How to Hide Your Public IP Address

Preserving your privacy in today's online environment

computer screen showing personal security information

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When you connect to the internet, an internet service provider assigns your home computer or network router an IP address. As you visit websites and other internet servers, that public IP address is transmitted online and recorded in log files kept on those servers. These access logs establish a trail of your online activity.

Removing IP addresses from public view, then, would make your internet activity extremely difficult to trace. Given how internet connections work, however, concealing your home network's public IP address while still being able to use it is impossible.

What is possible, however, is hiding public IP addresses from most internet servers in most situations. One common method involves using an anonymous proxy server. Another uses virtual private networking.

Using an Anonymous Proxy Server

An anonymous proxy server is a special type of server that acts as an intermediary between a home network and the rest of the internet. An anonymous proxy server makes requests for internet information on your behalf, using its own IP address instead of yours. Your computer then accesses websites only indirectly, through the proxy server. This way, websites see the proxy's IP address, not yours.

Using an anonymous proxy server requires a simple configuration of your browser or other client software that supports proxies. Proxies are identified by a combination of URL and TCP port number.

Numerous free anonymous proxy servers support open access. Some of these servers have bandwidth traffic limits, suffer from reliability and speed problems, and occasionally disappear permanently from the internet without notice. Such servers are most useful for temporary or experimental purposes. You could also try one of a few anonymous proxy services that charge fees in return for a better quality of service.

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

VPN service providers issue a user a public IP address that's different from the address their home internet service receives. This new address can originate from a different state or even a different country. After signing into an online VPN service and until logging off from it, a user's online session uses the VPN-assigned IP.

To the extent these providers promise to not log their users' traffic, online VPNs can significantly increase your online privacy.

Related Internet Privacy Tools

Several related software tools support anonymous proxies, too. The Firefox extension Switchproxy, for example, automatically switches among a pool of proxy servers at regular intervals.

Likewise, Chrome offers users the option to use "incognito windows." When you're browsing in an incognito window, Chrome doesn't save cookies, form entries, or history, and it uses a proxy rather than your home IP address. In general, this tool and others like it can help you use proxies

Incognito window in Chrome browser
Browse the web incognito.

Managing web browser cookies, using encryption when sending personal information, running a firewall, and other techniques contribute to the goal of improved online privacy as well.