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How To Hide Your IP Address

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If you haven't hidden your internet protocol (IP) address, then your internet service provider, your company, the government, your nosey neighbor and anyone else who took the time to link you to this address can see what you're doing. They know you're reading "How To Hide Your IP Address" on Digg.com right now. They know what you've been clicking on, downloading and watching. They know your location and could even have your data.

If this concerns you and you want to find out how to hide your IP address, you're in the right place. This article details IP addresses, how they work, how to hide yours and much more.

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What Is an IP Address?

An IP address is a specific number representing a device or a computer network. You need an IP address to send and receive information from other devices connected to the internet. Websites and computer networks also require your IP address as a form of identification to know where you are.

Allowing a network, website or another device to know your location through your real IP address can be useful. Imagine you're on a date and need to find movie times and availability for that new blockbuster that came out last week. Your IP address allows websites with that information to find theaters near you and give you the information you need.

IP addresses make finding information relevant to your global positioning easier, but this also opens the door to other issues. Hackers can access your IP address and track down your location with it. They may then use your geolocation data to access other information and personal data.

How Do IP Addresses Work?

Your IP address is an identification code assigned by the internet service provider that allows you to use the internet. When you try to get on the internet, your device accesses the network connection. Once your IP address gets access, you can use the internet through your internet service provider.

Your IP address isn't always the same. When you connect to a network different from your internet service provider's, that network will assign you a temporary IP address.

Does a VPN Hide Your IP Address?

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can mask your IP address and allow you to surf the web in peace. They're also extremely easy to use. By using a VPN you can hide your IP address, internet activity and geolocation with a click or a tap.

Ways To Hide Your IP Address

There is more than one way to hide your IP address and protect yourself against third parties accessing your browsing history and geolocation. Here are a few options you can use.

1. VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)

When you use a VPN, your internet activity is filtered through the VPN provider's server, creating a fake IP address and location. VPNs also encrypt and protect any data your computer or network sends or receives, maximizing your privacy.

2. Proxy Servers

Proxy servers are different from VPNs but can also protect your identity online. Proxy servers are computers you filter your internet access through before reaching a server. When you connect to any sites or networks, those sites won't be able to see your IP address, they'll see the proxy server's address instead.

Proxy servers work well when you just want to protect your IP address from getting out. There are free (but slow) proxy connections available online. Proxy servers don't provide the layers of encryption like a VPN, but they are still useful.

3. TOR Browser (The Onion Router)

Using a TOR, short for The Onion Router, Browser is another way to maintain anonymity online and ensure privacy. TOR works like a proxy server, but your computer's signal goes through three random servers or relays. The final relay sends your signal out into the online space. Think of it like your IP address is inside an onion with multiple layers protecting and hiding it.

A TOR Browser keeps your internet activity hidden from your internet service provider as well as the websites and networks you use. TOR is also open-source software that is free to download and use from the TOR Project's website.

4. Public Wi-Fi Networks

If previous options require too much effort, you can always go to a mall, coffee shop or airport and join the free public Wi-Fi network offered. Using a public Wi-Fi network changes your IP address, and websites and other networks will see your listed IP address as the IP address of the public Wi-Fi network.

While these free Wi-Fi hotspots can come in handy, they can also be risky. Joining an unknown network can open you up to other risks, including:

  • Malware distribution: Hackers can install sketchy software on your device.
  • Unencrypted networks: Hackers can access your internet traffic information easily.
  • Malicious hotspots: Cybercriminals can create networks that appear like legitimate public hotspots to trick people into connecting before stealing their information.
  • Wi-Fi snooping and sniffing: Hackers use software to view what you're doing online, steal your information or even take over your internet session.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks: Hackers can read information sent to or from your device when it's in between the other device you're communicating with.

You may want to consider the other three options first. It's best to protect your information with a VPN before using a public Wi-Fi network.

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Who Owns the IP Address?

The IP address you're using to read this article right now is not yours. You don't own your IP address. Internet service providers, network operators, hardware manufacturers and others can assign you an IP address so you are easily identifiable online. No one actually owns these strings of numbers. They're just ID cards that issuers assign and reassign as needed.

What Can You Do With an IP Address?

If a hacker or third party gets ahold of your IP address, they can use it against you in multiple ways. The third-party can use it to monitor, track and view your online activity. If you have a work computer, your IT department may track your IP address to make sure you're actually working from home instead of watching highlights from the semi-final game the night before.

Hackers who have access to your location and internet activity can use it to create phishing scams to get more of your personal data. In extreme cases, hackers may route illegal files through your computer that trace back to you.

How Do I Change My IP Address?

If you want to change your IP address, there are several ways to do it. The easiest way is to use a VPN or a proxy server. Both will hide your IP address. Similarly, TOR Browsers will also effectively change your IP address.

You can also reset your router to change your IP address without hiding it. All you need to do is check your IP address through your device's network settings and unplug your router for a few minutes. When you plug it back in, you'll find that your IP address has changed slightly.

It's also possible to manually modify your IP address by going through your device's Settings or System Preferences menu. But keep in mind that these last two options are just changing your IP address instead of hiding it. Your internet service provider and any other party will still be able to track you.

Should I Hide My IP Address?

Hiding your IP address is generally a good thing to do online. Your IP address can give away your location, internet activity, browsing history and more.

Concealing Your Physical Location

This one is a no-brainer. If you don't want people to be able to find out where you are, you have to erase any of the arrows pointing to you. Your IP address provides information about your whereabouts, so if you don't like that, hide it.

Protecting Your Online Privacy

Unwanted parties can view, track and monitor your internet activity if you don't take the necessary steps to hide your IP address. Your internet provider, websites, networks, governments and even hackers can all see what you've been up to if they want.

Taking steps to mask your IP address will let you keep your secret love of vintage line-dancing tutorials between you and your computer.

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Bypassing Geo-Restrictions

Geo-restrictions limit the content you can access online because of your location. Since your IP address shows exactly where you are, companies can restrict what's available to you due to licensing agreements and internet censorship.

If you're in Detroit and want to catch up on the newest Korean dramas, you might not be able to access them through your streaming service. The service likely only provides content tailored to the specific region of your IP address. You'll have to hide and change your IP address to stream movies from a different region.

Avoiding Targeted Advertising and Tracking

Many companies have turned toward IP targeting in an attempt to create a more efficient marketing process and provide more personalized ads. When you don't hide your IP address, companies can see what you're searching for online and which websites you visit. They use this data to create targeted advertisements they send to your IP address, which makes them appear on your social media platforms and websites.

Hiding your IP address can prevent this sort of data collection and targeted advertising.

Preventing Potential Cyber Attacks

Hiding your IP address can keep you safe from cyber attacks. Once a hacker has your IP address, they can access a lot of information like your location, browsing history, and internet activity. Hackers can then use this information to trick you or your friends and family members into giving up more personal information through phony emails, messages, calls or texts. You can increase your security by masking your IP address.

Summary of Digg's How To Hide Your IP Address

Hiding your IP address can protect your location and your information against hackers, your internet service provider and anyone else who may be trying to get your data.

If you want to hide your IP address, remember that the three reliable options are getting one of the best VPNs, relying on a proxy server or using the TOR Browser.