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If you’re wondering how to hide your IP address, you’ve come to the right place. An IP address is a unique identifier that translates your physical location to internet service providers and the websites you visit while online.
Every device that connects to the internet is assigned with an IP address, and it’s visible to everyone. Since it contains information about your ISP and geolocation, an IP address can be used to track any user, as well as serving content specific to a region.
Here’s everything you need to know about identifying and masking your IP address, including a detailed guide with free and premium ways to do so.
What is an IP Address?
Each internet-connected device is identified with a unique numerical combination known as an IP address, which translates your physical location to ISPs and websites you browse.
So, what is an IP address in simple terms? “IP” stands for Internet Protocol, and “address” refers to a unique number given to the user. Here’s an example:
An IP address does reveal your geolocation, but it’s not precise. For example, it may reveal your city, zip code, or area code, and it’ll change if you connect to the internet from a new location or with a different WiFi router.
Rather than your specific device, it’s normally your router’s IP address that is exposed for all to see. It’s likely to list the name of your ISP and the server you’re connected to.
Why is an IP Address Important?
An IP address gives out a lot of information about the user. Take the IP found in the image above: (126.96.36.199)
NordVPN offers an IP address lookup service, which can be used to search for any address. Sure enough, it lists the region and state I’m supposed to be connected from, as well as the name of my ISP and the host.
However, I’m actually based in the UK, and was using a VPN to spoof my IP address. (This gives the appearance that I’m in another location, and can even be used to access sites from different countries.)
Why would anyone want to mask their IP, aside from changing your Netflix region to unblock content? Device tracking is a valid privacy concern, especially as an IP address is used for everything online.
It might be best to think of your IP address as the mailing address for your internet-connected devices. As you surf the web, your IP address is used by outside parties to deliver files of content to you. Not only is your IP address connected to your city, zip code, and the area code associated with your location, but it can also show which internet provider hosts your connection.
Now, it’s most likely that no one is going to use an IP lookup service to find your location – but you should never rule out being a case of 1 in 1,000,000.
In more common cases, online advertisers and retailers capture your IP address as you click on their ads and shop through their websites. They use your information to directly send you more relevant advertisements to what you’ve clicked – think of it as direct mail but delivered digitally.
The good news is that you can stop these nosey parties from tracking your location by using a secure VPN service to hide your internet location.
How to Look Up Your IP Address
The best place to start is arguably to check your IP address. It’s quick and easy to do, and there are a number of methods that differ depending on your preferred platform.
The simplest way to find out your IP address is by using your web browser. To access your IP address, all you have to do is type “What is my IP address?” into your search engine.
Search engines like Google or DuckDuckGo will display your unique IP address at the top of the search results page. There will also be other sites on the search results page that will tell you your IP address with additional information, such as guessing where you are roughly located when you are searching.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for finding out your IP address on a macOS device.
Click the Apple icon at the top left of your screen.
Select “System Preferences.”
Scroll to the “View” menu. When you hover your mouse over the View menu, more options will appear—select “Network” from there.
Click on “Network Connection” in the left column. You will then select either Ethernet or WiFi, depending on how you’re connected to the internet.
Your IP address will show up immediately for an Ethernet connection. For a WiFi connection, click the “Advanced” button in the lower right corner. Then, click the TCP/IP tab across the top of the window. Your IP address will show up from there!
Here’s a step-by-step guide for finding out your IP address on a Windows device.
Right-click on the “Start” button
Select “Windows PowerShell” on the Power User Menu.
Type the command “IPCONFIG” into the Windows PowerShell, press enter, and your IP configuration information will show up.
Your IP address will be the IPv4 address displayed on the screen.
How to Mask Your IP Address
The easiest way to mask your IP address is by using a VPN. A virtual private network works to provide anonymity and privacy by encrypting the data sent to and from your device via their servers. This gives the impression that you’ve connected from a different location, as your IP address will also change.
Below are some additional methods you can try to mask your IP for free.
A proxy server is one way to mask your IP address, as your traffic will appear to come from their location, rather than yours. However, they’re still susceptible to data leaks, such as via a third-party DNS server that can see your actual IP address. (Many VPNs offer DNS leak protection for this reason.)
The proxy connection could also drop out, exposing your real information.
Alternatively, The Onion Router (Tor) is a viable option if you want to mask your IP. Tor is completely free to use and is run by a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts. It’s a browser that is used to prevent anyone from knowing about the websites you visit, by sending your web traffic through three random relays (or servers) contained in the network.
However, we’d almost always opt for the use of a VPN instead of Tor for improved online security. Tor also doesn’t have the best connection speeds due to the nature of the relay system, and the number of users at any given time.
As we’ve mentioned, a VPN will provide you with a masked IP address that will hide your internet location from any snoopers. It works by connecting you to their servers, which can be found anywhere worldwide. These servers are what you’ll use to get a new IP address while you’re online.
Connecting to a VPN server also has the added benefit of unblocking streaming services and additional websites blocked by geo-restrictions, as you’ll be able to switch your IP address to a different region whenever you’d prefer.
For example, a server in the United States can be used to unblock Netflix for entertainment purposes. Of course, you’ll need to entrust the VPN with your data, which is why it’s best to choose an audited service.
An audit is when a provider calls in an experienced independent company like PricewaterhouseCoopers or Cure53 to certify their claims, whether it concerns data logging or the level of encryption they provide.
Best VPNs to Hide Your Location
Here’s a roundup with some of the best VPNs on the market if privacy is first and foremost on your agenda.
IPVanish is a great choice if you want more from your VPN than simple IP masking.
They have a company-owned server network that guarantees no network interference from outside parties or loss of their network to unwanted acquisitions or shutdowns, which is a step up from the usual third-party offerings.
As of March 2022, IPVanish’s technology and privacy practices also underwent an official, independent audit by Leviathan Security Group. The audit report confirms that IPVanish’s privacy and no-logs claims are truthful – they keep no traffic or data logs.
NordVPN is packed to the brim with extra features, and their audited software is some of the best in the business. It’s great for streaming or torrenting, and speeds are second to none thanks to the proprietary NordLynx protocol.
They’ve recently added a new free antivirus service called Threat Protection which provides comprehensive security against a variety of cyber threats.
NordVPN also offers Specialty Servers that further increase the user’s security:
Another viable option is found in the form of Private Internet Access. They have provided hard evidence of keeping no user logs on multiple occasions, while PIA MACE blocks domains known to serve ads, malware, and trackers.
With nearly 54,000 VPN and proxy servers worldwide, you’ll always be able to find a nearby IP address. It’s proven successful in accessing geo-restricted content on streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+ seamlessly. Mobile users will be able to benefit from a free seven-day trial.
As the name suggests, CyberGhost is designed to mask the user while online. It comes with a host of additional features like ad blocking and data compression, as well as a massive network of over 7,000 servers and 110+ locations to choose from.
They have a strict no-logs policy, and they’ve released a yearly transparency report since 2011. (In fact, it’s now a quarterly report as they ‘push for openness and transparency in the VPN industry.’)
Meanwhile, their NoSpy server locations allow users to benefit from a privacy-friendly Romanian jurisdiction, which is based in a crowdfunded data center owned by CyberGhost. It was built to keep users’ data safe from mass surveillance and third-party meddling.
Last, but by no means least, Surfshark has a host of additional security features including split-tunneling (Bypasser), which allows the use of both a VPN and non-VPN connection to increase speed and conserve bandwidth.
This is backed by multi-hop capability which reroutes a user through multiple servers for added protection and speed optimization, as well as the addition of new antivirus software.
Surfshark makes huge efforts right off the bat to reassure its users that privacy and security are at the core of its business practices. It holds multiple third-party audits from Cure35, most recently a 2021 holistic audit of its logging claims and encryption methods.
With a bit of know-how and a reliable VPN on hand, it’s easy to hide your IP address no matter the device or OS. You’ll also be able to do so with a proxy or Tor, but you won’t see similar results in terms of speeds or overall online security.
A VPN is a boon if you’re aiming to improve privacy and anonymity, and you’ll also benefit from unblocking streaming sites and other previously inaccessible services.
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