 4 – Use Public WiFi – The Long Distance Way.
Can you really hide your IP address?
Use a VPN. A virtual private network, or VPN, works much like a proxy server — it’s the middleman between your device and a final web server. Once again, your IP address is masked by the IP of the VPN server you’re connected to. … You can also hide your IP adress on mobile devices with a VPN service for Android or iPhone …Aug 26, 2021