Like it or not, our online world and the real world around us are merging into one reality. But that’s only from a subjective point of view. In practice, some things still work differently in ‘the two worlds’.
For example, there are some things you can do online, without suffering any consequences that you would normally suffer in the real world. No, you still shouldn’t cyberbully anyone, or break into someone’s bank account. This is not a joke.
But one thing you can easily do online that’s not so legal in real life is hiding your identity. I’m not talking about changing your name on social media, because that’s just one part of it. That’s just appearing differently to the human eye.
If you really want to change your online identity, you’ll want to hide from crawlers and complex algorithms. And the only way to do that is by changing your IP address!
Confused? Don’t worry! We’ll explore the whole subject here, as I’ll explain to you what is an IP address, why should you consider changing it, and finally, how to do it. So, stick with me.
How to hide your IP address while browsing
Table of contents:
What is an IP address
I’ll try to explain IP addresses to you as simply as possible. Because I’ve seen some quite confusing explanations out there, and I want to avoid that here.
Remember my comparison of ‘the two worlds’ from the beginning? Well, we can use the same terminology to explain IP addresses.
Just like you have your home address, your computer connected to the internet has its own virtual address – IP address. While you receive deliveries and parking tickets to your home address, an IP address is used for communication between devices on a network.
In order to receive a single bit of information from the internet, you need to instruct the sender where to send that information. For example, by opening this article, you told our server you need some information from it. Your IP address serves as a guide for our server, and tells it where to deliver the information you requested. In this case, to your device. Plain and simple.
These addresses are not just some random numbers. Every single IP address is a mathematically programmed 32-bit number allocated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), a division of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). These guys are responsible for finding a home to your computer on the internet, so you don’t have to worry about anything.
That’s basically the whole concept of IP addresses. Put in the simplest way possible. If you want a broader, more complex explanation of IP addresses, check our full article about this wonderful product of modern technology.
Why should you consider changing your IP address?
If you already have your reasons for hiding the IP address, move on, I’m not going to dig into it. But if you still can’t make up your mind, I’ll try to make a few points here on why should you do it.
There are two main reasons. Privacy and security.
First of all, if hackers and other shady people don’t know your IP address, they can’t send you that unwanted guest they’ve created. It’s much harder (although possible) for hackers to plant a malicious software into your operating system if you hide your IP address. So, hiding your IP address adds another layer to your overall internet security.
Another concern that’s been on the rise lately is your privacy. You’ve probably heard stories about spying on the internet, government agencies, data collecting, and what not. Well, some of these stories are true, some are just conspiracy theories.
For instance, search engines and social networks DO collect your personal data in order to deliver you targeted ads. Your chances of escaping that and fully operating online are slim. But once again, you can decrease the level of exposure by hiding your IP address.
Of course, you may have other reasons for hiding your IP address. As I said, I won’t go there. Just a friendly advice: If you want to play the hacker and get involved in illegal online things, better do some ethical hacking. You’ll get paid anyway, but you’ll sleep better at night.
And finally, we’ve come to the point of this whole article. After a miniature class about IP addresses and your internet-well being, let’s finally show you how to hide that 32-bit number, and sabotage, well, those you think are after you.
There are various ways to change or hide your IP address, but I’ll explore just one here. I feel like I already wasted you too much time, so if you want to know about other methods, I listed them below, if you want the easiest and simplest solution, stick to this one. And it is a VPN.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that allows you to connect to the internet via a ‘security tunnel’ (server) created by a VPN provider. This type of connection is completely encrypted, which means nobody has direct access to it. Not even your VPN provider.
So, how does this work exactly?
When you ‘normally’ connect to the internet, you first connect to your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) server, which then connects you to a website you want to visit. Like I tried to explain above.
On the other hand, when using VPN, you first connect to your VPN’s provider server, which then redirects you to the desired web address. So, instead of exposing your real IP address, you’ll be showing the IP address of your VPN server.
There are dozens of great free or paid VPN services to use, but I personally recommend CyberGhost VPN because, well, we have a partnership with them.
But we wouldn’t have a partnership with CyberGhost, if it weren’t one of the best VPN services you can find right now. So, think about it.
First of all, CyberGhost is available for free. If you’re a basic user, and just need to hide your IP, you probably don’t need anything else. For more advanced users, there’s a great premium option that offers a handful of features for the price of as low as…
CyberGhost took a little bit different route than its competitors. Developers already predicted what you’ll be using the VPN for, and put everything under one helmet. Plus, it’s a legitimate Windows app, so the VPN service is not-browser dependent.
So, when you open CyberGhost Windows app, you can immediately start streaming from your favorite services, access sites unavailable in your region, download content anonymously, or just carry on with browsing. It’s all in one place, so you don’t have to bother finding a single service you want to access on your own. It also has an ad-blocking feature, so if tracking and targeted ads are your concern, CyberGost got you covered.
Of course, using a VPN comes with a price. And I’m not talking about the subscription. The first thing you’ll notice is that your internet connection is now slower than it used to be. That’s completely normal. You’re using external servers from maybe even another part of the world, after all.
Also, it won’t make your computer 100% safe from hacker attacks. No service or app will. Especially if we take into account that the communication between your computer and the internet still happens in a straight line, only with different servers.
And of course, there’s no app that will prevent you from shooting yourself in the head by downloading content from that strange mail you just got. Not even your antivirus.
There are numerous ways to change your IP address other than using VPN. But these methods are either more complicated or simply unreliable. But if you’d like to have more options, here they are.
Some sites offer to change your IP address automatically and on sight. But these sites are not reliable, as you don’t know who are you exposing your IP address to. So, if you feel adventuristic, you could try some of those sites, but I vote against.
You can also change your IP address by messing with the proxy settings. But that’s a risky move, as one wrong step can do damage to your internet connection, and maybe get you in trouble with your provider. But if you want to know more about changing your proxy settings, check out this article.
And finally, there’s Tor. You’ve probably heard of Tor, and you’re now thinking about the terrors of the Dark Web. And I don’t blame you, the Dark Web is the first association that comes to everyone’s mind when someone mentions Tor. But Tor is a legitimate service and is completely legal and safe to use, as long as you don’t swim into muddy waters.
If you want to find out more about Tor and how to use it, check out our full Tor setup guide.
At the end of the day, the only way to be completely safe online is to turn off your modem and stay offline. No matter how strict precautions you make, there’s still a slight chance something bad will happen.
But with minor tweaks of your online actions and activities, like hiding your IP address, you can take these chances to the minimum. At least, you won’t feel like you’re constantly being watched.
What do you think about this whole internet privacy thing? Will you hide your IP address while browsing the internet? Let us know in the comments below.