How to Hide Your IP Address

Keep your web browsing activities private

Man hiding behind laptop computer

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The internet is good at many things. However, protecting online privacy is not one of them. From the websites people visit to the things they buy online, search engines, websites, and marketers track every click and move. Avoid these attempts to monitor your activities by hiding your IP address. Here are three popular ways to cloak your IP address and cover your tracks on the web.

What Is an IP Address?

An IP address is a number that uniquely identifies your computer or mobile device when connected to a network. Think of it as a mailbox for your computer. Every web request you make is sent from your IP address, and the data sent to you is routed to your IP address.

The different categories of IP addresses include private, public, static, and dynamic. Most of the IP addresses assigned by ISPs (internet service providers) are dynamic, which means a new IP address is assigned to your device every time you log on to the web. However, dynamic doesn't mean private. Online activities can be tracked to a dynamic IP address.

Why Should You Hide Your IP Address?

Your IP address is linked to all your online activities. Your online activities can reveal your internet searches, the websites you visit, the products you buy, and much more. One way to hide your online activity is to use IP masking.

IP masking hides your real IP address and location. This makes it harder for your activities to be tracked or traced to you. IP masking is accomplished by using an encrypted VPN service, a proxy server, or Tor.

Hiding an IP address is not the same as encryption. Unlike VPNs, proxies and Tor do not offer encryption. Choose the right technology for your needs.

Hide Your IP Address Using A VPN Tunnel

Using a VPN (virtual private network) is one of the best ways to block outside entities from tracking an IP address and spying on online activities. This includes spying by ISPs, search engines, websites, governments, hackers, and marketers.

A VPN disguises IP addresses and sends internet traffic through an encrypted VPN tunnel. If anyone attempts to view or hack that data, they see the VPN tunnel, not what's inside. Also, a VPN can connect to servers from different countries, so you can access geo-restricted websites and content.

To take advantage of a VPN, you'll need a VPN client or service. There are many VPN service providers that offer a range of VPNs, service plans, and advanced features for a wide range of operating systems and mobile devices.

Mask Your IP Address With A Proxy

Web proxies function as an intermediary between you and the internet. With a proxy, internet requests are sent from the proxy server and information is sent back to you from the proxy. In other words, it adds an extra hop to internet requests so it looks like they're coming from the proxy, not from your IP address.

Like a VPN, an anonymous proxy masks the true IP address and prevents devices from knowing where traffic originates. Unlike a VPN, a proxy does not encrypt internet traffic. Also, proxies only secure browser traffic, while a VPN replaces your local ISP routing for all services. Proxies are quick and convenient to use, but if you're after encryption, consider a VPN.

Proxies do not provide encryption and may not be as secure as other types of technologies.

Block Your IP Address Using Tor

If your objective is to be completely anonymous and avoid being tracked online, then Tor (The Onion Router) can be another tool in your privacy arsenal. Tor bounces web traffic across different servers so your IP address can't be traced back to you. Anyone who attempts to track your data requests only sees nodes in the Tor network, not you.

To use Tor, download the Tor Browser Bundle from torproject.org, the official home of Tor. As free and open source software, Tor doesn't cost anything to use and it's easy to set up. Like a proxy, Tor does not offer encryption. If you want encryption, it's better to use a VPN service.

Tor does not provide encryption and may not be as secure as other types of technologies. Do not use Tor for torrenting and do not use third-party plug-ins with Tor, as these can compromise privacy.