The internet is a great resource that is invaluable in our everyday lives. However, it brings with it a myriad of privacy and security issues. More so in today’s times when our digital footprints are everywhere, privacy is a huge concern for most of us. It’s no wonder that cybersecurity is a hot topic that keeps growing in prominence. In this article, we talk about what is an IP address and ways that you can hide it.
What is an IP address?
The internet is a vast network of computers and several other devices such as mobile phones, smart TVs, gaming consoles, etc. Every internet connected device is assigned a unique IP address by your Internet Service Provider, essentially for tracking or identification purposes. So, when you surf the internet, your activity can be traced with your assigned IP address.
An IP address is a unique 32-bit number that identifies you as a user. Just like your home address, an IP address is your internet address. It can be used to trace your internet activity and narrow down your physical location but not precisely.
IP addresses are allocated by geographical areas worldwide. Each country is assigned an address and if you know what to look for, you can tell what country the device is located by looking at the IP address.
Why you would want to hide your IP address
The obvious reason is that nobody wants to be tracked. But there are several other reasons why you would want to hide your online presence and we discuss some below.
To hide your location: You may have noticed ads from local companies while browsing the internet. Obviously, those ads were targeted at you because you are a local and more likely to buy. This is an example of geographically targeted advertisements. Your IP address is being used to target you for ads, special offers and deals. Unwanted personalized ads can be annoying making you want to get rid of these in your newsfeed.
For Compliance: To get around compliance, businesses, governments and even schools are known to block certain content. For example, schools and businesses may choose to block social websites for employees. Certain online services also block IP addresses due to license restrictions. Governments around the world are known to block content for citizens for several cultural and security reasons.
To prevent yourself from intruders and hackers: Intruders and hackers use Malware to target your IP address. Trojans, ransomware, spyware and worms are examples of some types of Malware that could disrupt your activity and hardware. On a more serious note, it can be used to gain access to your private and confidential information. Obviously, you would want to protect and safeguard from these potential threats.
Score better online deals: Online businesses provide varying prices and services depending on your geographical location and your shopping history. Examples include car rental, hotel and flight bookings. You may score a better deal if you hide your IP address.
How you can hide your IP address
The reasons discussed above are extremely valid making you want to hide your IP address. Below are some common ways to hide your digital identity and safeguard your online presence.
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) : Using a VPN is arguably the most effective and convenient method to hide your IP address. A VPN essentially hides your real IP address by assigning you a different address to your internet connection. This prevents the detection of your geographical location and creates a secure internet space while protecting your connectivity. All online activities are encrypted ensuring file-sharing reaches only the device they were meant for prohibiting third party intrusion. It also enables you to choose a preferred country IP address to unblock content that you may not have had access to. If you would like to know about different VPN service providers, read here.
Using a Proxy Server: A proxy server works like a VPN service by routing all your traffic to another device while hiding your IP address. There are numerous free proxy servers that can be installed with minimal effort and make your address look like it belongs to any country you choose. Although less expensive, proxy servers can slow your internet speed. The other downside to using a proxy server is that it provides weaker encryption and cannot prevent a skilled hacker or the government from tracking you down. If you would like to know about free proxy servers, read here.
Using the Tor network: When using a Tor browser, all activities are sent and received through its encrypted network. It is free to use and transfers data through a volunteer run network of relays making it extremely difficult to track your IP address. On the flip side, due to the huge number of networks that Tor comprises of, it is known to slow down your internet speed. For more information, take a look at the Tor browser.
Besides the above three options, connecting to a public Wi-Fi is another way to hide your home IP address. However, it also leaves you extremely vulnerable to hackers that can easily snoop the public Wi-Fi and jeopardize your privacy in a big way.
Needless to say, privacy starts with hiding your online identity. By hiding your IP address, you can perhaps take care of some privacy concerns in the big bad world of the World Wide Web.