All devices that are connected to an internet connection have their IP address. As you can understand, there are billions of IP addresses worldwide.
IP addresses are visible to everyone on the internet. According to the IP address, other internet users can track your location, which provider you use to connect to the internet, and much more.
In this article, we will explain in detail what an IP address is and reveal simple methods on how you can hide your IP address.
First of all, an IP address is a number assigned by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and is attached to every device online. It serves a purpose to effectively communicate with other online resources. There are two types of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6. If you want to learn more, check out our blog post about IPv4 vs IPv6 differences.
Think of an IP address as a personal ID card that classifies every device connected to the internet. To some extent, it functions just like our physical addresses do, identifying where the letters, parcels, and other goods should be delivered.
Without an IP address, you wouldn’t be able to access the mighty internet. Clearly, IP address is a necessity, but what information about you does it reveal to the public?
Well, your IP address mostly reveals information related to an IP address origin and its geolocation:
The Internet Service Provider (ISP)
The IPs hostname
Country, region/state, city, latitude and longitude, and area code
Any recognized services running on IP address
From the first sight, this might seem reasonable enough, but as always, there is a catch.
If you want to hide your tracks online, there are many ways to do it. We will cover a few options on how to hide your IP address. Do not forget that every choice depends on your goals and why you need to hide your IP address.
Proxy or a proxy server has its own IP address and acts as an intermediary between you and the internet. When internet users utilize a proxy, their internet request flow through the proxy server first, and only then connects to online resources. Once a proxy server collects the response from the web servers, it passes it back to the user, ensuring enhanced levels of anonymity, as a user’s real IP address is not exposed.
Basics of how does a proxy server works
What’s more, proxies unlock further benefits to their users. Each residential proxy is tied to a specific location and provides access to geo-blocked content, even if the real IP address doesn’t have the power to access this particular online material. So if you’re looking to access content in Brazil, you can simply choose to use a Brazil proxy, or German proxy for Germany.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and this is the most common way to hide your IP address. VPN is able to access region-restricted sites, protect your browsing activity, and more.
When you are connecting to the internet, VPN works as an intermediary by hiding your IP address and creating a secure tunnel where your data is encoded. Websites only see the VPN server’s IP address and not your own. Also, these websites can not access your real browsing data because it is encrypted. You can find more details on both proxies and VPNs by reading our article “Proxy vs VPN“.
TOR is open-source software that enables anonymous communication. Using TOR is a suitable solution to hide your IP address entirely. To put it simply, your traffic is directed through a bunch of different servers before reaching the targeted website.
You can use TOR if you are searching for a free and easily accessible way to hide your IP address. However, this solution can noticeably slow down your internet connection. You should decide if this way fits your needs.
Also, if you are searching for more free ways how to hide your IP address, you can try a private search engine DuckDuckGo. To answer a question: does DuckDuckGo hide your IP address, you can be sure that no one can track your browsing activity.
If you are searching for a fast way to hide your IP address, you can use your mobile network. Your IP address is able to change every time you turn on your mobile data. This makes your traffic less traceable.
You should know that this solution will slow connection speeds, use up your data plan, and data is not encrypted. This option will help you in certain situations, for example, when your IP is being attacked.
Using your computer to connect to an open Wi-Fi network is a simple way to hide your IP address. However, there are many risks when connecting to public hotspots networks. For example, usually, there are many unchecked connections at the same time. Also, an unsecured public network creates security risks for your device.
You should think of this option in exceptional situations as hiding your IP address to hedge from hackers.
Reasons to hide your IP address
If you have thoughts about why to hide my IP address, we will cover the most common reasons why you should consider this.
For example, the more you connect, the easier it becomes to see the full picture, which allows to find out your actual name, surname, and, sometimes, even a physical address that is associated with the IP address in question. Masking IP addresses may be the best solution if you want to feel safer while browsing the internet. Also, check out more reason why you should think of ways to hide IP address:
Usually, your IP does not reveal your full address. However, the web admin may have a clue about your location from the IP address. If you want to stay completely anonymous, hiding your IP address with proxies from, let's say, Germany, Canada, or the USA may be the most common solution to do it.
There are networks that restrict certain content you can access. Using a different IP address will get you past limitations and make your internet activity more simple.
If you are interested in web scraping, you should know that the common issue is IP blocks by targeted servers. As a website gets a lot of requests when web scraping, your activity may be detected as suspicious, and you will be blocked. In this case, it is necessary to hide or even use rotating proxies.
Hackers will not see your real IP, so they can not be traced back to you. They will not know who or where you are, so it makes a lot more difficult to do any damage.
An IP address leaves its traces online, which makes it possible to determine a user’s behavior on the web for ISPs and eager onlookers. For instance, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s Office (OPC) experimented with how much information they can gather from a random IP address.
Only by using an IP address as a search term (something every single person can do online), they managed to uncover shockingly detailed information about the user’s online habits. They found out that users behind the chosen IP address visited sites related to specific religious groups, learned about their fitness preferences, and got access to online photo-sharing platform discussion boards where the person took part.
At the beginning of the article, we raised a question whether online businesses should be cautious about their privacy and hide the IP addresses?
The answer is not that simple. In the cybersecurity industry, companies need to hide their IP addresses in order to stay anonymous when performing protective actions, like anti-phishing. However, in the e-commerce world, companies have to be visible, well, in order to do business on the internet. Their websites are usually the primary source that generates the most sales. This means their web pages are connected to an IP address.
What’s more, for effective email communication with their consumers, a public IP address is required. This IP address directs email to the business’ domain address. At this point you may think that there is no way businesses would choose to hide their IP addresses. However, they do. Businesses hide their web servers’ IP addresses, and one of the ways is by using a reverse proxy. A reverse proxy receives a request from internet users, passes it to a web server that can fulfil it, and brings back the server’s response to the user. This means that the real web server’s IP address is never exposed.
Now you know what your IP address can reveal, and different ways how to stop websites from tracking your IP address. The safest and common methods are proxies, or you can use a VPN. What’s more, it brings a further benefit to access content despite geo-blocks. The important part is that choosing a way to hide your IP address depends on your needs.
When it comes to businesses hiding their IP addresses, they choose to reverse their proxies. This allows companies to hide their public IP addresses in order to secure themselves and their infrastructure.
About the author
Lead Account Manager
Lukas Motiejunas is a Lead Account Manager at Oxylabs, and he places a strong personal interest in the market research field. Mainly, in the merge of business sector and digital tools utilization to distinguish the most effective practices to carry out automated market research operations. So if you have any questions relating to market research, he’s your guy to answer them. Lukas believes that he has a hidden talent to be a great chef, although rumor has it, he uses the smoke alarm as a timer.
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