The internet mirrors real life. This is particularly so because every internet user’s online footprint is tied to a unique identifier that works similarly to an identification number. This identifier can track your online activity, i.e., the websites you have visited. It is how marketing companies precisely know what ads to show you. (Of course, this is also due to other parameters they collect.) But you can end this form of tracking by hiding this identifier. Keep reading to learn about IP addresses, as well as why and how to hide an IP address.
This identifier is known as an IP address. It is a number assigned to every device online to facilitate effective communication within a local area network (LAN) or a wide-area network (WAN). Generally, an internet service provider (ISP) assigns all the internet traffic originating from your router the same IP address to enable it to connect to the internet. At the same time, your router assigns each device connected to it an IP address to ease identification and, if necessary, LAN communication.
Types of IP Addresses
There are two versions of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 addresses feature a combination of numbers and dots, e.g., 18.104.22.168. This, however, means the number of combinations is limited to just over 4 billion unique addresses. In fact, IPv4 addresses are almost getting depleted. On the other hand, IPv6 addresses are longer, consisting of numbers and letters separated by colons, e.g., 0123:4657:86eb:vcga:0123:4567:89be:cder. As a result, IPv6 addresses are more abundant as there is a theoretical possibility of creating about 3.4×1038 unique addresses.
Generally, an IP address enables you to access the internet. At the same time, however, it stores unique information about you, including:
- Your internet service provider (ISP)
- The hostname
- Location: including country, region/state/county, city, and latitude and longitude
- Recognized services running on the IP address
On the surface, this information might seem harmless. But it can open you up to undue attention from marketing companies. In fact, websites that are designed to help you know your IP address warn you of this possibility whenever you wish to update your IP location. The warnings include the fact that this move allows anyone to acquire your exact location on a map. It also makes it easier for advertisers and websites to target you directly. These disadvantages point to the need to hide your IP address.
How to Hide IP Address
You can use the following ways if you are looking for how to hide an IP address:
- Proxy servers
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- Use your mobile network
- Tor browser
- Use public Wi-Fi
A proxy or proxy server is a hardware or software-based intermediary that routes traffic through itself. In the process, it assigns all outgoing requests a new IP address, hiding your real IP address. Under this setup, your requests appear to originate from the intermediary instead of your computer. Take a look at this article to learn more about using proxies to hide your IP address.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN creates a secure and encrypted tunnel between your computer and an exit node located in a country or location of your choice. Thus, all outgoing requests acquire the exit node’s IP address. Like the proxy server arrangement, a VPN makes it appear as though the requests are being sent by the exit node, which is essentially a server. This way, the VPN hides your real IP address.
Usually, mobile network operators assign their customers dynamic IP addresses. These identifiers change after a period or every time you connect to the network. In this regard, using a mobile network ensures that the assigned IP address changes after a short while. This makes it hard for anyone attempting to track your connection to do so effectively. At the same time, the network sometimes shares one IP address among multiple users.
Tor browser is free software that masks your IP address by associating your connection with an onion address before routing traffic through different connections. In total, there are three layers that help improve anonymity, namely the entry node, a relay node, and an exit node. However, the Tor browser has a few weaknesses, including the fact that it is slow and potentially exposes user data breaches due to eavesdropping.
Use Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi assigns a shared IP address to all users. Thus, it makes tracking difficult as the internet traffic is consolidated from different users. However, while this approach can help you conceal your IP address, it can expose you to potential cyberattacks. This is particularly the case if the public network is unsecured.
While beneficial, an IP address can open you up to unnecessary risks. This is because it reveals information such as your location and internet service provider. Furthermore, because websites collect your IP address, this identifier also reveals your internet activity. This shows the importance of hiding your IP address. You can do this using a proxy, VPN, mobile network, Tor browser, or public Wi-Fi.