How to Hide Your IP Address
Some say sharing is caring but, when it comes to your personal information, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While common sense tells us that sharing our home address online is asking for trouble, it’s another matter when it comes to our Internet Protocol address. In fact, many of us never even think about the digital footprint we leave every time we open a website.
The truth is, however, that every site we visit sees our IP address. This exposes us to potential cyber crimes and has the potential to lead cybercriminals to our virtual, and physical, doorstep.
Your IP address reveals detailed information about your geographical location, but without it, you wouldn’t be able to access the internet at all. Unfortunately, because IP addresses are mathematically produced and allocated in blocks, they can reveal a lot more about you and your internet habits than you might want to be made public, leaving you vulnerable to cyber threats, or even at risk of prosecution.
We recommend ExpressVPN as the best way to hide your IP address.
What is an IP Address?
Much like your physical address, an IP address is an identifying code that enables communication between devices. Assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), an IP address forms a critical part of the protocols that enable communication within a network.
While you can’t access the internet without one, you may not want to make your IP address public every time you go online. It might not tell the world your social security number, but it will reveal a certain amount of information about your location and what sites you’ve visited.
Just as some of us prefer to keep a low profile in our daily lives, many of us also appreciate a little more anonymity and security in our virtual lives.
Methods to Hide Your IP Address
1. Use a VPN (Best Option)
Subscribing to a Virtual Private Network is probably the easiest and most convenient way of masking your IP address. A VPN not only gives you anonymity, but it also encrypts your data, thereby preventing interception, gives you a safe experience and allows you to switch from server to server (and IP to IP) as much as you like, meaning you can browse from Singapore, Germany, and the US all in one day.
Although more reliable than either of the other options, there are certain aspects of VPNs that you need to be cautious about. As a VPN provider can see both your original IP address and the server through which your traffic is passing, you need to find one you can trust and feel comfortable with.
Legislation in some countries could force your VPN provider to reveal certain information about you. If you select a VPN that’s based in one of the countries in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, namely USA, UK, New Zealand, Canada and Australia, law enforcement agencies could force them to hand over any information they have pertaining to your online activities, whereabouts, and even your name and address.
Although most VPNs claim to have no-logging policies which prevent them from gathering any data about your browsing activities, your original IP address and connection times, this isn’t always the case. For example, last year, PureVPN came in for some serious criticism after sharing information that assisted the prosecution of a cyberstalker. Despite its no-logging claims and being situated outside the Five Eyes alliance, PureVPN was able to share information regarding the accused’s originating IP addresses and geographical location.
While we’re grateful that this criminal was caught, it does raise concerns about what information a VPN provider really keeps about us and how safe we are in their closeted tunnels of unfettered security.
Thankfully, help is at hand and a combined initiative between the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and ExpressVPN is encouraging VPN providers to be more transparent about their activities and come clean about what logs they keep. This is a momentous step forward for individuals and businesses seeking online security and safe browsing, enabling consumers to pinpoint VPN services that have their customers’ privacy as their number one priority.
Although free VPN services may seem tempting, they’re best avoided, with around 75% containing some tracking software and some even going so far as to sell your IP address or bandwidth to other users. A VPN is only as secure as its provider, so look for a VPN with a solid reputation and a proven history of not keeping logs, like ExpressVPN.
2. Use Tor
Tor stands for The Onion Router and is a free protocol that enables you to enter the web anonymously. If, for example, you’re browsing from China and want to access Facebook, you can use Tor to navigate around the government restrictions and unblock your favorite social media site.
Rather than your online traffic travels directly from your device to the site you’re visiting, Tor will reroute all data through a succession of virtual tunnels, making your activity private and untraceable.
Protecting you against traffic analysis, Tor gives you the freedom to access any content via a private network pathway. Similar to a Virtual Private Network, Tor is more secure in that it is completely anonymous, whereas a VPN provider has access to both the app on your device and the servers you’re using to browse the internet.
Tor has advantages over VPN in terms of offering complete anonymity and doing away with the trust factor required with a VPN. It is also extremely difficult for any hacker or government agency to interfere with Tor or close it down because it has thousands of servers strewn around the world and no central headquarters or main server to target.
All that glitters isn’t gold, however, and, while a VPN may slow your connection speeds to some extent, Tor definitely will. With each package of data being encrypted and decrypted and traveling through several servers situated miles apart, Tor is extremely slow and certainly not suitable for streaming or P2P sharing. Tor is also limited in terms of compatibility and, so far, no Tor app has been developed for iOS operating systems.
Secure? Definitely. Convenient? Not so much.
3. Use a Proxy
Although a proxy may sound a little out-dated, it’s actually a simple and effective way of masking your IP address and accessing content undetected. By changing your browser settings, you can redirect your data so it travels via a proxy server and uses that IP address instead of your own. This gives you a basic level of security and anonymity and prevents anyone from identifying your IP address.
As you can choose which proxy server you use, you can create an IP address in a different country, thereby circumnavigating geoblocks. For example, if you want to watch BBC iPlayer, all you have to do is find a proxy server in the UK and direct your request for access via that terminal.
Unlike a VPN, a proxy server won’t give you access to Netflix and other similar sites as they are being blocked, and it won’t give you the additional layers of protection that are bundled into a VPN. While a VPN’s protection is all-encompassing, proxies operate on a single-use basis.
To get started with a proxy, you first need to search for potential proxy services in the countries you want to use and make a note of their IP addresses. You can then adjust your internet connection settings accordingly and enjoy unlimited, secure browsing.
The Best VPNs to Hide Your IP Address
ExpressVPN is often seen as the best solution to hide your IP address, and with good reason.
This is a provider which packs a big punch, both in terms of geographic reach and security.
It has servers in 145 cities across the world, so you can connect to the location best suited to the content you want to access.
Plus, there are stringent security features, including high-level 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and zero logs to keep your online activities private.
There’s also high speeds and no throttling or bandwidth limits. Not only that, but ExpressVPN should be compatible with any device or operating system, including Apps for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android.
You can also use ExpressVPN with three devices at once.
Express VPN costs $12.95 per month, but the price goes down to $9.99 per month if you take a six-month plan, and $6.67 for 12 months as you get three months free. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee if you want to try before you commit.
NordVPN is another good option to consider to hide your IP address. This VPN provider has a reputation for being one of the most security conscious options on the market.
There’s double encryption to mask your IP address along with your internet browsing, as well as a kill switch to make sure that anything you are busy doing online is not suddenly made public if your VPN connection does suddenly drop out.
Another stringent security feature is DNS leak protection.
There are fast speeds, no throttling and unlimited bandwidth, making this a useful tool if you want to hide your IP address while still being able to engage in torrenting and P2P file sharing.
NordVPN is slightly cheaper in price compared to to ExpressVPN, with the cost set at $11.95 per month, going down to $5.75 per month if you take out a one-year plan, and $3.29 per month for two years. It also has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you want a vast choice of servers to connect to from across the world, then HideMyAss could be the best IP Blocker VPN for you.
It has servers in almost 200 countries, so you can be on one side of the world, but choose to connect to a server on the other side of the planet.
There are also strong security measures and encryption to make sure that you are protected from the prying eyes of hackers or authorities. It is compatible with iOS, Android, Mac and Windows.
Similar in price to other VPN providers on the list, HideMyAss costs $11.52 per month, but the cost reduces to $8.33 per month for six months, and $6.56 per month for a one-year plan. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN is one of the best options on the market if you are searching for a provider to give you fast and unthrottled internet, while also making sure that you can hide your IP address with a range of high-level security features.
It has DNS leak protection to keep you safe and, although it has a smaller geographic reach than some providers, it still has servers in some 40 countries, meaning you have a choice of where you connect.
Private VPN is one of the more affordable VPN providers out there, with prices at $8.21 per month, or $5.63 a month for three months. If you take out a one-year plan, it costs $4.15 per month, and there is a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Reasons to Hide Your IP Address
1. Hide your location
You might want to hide your geographical location, not just because of privacy or safety concerns, but also to give yourself greater freedom online.
Some countries are heavily censored when it comes to internet access and your IP address will tell the world that you’re operating from such a country, enabling authorities to throttle your attempts to access any information they’ve deemed unsuitable.
For example, if you’re on a business trip to Beijing, you’ll find access to Facebook is blocked, leaving you far from home with no way of sharing your cultural experiences with friends.
By masking your IP address and making it appear as though you’re in Kentucky rather than Shanghai, you’ll find you suddenly have access to a whole range of content that wasn’t available before.
2. Access all Areas
Some sites use geographical blocking to prevent residents from other countries from accessing specific content. This is done for a number of reasons. HBO Now, for example, is only available to US residents because its parent company licensed exclusive rights to service providers in other countries. In Canada, NBO’s back-catalog was licensed to Bell Media so allowing Canadians access to HBO Now presents a conflict of interest.
Similar licensing issues apply to Netflix so, if you access this site from a European IP address, you’ll find you can only watch certain content and won’t have the full US library to choose from. If, however, you use one of the IP address masking methods discussed below, you can change your IP address to one in the US, giving you access to the full library.
3. Save Money
Geo-blocking is used by some retail sites to enforce price discrimination and force online shoppers to purchase via a different version of the site where prices are higher than on the domestic version. Australia has been hit particularly hard by this and there was furor when, earlier this year, Amazon announced their plan to allow Australian online shoppers access to a more limited array of goods at a much higher price than those on its international sites.
Similarly, if you search for a flight online from a US IP address, the chances are you’ll pay a lot more than someone accessing the same information from an Indian IP address, for example. Airfare prices work on a system of dynamic pricing which takes into account your zip code and type of device to determine what you’re likely to pay. This means that, if you’re searching from a country with higher income averages, such as the US, you’re liable to pay more.
By masking or changing your IP address, you can pretend to be in a lower income area or country and save yourself literally hundreds of dollars on things like flights, car hire, and hotel bookings.
4. Hide in a Hazardous Hotspot
Many of us are constantly on the go, moving from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another as we travel from home to work, to the gym and out with friends. Being able to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot in a café or bar is super convenient but there are many hidden dangers.
If you connect to a hotspot without needing to enter a password or security code, it means it is unencrypted which leaves you wide open to hackers and other cybersecurity threats. Any data you send or receive via a Wi-Fi hotspot can be intercepted so, if you’re using a public connection of this type for your online banking, you’re literally sharing your financial data and login information with anyone that might be looking.
With incidences of identity theft hitting an all-time high in the USA this year with 16.7 million victims and online fraud costing consumers around $900 million in 2017, there’s every reason to be cautious,. Hiding your IP address is one way to minimize your vulnerability to cybercrime and enable you to carry out online transactions without risk.
5. Protect yourself against Prying Eyes
As we ascertained earlier, some more draconian governments apply heavy censorship to their residents’ internet access and this isn’t the only concern. While you may not be too concerned that the government is watching you as you carry on your online activities as a law-abiding citizen, issues arise when, for example, certain techniques are used to influence voting, as is rumored to have occurred during Britain’s recent EU referendum.
Even if you’re just innocently searching, red flags can put law enforcement agencies on the alert. For example, one family, having searched for backpacks and pressure cookers, received a visit from six officers from a joint terrorism task force. The combination of a curious teenager’s thirst for knowledge, a mother’s need for a pressure cooker to prepare quinoa and a father who South Korea and China on business, lead the law enforcement agency to suspect the family was in the process of making a bomb!
While this is a rather extreme example, it highlights just how carefully your online activities are being tracked. If you don’t want Big Brother watching you, you need to get some kind of internet security that masks your IP address and gives you the freedom to explore any part of the web (or Dark Web) undiscovered.
6. Get Around Firewalls at School or Work
Unsurprisingly, many colleges, universities, and workplaces don’t want you accessing certain content, particularly when they’re paying you to do a job rather than playing poker online. Although many workplaces are now allowing their employees access to social media sites because it’s beneficial for the company’s online reputation, gaming and porn sites have no legitimate purpose in the workplace.
Having said that, if you’re a complete League of Legends addict and want to play a quick game during your break, masking your IP address will enable you to circumvent the firewall and secure your next victory on the battlefield.
Having explored the potential dangers of revealing your IP address to every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there in the vast virtual world, there is little doubt that some level of online security is required if you want to minimize the threat of cybercrime and online surveillance.
Any of the methods mentioned above can boost your online security, but the most comprehensive is provided by a VPN. However, if you want to remain completely anonymous and have some serious trust issues, Tor is probably the best way to go, although the lag time will seriously impede your browsing experience. Additionally, there are certain things you can’t use Tor for, such as downloading torrenting files, that VPNs can perform seamlessly.
Proxies offer a decent level of protection but only on a single-use basis. Useful for those with restricted or old operating systems, proxy servers are, nonetheless, more vulnerable to leaks and other cyber threats.
For comprehensive online protection, anonymity, and security, the best method is to use one of the best VPNs available – just be stringent in your research and uncompromising about logging policies and privacy.
Our recommendation for the best VPN to unblock your IP address is ExpressVPN.