Would you like to understand what hiding your IP address means and how to do it with a proxy? You have arrived at the right place! My name is Chris, I work with proxies for more than five years, and I am going to explain it thoroughly.
What is a public IP address?
When you sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for Internet services, the ISP sends an IP address to your business or your home router. This IP address is called a public IP address, and it is required for any network hardware that is publicly accessible. This includes a home router or office router, as well as servers that host websites.
A public IP address uniquely identifies any device that is plugged into the open Internet. Every single device that accesses the Internet has to have a unique IP address. Public IP addresses are also sometimes referred to as Internet IPs.
Public IP address = Your Internet address
ISPs use this address to forward Internet requests to a specific business or home, much like how a courier service uses a physical address to deliver a package to your home or business.
Your public IP address is virtually the same as any other address you use. Your home and email address are for example both unique to you, which is why when mail is sent to these addresses, you can be sure that it gets to you and nobody else.
The same happens with your public IP address is used to send digital requests to. These requests will be submitted only to your network, and never to someone else’s.
Private IP vs. public IP
A private IP address is very similar to a public IP address. This unique identifier is used for all the devices behind a router or other device that allocates IP addresses.
Unlike a public IP address, the devices in an office or home can have the same private IP addresses as the business or house next door, or in fact, anyone else’s anywhere in the World. It is because private IP addresses can’t be routed, i.e., hardware devices used on the internet are programmed not to allow devices with private IP addresses from communicating directly with another IP address beyond the router to which they are connected.
As these private IP addresses can’t reach the Internet, you need an IP address that can reach the rest of the World, which is why public IP addresses are used. This type of configuration allows all devices in your home or office network to send information back and forth between your router and an ISP by using a single IP address – the public IP address.
You can also look at this by thinking of the router in your home or office as your own ISP. While your router serves out a private IP address to all the devices connected privately behind the router, your ISP delivers public IP addresses to all devices that are connected to the internet publicly.
When you open a website from a computer, the connection request is sent from the computer to a router as a private IP address. The router then requests the website from the ISP using the public IP address that has been assigned to your network. Once a request has been sent, the operation is reversed, i.e. the ISP sends the website address to your router, and the router forwards the address to the computer that requested it.back to menu ↑
How to find your public IP address
Although you usually don’t need to know your public IP address, there are scenarios where knowing it is necessary or important. It would, for example, be the case when you need to access your network, or a specific computer on the network from a location away from home or the business.
This is commonly done by using a remote access program, like TeamViewer. If you are for example in a hotel room, in another country, but need to connect to your computer at home, you need to know the public IP address your home router is using so you can use the remote connection software to connect to the right place.
It is not difficult to find your public IP address. While this can be done in numerous ways, simply open one of the following websites on your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or any other device that uses a web browser:
You could usually use your router’s administration page to find your public IP, although this is not quite as easy as using a website. If you’re not sure where it is, it’s normally your default gateway’s IP address.back to menu ↑
What does hiding your IP address mean?
As your ISP assigns you with your public IP address, and you need that IP address to communicate back to them, you can never hide your IP address from your ISP – without it, communication to the Internet will not be possible. When you are however communicating to websites on the Internet, you can hide your IP address so that the website can’t see what it is, and can therefore not gather any private information about you.
Hiding your public IP address involves using a software or hardware tool that receives your Internet requests and forwards them to the destination website or server, thus acting as an intermediate. If correctly configured the hide IP tool completely masks the source of the requests (your device) including its IP address.
There are many reasons why you might decide that you want to hide your IP address. These are discussed in the next section.back to menu ↑
Why would you need to hide your IP?
When using the Internet, many people take their anonymity for granted. This is however not the case. When surfing the web, a computer uses a public IP address that can be used to determine a massive amount of information about the computer. This information includes things like country, state, region, and city. The IP can also be used to track things like which sites have been visited. Internet users may not want to have this information available for anyone in the world to see and may, therefore, want to hide their IP address. Although hiding an IP address is often associated with hacking or other illicit online activities, there are numerous completely legitimate reasons why anyone may want to hide their IP.
You are the product
You might have seen advertisements on the browser’s side that tell you that something is going on in your city. These ads are not a coincidence, and your IP address was used to show those annoying ads based on your location. Your IP address can however also be used for malicious purposes.
Hiding your IP address might be a defensive move, but it can also be used for offensive reasons. If there are geo-restricted websites or videos you want to watch, e.g., Netflix episodes only shown in a specific country, hiding your IP will fool the other party into believing you are located somewhere you aren’t, thus getting past the geo-restrictions.
Why hide my IP address?
Below is a list of other reasons why you might want to hide your IP address:
- Don’t take a chance on your private information being exposed.
- When connecting to the internet in a public area such as a restaurant, library, internet cafe or hotel, prevent your surfing being tracked by others.
- You may attend a school, work for an employer, or live in a country where web browsing is restricted, or specific content is blocked.
- You may want to prevent companies or online advertisers from tracking your surfing habits.
- You may just not like the idea of the possibility of having your every move tracked and monitored.
- You may want to access content that is restricted to people in specific areas or countries.
As you can see, there are many valid reasons why you might want to hide your IP, and these have nothing to do with illegal activities but are used merely to protect your privacy.back to menu ↑
Methods of hiding your IP address – Proxy, VPN, Tor
There are three common ways that are used to hide IP addresses:
- Proxy Servers
- VPN Services
Hiding your public IP address with a proxy is most of the time an easy task, involving minimum effort. Proxy servers are sometimes known as “open proxies” or simply “proxies”. These can be used to re-route any browser around school or company content filters.
When using a proxy server, the service allows you to redirect network requests through a third-party server. This server acts as a middleman between you and the end server and primarily works on your behalf (a proxy) to access information from sites. It means that only the proxy server’s IP address is revealed, while your own will stay hidden.
There are many different types of proxy servers, and these offer different levels of IP address protection. Some will reveal your IP address, others assign a false IP address, while a third type will hide it completely.
There are however various risks involved when using a proxy to mask your IP address. They may slow down your internet connection, in some countries, using a proxy is illegal, and some public proxies are run on machines that are compromised.
Signing up for a VPN service will allow you to show the world a different IP address when you go online, one that’s on loan from the service being used.
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is by far the safest way to hide your IP address. This software is typically installed on your system and it will reroute web traffic through an address that is in a different location. Many VPNs have the option to let you choose which country you would like to appear to be working from. This is useful for getting around the regional restrictions implemented by specific websites. Once you are connected, anyone tracing your location would be directed to the country you chose, while your true IP address remaining hidden.
In this way, VPNs will allow you to access content and websites that would normally be restricted to only those residing in a specific country. It was, for example, possible to bypass Netflix’s region locks by directing traffic through a VPN server that appeared to be based in the US, allowing users in other countries to watch US shows.
Fortunately, there are also many reputable VPN providers around, some of which are listed below:
Using a personal VPN service has a number of advantages over proxies. These include usability, high-speed bandwidth, private access to blocked sites, a secure connection, various VPN protocols, and the facility to choose the country and city from which you wish to appear. Although there are hundreds of VPNs you could choose from, beware when you do so as many of them are poor quality or shady.
Many people globally use Tor to search, buy products and communicate with people that have restricted Internet access, such as that existing in many foreign countries.
Tor is an acronym for The Onion Router, and it uses a series of computers distributed across the world to hide your IP address. This makes it extremely difficult to follow your digital trail. Instead of a single request from point A (your home or business) to point B (the website’s server) and then back again, the computer sends out layered requests, with each being encrypted individually. The request is therefore relayed from Tor node to Tor node (e.g. from A to D to H to X and finally to B) before finally leaving the network to reach your destination.
Even if your traffic is intercepted between nodes, the layered encryption ensures they could only determine the previous and next jumps, and still would not know where a chain started or where it ended. The underlying theory behind Tor is that an attacker would have to map out the entire path through the Tor network before they can figure out who you are. Although not everything always works perfectly in the real world, Tor has always been very transparent about its limitations and actively works on improving their network.
Tor Browser – The simplest way to use Tor
The Tor Browser (similar to other Internet browsers such as Safari, Firefox or Chrome) is free software that can be downloaded onto a computer. It will conceal your IP address every time you go online and will help you surf anonymously. This free program uses heavy-duty, layered encryption, which means your data will also be layered with security and privacy protection.
Tor is free, and one of the best tools for anonymization available. It is used daily by people that are worried about their security and others wanting to avoid the restrictions of oppressive government censorship.back to menu ↑
How to hide your IP address with a proxy – Web proxy, HTTP proxy, SOCKS proxy
Web proxies are used to change an IP address while surfing the Internet quickly and easily. Web proxies are very portable as you don’t need to install special hardware or extra software or modify computer networking settings. A Web proxy is used in the same way as a search engine, but instead of entering a search query into a form, a website address is entered instead.
While a search engine will return search results, a web proxy will return web pages. Websites that are visited by using a web proxy will see the IP address of the proxy, rather than your own computer’s IP address.
You may find more details regarding Web proxies in my Knowledgebase article: What is a Web Proxy? Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages, and Security.
An HTTP proxy sits between a Web server and the Web client. It is used to process the HTTP protocol and checks for any potentially harmful content, before sending it to the Web client. The proxy also acts as a buffer between a Web server and potentially dangerous Web clients.
The browser (client) sends a request to a proxy which in turn forwards it to the actual web server. The web server sees the proxy server simply as another connection and answers it as usual. The proxy server then forwards the response to the client.
This process a transparent and the overhead for the browser to implement an HTTP proxy is small. A proxy sometimes changes or adds content to the data stream for various purposes. One example of this would be to include the real IP address in a special HTTP header which can be logged on the server, or intercepted in their scripts.
Learn more about HTTP proxies here: What is an HTTP Proxy? Definition, Usage, Types, Security.
SOCKS is a protocol that is used as a circuit-level proxy for applications. SOCKS proxies differ from ‘normal’ proxies because they are application proxies.
The SOCKS protocol is similar to setting up an IP tunnel with a firewall, with the firewall initiating the protocol requests.
The client contacts the SOCKS proxy server and a proxy connection is negotiated by messages defined by the SOCKS protocol being exchanged. Once a connection has been established, the client uses the SOCKS protocol to communicates with the SOCKS server.
HTTP proxies are designed to work with a web browser, while a SOCKS 5 proxy has more general application. SOCKS resides on the higher levels of the OSI model, below SSL and above TCP and UDP. This has several advantages.
When connecting to a website through a SOCKS5 proxy, it routes your data through its proxy server, creating a path through the network’s firewall. It assigns an IP address to the user, which makes it appear as if they’re browsing from a different location.
SOCKS 5 does provide methods of authentication, although it does not handle encryption. This authentication removes many of the security concerns of SOCKS 4.
Recommended reading on SOCKS proxies: What is a SOCKS Proxy? Definition, Usage, Types, and Security.back to menu ↑
Does using a proxy completely hide my real IP address?
Just because traffic passes through a proxy server it does not mean you are safe. A “transparent” proxy, for example, will transmit your IP address using the X-Forwarded-For HTTP header (using a high anonymity proxy is recommended). Cookies can also be used to identify a user, for instance, the Flash’s evercookie. Users can even be tracked or fingerprinted by the extensions they have installed on their browsers.
Thus, even if you are using a proxy (or other hide IP solution) you may not be 100% sure that your IP address is not (somehow) detected!back to menu ↑
Risks when using a proxy service
Unfortunately, not all proxies are reliable. It is known that malicious proxies log browser data, or even record usernames and passwords, or inject viruses. Thus, using free proxies is risky! It is recommended to use premium proxies (paid).
When using a proxy service, you willingly hand over your information to an unknown party. It means you essentially expose your own network while you connect to someone else’s. Although you will be able to unblock content and access sites, the potential risks involved may not be worth it.
Important! NEVER use private data (like credit card info, PayPal id, passwords, SSN, etc.) while using a public or free proxy!back to menu ↑
Hide IP vs Change IP
Changing your IP does not necessarily means hiding it using a proxy, VPN or Tor. You may want to only change your public IP address once due to an accidental ban on a certain forum or if you have been infected with a spamming virus (and your IP address got blacklisted). If this is your case then you have the following options:
- Turn off your router. By turning off your router for several minutes and then turning it back on it usually result in a change of your IP address. Most Internet Service Providers allocate dynamic IPs and you will get a fresh one after the router reset.
- Use the ipconfig command. Open a command prompt by clicking Start at the bottom of your screen, click “Run“, and then type “cmd” in the box that opens. This will cause a black screen to appear. Now type “ipconfig /release” followed by, “ipconfig /renew“. Type “exit” and close any open programs.
- Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If the above solutions were unsuccessful, directly contact your Internet provider and ask for an IP reset. You will probably get one.
There are many legitimate reasons why you might want to hide your IP address and there are many different options that will allow you to do so, including proxies, VPNs, and Tor. There are numerous proxy tools and services available at varying prices, but each option and specific solution or provider have their own pros and cons. It’s important you know the difference between the numerous options to enable you to choose the right one for your exact requirements.