- How to Hide Your Public IP Address

How to Hide Your Public IP Address

When connecting to the Internet, your home computer (or network router) is assigned an IP address by an Internet service provider. As you visit Web sites or other Internet servers, that public IP address is transmitted online and recorded in log files kept on those servers. These access logs leave behind a trail of your Internet activity.
If it were possible to somehow remove IP addresses from public view, your Internet activity would become extremely difficult to trace. Unfortunately, given how Internet connections work, it is not technically possible to keep the public IP address of a home network hidden all of the time and still be able to use it.

It is possible to hide public IP addresses from most Internet servers in most situations, however. One method involves an Internet service called an anonymous proxy server. Another method uses virtual private networking (VPN).

Using an Anonymous Proxy Server

An anonymous proxy server is a special type of server that acts as an intermediary between a home network and the rest of the Internet. An anonymous proxy server makes requests for Internet information on your behalf, using its own IP address instead of yours. Your computer only accesses Web sites indirectly, through the proxy server. This way, Web sites will see the proxy's IP address, not your home IP address.

Using an anonymous proxy server requires a simple configuration of the Web browser (or other Internet client software that supports proxies). Proxies are identified by a combination of URL and TCP port number.

Numerous free anonymous proxy servers exist on the Internet, open for anyone to use. These servers may have bandwidth traffic limits, may suffer from reliability or speed problems, or might permanently disappear from the Internet without notice. Such servers are most useful for temporary or experimental purposes. A few anonymous proxy services that charge fees in return for a better quality of service also exist.

Using a Virtual Private Network

Online VPN service providers issue their customers a public IP address different from the address their home Internet service receives. This new address can originate from a different state or country. After signing into an online VPN service and until logging off from it, a person's online session uses the VPN-assigned IP.

To the extent these providers promise to not log their customer traffic, online VPNs can significantly increase an individual's privacy online.

Related Tools for Internet Privacy

Several related software tools (both free and paid versions) support anonymous proxies. The Firefox extension called switchproxy, for example, supports defining a pool of proxy servers in the Web browser and automatically switching between them at regular time intervals. In general, these tools help you both find proxies and also simplify the process of configuring and using them.

The ability to hide an IP address increases your privacy on the Internet. Other approaches to improving Internet privacy also exist and complement each other. Managing Web browser cookies, using encryption when sending personal information, running a firewall and other techniques all contribute toward a greater feeling of safety and security when online.

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