How to hide your IP address (and why you might want to)

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Each device in a local network has a numerical label generated by your router for identification. Here are some examples of devices in your home or office with private IP addresses:

WHAT IS AN IP ADDRESS

IP address is a unique numerical value, associated with devices on a network. It is important to protect your IP address from hackers and cyber threats, especially when you’re using a public Wi-Fi. A VPN connection hides your IP address and protects your privacy.

What is an IP address?

How to protect yours

  • What is an IP address?
  • What is my IP address?
  • How to find IP addresses on Windows, Mac, or iPhone
  • How to change IP address
  • How to hide IP addresses

Let’s start with a brief IP address definition: an IP address is a unique numerical label that can identify devices on a network like the Internet or a local area network. IP stands for “Internet Protocol.” Your ISP assigns a public IP address to your network router and your router assigns a private or local IP address to your computer or device. Websites communicate with you through your public IP address while your devices communicate with each other on your local network through private IP addresses.

How many numbers are in an IP address?

An IP address looks like a string of characters separated by periods. The length of an IP address varies. The maximum number of characters in an IPv4 address is 15, while the maximum number of characters in an IPv6 address is 39.

  • Example of a private IP address: 192.168.1.1
  • Example of a public IPv6 address: 2001:0db9:89a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:9334

How IP addresses work

IP addresses function like any other address. When someone sends you mail in the physical world, the postman finds your home by using your address. Similarly, devices communicate by sending data to the IP addresses of other devices on a network in the virtual world.

Protect your IP address with a secure VPN connection:

How IP addresses are assigned

Let’s start with public IP addresses. The International Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is in control of the Internet Protocol addressing systems. It states that both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses are assigned in a hierarchical manner.

ISPs gain allocations of IP addresses from a local, regional, or national Internet Registry (IR). In turn, they run DHCP servers and dynamically assign public IP addresses to their customers.

The process is similar for private IP addresses. A router has a selection of IP addresses. When a connecting device requests an IP address, the router assigns it from its selection. When a device disconnects, the IP address returns to the router’s pool of IP addresses.

Likewise, when a customer temporarily or permanently ends their connection with an ISP, the IP address eventually returns to the ISP’s pool.

How to change IP address

To change your private IP address, you’ll need to renew your IP address through your router’s admin panel or operating system. Here are a few ways to change your public IP address:

  • Disconnect and reconnect your modem to see if you have a new IP address.
  • Contact your ISP to change your IP address.
  • Connect to a different router for a different IP address.
  • Mask your IP address with a , proxy server, or TOR connection.

Types of IP addresses

Consumer IP addresses: What is a consumer IP address?

Any individual who uses the Internet has a consumer IP address. A consumer IP address can be a public or a private IP address. A public IP address is seen outside the network, while a private IP address is seen within a network.

Private IP address: What is a private IP address?

Each device in a local network has a numerical label generated by your router for identification. Here are some examples of devices in your home or office with private IP addresses:

  • Desktops
  • Laptops
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Printers
  • Webcams
  • Smart TVs
  • Smart appliances
  • Voice assistant devices

Public IP address: What is a public IP address?

While every device in a local network has its own numerical label, they also share one numerical label when connecting to the Internet through an ISP called a public IP address. Your ISP assigns a public IP address to your router. When your devices connect to the Internet through that router, they share a public IP address.

Types of public IP addresses

Dynamic IP address: What is a dynamic IP address?

A dynamic IP address isn’t set and can change. ISPs typically assign dynamic IP addresses to their clients because they’re easier and more cost-effective to manage. You can request your ISP to assign a static IP address instead of a dynamic IP address, though not all ISPs offer this service.

Static IP address: What is a static IP address?

A static IP address doesn’t typically change unless the device is retired, there are changes to your network infrastructure, your DHCP lease time expires, or the ISP has suffered a network failure.

You may use a static IP address for the following benefits:

  • Help others locate you on a network by sharing your IP address.
  • Gain stability by having the same IP address every time.
  • Add a security clearance for your specific IP address when connecting to a network.

The advantages of having a static IP address can also be problematic. While friendly people can locate you more easily, so can threat actors. A snooper may also track your activity more easily, knowing that your IP address is almost permanent.

IPv4 vs IPv6 IP addresses

Computers, smartphones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are all fueling demand for more IP addresses. The initial 32-bit version of Internet Protocol was called Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4), with the potential for over four billion IP addresses.

As IPv4 neared exhaustion, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) launched IPv6. This newer Internet Protocol is a 128-bit hexadecimal address and has the potential for 340 trillion trillion trillion unique IP addresses.

The IPv4 vs IPv6 question doesn’t end with IP addresses. IPV6 is also potentially more secure, private, faster, and more efficient.

What’s my IP address: How to look up an IP address

Whether you’re using Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS, you can easily find your IP address on the Internet.

  • Type “what is my IP address” in a popular search like Google and hit enter. The first search result should be your public IP address.
  • Go to the Malwarebytes Privacy VPN page. You should see your IP address near the top of the screen.

To see the private IP addresses of devices on your network, use your router’s settings.

How to find IP address on in Windows

It’s not hard to find your IP address on Windows 10. Click your WiFi network icon on your taskbar. Visit the Properties of the WiFi network you’re connected to. Scroll down to Properties to see your IP address details.

How to find IP address on a Mac

To find an IP address on a Mac, visit your settings. Select network, and you will see your IP Address.

How to find IP address on iPhone

Tap WiFi on your iPhone and hit “i” in the circle next to your network. You should see your IP address under DHCP.

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Common IP address security threats: What can someone do with an IP address?

Illegal downloads

Law enforcement uses IP addresses to investigate cases and even prosecute people. Mistakes from the police and even illegal downloads from hackers can result in problems for you.

For example, a bad actor, like a roommate or a hacker who uses your IP address for illegal activity such as child pornography, terrorism, or stalking, could land you in hot water with the law.

Stalking

A petty stalker or even a state-sponsored agent can track your Internet activity through your IP address. They can use common tools to learn your general location down to your neighborhood with your IP address. Using social media networks, they can cross reference this information to invade your privacy further.

Limit access

Draconian governments that want to prevent access to sensitive media will use geo-blocking to stop activists and journalists. Streaming services will block users from specific IP addresses to enforce copyright. And websites, gaming servers, and other platforms may ban certain IP addresses too.

Network attacks

A cybercriminal could target you directly with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack to overwhelm your network with traffic and disrupt your Internet connection. Such attacks are usually reserved for businesses and websites instead of private users though.

Hacking

A hacker with your IP address could try multiple port combinations to breach your device’s network defenses. After breaching your device security, they could drop malware or steal confidential information. With IP sniffing attacks, they can steal your data and compromise your network security.

Hackers may also leverage your IP address for a compelling social engineering attack. For example, in a tech support scam, a hacker might launch a flashing popup on your screen that says your system has a virus.

The popup will display your IP address to convince you that the message is authentic. It may ask you to call a scammer, visit an unsafe website, or download malware for “tech support.”

What to do if someone has your IP address

There’s generally no need to panic about IP addresses. It’s not illegal to see someone’s IP address, nor is it illegal to find an IP address.

Lots of people can see your IP address through email headers, message boards, peer-to-peer sharing, or multiplayer gaming. Your IP address is also visible to the administrators of websites and other online platforms.

However, if someone with malicious intent has your public IP address, you may need to adopt some safety measures. Set sophisticated passwords and enable multi-factor authentication to secure your accounts. Please also use cybersecurity downloads to protect yourself from malware and scams.

Try to reset your IP address by turning off your router or modem for a few minutes before reactivating the device. Call your ISP to change your IP address if that doesn’t work. Next, learn how to hide your new IP address with the steps below.

IP address protection: How to hide IP address

There are several good reasons to learn how to hide your IP address. Someone with your IP address and enough technical skills could find your location, initiate a scam, impersonate you, or even pin you for a crime. Hiding your IP address helps protect your privacy.

VPNs

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) protects your anonymity on the Internet by masking your IP address with a virtual one. When you connect to the Internet through a VPN, websites see the IP address assigned by a VPN server instead of the one assigned by your ISP. If you’re looking for more information about VPN – read our recent article on the topic “What is VPN” – where you’ll find responses to all things VPN.

Changing your IP address with an international VPN server helps change your geographical location drastically. For example, if you’re in Canada connecting to the Internet with a United States IP address, websites may think you’re connecting from the United States instead of Canada.

Many services rely on IP addresses to check your location to enforce copyright. So, theoretically, you could access Netflix USA from outside of the United States with a VPN.

Online payment systems such as PayPal may also block access to your account if you access it from an international IP address. Theoretically, you can use a VPN to access the payment platform in countries where it’s blocked.

We recommend that you use a top VPN for privacy to enhance your security and anonymity. Our cutting-edge VPN protects your security with a sophisticated 256-bit encryption system that employs an algorithm more advanced than typical AES standards. We also have over 500 servers in 30 countries to help you find plenty of choices for IP addresses. Our advanced WireGuard VPN protocol and server volume ensure that you have a fast connection even with a VPN. We also have a strict no-log policy that never tracks or stores any of your network data. Compare this to a free VPN that may use outdated security protocols or overcrowded servers. Some popular free VPNs have also been caught spying on users. Read more on how VPN works and and how to use VPN for more in-depth information.

Remember, a VPN doesn’t offer absolute privacy. Even if it masks your IP address, a website can still recognize your device through your cookies. You can learn how to clear cookies if you want to reduce your digital footprint further. We also recommend that you check out: what are tracking cookies. A VPN will also not protect your cybersecurity from malware. If there is privacy-invading malware on your system, you should use free anti-spyware scanner & removal software.

Public Wi-Fi

A simple way to avoid using the IP address assigned by your ISP at home is to use public WiFi. A public WiFi connection should assign a different IP address to your device. However, we recommend that you avoid public WiFi for sensitive transactions.

Public WiFi connections can be typically found at shopping malls, parks, eateries, and airports. The security measures of a public WiFi connection are usually weak or nonexistent to encourage visitors and travelers to connect. That’s why they’re vulnerable to different types of attacks from hackers, such as man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. Hackers may also spoof popular public WiFi networkers to ensnare unsuspecting users.

We recommend that you use a VPN on public WiFi. With a VPN encrypting your data, you are secure, even on public WiFi.

Tor Browser

You can use the Tor (The Onion Router) browser to hide your IP address. The software hides your IP address by routing your traffic several times through nodes, almost like layers of an onion. However, TOR’s heavy encryption has a downside. Using TOR to hide your IP address will result in a slower Internet connection.

Proxy servers

The word proxy means to “stand in” for someone else. A person who votes on your behalf in an election is your proxy, for instance. So, what is a proxy server? As you may have guessed, a proxy server is like an Internet middleman. It acts as a bridge between your device and the Internet, masking your IP address.

You should avoid using free proxy servers for the same reasons you should avoid free VPNs. Free proxies may spy on you or drop malware on your system. In fact, researcher Christian Haschek found that most open proxies tested were involved in suspicious activity.

The future of the IP address

Regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act have forced websites to notify users about the data they’re collecting and to ask for consent for cookie usage. The backlash against cookies has led many users to wonder if IP addresses are under threat.

The bottom line is that IP addresses aren’t going anywhere. They’re deeply ingrained in technology and more important than cookies. For example, IP addresses are the only practical identifiers for devices connected to a network.

However, VPN usage is increasing as users take greater control of their privacy. VPN usage particularly surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, matching the rise in Internet activity. While IP addresses will remain an essential component of Internet Protocol communication, hiding public IP addresses will become an even more acceptable practice in the future.

How to hide your IP address (and why you might want to)

Online privacy is a growing concern as data becomes more accessible. People are increasingly opting to hide their IP address. Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can secure your IP address and your data. Hiding your IP address on your devices is an easy way to protect your personal information online.

What is an IP address?

“IP” stands for “internet protocol.” An IP address is a unique string of numbers that help identify a device. Any device that can connect to the Internet gets its own IP address—this includes computers, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, or even your Xbox. Your IP address reveals your location, including your ZIP code, city, or the area code of your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Any time you view something online, your IP address is shared with the website.

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What can somebody do with your IP address?

Again, the only thing that your IP address will share is your location. However, your IP address is important to:

  • Marketers, who want to use your location to advertise products or services specific to your area
  • Law enforcement, who may use IP addresses to locate criminals or build a case against them
  • Employers, who may use your IP address to track your online activity
  • Cybercriminals, who can hack into your devices if they have your IP address

The list goes on. There are dozens of third-party groups who may want to track your IP address and use the information that comes with it.

How to hide your IP address

There are three main ways Internet users choose to hide their IP address.

VPN services

A VPN (virtual private network) is a popular and easy way to hide your IP address. VPN services allow you to access the web through a secure private network connection. This essential security tool encrypts your data, making it extremely difficult for third parties to track your online activity.

VPNs work by redirecting your Internet traffic through a VPN-owned server, which encrypts your information and sends it off to the internet. Incoming data also must pass through encryption before it arrives at your device. Because of this intense encryption, your real IP address will not be discoverable.

It’s difficult to find a completely free VPN, and the ones that are free are usually selling your data, which defeats the point of using a VPN. For this reason, it’s better to pay for a VPN that guarantees complete online anonymity. Typically, VPNs will cost $3 to $25 per month.

Anonymous web browsers

Your web browser is what enables you to search the Internet, so choosing an anonymous web browser is a simple way to hide your IP address. Anonymous web browsers are different from using incognito mode or private browsing mode. However, when you use incognito mode or private browsing mode, your IP address will still be visible.

Anonymous web browsers like Tor are different in that they encrypt your traffic by sending it through multiple random servers, making your search history and IP address completely hidden. Luckily, anonymous web browsers like Tor are free to download and use.

Proxy servers

Using a proxy server is another technique to hide your IP address, although most prefer using an anonymous web browser or VPN over a proxy server. A proxy server is a web server that acts as a middleman between the server that hosts the website you are trying to visit and your Internet-connected device. This system conceals your IP address by making it seem like your Internet activity is coming from somewhere else. However, a proxy server does not encrypt your information, it only hides your IP address. This makes proxy servers the least secure option compared to VPNs or anonymous web browsers.

There are free proxy servers out there, but they can be slow and unreliable since so many people are using them. Free proxy servers may also sell your information to third parties, so they should be avoided. It’s better to pay for a proxy server instead—paid proxy servers are much faster and more reliable. Proxy servers are generally more affordable than VPNs and only cost around $2 to $4 per month.

You deserve privacy while browsing the Internet. Now that you’ve discovered different ways to hide your IP address, you can surf the web with confidence.

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