Even if you don’t know what an IP address is, you’ve probably heard the term. This is because IP addresses are an important part of the Internet architecture. Without an IP address, other computers would not be able to communicate with you, and vice versa. However, this short string of numbers can also be used to track you, so you may want to anonymize your IP address. In this article, we will discuss what an IP address is and how you can hide your IP address. This article covers IP addresses in detail, explaining what they are and why you should keep yours private. Finally, we’ll cover some easy ways to hide your IP address.
What is an IP address? An IP address, which stands for Internet Protocol Address, is a unique combination of numbers that identifies routers, computers, or other devices so they can communicate over the Internet. Just as your email address allows others to send you email, a remote computer needs your IP address to communicate with your computer. IP addresses usually look like this: 184.108.40.206
An IP address is a sequence of four blocks of numbers. Each of these blocks has a value between 0 and 255, which means that each block has 256 possible values. This numeric IP system allows for approximately four billion unique IP addresses.
Finding someone’s IP address is relatively easy. Web analytics can track web users, and wikis and message boards sometimes identify contributors by their IP address. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) also knows your IP address.
Because your IP address can be used to identify you, regulators and privacy advocates consider it a form of personal information. According to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, organizations cannot misuse the IP addresses of citizens and residents of the European Union.
However, this does not mean that your IP address is safe from hackers, unethical companies and repressive authorities.
How your IP address can be misused
As with any personal information, there are other ways to try to exploit it. Some abuses can be relatively harmless, such as unauthorized use of your IP address to track you online and target you with ads. Other abuse can be very destructive. These are some of the main dangers:
- Ad networks – Companies like Google and Facebook constantly track your browsing to deliver tailored ads. Many people find these ads annoying and don’t want companies tracking their activities.
- Censorship – The Internet should be a free and open place for the exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, many governments and companies would prefer not to. Repressive governments often block websites they don’t like, and companies often block IP addresses based on their geographic location.
- Illegal Downloads – Cybercriminals can use your IP address to download illegal music, music and videos – even child porn – to protect their real identity from law enforcement. Downloading pirated content is a crime in many countries.
- Targeted Attacks – Hackers who want to harass and intimidate you can use your IP address in a number of ways. One popular form is distributed denial of service (DDoS), where a criminal bombards your device with data and disrupts your Internet connection. Your IP address can even reveal your physical location with surprising accuracy.
- Tracking – If your ISP sees your IP address, it can link your internet activity to you personally. This information can be used to censor or moderate content, and the government can also access your browsing history with a subpoena.
How to keep your IP address private
Fortunately, preventing your IP address from reaching the network is quite easy. Here are four steps to hide your IP address.
Use a VPN
A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server. When you browse the Internet using a VPN, all traffic passes through this encrypted tunnel before reaching the public Internet. This way, your real IP address and location are hidden and the IP address associated with your browsing activity is the IP address of the VPN server. To learn more about VPNs, check out our articles on how a VPN works and how to use it. Proton VPN also has an advanced security feature called Secure Core, which protects against sophisticated web-based attacks that can compromise VPN servers and expose your IP address.
Follow basic precautions
In our article, we discussed why online privacy is important and how you can protect your data. We have provided some safe alternatives for web browsers, email services and instant messaging programs that should help you manage your privacy.
Tor is free software developed by The Tor Project that allows users to anonymize their internet traffic. This makes it a useful tool for those concerned with surveillance and those who want access to onion fields. Proton VPN supports access to the Tor network, so routing your entire internet connection through the Tor network is easy with one click. Proton VPN’s Tor nodes connect to the Tor network, creating a new route every time a user creates a new VPN session. Thus, none of the Tor nodes along the way can receive information about the original client, and user data remains hidden even from a malicious Tor node.
Keep your antivirus software up to date and change your router’s default password
These are simple ways to protect your devices from malware attacks that can reveal your information, including your IP address.
There is little reason not to hide your IP address: the risk of exposing your IP address outweighs the ease of protecting it. Just as you might not want to post your phone number or home address online, it might make sense to keep your IP address private.