How to Hide Your Public IP Address

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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 or 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.

If it were possible to somehow remove IP addresses from public view, your internet activity would become extremely difficult to trace. Given how internet connections work, however, it is not technically possible to keep the public IP address of a home network hidden all of the time and still be able to use it.

What is possible, however, is hiding public IP addresses from most internet servers in most situations. One method involves an internet service called an anonymous proxy server. Another method 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 only accesses websites indirectly, through the proxy server. This way, websites see the proxy's IP address, not your home IP address.

Using an anonymous proxy server requires a simple configuration of the 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. These servers may have bandwidth traffic limits, may suffer from reliability or speed problems, or might permanently disappear 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.

Check out lists of free anonymous web proxy servers and where to download free online proxy servers for more information.

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

VPN service providers issue their customers a public IP address 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 person's online session uses the VPN-assigned IP.

To the extent these providers promise to not log their customer traffic, online VPNs can significantly increase an individual's privacy online.

Related Tools for Internet Privacy

Several related software tools support anonymous proxies. The Firefox extension called switchproxy, for example, supports defining a pool of proxy servers in the browser and automatically switching between them at regular time intervals. In general, these tools help you find proxies as well as simplify the process of configuring and using them.

Hiding an IP address increases your online privacy. Managing web browser cookies, using encryption when sending personal information, running a firewall, and other techniques all contribute to this goal.