Tech

What Is Your IP Address? How To Keep It Private

Your IP Address: 10.159.234.143


Any website you visit can see you IP address, with even the most basic tracking measures. Read on to learn what an IP address does, how it works, and how you can hide or mask it if you want to.

What is an IP Address?

IP address is short for Internet Protocol address. It is a unique address that works to identify devices including computers, tablets and smartphones, on a network. There are public and private IP addresses, and each type serves a different purpose.

Public IP addresses let devices interact with web (or mail) servers. To avoid confusion in IPs, addresses are publicly registered with the Network Information Center (NIC). Private IP addresses aren’t registered, instead the NIC reserves certain address blocks for private use.

Example:

  • Starting IP Address: 172.16.0.0
  • Ending IP Address: 172.31.255.255

Private IP addresses are for identifying a single device within a network or organization. For example, someone might assign a private IP address to a printer to allow people on a certain network to print to the printer, while preventing people outside the network from doing so.

You Can’t Use The Internet Without a Public IP Address

Without an IP address, your computer cannot communicate with the internet. Internet connectivity is based on sending IP packets, so the website you’re connecting to needs to know where to send that “packet”.

It is possible to receive some information from the internet by connecting your computer to a computer that is connected to the internet. This is essentially how bulletin board services (Compuserve, AOL, etc.) worked in the early days of the internet. This will allow you to receive email and access various websites, but you will be unable to run anything on your own computer which expects and actual internet connection. But to use the modern internet, you need an IP address dedicated to your device.

What does my IP Address Reveal About Me?

Your IP address reveals your internet service provider, for example AT&T, Xfinity or Time Warner. It also reveals information about your location including: country, state, city and zip or postal code.

ip-address-location

Does My IP Address Show My Exact Physical Location?

Your IP address alone won’t be enough for some one to determine your exact location or address. However, combining your IP address with other information, like metadata, cookies, trackers and browser fingerprinting, may enable someone to narrow down your location even further.

Who Can See My IP Address and Location?

Almost any website you visit will have some basic tracking functionality in place. This will let them see your IP address and use that information to get a general idea of where you’re located. Finding out someone’s IP address is generally very easy. It’s much easier than finding out someone’s phone number.

How Can I Change or Hide My IP Address?

There are a number of ways you can make it more difficult for third parties to access your true, local IP address. Hiding your IP address to make it appear like you’re located somewhere else is quite simple, if you have the right tools.

Use a VPN Service

VPNs reroute your internet connection through “virtual servers” located around the world, so surveillance organizations, advertisers and websites you visit can’t see where you’re actually located. VPNs help anonymize your internet browsing, and as a bonus they also hide your “real”, or local, IP address.

With a VPN your IP address will change based on the location of the server you connect to. Some VPN providers allow you to pick specific locations, if you want to to “appear” to come from somewhere else to anyone that is tracking you IP. The best VPNs also use encryption to obscure the actual traffic flowing through your connection. So in addition to hiding your IP location, VPNs add more layers of security.

Be aware that some VPN services have been found to leak IP addresses, which would eliminate any point of using the VPN to hide your IP address. You should do some quick research before picking a VPN if privacy is your main concern.

Read More: The Best VPNs for Privacy in 2019

Use TOR (The Onion Router)

Tor is another option for hiding your IP address. Tor stands for The Onion Router, which refers to the onion like layers that Tor uses to protect your identity. It works similar to a VPN except it essentially hops from point to point. The main difference between TOR and a VPN is that all of the servers on TOR are volunteer-operated and anonymized while the VPN’s servers may be linked back to the VPN provider.

However, one of the downsides to using Tor is that it is much slower than a VPN. It has additional layers of privacy protection, but that comes at the cost of connection speed. Another issue with TOR is that it has been connected to cyber crime and illegal transactions. The tool itself is reliable and secure, but using TOR may have negative associations for those unaware of its functionality.

Use a Proxy Server

Proxies work in ways similar to VPNs. When you use a proxy, your internet requests pass through the proxy so websites you visit can only see traffic coming from the proxy, not your local network. You can also use proxies to access geo-restricted content. If you want to access Mexican Netflix, you could use a proxy based in Mexico. Proxies, like Tor, are much slower than simply using a VPN because your traffic has to pass through the proxy which then mirrors your traffic to the website and then mirrors it back to your device.

Proxies don’t offer the same level of security as VPNs. This is because proxies don’t use encryption to obscure your web requests and they don’t remove any identifiable markers from your network activity. Although proxies change your visible IP address, they cannot protect your browsing from your ISP or surveillance organizations.

Source: TheBestVPN.com

Use Public WiFi Networks

An IP address doesn’t follow your device from network to network. If you want to disassociate certain browsing with your usual IP address, you could use a public WiFi network at a coffee shop, for example. This isn’t the best method though, as free and public WiFi networks have security risks of their own.

Call Your Internet Service Provider

If you aren’t as worried about having your local IP visible, and are more concerned with just changing your IP address you can just call your ISP and request a new IP address. Most ISPs issue dynamic IP addresses which mean they change from every so often anyway. You can call your ISP and request a new IP address and they should be able to switch you to a new one rather easily.

You can also force an IP address change by unplugging your modem, waiting for a moment and plugging it back in. By disconnecting from your internet service, you can usually force them to issue you a new IP address. (Note: this only works if your ISP uses dynamic IPs.)

Why Would You Change Your IP Address?

There are tons of reasons you may want to change your IP address. From a privacy standpoint, you may want to change or mask your IP address to avoid governments, advertisers or ISPs from monitoring or tracking internet activity on your local IP. If you want to keep your identity hidden from the websites you visit and other internet companies that may track you, your IP is one of the possible identifiers that you should keep private.

Another reason that you may need to change your IP address is to access geo-blocked content or streaming services. Some websites restrict their content so that only users within their country can view the content. In this case you would need to change your IP address to one located within that country. You can do this with a proxy server or a VPN.