You’ve heard the term “IP address” and know it has something to do with computers, but if you’re not a tech junkie, you may not quite understand it. Here’s a quick look at what IP is and how you can hide your IP address.

What is IP

IP stands for “Internet Protocol.” An Internet Protocol is a set of rules for how data is communicated from one computer to another. Your IP address, then, is a string of numbers that allows one digital device to communicate with another. Think of it like your home street address. Without a house number and street name, the mail man would have no idea where to deliver your mail. With IP, one device is able to pinpoint your device and differentiate it from other computers, tablets, and phones.

An IP address uses four numbers, which can be one to three digits long and range from 0 to 255. Each number is separated by a dot. An IP address might look something like this:

When you send or receive data over the Internet, your message is transferred in packets, and these chunks of data include the sender’s and receiver’s IP addresses.

There are two types of IP addresses: static and dynamic. Static IP addresses never change, and they hold information like your geographical location. Static IP addresses make it easier for other computers to connect with you, which is preferred in situations like online gaming. Dynamic IP addresses, on the other hand, are temporary and assigned by the network when a person connects to it. They come from a pool of shared IP addresses, which makes it harder to track a single person or device.

One thing to note about IP is that it’s not a connected protocol. That means that the end points of communication aren’t continuously connected. Each chunk of data is sent independently and can arrive at their destination at different times. Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, is another type of protocol that puts these packets of data back in the right order when they’re received.

How to Hide Your IP Address

There are a couple of problems with IP that might make you want to hide your IP address in certain situations. For example, you might want to keep companies from tracking your internet activity, or you might want to protect yourself when using unsecured Wi-Fi. Since IP addresses are location-based, hiding your IP address can help you get into websites that are not available in your geographical location. Here are three ways to hide your IP address:

1. Use a VPN

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network.” With a VPN provider, the traffic from your computer routes through their network first. It doesn’t change your IP address but rather conceals it by assigning a new IP address to the data. It allows you to surf the web securely and anonymously.

2. Use a Proxy

A proxy directs your Internet traffic through another computer so that you aren’t accessing web pages directly. There are numerous free proxy servers online you can route your data through.

3. Change Your IP Address Daily

To make it harder to track your computer, you can change your IP address daily. If you have a static IP address, you can change it directly on your device. Dynamic IP addresses will frequently change, so if you’re looking for added security on your device, consider enabling dynamic addressing.

IP may sound complicated at first, but if you’re concerned about your Internet security, it’s not too difficult to hide or change your IP address to keep your data private.