How to Hide Your Public IP Address

If you're reading this, it's 100% guaranteed that you have an IP address.

How can I be so sure? Well, because without one, you won't be able to surf the internet at all.

Once you connect to the internet, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) assigns a special ID to you. It acts as your personal address so the information you're downloading from the Internet can get back to you.

While an IP address is something indispensable, you may want to consider hiding it from unwanted eyes. Why? And how? Well, continue reading!

Why You May Want to Hide Your IP Address

Your IP address is much like your home address. So if you've been trying so hard to keep your home address private, it's only logical to hide your IP, too. Plus, the thing is, your IP address is trackable - whether you like it or not.

Once you realize this, you'll start grasping why it could be a good idea to try to mask it.

Advantages of hiding your IP address:

  • Browsing the internet incognito. When you visit a website, the owner of the said-website can track your traffic. Ever wondered why you keep seeing an ad for the dress you checked out just a few hours ago? Yep, what you see is a targeted ad, and you keep seeing it 'thanks to' your IP address showing up in the dress website.
  • Masking your geographical location. Although one cannot track your exact location through your IP, it can be pretty accurate. Plus, some static IP addresses are assigned to specific places - usually schools, business places, and so on. If you often have the same public IP address, one can safely guess you hang out in a particular place regularly. 
  • Overcoming some digital restrictions/censorship. Hiding your IP address, or rather, having an IP address that serves as a "façade" to your real one, can give you access to websites you normally can't go to. For example, to have access to Facebook when you're in China, you're going to need to "borrow" an IP that's located outside of China. Another example is when you want to experience "Netflix and Chill" when you're somewhere where Netflix is banned (unsurprising example: China again).
  • Hiding your identity. We know that you're probably not a spy or internationally sought-after bandit, but protecting your digital identity could be a good idea. For example, if you're a business owner who wishes to "spy" on your competitors, you might want to consider masking your IP. 
  • Protecting your privacy. Aside from your geolocalisation, suspicious people can also try to get your sensitive data and information through your IP address. Because you see, when you access the internet, you're sending and receiving signal to and from your server. During this exchange, there's enough time for people to intercept your signal and breach your security. Privacy is a luxury in the digital era, don't you agree?

How to Hide Your Public IP Address

Now that you see the importance of protecting your IP address, I know that many people simply want to answer this question:

How much does it cost to hide your IP?

It really depends on the method you're choosing. Some are completely free!

However, you must know that free things, in this case, have their own risks - that may not be worth it.

man hiding with a tablet

1. Hiding Your IP Address Using VPN

VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is the best way to hide your IP address and the only one we recommend. VPNs are the complete all-in-one solution for your digital security.

Why?

This is how VPN works in protecting your privacy:

  • VPN changes your IP address, so your geographical position changes (without you moving). Aside from protecting your privacy and security, this feature will also allow you to bypass any geolocalisation-related restriction.
  • VPN creates a secret "passage" of the signal between your computer and your server, making it impossible for someone to find and intercept it. Whatever happens within this tunnel, stays in this tunnel, even when you're using a free public WiFi.
  • VPN encrypts your data. So, even if a hacker God manages to intercept you, he won't be able to read your data.
  • More sophisticated VPNs can send multiple pings at the same time to the server of the website you're visiting. This will make it even harder to track you.

As you can see, you're basically a ninja if you use VPN.

The Cost of VPNs

If you know how to use Google, you'll be able to find free VPN services. Some are even decent (Hotspot Shield, TunnelBear, CyberGhost, and more).

However, they all come with some inconvenience/restrictions:

  • Most of them, if not all, will force ads on you (if you want to use VPN because you're so sick of seeing ads, this is not for you).
  • Bandwith restriction is a thing with free VPN services. Some providers, such as TunnelBear, will double up your bandwidth to 1 GB per month if you tweet about them. But honestly, any Instagram live addict out there knows that 1 GB/month is a bit frustrating. 
  • Limitation on the number of servers you can access. Ditto: can get frustrating.
  • Some have limitations on the number of devices you can connect. Idem with above.
  • Free VPNs can affect the performance of your connection: your beloved internet speed will suffer.

What you need to understand is that free VPNs can become the source of a headache instead of the solution.

Premium VPNs cost money, yes. But when you create a balance of pro and cons, you'll see that the cost is totally worth it. Check out our list of good VPN providers if you are considering a paid VPN.

the onion router

2. Hiding Your IP Address with TOR

TOR or The Onion Router (hence the picture of glorious onions above) is a free way to be anonymous on the internet. In fact, TOR is a non-profit organization that works to guarantee digital anonymity. 

All you need to do is install the TOR browser (not so different from mainstream browsers such as Chrome or Firefox) and use it to go online. Voilà, you're now a ninja!

This is how TOR works:

  • TOR disguises your connection throughout several other computers in TOR network. So when someone tries to check out the incoming traffic to a website, all they see is a random node. This means that they cannot trace it back to you.
  •  TOR creates multiple layers to provide an anonymous blanket for its clients, making them almost impossible to track down (note the word "almost").

TOR is probably the easiest way to become a ghost on the internet. And TOR has seen an all-time high number of clients for an unknown reason (my suggestion is because of that episode of House of Cards, but I digress).

However, we've warned you that free things are not riskless in the world where your privacy becomes more and more sacred. In the case of TOR, here are the risks:

  • TOR slows down your connection considerably because multiple relays route the traffic. If you like your internet fast and furious, consider another option.
  • A leaked report has shown that when you use TOR, it's likely that the intelligence agencies of your country become interested in you. At least we know that the NSA likely puts TOR clients on their watch list. This is because TOR is not only used by honest, tax-paying citizens like you, but also by people doing highly illegal things.
  • Anonymity doesn't always equal security. As the previous point mentions, NSA can track TOR users to de-anonymize them - although not without effort.

So, Should You Use TOR?

If you're an average TOR user, you're probably safe from your government spying on you (we wouldn't completely eliminate this possibility, though). But if what you're looking for is a security rather than anonymity (for example, when you're browsing with a free WiFi), we'd still recommend VPN services.

But if you just want to be anonymous online, TOR could be a good and easy solution. But we still think that you need VPN, too.

proxy server

3. Hiding Your IP Address with Proxy Servers

Just like what's said in the name, a proxy server substitutes your IP address with a new one. It's similar to going to a club with a fake ID with a fake address written on it.

How it works:

  • It reroutes your request. Usually, when you type a web address on your browser, your ISP sends that request to the server of said website. In the case of proxy servers, it gets sent to a proxy, and then to the server of the website.
  • While doing this, the proxy server assigns you a new IP address, masking your real one.

Just like with free VPNs, finding a free proxy server is as easy as typing it on Google. And believe us, there are thousands of them.

But, as with any free service, there are risks involved. Do make sure you know them before you pick a proxy server:

  • Your data may not be secure because it's sent in an un-encrypted form. So when you send an email through a proxy server, there's a risk a hacker puts their grubby hands on it and read it without any effort whatsoever.
  • Some proxy servers are run by hackers and fraudsters with malicious intent. In this case, all un-encrypted data you send through can be read and used for their benefit. Think email password, bank account number, and other sensitive information.
  • Your ISP may not like it if you use proxies. It may even be a condition written in your contract!

So, even though proxy servers can mask you like Zorro when you're browsing online, you should accept that comes with it.

Sure, there are tried and trusted free proxies out there. But there's a surefire way to keep your security intact. Have you guessed it yet? Yep, VPNs!

In-a-Nutshell Moment

We're not trying to scare you off the internet. But as we know you love the internet, we want you to be safe.

Hiding your IP address is one step towards that. But as you can see, some of the ways can actually cause more problems in security - even though they can make you anonymous.

Our recommendation is simple: use the foolproof method (premium VPNs). If you do want to try TOR and proxies, know the risks and do in-depth research to avoid them. 

 

Serina Rajagukguk

Serina is a writer whose passion includes learning all about new technology and trying to explain it in a layman term. 

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