Hide your IP address

How to hide your IP address

Hi everyone, my name is Nicolas Cuts. I’m a Switcherry VPN employee. In this article, I will tell you what an IP address is and why you often need to hide or camouflage it.

Each user of the Internet must keep in mind that all their online actions are tracked, whether the user approves it or not. If you don’t take steps to protect your personal data, then hackers, blackmailers or government agencies employees may get their hands on it. Nowadays, there’s hardly anyone who wouldn’t be concerned with their online freedom and security. And the reality is such that the key to all of that is anonymity. Only a reliable way to hide or substituting your IP address can guarantee your anonymity. This article will tell you how to do just that.

What’s an IP address?

IP address
IP address

Any person who receives mail has a personal postal address. For the mail to reach the person it was sent to, that person needs to have a unique postal address. The same thing goes for computers (tablets, phones or any other gadget that can go online) – for them to be able to exchange data with other computers connected to the Internet, they need to have a unique identificator, that would clearly define its position in the network.

This identificator is called an IP address and is 4 numbers that, for convenience’s sake, are divided by periods. A typical IP address looks something like this 172.217.18.78 or this 216.58.204.110. More modern versions of IP addresses contain much more digits and are represented in the form of a series of hexadecimal numbers separated by colon, Example: 2af3:a480:81:23:1:fb:5:ca).

When your device connects to the Internet, your Internet provider assigns a specific IP address to your computer, which allows it to “communicate” (to receive and send information) with other computers with Internet access

Reasons to hide your IP address

A lot of things can be found out about you from your IP address, perhaps, even more than you’d want to be known. Visit, for example, the My location & IP page on our company’s website. Unless you’re using some way to conceal your IP address, the program installed on our server will easily determine the operating system of your computer, the browser you use, your country, region and the city in which you live, the name of your Internet provider and whether or not you use a proxy service or access the Internet directly.

Generally accessible information
Generally accessible information about your IP, OS, browser, etc.

By knowing your IP address, state authorities responsible for monitoring citizens can easily determine your real name and home address, since there is a special program on each provider’s server that automatically keeps track in a log file which client was assigned this specific IP address and when.

If that wasn’t enough, data regarding all your online activities is also stored on the provider’s server: the log file can say when and what websites and forums you visited, what files you downloaded and sent, what social networks do you have accounts in, whether or not you use torrents, etc. This information can fall in the hands of scammers, that hacked the server of your Internet provider, and in countries with a high level of corruption, the provider itself or one of its employees may choose to sell their users’ confidential data.

In addition to the above mentioned cases, there are some specific situations where changing or hiding your IP address is an absolute must, for example:

  • Access to restricted resources. For reasons of censorship, your Internet provider can block access to specific websites. In addition, some network services (such as Facebook, Twitter or even Google) for one reason or another can blacklist your IP address. Changing your “native” IP for one of another region or country, where the restrictions in question aren’t in play, easily solves these problems.
  • Changing your geolocation. Your current location can be easily determined using your IP address. Some websites, depending on the geolocation of the visitor, replace the content of pages or even restrict them from viewing the content entirely. Prices for goods and services in certain companies depend on the country or region in which the client lives. To bypass these geographical restrictions and make purchases at the lowest prices all you need to do is substitute your IP address for one of another country.
  • Safe download from torrents. In almost all countries, an ordinary Internet user can encounter problems with state authorities after downloading “prohibited” files from torrents. Hiding your IP and encrypting the traffic solves this problem.
  • Streaming services. Many streaming services, like Netflix, can restrict access to certain content in your country for legal or copyright reasons. This issue can be easily resolved by changing your IP for that of another country.

Secure ways to hide your IP address

The safest and most full-proof methods to change or hide your IP address are with the help of VPNs, proxies and TOR.

VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs create a secure connection between computers that was part of another “public” network (in our case the Internet).

What a VPN is
What a VPN is

How it works

A VPN provider (a company that provides VPN services to ordinary users) installs special software on its servers called just that – a VPN server – and clients install a special application – VPN client – on their computers (tablets, smartphones and other devices). When a user connects to the Internet, an encrypted connection is created between the VPN server and the VPN client, and from that moment on all online traffic passes through that server.

In other words, when you visit any Internet resource, such as a website, data transmission between the site server and your computer goes through the server of your Internet provider and a VPN provider server. But, since the connection between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted and protected, the server of the website “sees” only your VPN IP address, your real IP is securely hidden from it, while the Internet provider only sees that you visited the VPN server and nothing else.

And due to the fact that all traffic between your computer and the VPN server is securely encrypted, your Internet provider will not be able to determine which web resources you visited, and what kind of content you viewed or downloaded.

Advantages

By using a VPN you get a completely anonymous and secure connection, protection against both hackers and government agencies that want to spy on you. A reliable and responsible VPN provider usually doesn’t collect the personal data of their users nor store it in log files, they basically don’t have any interest in it whatsoever. After the connection between the user’s computer and the VPN server is terminated, it’s physically impossible to find out what IP address the user had.

Disadvantages

Since there are both paid and free VPNs, we need to discuss their disadvantages separately:

  • A free VPN has many drawbacks, the main of which is low data transfer speed, especially during peak load hours. Downloading files from torrents is quite problematic, if at all possible. It should also be borne in mind that the IP addresses of the servers of companies that provide the VPN service for free (for example, Google) are well known and are blocked by many web services, including streaming platforms. And in certain countries, the government forces Internet providers to block access to all known VPN services, so free VPNs in these countries may not be available at all.
  • Paid VPNs. Small VPN providers have a limited number of servers in one or more countries, so the choice of IP addresses is limited and they can be easily blocked. So, it’s best to pick larger companies that have thousands of servers in dozens of countries around the world. The only drawback is the small monthly fee they charge for the service.

We over at SwitcherryVPN don’t claim to be the largest VPN provider but, without any unnecessary modesty, we can assure you that our servers are located in more than 70 countries of the world. Moreover, we are constantly working on expanding our infrastructure. And yes, we are a free service. Paid users only get a slightly more professional connection setup.

How to use it

  • Free VPNs are the easiest to use, just download and install the appropriate extension for your browser. (Opera Browser already has a built-in VPN client, which can be turned on with one click in the settings.) To download files from torrents, you’ll need to install another browser extension accordingly.
  • Paid VPNs. First of all, select a reliable VPN provider. Give preference to companies that have a large number of servers in different state. Download and install the VPN client of the company you’ve chosen on your PC (tablet, smartphone) and enjoy high speed data transfer, complete security and absolute anonymity.

Proxy

A proxy server is a server through which traffic between the user’s computer and the target server (that houses the website you are visiting) is forcibly redirected. Open proxies are free and available to everyone, closed (private) proxies provide you the password after charging a fee.

Proxy server connection diagram
Proxy server connection diagram

How it works

The user sets up their computer (or browser) to work with a specific proxy server, after which all the traffic between the computer and the target server goes through the proxy. Depending on their features, proxies can be:

  • transparent – do not hide your real IP address;
  • anonymous – hide your IP, but inform the target server that you’re using a proxy;
  • highly-anonymous (elite) – hide your IP and the fact that you’re using a proxy.

Some proxy servers use HTTPS protocols to encrypt the transmitted data.

Advantages

Anonymous and highly-anonymous proxy servers will reliably hide the user’s IP, but only HTTPS proxies will protect traffic from hacker attacks and prevent the Internet provider from tracking the user’s online activities.

Disadvantages

Many websites block proxy servers. All free proxy servers have a low data transfer speed. Only a handful encrypt traffic. The “lifespan” of free proxies is usually short, so you will have to constantly look for new working proxies and change the settings of your Internet connection.

How to use it

In your computer (or browser) settings, you need to indicate that you’re intending to use a proxy server, enter its IP address and port number. Now your Internet traffic will go entirely through the proxy you indicated in your settings.

TOR

TOR stands for “The Onion Router”. Tor is a network consisting of many thousands of public proxy servers designed to provide user anonymity and ensure traffic can’t be tracked.

What is the TOR browser
What is the TOR browser

How it works

Each individual data package passes through three, randomly selected proxy server. Before being sent, the data is encrypted with three keys by multi-level encryption. Passing through the proxy servers, the transmitted data package is steadily decrypted and by the time the traffic leaves TOR it’s decrypted entirely. After such manipulations with the traffic, tracking the source IP address of the user is near impossible.

Advantages

Tor provides the maximum level of protection and anonymity. Tor is completely free of charge, all the necessary software is also provided.

Disadvantages

The main drawback is the low data transfer speed. It’s difficult to download files, use torrents, watch movies in online cinemas and other video services using TOR.

How to use it

Download and install the Tor client. There are various free apps for all devices and operating systems. The easiest choice is to install the TOR browser or onion browser. After launching it, the TOR client will establish a connection with the TOR network on its own (this will take some time). After that, all the traffic passing through the client will be securely encrypted and protected from tracking.

Unsafe methods to change your IP

The following list of methods is extremely insecure, we do not recommend that you use them unless absolutely necessary.

Unsafe methods to hide your IP
Unsafe methods to hide your IP

Accessing the Internet through public Wi-Fi

When your laptop, tablet or any other gadget goes online using a public Wi-Fi, you are assigned a new IP address that isn’t linked to you alone. However, this method is potentially the most dangerous, given that public Wi-Fi networks are not protected against hackers in the slightest. In addition, all access points to public Wi-Fi are usually in crowded places that are equipped with video surveillance cameras, which kind of automatically makes staying anonymous impossible.

Through your provider

If your Internet provider gives clients a permanent IP address, it can be changed by contacting the company. This can solve the problem of individual websites blocking your IP. But this method does not always work, because some Internet resources blacklist the entire IP address group, so that includes the potential IPs that your provider can, well, provide. And this won’t enhance your anonymity or security either, since the provider will continue to track and record in log files all your online activities.

Restarting your router or modem

Most Internet providers provide their customers with dynamic IP addresses. This means that if you restart your home router or modem, the provider’s server will almost definitely assign you a new IP address. This will help bypass blockings of your previous compromised IP address, but all other issues will remain, since the new connection will be just as insecure and not ensure your anonymity as the last one.

Using NAT Firewall – Changing your private IP address

If you are connected to the Internet via your home router, then in addition to the public IP address given to you by your provider, you have private IP addresses of your local (home) network. In other words, all computers and other devices connected to the router use the same publicly available IP address to go online, but at the same time they have their own private IP addresses used locally. These private addresses can be easily changed in the router software settings. But these changes will not affect security and anonymity, since all your actions on all devices connected to the Internet will continue to be tracked and recorded on the provider’s server.

Go online via your mobile phone

This method will change your IP address, but won’t address most of the abovementioned problems. Your Internet traffic will remain open and unprotected, your GEO will stay the same, your online actions will still be tracked, just by the cellular operator, and law enforcement officers will easily determine your location, wherever you may be.

The best ways to hide your IP for different OS and devices

We understand that a “free and reliable VPN” sound a bit shady. But nothing’s stopping you from trying SwitcherryVPN to see for yourself that it’s just like we said. Our product is compatible with most operating systems and browsers.

Windows

  • free: if your PC or laptop is running the Windows OS, the easiest option is to install the TOR browser or use a free proxy server;
  • for a small fee: use the services of a reliable VPN provider.

Mac/iOs

  • free: install the TOR browser for Mac OS and the Onion browser for iOS;
  • for a small fee: install the VPN client of a reliable provider.

Android

  • free: download from Google Play and install the TOR client for Android;
  • for a small fee: find a reliable VPN provider and install a VPN client for

Linux

  • free: install the TOR browser for Linux;
  • for a small fee: find a reliable VPN provider and install a VPN client for

Browsers

  • free: for each browser there is a free extension to work with VPNs. Opera even has a built-in VPN client. Free VPNs to one degree or another reduce browsing speed;
  • for a small fee: after you install a VPN client from a good VPN provider, all your browser traffic will be reliably protected from tracking and hackers, the connection will be anonymous, the GEO will become customizable and the surfing speed will not drop.

FAQ

1. Is it legal to hide my IP address?

1. Is it legal to hide my IP address?

There are no restrictions that prevent you from changing or hiding your IP address. However, in some countries, the state prohibits or limits the use of TOR, VPNs and anonymous HTTPS proxies.

2. How can I hide my IP when using public Wi-Fi?

2. How can I hide my IP when using public Wi-Fi?

The trouble with publicly accessible Wi-Fis is that the connection is not protected in any way and is subject to hacker attacks. You can protect yourself from attackers and hide your IP too if you use a VPN.

3. Can I hide my IP address on all my devices at the same time?

3. Can I hide my IP address on all my devices at the same time?

Yes, you can. Switcherry VPN allows you to connect up to 7 different devices using a single account. If you need to protect a larger number of devices, you must change your tariff plan.

Conclusions

We live in a reality where hiding and changing your IP address is a must. The best way to protect sensitive data, make sure you aren’t monitored and bypass censorship – use the services of a reliable VPN provider. A good VPN provider is one that has a large number of servers across the world. In order for your Internet provider to not figure out that you’re using a VPN, change the VPN server’s IP address more frequently.

In other words, each time you go online choose a different VPN server. Choose VPN providers who have modern high-speed servers. The best choice is Switcherry VPN, which has thousands of high-speed servers in dozens of countries and continuously updates and expands the array of IP addresses it provides its users.

Author: Nicolas Cuts

Nicolas Cuts
Product Managers at SwitcherryVPN. Have 5 years background in management and marketing. I never stop learning!

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