3 Tried & Tested Ways to Hide Your Location and Keep Yourself Safe
Every time you go online, you’re assigned an IP address which helps to identify you. It’s like a phone number that shows who you are to the site or location you’re connecting to—sort of. The destination doesn’t know your name and other personal information directly, but it does know your location.
Although your IP address may look random, it really isn’t. It’s assigned to you based on your geographic location, where blocks of numbers are given to specific regions (the first part of your IP address, such as 70.x.y.z). Here’s a sample map of the internet based on IP address allocations in 2006—though it may take a while to understand what you’re looking at. (Hint: 70.x.y.z is in USA.)
They’re quite necessary for communication to take place across the internet. However, by just looking at your IP address, anyone can see what city you’re connecting from and find out even more specific information.
Your IP address is like your physical address. Just by knowing it, someone can’t directly attack you, and most won’t even try. But with enough time and effort—and motivation—malicious groups or individuals can try to break in.
That’s why it’s best to always use caution. You wouldn’t go around giving your real address to random people on the street. In the same way, you shouldn’t be giving your IP address to every site you visit. You never know which ones have ulterior motives, or who else is listening.
Hiding your IP address is a basic step for many privacy-conscious internet users. They’re especially necessary for journalists doing sensitive work or anyone who’s concerned with their location being discoverable online.
Today we’ll look at the three best ways to keep your true location hidden.
Use a Proxy
The first, and possibly fastest option, is to use a web proxy. When we normally connect to a site, it’s pretty straightforward. A connects to B, and that’s it. A proxy is like a middleman that connects your A to website B, and you can picture it as A→Proxy→B and back.
There’s only one hop separating you from the site you’re visiting, however, and your information isn’t always secure. Nonetheless, there are countless free and easy web proxy servers that you can find online.
There are also paid services that offer more features online and hopefully better proxy protection. However, you also have the option to set up the proxy yourself.
Out of the three options to hide your IP address, proxies are the least secure and they may not provide adequate stability or reliability for long-term use.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are perhaps the best option to hide your true location online.
In a way, it is like a proxy, only the problem with the proxy is that the information on its way to and from the proxy is still unprotected. Any snooper, hacker or government body can intercept that information through various means and read the contents of your communications.
What a VPN does is it establishes a secure connection to a server in a location of your choice, which then connects to the website you want to visit. All encrypted information is sent through this server and back to you. This one we can think of as: A-?->VPN-?->B and back.
Because of that extra layer of security, your information is protected and anyone snooping will only see an incomprehensible jumble.
The best VPN services offer more features, like NordVPN. It has not just single encryption, but another layer of encryption with its Double Data Encryption. It also has a Strict No Logs policy (no records about your communications), automatic Kill Switch (so no accidental leaks of your data) and many, many other features.
Another good option is to use Tor (The Onion Router), which works by sending your communications through a number of nodes throughout the globe, bouncing you around. It’s great because the one node only knows the node that came before it and the one after it, so it’s extremely difficult to trace the original connection to you. Think of this one as A→T→P→X→J→B.
Although it is a great option, it does have its setbacks. It isn’t yet the easiest to set up for the regular user, nor does it provide practically what is offered theoretically, although they are constantly working on fixing and improving their limitations.
An even better option is to use two of these together: something known as Tor over VPN, which NordVPN offers. This combines the power of Tor over the established security of a VPN, giving you maximum protection.
These are some of the best ways to mask your location by hiding your IP address. However, it’s still important to remember that even using a VPN or Tor over VPN, it can’t protect you from malware if you’re engaged in risky online behavior. So remember to keep safe.
Got any other tricks or tips for hiding your location online? Let us know in the comments below!