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. 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.)
IP addresses are necessary for communication to take place across the internet. However, anyone can see what city you’re connecting from and find out even more personal information by just looking at your IP address.
Your IP address is like your physical address. Just by knowing it, someone can’t attack you directly, but with enough time, efforts and motivation, hackers can try to break in.
That’s why it’s best to always be cautious. 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.
Hiding your IP address is a basic step for many privacy-conscious internet users. Especially, it is necessary for journalists working on sensitive topics, or anyone else who’s concerned with their location being discoverable online.
So today we’ll look at the three best ways to keep your location hidden.
The first and possibly the 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.
However, there’s only one hop separating you from the site you’re visiting, and your data isn’t always secured. 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.
Nonetheless, NordVPN’s proxy extension for Chrome does encrypt your browsing data.
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is perhaps the best option to hide your location.
In general, it works similarly to a proxy. The only problem with a proxy is that the Internet traffic to and from a proxy remains unprotected. Any snooper, hacker or a government body can intercept that information through various means and read the content of your communications.
VPN establishes a secure connection to a server in a location of your choice, which then connects to a website you want to visit. All encrypted information is sent through this server and then 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 so snoopers would only see an incomprehensible jumble.
VPN services offer more features. NordVPN, for example, adds an extra layer of security with its’ Double Data Encryption. It also has a Strict No Logs policy (no records of your communications), an 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 it around. It’s great because 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 back to you. Think of this one as A→T→P→X→J→B.
Although Tor is a good option, it does have its drawbacks. It isn’t the easiest thing to set up for a regular user, nor does it provide practically what is offered theoretically, although they are constantly working on fixing and improving their limitations.