Have you heard it may be a good idea to hide your IP address when you’re online? Perhaps you’ve wondered why; especially if you’re not that concerned with data privacy and subscribe to the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” school of thought?
Well, there are actually many reasons why it’s sensible to hide your IP, and you don’t need to have anything to hide to make it a good idea. I’ll explain why in just a moment, but first I shall explain the real basics of IP addresses, just to make sure you know what I’m talking about here.
What IS an IP Address?
An IP (Internet Protocol) address is really rather similar to a physical address. It tells the websites and services you visit where you are on the Internet – so if you’ve ever gone to a website that spookily knows which town you’re in, for example a weather website, it’s your IP address that’s given the site that information. For some, this alone may generate enough of a “big brother” feeling to justify the need to hide your IP!
IP addresses are in the format of four numbers, separated by periods, such as 126.96.36.199. (This is a huge simplification. These are IPv4 addresses, and there are also far longer hexadecimal IPv6 addresses, but for the purposes of this particular article there’s no need to blind you with science!) If you want to find out the IP address you currently have (and are sharing with the online world) you can just click here.
In most circumstances, your external IP address will be assigned to your Internet router by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and will be the same for everyone in your home or office (again, I could bore you with far more technical information here, but there’s no need at this point). So, returning to the physical address analogy, it’s again rather similar; Your postal address is enough to track you down as far as the front door of your home or office – and so is your IP address.
Why would you hide your IP?
Let’s stay with my analogy for a little longer. Would you walk around in the physical world with a large piece of paper stuck to your back displaying your home address? Aside from the fact it would look ridiculous, why would you want everyone you interacted with, even just superficially, to know exactly where to find you?
This serves to illustrate why you would want to hide your IP, even if you’re not doing anything you’re ashamed of or secretive about. Hiding your IP address is common sense, and not just for people pirating content, engaging in illegal activities, or spending their time viewing some of the online world’s more “questionable” material.
But there’s far more to it than that. If you spend any amount of time online, you’re probably regularly spooked by just how much data the big online firms are able to collect about you, just from your Web browsing. Sometimes those adverts that pop up are so uncannily accurate that it feels like someone’s looking over your shoulder 24/7. It’s not a pleasant feeling – and if you hide your IP, you can go some way towards putting a stop to it.
How to hide your IP?
The best way to hide your IP is to use a VPN service. If you’re already convinced that you want to do this (good move) and don’t have time to read any more, head straight over to AirVPN and sign up!
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) service gives you access to one or more VPN servers that allow you to hide your IP. All you do is connect to them before using the Internet, usually by means of a simple software program, and instead of displaying your real IP address to the sites you visit, you will show the address of the VPN server.
These are the basics, but there are actually plenty more benefits. Here are just a few of them:
- VPN traffic is always encrypted, giving you far more security and privacy than you had before.
- Many of our recommended VPN providers don’t keep any logs of your activity, unlike Internet service providers. Therefore, what you do online isn’t recorded and logged.
- VPN can be used to mask your location, which can give you the ability to access all kinds of services that may usually be blocked in your location – think streaming media services from all over the world, just for starters!
Once you’re connected via your VPN service, nothing really changes. There may be a barely perceptible decrease in Internet speed, but rarely anything to worry about, especially with the providers I suggest.
Checking your IP is hidden
If you use a good VPN provider, connecting to the Internet via their software client is usually all you need to do to hide your IP, but it makes sense to check it’s working. VPN is incredibly cheap when you consider what you get, but I’m sure you’ll want to verify you’re getting your money’s worth!
The best thing to do is use ipleak.net. This will confirm what IP address you are showing to the world. Use it twice – once before connecting to your VPN service, and once after. If you can still see your original IP address you may have an “IP leak.”
The service I particularly recommend in this context is AirVPN, as the provider has taken care of common problems relating to leaks, so you shouldn’t expect any issues. If you do detect a leak with any service, we have a really detailed guide to resolving these leaks here.
Hide your IP: Conclusion
If you don’t want your ISP, the authorities and, let’s face it, every website you visit, to know more about who and where you are than really feels sensible, it makes sense to hide your IP.
As I’ve explained, this isn’t about having something to actually hide. There is plenty of reasonable justification to hide your IP even if your online behavior is exemplary! Why not take a look at AirVPN today, or have a look at some of our detailed provider reviews, which go into a lot more technical detail. There’s a top five here for Windows, and another here for Mac. It’s time to enjoy a far more anonymous life online.
IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia