For you to read this article, several things have already happened within a few milliseconds – depending on your internet speeds. Chief among these things is the use of IP addresses. When you clicked on this website’s URL (uniform resource locator) in your browser, you essentially clicked the webserver’s IP address. Your browser and our website communicated via the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP) – TCP/IP.
The internet protocol is a communication layer within TCP/IP that interconnects local networks. The IP carries the data packets that the TCP breaks down. Each internet-connected device is assigned an address to facilitate the sending of the packets. Such addresses belong to and are registered by internet service providers (ISPs). Thus, your computer’s IP address is not fixed. It could change depending on a number of factors.
Notably, though, computers also have IP addresses (localhost) even when they lack a network card and have never been connected to the internet.
We were going back to how you got to read this article. Your browser requested data from our web server when you clicked its IP address (URL). The web server then delivered this content to your computer’s IP address, ultimately getting to your web browser. Of course, much goes into this entire communication arrangement, but this summary provides the basics.
In this regard, an IP address is a computer’s unique identifier. It works much like your street address. Besides directing the webserver to the exact computer, it should send content to, websites rely on IP addresses for other purposes listed below.
Uses of IP addresses
- To identify every internet-connected device
- To track what every user does on the website and the pages they visit
- To identify the user’s location
- To track users
These uses also highlight the drawbacks of IP addresses and demonstrate why you need to hide your IP address.
Why you need to hide IP address
1. Prevent tracking by websites
Any website you visit accesses your IP address. This is often for several reasons. For one, websites that rely heavily on ad revenue, e.g., Facebook and Google, track users’ web activities using IP addresses to tailor ads. Usually, this feels like an invasion of privacy.
2. Bypass geo-restrictions
Secondly, websites analyze users’ IP addresses to establish their location. Geo-restriction is annoying to users, but this does not stop websites such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and others from restricting content. Such sites rely on IP addresses to determine who to display the content to and whom they should not. This is because IP addresses carry location data. Hiding your IP address will give you access to these sites.
3. Prevent tracking by ISPs
Besides websites, ISPs also use IP addresses to track their subscribers’ online activity and browsing history. If they are hacked, there is a high likelihood that your data will land in the hands of malicious individuals. Also, some may even opt to sell data voluntarily. Certainly, hiding your IP address will prevent any of these possibilities from happening. And that’s not all.
4. Prevent government surveillance
Government surveillance is common in some countries. Hiding your IP address nips this problem right at the bud.
5. Protect your sensitive information
Perhaps you are part of a team making strides in the research of nuclear weapons. If your research got into the wrong hands, that would spell doom to the entire world’s existence. Alternatively, you could be an investigative journalist, celebrity, or detective who stores sensitive data on your computer or home network. If any of these scenarios speak to you, one way to protect your data is by hiding your IP address.
Simply put, privacy is the main reason why hiding your IP address is necessary. But with that being said, how do you do this?
Ways to hide your IP address
You can use the Tor browser, virtual private networks (VPNs), or proxy servers to hide your IP address. Tor hides IP addresses by connecting your computer first to a server with a publicly listed IP address. It then bounces the requests and traffic through two additional computers to promote anonymity.
Suggested Reading: Differences between Tor browser and VPN
On the other hand, VPNs create an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the service provider’s server (exit node) thousands of miles away. Thus, when using VPNs, your computer acquires the exit node’s IP address.
However, VPNs and Tor are problematic. Firstly, some VPN providers store communication logs, which could land in the hands of hackers. Also, VPNs are slow because they have to encrypt data. On the other hand, Tor is slow and exposes you to government surveillance since it is a dark web browser. These disadvantages leave proxy servers as the best option.
Proxy servers are intermediaries that send web requests on the user’s behalf after assigning them a new IP address. They hide the user’s real IP address.
If you’re interested in the topic and want to dig more, then visit the site and read the article covering multiple ways on how to hide your IP address.
About Author: This post has been shared by Karolina. She works at oxylabs.io.