The web is great and all, but do you know that you leave your digital footprint every time you use the internet?
Let us explain:
Your browser is full of cookies. Though cookies make the websites load faster, they also share relevant information about your machine with the website owner. Your cell phone is being tracked. Oh, come on, how do you think you were provided with the regular traffic updates if that’s not the case?
Do not believe that the search engines keep your searches a secret. Have you ever come across ads related to your search query on Facebook? Yes, you got it! These are just a few instances which make it easy to conclude that we are being tracked, monitored, and used, to say the least.
All right, let’s agree that many ways through which one can be tracked are only exploitable by teams of geniuses with big budgets. Let’s not rule out the more straightforward instances wherein our identity is being abused by spammers, thieves, and other third parties. How? With IP addresses.
IP addresses are making a lot of headlines recently, all because of the security reasons. Before we learn what all information can an IP address reveal, let’s understand what IP addresses are.
What is an Internet Protocol (IP) Address?
We will avoid going into lengthy technical explanations.
Consider an IP address as the address of your device on the World Wide Web. Just like your home address helps your friends to visit your place and helps you receive physical mail, an IP address works in the same way, just online.
An IP address helps your machine to communicate over the internet. Whenever your computer sends a request to access a particular website on the web, its IP address is also sent to the destination server. Although sharing your IP address is important to make your device communicate over the web, it ends up revealing an array of information to hackers and advertisers.
What’s more, an IP address can also provide a path right to your hard drive. Undoubtedly, not everyone can find it, but there are people out there who know how to do it! This brings us to another important question – what can an IP address reveal about us? Let’s find out.
What Can an IP Address Reveal About You?
The primary function of an IP address is to share your device’s location with the destination server. Thankfully enough, a casual hacker might not be able to track your street address.
Your IP address might belong to New York, but where in New York, this information would still be out of reach of the hackers unless they are a pro.
However, the biggest problem arises when you visit certain websites, and they record your IP address. This is helpful for site managers as information like this can help them in analyzing their web traffic.
However, in various events, those websites make the IP address public. Take the case of Wikipedia. For instance, whenever you make an edit on the website, your IP is made public which can be tracked by anyone.
So what can your IP address reveal to hackers and government agencies?
- They can find out the websites that you visit. This is one of the most significant concerns. They can track that you visited a porn website and can blackmail you. Alternatively, if you have visited an LGBT website, they can reveal the same to your conservative boss.
- They might also track your movements. One such case happened recently where the FBI was able to track down a cyberbully by using the location of his IP address to find out the hotel he was staying in.
- They can even identify your ISP and report you for your illicit behavior. If you think that you are safe and do not exhibit any bad behavior online, believe us, malicious reporting does happen!
- For target advertising, they can use your geolocation. Based on your search history and search habits, this information can be used to serve advertisements related to your interest. This is nothing but an intrusion in your personal space.
Why Must You Hide Your IP Address?
As is evident, your IP address can act as an important identifier and can equip the hackers and government agencies with all the information that they need to track you down. Therefore, it makes sense to hide your address to protect yourself from any form of harassment and hacking.
Here is how hiding your IP address can help you:
- Hides your location
What would you do if you felt that you are vulnerable to an attack in the real world? You would hide and prevent the other person from knowing your street address. Right? This is what you have to do if you want to protect yourself from any cybersecurity attack. Simply hide your IP address.
- Protects from targeted attacks
If you are getting infected with malware, again and again, the chances are high that a mischievous cybercriminal is launching targeted attacks on you with a deeper malicious intent. In such cases, you must hide your IP address as soon as possible to prevent the leakage of personal record.
- Allows you to surf anonymously on the web
Do not ever trust your internet service provider. While a lot of them are honest with their policies, various others tend to sell your data, including your browsing history to third parties, which is the least that you would like to happen. After all, you don’t want anyone to know that you were shopping lingerie yesterday night, or that you are booking flights to Amsterdam.
- Negates ban on your IP address
Being unable to access certain services just because of your location is frustrating. You are traveling to China, for instance, and can’t connect to Netflix USA even after paying for the service. You don’t only lose access to the services, but you also end up missing your favorite web series.
This is when hiding your IP address can help you out. You can change your local IP address to the one from the USA (in this case) and enjoy seamless services throughout.
How Can I Hide My IP Address?
Undoubtedly, hiding your IP address is a fool-proof way to ensure that you do not leave any digital footprints. But how do you do it?
Many people suggest using incognito mode in Chrome. No, it doesn’t work at all. Incognito mode can just only hide the browsing history, which doesn’t serve the underlying motive.
Thankfully, there are various ways of hiding your IP address when using the internet. Let’s see.
- Use a VPN
Using a VPN is one of the most effective ways of keeping yourself safe, and anonymous on the web. This method is so secure that not only individuals but even enterprises employ the use of VPN to keep their digital infrastructure safe.
Among the various benefits that a VPN offers, one of them is the fact it is easy to configure and set up. You just need to download the VPN client, register yourself, connect to a server of your choice. A lot many VPNs will also allow you to use different devices simultaneously. This means that you can connect your smartphone, tablet, and laptop all at once.
However, the only downside that you might face is that a VPN sometimes impact your connection speed, but that’s a rare case.
- Use a web proxy
A proxy server is another way through which you can hide your IP address effortlessly. We won’t elaborate too much on proxies, but we got our information from oxylabs, so check them out for more in-depth information.
Instead of passing your traffic through a secure tunnel as a VPN does, a web proxy works by acting as an intermediary between your computer and the destination server.
Thus, the destination server thinks that the communication request is made by the proxy which, in fact, is made by your computer. In the process, the IP address of your computer remains hidden, and the address of the proxy server is shared.
This way, a web proxy masks your IP address and keeps your web activities anonymous. However, care must be taken that you use the right proxy service as some are notorious and sell your information while there are others which serve many ads to mince money.
That is to say, it is highly recommended to choose a paid proxy server over a free proxy server for better services.
- Call your internet service provider
While a web proxy and VPN can only hide your IP address, they cannot really change it. In an event when you want to change your IP address, the best way is to call your internet service address and request them.
You might need to answer a few questions before they change it for you, but you can get this done easily.
You might also try to change your IP address by rebooting your modem. To do this, simply unplug your modem and wait or a few hours. Plug it back, and the chances are high that you will be assigned with a fresh string of IP address. This method works only if your ISP assigns you a dynamic IP address.
Cybercrime is at an all-time high. Data breaches are an everyday event. In situations like these, it is more and more important to take care of your security online and to avoid leaving any digital footprints which could wreak havoc later on.
The first step to cover your tracks online is to hide your IP address. You can do this by using a web proxy, and VPN. However, care must be taken that you buy the services from a reputed provider who is as serious about your privacy as you are.
That said, taking care of your security online is not rocket science. You just need to stay vigilant and practice a few safe practices as a smart user.