This can cause problems. While the internet does indeed need to know where you are, your internet protocol address can provide a wealth of information to hackers (and advertisers). It also provides a path right to your hard drive, for those who know how to find it. Although most internet protocols direct traffic to your router, not your computer, the difference is minimal. This is particularly true for home or small office users where the only devices connecting to the router are one person’s computer and phone.
What your IP address reveals about you
So what, exactly, does your IP address reveal about your computer, and thus you? The largest concern for most is geolocation. Thankfully, because of the way IP addresses are assigned to routers, a casual hacker can only get a general location and not, say, your street address.
The biggest problem is that when you visit websites your IP is recorded by the site. This is helpful to site managers so they can track where their visits and traffic is coming from. In some cases, your IP may be made public by the site. This is the case if, for example, you edit Wikipedia. So, what kind of things can a hacker, or the government, find out about you from your IP?
- They can find out what kind of websites you visit. This is the largest concern. Somebody who knows your IP could, for example, find out that you are visiting a site for LGBT people, and then tell your conservative boss.
- They may be able to track your movements. There was one case where the FBI was able to track down a cyberbully by correlating the locations from where he sent emails to hotel guest lists. No doubt, he thought he was being clever.
- They can identify your ISP, and thus easily report you for bad behavior. If you think you are immune, malicious reporting is definitely a thing.
- They can use geolocation to target advertising. Combined with being able to track your search history, this can result in some very creepy effects.
Another reason to hide your IP is that can help you avoid personalized advertising and keep your search record from being used by sites. If you tend to use your computer a lot in public, it can help make sure that your private browsing habits don’t show up, in the form of ads, when there might be people looking over your shoulder. At the very least, hiding your IP can protect you from some forms of hacking and harassment.
Why Should You Hide Your IP Address?
You’ve already learned that your IP address is an important identifier. It’s in your best interest to keep it secure and private. Here are five main reasons why you should strongly think about hiding your IP address:
– To Hide Your Location
In the physical world, if you were to find out that you were vulnerable to some type of attack by another individual, you probably wouldn’t want them to know the street address that represents where you live. The same aspect applies to the internet and is associated with your IP address. Your IP reveals the location that your information packets are sent to when you request them. Specific aspects of geolocation data can be discovered via your IP address. These include:
- Zip code
- Latitude and longitude
It may be a little unnerving knowing that a hacker may be able to identify GPS data that is associated with you if they know your IP address.
Negating Any Bans of IP Addresses
When services or websites decide that they can block your access, you may feel differently. For example, if you are traveling overseas and want to connect to your United States Netflix account, you may run into a problem. If they have banned the IP addresses of the country you are in, you won’t be able to use the service you’ve paid for. By changing your local IP address of the country where you are currently located, it’s a way that you can negate their IP ban and connect to content that you feel you have a right to see.
Circumventing Restrictions That Use Your IP
While you may feel like it’s your right to access what you’d like when you are surfing the web, some governments and colleges don’t feel that same way. Since your IP is used as an identifier, it can be blocked when restrictions are put into place. Certain governments use this tactic to restrict users from accessing services and websites. Universities have been known to restrict certain servers so that students wouldn’t have access. Having the ability to circumvent IP restrictions is important if you feel like you have the right to access content that’s been restricted.
Blocking Yourself from Targeted Attacks
If you’ve been targeted by a malicious cybercriminal, you’ll need to take measures to quickly hide your IP address so that your personal records don’t get revealed. By hiding a vulnerable IP address, it gives you the ability to avert the cyber attack and take other measures that will help protect you.
Remaining Anonymous on the Web
It’s unfortunate that bills have been passed by the United States Congress that allows ISPs to take your browsing history and other data and sell it to third parties. If you want to remain anonymous when you are surfing the internet, you have to take measures into your own hands.
How do you hide your IP?
The first thing to bear in mind is that incognito mode, now standard in all modern browsers, does absolutely nothing to hide your IP. All incognito mode does is prevent your browsing history from being recorded in the browser. There are places for incognito mode, such as not wanting to be inundated with travel ads for a place you looked up for somebody else, or when using somebody else’s computer. It does not, however, hide your IP.
There are ways to hide your IP address when using the internet
Using a web proxy
When you use a proxy, the site sees the IP of the proxy rather than your own router. Web proxies do have their uses, especially if you want to appear to be in a different location so as to access a site. However, you have to be very careful what proxy services you use. Some are notorious for selling your information. Others insert their own ads instead of the ones you would normally receive as a way to make money. Additionally, some sites will detect when you are using a web proxy. Because they are so commonly used by shady operators and hackers, you may find that access is blocked, especially if you are trying to do financial operations. Streaming sites often use proxy detection to keep people from accessing content not released in their region. The WebRTC exploit will let some sites track you through a proxy to your actual location. Although some sites will also detect and block VPN use, proxies cause many more of these problems. Proxies do, however, tend to be cheaper and are more often free. They may also stall some hackers, who see a proxy in use and go for an easier target.
Using a VPN
The best way to hide your IP address is to use a VPN – a Virtual Private Network. When you use a VPN, the internet sees you as being at the network’s location rather than yours. One advantage of a VPN is that they are much easier to configure for multiple devices. They also add encryption, making it much safer to use public or hotel wi-fi. Using a VPN can sometimes impact your connection speed, especially if it is on the other side of the world, but there is a reason more and more companies require their employees to use a VPN when connecting from outside the office.
Hiding your IP may seem to be something for shady operators to do, but the fact is that most of us benefit from doing it at least some of the time. It is particularly important if you are doing online banking or online shopping, or if you have things that would jeopardize your livelihood if your employer discovered them. By far the best way to do so is to sign up for access to a VPN. These days, they are easy to configure and work on all your devices. They are also surprisingly inexpensive.
Utilize a Mobile Network
If you have a suspicion that your IP address has been compromised, a quick way to change your IP address is to use your smartphone’s data system. This will provide you with a different IP address. However, it’s definitely no substitute if you are reliant on a PC or laptop workstation. It’s probably best used in those rare situations when you have an emergency and you believe that your IP address is being attacked. Otherwise, relying on your mobile network should only be used if you’re really desperate as it’s slow and not encrypted.
Connecting to Public Wi-Fi
Your IP address will not travel with your device. If you connect your laptop to a public Wi-Fi network in a local coffee shop, it’s a fast and easy way to change the IP address. However, similar to using a mobile network, this really isn’t an effective or sustainable way to surf the web securely and in private. There a large number of risks when you connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot network.
Try calling your Internet Service Provider
In reality, you really don’t have any influence on the IP address that is assigned to your device. However, you can call your Internet service provider and see if they will change your address.
Both static and dynamic IP addresses are assigned by ISPs. If you have a static IP address, it may be difficult for you to change without going through a large amount of paperwork. Fortunately, most ISPs assign IP addresses that are dynamic.
If you call your ISP and ask them to change your IP, they may ask you why you need it changed. You may want to tell them that you are learning about networking or teaching a friend.
You may also be able to change the IP by just unplugging your modem. Disconnect your internet connection from your modem and wait a few hours. Hook the connection back up and see if you have been assigned a new IP address. Note that this will only work if you are being assigned IP addresses that are dynamic.
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