How to hide your IP address & browse the Internet anonymously

How to hide your IP address & browse the Internet anonymously

Every computer connected to the Internet exposes an IP address that can be logged and tracked by websites and various apps. To increase your online privacy and anonymity you should, learn how to hide your public IP address.

How to hide your IP address – The Transylvanian explanation

Did you know that bats are the most talkative animals and sometimes they argue? And they can argue pretty badly.

That is why, some time ago, TomBat made sure to keep his cave-mate, DarkBat, in the … dark (so to speak) regarding his surprise birthday party. TomBat knew that DarkBat did not like parties, and it was no place for an argument.

You probably don’t know TomBat that well, but he is not able to keep a secret. So, he was afraid to ask DarkBat to come with him to Vlad’s castle. He was sure that DarkBat would find out what was going on.

TomBat decided to send an ambiguous invitation to DarkBat regarding a bat gathering via the AnonymousBat. As AnonymousBat knew nothing about the party and he was also not invited, he had no information to share with DarkBat. Additionally, AnonymousBat did not reveal the sender of the invitation.

Thus, TomBat used AnonymousBat as an intermediate, in the same way, VPNs, Tor, and proxies are used to hide users’ IP addresses.

When DarkBat reached the castle he was, of course, surprised and TomBat was pleased. Everybody was happy!

And now, let’s talk tech!

What is an IP address?

Each computer on a network has a unique identifier assigned to it. This identifier is called the IP address or Internet Protocol address.

Like street addresses are used to identify where homes and businesses are, IP addresses identify network computers. This enables traffic (webpages, files, messages) on the network to reach the computer it is intended for.

What is an IP address

In an office or home network, IP addresses are normally assigned by routers. The router keeps track of these IP addresses and sends data to and from the right computer.

  • An IP address assigned to a PC on an internal network is a local address. The IP addresses used on the Internet are separate from local addresses and are used to identify domains and other resources.
  • The router connected to the internet is given an internet IP address by an ISP (Internet service provider). It is also called a public IP address.
  • Computers on a network must each have a unique IP address.

What is your real IP address?

The real IP address or your public IP is the IP address your device or computer uses while connected to the Internet. As explained above, your public IP address is assigned by an ISP and allocated by a router.

You may see your real IP address at a given time by loading an IP locator website, like XMyIP or WhatIsMyIP.

What can someone learn from your public IP address?

Anyone that knows your public IP address can obtain certain information by querying an IP locator site. This information includes the country, state, city, zip code. That is why many Internet users choose to protect their IP addresses while browsing the Web.

What can someone learn from your public IP address?

Websites and apps that you use (like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) track your public IP address, gather information about your location, and use the data for their benefits (profiling, ad targeting).

Further, it is possible to match an IP address with an exact location (country, state, city, street, street number, apartment) and even with a name. The complete information is not publicly available, but it can be obtained (in certain circumstances, e.g., police official request) from the Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

When a computer or a router is connected to the Internet for the first time, a contract with the ISP (Internet Service Provider) is signed, and the ISP assigns a static or dynamic IP address. The ISP keeps logs and knows precisely what IP address was assigned to a particular computer at a specific time. Thus, based on the signed contract an ISP can match an IP address with a precise location and even with a person or company.

What does hiding my IP address mean?

Let’s clarify: hiding your IP address and changing your IP address is not the same thing! We will get back to changing the IP address later in this article.

As your ISP assigns you with your public IP address, and you need that IP address to communicate back to them, you can never hide your IP address from your ISP – without it, communication to the Internet would not be possible. When you are however communicating to websites on the Internet, you can hide your IP address so that websites can’t see what it is, and can therefore not gather any private information about you.

Hiding your public IP address involves using a software or hardware tool that receives your Internet requests and forwards them to the destination website or server, thus acting as an intermediate. If correctly configured the hide IP tool completely masks the source of the requests (your device) including its IP address.

There are many reasons why you might decide that you want to hide your IP address. These are discussed in the next section.

Why hide your IP address?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to hide your IP address:

  • Browsing the Internet without the fear of being monitored by the websites you visit (Google, Facebook, forums, etc.).
  • Protect yourself when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Visit websites that block requests from your IP address’ geographic location.
  • Access to online streaming websites, wherever you are.
  • Prevent hackers from accessing your information. 
  • Bypass surveillance and national internet censorship. 
  • Bypass school or workplace restrictions. 
  • Keep your private searches private (prevent Google monitoring).
  • Hide browsing activities from your ISP (possible by also encrypting your Internet traffic).

Ways of hiding your IP – VPN, Tor, Proxy

Do you wonder how to hide your IP address? Several technologies are available for hiding your IP address, and all involve third-party entities (computers, routers, devices). If your goal is to permanently change your IP address you may skip this section.

Proxies 

Proxies are the simplest and the most basic option to hide your IP address. There are several types of proxies, but they all have the same working principle.

Proxy servers sit between a computer (your computer) and the final web destination (the web site you want to visit), sending data back and forth as needed. A connection through a proxy effectively reroutes traffic through another computer before going to the intended website.

How to hide your IP address with proxies

This results in the proxy masking your IP address with its own, and the website server will never know you’ve visited it. If the logged IP address is checked against a geolocation database, the location of the proxy server can be found, but this may well be very far away from your own device.

Most proxy servers do however not encrypt data when connecting to a website. Although it is tricky, government agencies could still determine who you are and see everything you’ve been doing.

VPN

In the same way as proxies, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) acts as a middleman between a computer and a web server. The computer’s IP address is hidden by the VPN server’s IP.

How to hide your IP address with VPN

But, most importantly, VPN connections also encrypt the traffic before it leaves the computer. This feature is possible as, besides the VPN server, the VPN technology uses an encryption standard and a VPN protocol to ensure a high level of security, privacy, and anonymity. A higher level of encryption (like in case of protocols like OpenVPN, or SSTP), will assure you a more secure VPN connection. So, if someone does determine the real IP address, it won’t be useful as the sites that were browsed will be hidden in the encryption.

Moreover, VPN services anonymize all network activity from devices. This means your data is encrypted and your IP address is hidden no matter what you do – using a photo or email app, torrenting, or gaming. The huge plus is that VPNs are very easy to use, as you can enable a connection with just a click, via a VPN client.

Tor (The Onion Routing)

Tor is an advanced way to hide IP addresses. Instead of using a server as intermediate (as proxies and VPNs do), Tor interposes a network of computers between the Tor user and the destination.

How to hide your IP address with Tor

Web connections with Tor are wrapped up in encrypted bundles and routed through several servers. Layers of encryption are added at each stage.

Each server used is only able to decrypt enough data to know where the request should be sent next. No single point on the data’s journey knows where the request originated — the first stop is not even aware that it is the first stop!

Tor is an incredibly secure system and it is often used by activists and journalists whose online activity could destroy lives.

Although Tor is very safe, law enforcement and other agencies use active nodes in the hope of reading the exit of Tor encryptions.

When network traffic gets to an exit node, the last stage before a destination server, the Tor encryption is removed. This has to be done so that the destination server can read the data. Although the IP address will remain hidden, the unencrypted data in the request can be read.

This has resulted in law enforcement agencies like the FBI and NSA, and other agencies abroad setting up numerous Tor exit nodes. As Tor is a tool often used for cybercrime, it is bound to be a major target for intelligence services.

Although Tor is the most secure option for hiding an IP address, it is simply not required for the average Internet user

IP hider software

The above-presented technologies are often packed in software applications that you can download and use on your computer or devices. They are generically called IP hider applications.

Most of the VPN providers and some proxy providers offer access to easy to use applications for different types of operating systems: Windows, Mac OS (learn how to use a VPN on macOS), Linux, Android, iOS (learn how to use a VPN on iPhone or iPad).

Another example of an IP hider software: the Tor Browser, a web browser that connects to the Tor network and automatically changes the public IP address for every web request.

Change IP vs hide IP

Changing your IP is NOT the same as hiding it. Changing your IP means you reset your public IP while hiding your IP means to mask your existing IP and hide behind another one.

Hide IPChange IP
– Temporary (while using a hide IP solution)
– Requires third-party solutions (proxy, VPN, Tor)
– May bring additional benefits (like encrypting your web traffic)
– May slow down your Internet connection
– Permanent
– No need for additional applications
– Does not change anything regarding your Internet connection (encryption, speed, settings)

How to change your IP address

Changing your public IP address may be necessary when the IP address you got assigned by your ISP is on a blacklist, thus, no allowing you to properly send emails, use search engines, access forums.

If you need to permanently change your IP address, this can be done in various ways, depending on how you connect to the Internet.

  • If you use a Cable/DSL connection without a router, you can use the ‘ipconfig /release’ command followed by the ‘ipconfig /renew’ command on the command line to change your IP address.
  • If you use a Cable/DSL connection with a router, turn the router off, wait several minutes, and turn it on again. Most of the time, the router will get a new IP address from the ISP.
  • If the above options don’t work, contact your ISP and ask them to change your IP address. They are able to do so remotely or show you how to do it.

Does the incognito browser mode hide your IP address?

This is a question we hear quite often. The short answer is NO.

Most browsers have an incognito or private mode that generally allows you to open a separate browsing session that will not track browsing history when visiting different websites. When using these modes, browser history is not stored.

This makes it impossible to see the websites that were visited. An attempt to view browser history will simply return a blank page. This mode is handy if you, for example, want to order a present for someone without them knowing and you don’t want them ruining the surprise by going through your browser history.

Although the browser history stays hidden, private or incognito mode does not add any other security – the IP address will stay visible and websites visited will still store data about your visit. If you accept cookies, these will still be stored on your computer. The incognito or private modes in web browsers will only hide browsing history and is not a security feature that will be able to protect you from attempts to retrieve your personal data or malicious attacks.

Summary

Every computer has to have a unique IP address so that it can communicate with other computers. This IP address can be used to track where you are and what you have been doing on your computer. There are a number of reasons why you may want to hide your IP address, and we’ve discussed various ways in which this can be done. Which method is most suitable for you, will depend on your exact circumstances and what you want to achieve. 

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