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How to Hide or Change My IP Address? Protect Your Privacy Online
Updated: Mar 17, 2021 / Article by: Timothy Shim
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IP Addresses are uniquely identifying numbers of devices connected to a network. The Internet is considered a network and because of increasing security concerns, more people have been looking to hide or change their IP address.
How do you hide IP address?
Three ways to hide or change your IP address to browse the Internet anonymously:
We will dig into the details of these methods in this article.
1. Using a VPN to Mask Your IP Address
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are one of the best ways of not just hiding your IP address, but also keeping your data safe. Although VPNs charge a small fee for their use, they offer a whole list of benefits that far outweigh the costs.
Firstly, by signing up with a VPN service provider you gain access to their entire network of secure servers. These servers will mask your IP address and replace it with their own. Websites you access will only know the IP address of the VPN server you are using.
On another level, most reliable VPN services also provide high levels of encryption. This means that any data which is passed between your device and the VPN server is protected, often by similar levels of encryption that many militaries use.
By replacing your IP, VPNs also help you spoof locations. This means that you will be able to overcome geo-location blocks by some services or countries. For example, by using a VPN, you can access Netflix US content from anywhere in the world.
Tip: To check if your VPN is working, run a free leak test below (curtesy of VPNOverview.com). Your actual IP address will not match the one shown in the Leak Test Tool.
2. Use a Proxy Server to Change Your IP
Proxy servers in some ways are similar to VPNs. The way it works is that you still connect to a server that is offering the proxy service, and use the IP of that server to connect to the sites you want. However, there are drawbacks.
For example, many people seeking the use of a proxy are often looking for cheap ways to browse the web anonymously. Taking advantage of this, proxy server providers often set up free or dirt-cheap services, only to sell your data themselves.
Since proxy server operators are often not bound by the same terms of service that you will find on a VPN, your risk of exposure is often far greater. Proxy server operators also often log data, which can be handed over to law enforcement agencies on demand.
I’ve seen many people referencing the Tor Browser for greater security and anonymity without really knowing why. Tor, or The Onion Router, is actually a network of devices all over the world that connections are routed through.
The Tor browser is designed to work on the Tor network and by using it, your requests get sent through this massive collection of devices, obfuscating your real IP. This makes it extremely difficult (but not impossible) for others to trace your point of origin.
Authorities are usually able to monitor connections made through Tor. In fact, if you use Tor for illegal activities, you can be sure that you will be monitored. This includes any use of file-sharing networks or activities such as browsing the Dark Web.
This ‘brute force’ method of hiding IP addresses also comes with another unfortunate drawback – a severe reduction in speed.
Why Hide Your IP Address?
Before making your choice of method to hide your IP address, it is advisable to consider two things. The first is the mechanics of IP addresses – how they work, what they are for, etc. The second is to think of what you want to hide your IP address for.
What is an IP Address?
IP addresses are a combination of four sets of numbers, each set ranging from 0 to 255.
Examples of this are:
usually a local IP, and
an IP used by Google. In order for the IP system to work, each device on a network must carry its own unique IP address.
Consider the IP address the same as an actual residential address. For example, to be able to deliver mail to you, the postal system needs to know the exact details including what country you’re in, the state, your general area, and the specific location you are at in the area.
Two Types of IP Address: LAN and WAN
IP stands for Internet Protocol, an umbrella term for a set of rules that govern how data is moved around on networks. The ‘Internet’ part of the name isn’t entirely correct, since there are two types of networks:
Local Area Networks (LAN) & Wide Area Networks (WAN).
LANs are smaller, usually private networks that may or may not be connected to the Internet. The Internet itself is a WAN, since it connects other smaller networks in a large cloud. The important thing is that since there are two types of networks, there are also two types of IP addresses; local and remote.
How the IP System Works
A local IP address is the unique identifying number of a device on a LAN, while the remote IP is what it is identified as on the Internet, or WAN. LAN and WAN IP addresses work together to deliver data to the right device.
When you make a request on your device (perhaps by opening a browser and typing in a website address), that instruction is sent to your device controller – most often a router. The device controller recognizes which device on the LAN it controls sent the request and sends the request onto the Internet to retrieve the data.
When the return information is received, the router sends it to the device that made the request. Without the IP system, the router would have no idea where the request originated from.
The Danger of Exposed IPs
Since you know how the IP address is used, you now need to consider that it can also be used the same way in reverse. By having an address that is open for delivery, you also run the risk of cyber criminals attempting to use it to gain access to your device.
Many devices often have vulnerabilities, and by using the knowledge of those vulnerabilities and your IP address, cybercriminals can try to steal your confidential equipment. Often, this can include financial information, usernames, passwords, and more. Through an exposed IP address, you run a risk of having your identity stolen.
Don’t be complacent in mistaking that this is difficult to do. There are many automated tools that do this for hackers.
VPN = The Best Way to Hide an IP Address
By now you probably realize that of the three options I’ve shared to hide IP addresses, I’m very much pro-VPN.
But how do you choose the right VPN?
There are many reasons for this, some of which I’ve outlined above, but it is also important to know how to make the right choice in a VPN service.
The first thing you need to realize is that when it comes to VPNs, security is often prioritized above speed. Having said that, most reputable VPN brands today are able to handle both admirably.
One of my favorite choices in VPNs is NordVPN, which has been around for some time now. The reason for this is that the service represents many of the qualities that should be found in a top-shelf provider – a strong balance of performance, security, features, and price.
Using NordVPN I was able to maintain high connection speeds regularly. Table below shows recent NordVPN performance (connected using NordLynx, a new protocol). You can read more about my comprehensive NordVPN review here.
Another thing to look out for in a VPN service is one that updates itself regularly and improves on its service. This isn’t something that all VPN services will do, resulting in some of them suffering from a drop in performance over time.
Because of how closely cyber threats are associated, it is best to consider Internet protection holistically. This means combining the use of several tools to ensure that your devices (and hence, information) are protected as a whole.
On a device level, it is best to make sure that you have an up to date copy of an Internet security application running at all times. Also, ensure that all of your software and hardware are kept up to date with the latest patches and firmware
Protect your router by ensuring that the firmware on it is also kept up to date. Ideally, the first thing you should do is to change the default password that comes with your router. Also, browse for some information about how best to configure the firewall on your router.
Past that, secure your connection with a VPN service. This will help not just mask your identity but also protect your entire online experience.
About Timothy Shim
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.