This article is for anyone who has ever thought, “I need to hide my IP.” Outlined below are the reasons why IP addresses can be hidden, along with the different ways to achieve just that.
There are a lot of different reasons why people might want to become anonymous while browsing the internet. Anonymity means security and freedom in this digital age. Not in the sense of doing anything illegal or devious, either, but for more sensible reasons. Like getting access to geo-blocked content or keeping freedom of speech alive.
Whatever the reason, hiding an IP address is simple enough when a person knows what to do. A few IP hiding methods exist, and this article goes through them so anyone can become entirely anonymous.
What Is an IP Address?
Think of the internet as a big interconnected highway that transfers information between different endpoints. An Internet Protocol (IP) address is the technology that this highway uses to identify who is accessing what and where. In effect, it’s a system that is used to identify all of the servers, networks, and devices on the internet.
A valid IP address forms the structure that decides if information goes to it’s intended destination or not, which is why internet service providers assign each of their clients a unique IP address.
Most IP addresses currently consist of four numbers valued between 0 and 255 in an x.x.x.x format. This format is determined by the IPv4 protocol that ISP’s use. Although the internet is now slowly transitioning to the new IPv6 format as well.
Why Should Anyone Want to Hide Their IP?
Still wondering why one would want to hide their IP address? Here’s why.
For Privacy and Security
No one can access the internet without a legitimate IP address, however, using one opens up a whole lot of privacy invasion. IP addresses reveal a person’s physical location and can be used to track a person’s online activities. In fact, everyone is already being tracked by their ISPs, advertisers, and government bodies. For the most part, these organizations are harmless and won’t use that information for nefarious reasons. But there are people who will.
Hackers have two ways of gathering sensitive information they can exploit:
– By latching onto and tracking a person’s IP address.
– And by using security breaches to access the information companies have gathered.
These deviants then use the information they’ve gathered to leverage different methods of attack. For example, social engineering techniques like targeted phishing attacks.
To Bypass Geo-Blocking
Different rules and regulations the world over decide how media and entertainment can be distributed. Content that is available in a country like the US differs from what’s available in, say, Japan. Even if a resident of the US then decides to travel to Japan, they still wouldn’t be able to access US shows and other content there. Unless that content is already available in Japan.
This happens because an IP address doesn’t travel with a device. As soon as someone connects to a new network, their IP will reflect that.
To Eliminate Bandwidth Throttling
Internet service providers have the power to throttle a connection if they deem it fit to do so. Recent investigations by journalists have shown that ISP’s tend to throttle a user’s connection if they do certain things online, like download or stream content. It isn’t fair, but it does happen.
An IP address can be hidden even from a service provider. But the connection has to be encrypted as well to hide any online activities from them too.
Four Ways to Hide an IP Address
1. Use a Public WiFi Network
Anyone who connects to a public WiFi network will take on the IP address of that network. It’s not elegant, but it works. Just keep in mind, though, that public WiFi can be a huge security risk, as these networks are often unsecure.
2. Connect Via a Mobile Network
It’s not a cheap method of connecting to the internet, but it is easy to do at least. Simply create a WiFi hotspot with a mobile device that’s connected to a mobile network. Then connect any other devices to that hotspot and voilà. Just note that internet service providers and others will still be able to track the connection and any online activities.
3. Sign Up For a VPN
VPN technology has become a popular tool for those who value their privacy and security. It’s also come a long way in terms of commercialization with plenty of services now catering to both the individual user and businesses.
There are various methods of setting up a VPN, but the most common is signing up for a VPN service. These providers offer different packages and perks, but the main thing is that the VPN will encrypt a connection and hide its IP address.
How the VPN process works:
The connection is encrypted before any information is sent out. That information then goes through a VPN server where the encryption is decrypted, after which it’s sent on to the original destination. Any information that is sent back is then encrypted again by the server and decrypted by the VPN on the device.
So how does this process hide an IP? The connection takes on the IP address of the VPN server. So the person using it is essentially ‘imitating’ the server’s location.
4. Connect to a Proxy Server
A proxy server functions much in the same way that a VPN does. A person connects to a remote proxy server of their choice. They then access content via that route by taking on the server’s IP address. However, that’s where the similarity ends.
Whereas a VPN encrypts the data sent over the network, a proxy doesn’t. Meaning that anyone (including an ISP) can still snoop and see what’s happening. That said, this is an effective way of getting around geo-blocked content.
Hiding an IP address is by no means the only way to protect from outside attack or spying. But it is a step in the right direction. Anyone who wishes to hide their IP address is already starting to think about taking steps to secure their privacy and security. Which is a great thing.
Those who decide to use any of these methods should still make sure that they follow good cybersecurity etiquette.