Your IP address is a unique string of numbers that identifies your device and where in the world you’re connected from. Everyone on the internet has one and it is also visible to everyone else online. IP addresses basically make sure that information is transferred to the exact location that it needs to go to.
The downside of IP addresses is that they open us up to being tracked. IP addresses facilitate tracking by governments, advertisers, hackers, and other entities that don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart.
IP address details
Before I jump into tackling the issue of hiding your IP address, here I’ll explain a little more about them. To start off, I’ll tell you about the two main types of IP address. They are:
- IPv4: This type of IP address typically has the form 126.96.36.199
- IPv6: This type of IP address has the format 3008:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334
These two types of IP address serve the same purpose of identifying you in the online world. The advantage of IPv6 is that because it is longer and more varied, there are more possible combinations of letters and numbers that can be used to create new IP addresses. This is becoming increasingly more relevant with the uptick of connected devices. There simply aren’t enough IPv4 IP addresses for every device out there today. With that being said, you will need a tool that is capable of hiding both IPv4 and IPv6 IP addresses since your devices probably all support both variations.
How to hide your IP address for free
There are a few options available to you if you want to hide your IP address for free. Here, I’ll be addressing the following methods:
- Using the TOR network
- Connecting to a different network
- Requesting an IP address change from your ISP
- Unplugging/resetting your router
- Using a NAT firewall
There are other options out there that will result in you having a different IP address, but they aren’t as convenient and some of them have to be paid for. I am mainly interested in the options that allow you to quickly change your IP address for increased privacy for free.
1. Hiding your IP address by connecting to the TOR network
The Onion Router (TOR) is a worldwide, decentralized network that is operated by thousands of volunteers. TOR processes your data through a series of servers, known as TOR relays, that are operated by these volunteers. During this process, your data is encrypted and websites will only be able to see the IP address of the last server that your data passes through. The sequence of servers that you are routed through changes with each new website that is visited. This ensures that your connection is kept as anonymous as possible.
You can access the TOR network via the TOR Browser. It works similarly to conventional browsers like Chrome and Firefox and is free to download.
See also: How to use a VPN with Tor
2. Connecting to a different network
Connecting to a different network will result in your IP address being changed. If you have access to more than one network, this is an option for you if you wish to change your IP address for free. You should generally avoid connecting to open wifi networks since they are more vulnerable to hacker attacks.
3. Requesting an IP address change from your ISP
Your IP address is ultimately assigned to you by your ISP. If you would like a different IP address, contact them to find out your options. Usually your IP address changes from time to time, as IP addresses are usually recycled in most cases since most users’ routers assign them with dynamic IP addresses. However, you can request to have a static IP address from your ISP. Note that there might be an application process and that you might have to pay for this option.
4. Unplugging/resetting your router
Unplugging/resetting your router is likely to result in you being assigned a new IP address. You might need to leave it unplugged for a few minutes for this to work. Since most internet users are assigned with dynamic IP addresses that change from time to time, this is an effective strategy for changing your IP address for free.
While the TOR network is secure, due to the roundabout method of routing your traffic through several different servers, the connection can be slow, making it unsuitable for applications such as streaming and torrenting. In addition, there have been some links between the TOR network and illegal activity. The TOR network can be used to access the dark web. While the dark web hosts many legitimate sites that allow for activities such as access to information for those living under oppressive regimes, it has also been known to be used to facilitate illegal activities like arms and drug trafficking. Some websites may even block connections from known Tor Nodes and your ISP might not approve of its use.
5. Using a NAT firewall to hide your IP address
Many wireless routers use NAT firewalls to ensure only incoming connections that are legitimately requested by computers on a network are allowed to pass through. Devices that are protected by the same NAT firewall share a public IP address, but have their private IP addresses hidden.
Hiding your IP address with a VPN
While all of the above options are free, it’s worth mentioning an effective paid solution. One of the most effective ways of hiding your IP address that ensures privacy and security while keeping fast connection speeds is using a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN), is a piece of software that securely routes your internet connection through a server in a different location. Your connection is encrypted and the VPN masks your identity, as your IP address is changed to the IP address of the server that your connection is routed through.
VPN services typically operate on a subscription basis and they usually have apps available for major platforms like Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Some VPNs even have apps available for Linux and some routers. Some device and VPN combinations require manual setup.
After you have your VPN subscription and your software set up, it’s straightforward to configure your VPN connection. Follow these simple steps to hide your IP address with your VPN:
1. First, you should check your current IP address. Do this by googling, “what’s my IP?”
2. Sign up for a VPN. I recommend going with NordVPN. Or you could try another VPN service like Surfshark or ExpressVPN.
3. Download the app that works for your device.
4. Install and run the app.
5. Sign in to your VPN service on your app.
6. Now, you should be able to select a server location and connect to it. You will have a new IP address that will be the IP address of the server you’re connected to.
7. You should now verify that your IP address has changed. Google “what’s my IP” again and you should be presented with an IP address that‘s different from the one you saw in step one.
Commercial VPN providers tend to use shared IP addresses. What this means is that anyone connecting to this VPN server will have the same IP address. The benefit of this is that you become indistinguishable from any of the other users that are connected to the server. This is a positive thing from a privacy standpoint.
Here are some features that you should look out for in a quality VPN:
- Private DNS servers: DNS translates domain names such as “privacy.net” to an IP address. The default DNS servers that are usually used are operated by entities such as ISPs and Google. These server records are logged and can be viewed. However, Private DNS servers operated by a quality provider like NordVPN will safely handle your DNS requests without anyone knowing what sites you accessed. On top of that, your DNS requests won’t be logged with a private DNS server.
- Leak protection: VPNs are designed to protect all internet data that is sent to and received by your device. However, sometimes they leak. This can cause your IP address to be exposed. If this happens, then your real IP address will be exposed. For this reason, it’s important that you get a VPN that protects you against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak prevention.
- Kill switch: A kill switch protects your privacy and identity in the case of your VPN connection dropping out. It cuts off your connection and prevents data from being sent with your real IP address.
- No-logs policy: The whole point of having a VPN is to protect your privacy. Therefore, you should pick a VPN provider that doesn’t log your information.
How to hide your IP address: FAQs
Why should I hide my IP address?
In the online world, every time you visit a site, your IP address can be detected by that site and by your ISP. This allows sites and your ISPs to be aware of your browsing habits. Sites can use this information to profile your online behavior and can use this information to target ads at you.
In addition, you may be denied access to services due to your IP address. For example, you may not be able to access your online banking from overseas if you're traveling. Another example of this is being denied access to the libraries of foreign streaming service libraries.
Hiding your IP address can also protect you online while on open wifi networks and when torrenting. In these scenarios, it is easy for a malicious party to see your IP address. This could lead to your private information being compromised.
Using a VPN protects you in all of the above scenarios by masking your IP address and encrypting your connection.
How do I hide my identity on a mobile device (Android and iOS/iPhone)?
The easiest way to hide your IP address on a mobile device is to install a VPN app from a major VPN provider. I recommend using NordVPN since it provides strong security measures. You can download most VPN apps from the Play Store on Android devices or from the App store on iOS devices.
Is using a VPN to hide my IP address legal?
Yes, it is legal to use a VPN to hide your IP address. This is the case in most countries with the exception of a few countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and China, where VPN use could land you in trouble with the law despite not necessarily being outright illegal.
You can do this by carrying out a web search for 'what is my IP address' on Google. This will show you your current IP address. If you are connected to a VPN, you should see a different VPN from what you would have seen when not connected to a VPN.
- IP address details
- How to hide your IP address for free
- Hiding your IP address with a VPN
- How to hide your IP address: FAQs
- Why should I hide my IP address?
- How do I hide my identity on a mobile device (Android and iOS/iPhone)?
- Is using a VPN to hide my IP address legal?
- How can I check to see if my IP address is hidden?