Your local news station reports a tenfold increase in break-ins in your neighbourhood.
“Criminal activity at an all-time-high, extreme vigilance required!”, the news anchor shouts.
Being a prudent home owner and family guardian, you decide to pack up your house and teleport it, dog and all, two states over.
At the snap of your finger, you’re safe and sound once again.
Wouldn’t you like to teleport away at the first sign of danger?
I know I would!
Though a fantasy in real life, this “teleportation” is all but possible online.
And, my God, fortunately so.
According to Steve Langan, CEO of Hiscox Insurance, in 2016 “cybercrime cost the global economy over $450 billion, over 2 billion personal records were stolen and in the U.S. alone over 100 million Americans had their medical records stolen“.
In times where one third of the U.S. population has their medical records stolen and online security breaches are at an all time high, it is an imperative to ensure your safety online.
Back to our little fantasy. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could literally change your home address by teleporting away from danger?
How to *woosh* away from cyber criminals is exactly what you’re about to learn. After giving you an easy-to-digest explanations on IP addresses, I will show you exactly how and why you should do that.
Grab your cup of Joe and let’s enter the exciting realm of ones and zeros!
What is an IP Address?
Let’s first get some basics out of the way.
The internet, being nothing more than a vast group of interconnected networks, requires a system to establish communication between these networks. The Internet Protocol, usually referred to as IP, is the principal technology, responsible for this connection. IP is tasked with defining, structuring and delivering information packets from point A to point B.
IP addresses are nothing more than system identifiers. In version four of the internet protocol (IPv4), IP addresses are defined as a 32-bit number; x.x.x.x where x is a value between 0 and 255.
Here are some valid IP addresses:
- 184.108.40.206 – an IP address assigned to Google
- 220.127.116.11 – an IP address assigned to Harvard University
Every system, connected to the internet, has its own address; much like the address of your house or the license plate of your car. Every system has to have a unique IP address, assigned to that machine, and that machine only. This means your phone, your laptop, work computer and your printer, all have different IP addresses.
Every participant of the internet has to have an IP address to connect to it.
The way IP operates, IP addresses are a sensitive piece of information as they pinpoint the location of the systems they are assigned to. This is uncircumventable, as the physical location of the connected machine is precisely the information necessary for the internet protocol to establish the most efficient connection.
This is how I know that any IP, which starts with 140.247 will be assigned to Harvard University and how I know where you are based in, simply by looking at your IP address.
6 Ways to Hide Your IP Address
Check out these six ways to alter your IP address.
1. Ask Nicely
The bitter truth is that we have zero influence on what IP address our systems get assigned to. We can only ask or force our Internet Service Providers to change our IPs for us.
There are two types of IP addresses that your ISP will assign to you. Static and Dynamic. A static IP is difficult to change as you’ll have to go through a lengthy process with your ISP. Most internet providers will fortunately assign dynamic IPs
Asking nicely, so Mom thought me, is always step one. Calling up your ISP and simply asking for an IP change will often do the trick, though you may have to face some unexpected and forward questions as to your motivation behind such a request. Telling them you’re teaching son or younger brother the basics of networking, seems to do the trick.
If being nice fails, an easy way to attempt to force an IP change by your ISP, is to unhook your modem and reconnect it after a little while. By severing your connection to your ISP, you’re very likely to be assigned a new IP range. This only works if you operate on dynamic IPs, however. You also have to remain disconnected from the internet for many hours to prompt a change in IP address.
Here are some additional steps you can take on Windows before unhooking your Modem:
Windows system connected via cable
- Open Command Prompt as Administrator
- Type “ipconfig /release“, without the quotes and hit Enter
- Type “ipconfig /renew“, without the quotes and hit Enter
- Shut down your system.
- Turn off all ethernet hubs/switches.
- Unplug cable/DSL modem.
- Leave off as long as you can bare (overnight)
- Turn everything back on.
Windows system connected via router
- Log into the router’s admin console.
- Release the IP address (Every router is different, Google yours)
- Shut down your system.
- Turn off all ethernet hubs/switches.
- Unplug cable/DSL modem.
- Leave off as long as you can bare (overnight)
- Turn everything back on.
Are you chuckling yet? I sure am 🙂
I’m not saying the above doesn’t work – it’s works just fine. I’m saying I’m not about to dial my phone and sit on hold for half an hour or disconnect myself from the internet every time I want to change my IP address.
With ISP’s selling my browsing history to the highest bidder, I sure wouldn’t trust them to help me out either.
Effective? Yes! Practical? Heck No!
Unfortunately for you and me, this about sums up the ways we can change our IP address. Sure, there are others, more technical ones. If you’re an expert in networking you can modify your router and force a dynamic IP change that way – but that’s neither simple, nor quick, nor guaranteed.
Changing IP addresses simply isn’t the way to go, hiding them, however, is another story entirely 🙂
2. Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks were heavily used by big conglomerates, decades ago, to facilitate anonymous communication across hubs and offices. As internet penetration skyrocketed, suddenly everyone started to recognize the value of remaining anonymous online.
In the simplest of terms, a VPN transmits your data packets via a protected tunnel protocol. This protocol is layered with security features which will immediately sever the connection if an intrusion is detected. If an intrusion is attempted, the VPN will immediately reconnect through a different route, staying one step ahead.
VPNs started becoming more and more popular in circles outside of the world of business. The main benefits of using a VPN are:
- Circumvents Throttling: Your internet service provider will be unable to monitor your data and subsequently throttle it. Some ISPs have recently come under fire for doing exactly that, if they noticed you’re using too much data; by streaming Netflix or watching YouTube videos.
- Increases Security: VPNs transmit your data packets via a protected tunnel protocol. This protocol is layered with security features which will immediately sever the connection if an intrusion is detected. If an intrusion is attempted, the VPN will immediately reconnect through a different route, staying one step ahead
- Negates Censorship: According to the Freedom Report by Freedom House “Two-thirds of all internet users — 67 percent — live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship.” By utilizing a VPN this censorship is entirely negated. Blocked websites ( Google, Facebook, Youtube etc) or services (Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype) are effectively unlocked and can be accessed free of oppression.
- Avoids Cyber Attacks: Most likely why you are here; your data will be 100% secure from outside attacks. Nobody, not even the CIA, will be able to decipher what you’re up to. Whether you’re sitting at home or in a crowded mall, everything you do will be encrypted and inaccessible.
As you can see, the benefits of a Virtual Private Network are precisely the same as the benefits of changing your IP address.
No surprise here; VPNs assign new IP address to systems connected to them. As you connect to a virtual network, you’ll be assigned a second IP address, which spoofs your real one.
Setting up your VPN client takes minutes, and once you’re all set up, connecting to it and thereby changing your IP happens at the click of your button!
“That’s all great, Andrey, but how does a VPN change my IP address?”
Great question, pal! I’m so exited to tell you!
While you’re connected to a VPN, the VPN provider will assign you a virtual IP address. While your real IP address will still be used to connect to said VPN, all other traffic will be tunnelled through your private network and as such this external traffic will only connect to your second, virtual IP address.
Going back to my favorite analogies, imagine a VPN as a hotel. You’re not really living there, you only stay for a while. This while could technically be indefinite, but that doesn’t change your permanent residence. While at that hotel, you can receive mail just like before, only now it has to be sent to the hotel and your room number. Your hotel may know your real address, but everybody else will have to go through the hotel’s address to reach you .
Isn’t that awesome? So nifty!
3. Use a Proxy
Proxy servers are great little tools which act as a bridge in the flow of your internet traffic. These man-in-the-middle servers connect your information packets to their desired destination, while changing their appearance as they go through the Proxy.
In simpler terms, the Proxy server intercepts your traffic and takes control of your connection. From here, everything you do, the proxy server repeats; it mirrors your behavior. The destination servers (websites you’d like to access) think of the proxy is your traffic.
The beauty of this system is that you can connect to any proxy server in the world. You want to look like you come from London, UK? No problem. Australia? Sure thing. Mother Russia? Да!
Say you want to access UK’s BBC. You’ll quickly find out that most of their content is blocked and inaccessible for people outside the United Kingdom. In comes the Proxy server. You connect to a UK based Proxy and voila – for all intents and purposes, you’re henceforth as British as fish and chips!
Proxy servers are very efficient at low profile necessities such as bypassing geo-blocked content or IP restrictions.
Being able to mask your real IP address is where the similarities between VPNs and Proxies end.
While being more than adept at handling Netflix geo-restricted content, Proxies can’t compete with a VPN’s many layers of security. Outside spoofing your IP address, Proxy servers neither encrypt your data nor remove any identifiable markers from it. Proxies will do nothing to shield you from the prying eyes of your ISP, government or anyone with access to your data.
The final big difference between Proxies and VPNs is the former’s lack of encompassing spoofing. While a VPN will encrypt any and all data coming into and out of your system, a Proxy will intercept traffic on a per-application basis.
Say you connect your web browser to a proxy server. Great! You can watch all the Netflix you want, don’t go torrenting files, however. Your torrenting traffic won’t be intercepted by your Proxy and your ISP can easily see what you’re up to.
4. Use TOR
TOR, named after the original project “The Onion Router” is a free client which anonymously connects you to volunteer-operated network of servers. This enables you to be assigned a new IP address, on the same basis as a VPN client.
Also known as the “dark/deep” web, Tor has the added benefit of enabling you to access websites, otherwise inaccessible with normal browsers. Such “onion” websites have have very different domain names as they are mostly randomly generated.
Check out the domain name of the anonymity search engine DuckDuckGo:
Tor being a widely accessible, free and anonymous network, it has become a hub for criminal activity. Also one of the reasons why you may be put on a “list” if you access TOR, a big chunk of the network’s users connect to it to carry out illegal transactions. From false identities, to heavy drugs and even weaponry.
Another big drawback of TOR is the extremely slow loading times. These long loading times are predicated on the inefficient and long-winded routes that your data packets are sent on, relayed from server to server, until they finally hit their destination. This, of course, is all done in the name of safety.
Make no mistake, TOR isn’t entirely foolproof. Certain software vulnerabilities and website admin errors can and are exploited by government agency. In 2013, for example, Tor’s biggest black market website – The Silk Road – was busted by the FBI.
5. Go Mobile
A quick way to change your IP address, if you fear yours has been compromised, is to use your cell phone’s data. As it’s a different system, it will have a different IP address.
This, of course, is no substitute to a laptop/PC workstation. It may aid you in rare emergency situations, when your IP is obviously being attacked, but outside of that, relying on Mobile Data is both ineffective and short-sighted.
6. Connect to Public Wi-Fi
As IP addresses don’t travel with you, using your laptop to connect to a coffee shop’s open Wi-Fi network is an easy way to change your IP address. Same as with Mobile Data, this is neither an effective IP change method, nor a sustainable way of surfing anonymously & securely.
Unfortunately, there are many risks when using such open hotspots networks. I have written extensively on all the dangers of public Wi-Fi and how to minimize them.
5 Reasons To Hide An IP Address
It is very much in our interest to make sure no wrong-doers ever get their hands on such an important identifier as our IP Address. Let’s take a look at the main reasons why you would want to hide your IP address.
#1. Hide Your Location
As mentioned above, your IP address functions much like the street address of your home; it tells the Internet Protocol where to send your requested information packets. This is predicated on the IP’s ability to pinpoint your exact location, enabling it to connect you to your nearest network and from there to the world.
Here is a list of geo-location information that your IP address harbors:
- ZIP code
- Longitude and latitude
Pretty scary to think that a criminal could have access to your GPS coordinates by simply finding out your IP, isn’t it?
#2. Circumvent IP restrictions
Being a very precise location identifier, your IP address is often used to block you from accessing certain information which someone has deemed inaccessible for you.
When governments like those in China, Russia and, Yes, the United States restrict access to certain websites and services by blocking their nation’s IP addresses, “spoofing, the act of masking your IP address, comes in handy.
From journalists to activists and your everyday person, nobody should be oppressed and restricted to share their views in the information era.
Colleges and universities also love to meddle with their student’s internet access. Many schools have banned online video game servers from being accessed. This means no League of Legends, World of Warcraft, CS:GO and so on.
I guess these students are mature enough to rack up $200K in debt for a four year degree, but giving them access to online games? That’s too much.
Circumventing such IP restrictions is important to make sure you, and only you, get to decide which content you’d like to access.
#3. Negate IP Bans
Banning your IP address is an easy way for websites and services to immediately block your access to them. This quickly becomes a problem as you try to connect to your paid-for Netflix account, a service which blocks any and all IPs outside the USA from accessing their US library of moves and TV shows, when you’re sitting in your hotel room overseas.
Spoofing or changing your IP address is a quick and easy way of loopholing your way back into services you’ve been mistakenly or unjustly banned from.
#4. Block Targeted Attacks
Hiding your IP address quickly becomes a must-do security step once you’ve been targeted by a cyber criminal, who is after your personal records.
By changing your vulnerable IP address you can throw off and block this specific type of cyber attack on your system.
#5. Remain Anonymous
Anonymity is to be expected, not asked for. Well, not anymore.
When our Congress passes bills, allowing Internet Service Providers to sell your private web surfing data & browsing history to the highest bidder, retaining anonymity in an ever-shrinking world seems all the more precious and important.
Changing your IP address is one of many security steps as you embark on the journey of securing yourself and your data. While there are more comprehensive ways of protection, such as using a VPN, I commend you on your desire and prudence to seek out ways to shield your IP address from hackers and no-gooders.
I sincerely hope this article has helped you find your preferred method of keeping your IP address safe on the inter-webs. Please share it with your friends and colleagues and let me know about your experiences with IP addresses.
Andrey from TheBestVPN.com team