To an extent, your IP address is your own digital home address. It allows third parties to find out more about your location and Internet service providers; cyber-criminals can use it to gain access to other Internet-connected devices. Furthermore, IPs can be used to display location-based advertisements using geo-targeting or provide Google search results.
The first step to gaining more privacy on the Internet? Hide your IP address!
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What is an IP address and what does it do?
Technically speaking, an IP address is built according to the IPv4 standard. That means it starts with four numbers between 0 and 255, with further blocks of numbers and single digits separated by a period. In practice, it looks something like this: 192.168.0.1. So what makes an IP address so special? Its uniqueness! Just as every person has a “real life” residential address that includes street and house number, every Internet connection has an IP address. For this reason alone, it’s highly recommended that you treat it as carefully as you would your own address.
What’s more, the IP address is assigned by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), i.e, the company that has its own Internet connection. This can lead to several parties having the same IP address, for example in a student residence. Usually, however, each household has a unique IP address. Whether this changes with each new dial-up to an Internet connection or remains constant (static IP) depends on the ISP.
When is it useful to hide your IP address and why?
Third parties can only gain access to your home network through an IP address. They are also able to locate the Internet connection and its devices. Taking that into consideration, there are several reasons why it makes sense to hide your IP address. The main issues here are privacy, geo-blocking and minimizing your digital footprint.
Certainly the main reason. Privacy and anonymity on the Internet are valuable assets that many people understandably want to protect. Third parties can use your IP address to pursue their own agenda and harm you or the people in your household. This is possible in mildest case via targeted advertising and with the help of geo-targeting. Far worse are potential scams or even external access to the network. The latter instance is considered cyber-crime and appears in ransomware cases, where the network and computer are blocked until a ransom is paid—previous access having been made possible thanks to knowledge of the IP address in question.
Another complication, albeit insignificant in countries like Germany, is the existence of repressive regimes. Many people around the world feel obliged to hide their browsing behaviour, since repressive regimes actively restrict or monitor Internet usage. Disguising the IP address would be (and is) the go-to solution in this circumstance. Often, Internet users from China, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Iran, as well as Russia and Turkey, are affected.
Successful bypass of geo-blocking
Some content on the Internet is only available to people from a certain region. Notable examples of this are streaming platforms such as Netflix or the online offerings of major newspapers. Copyright regulations are usually the main reason why companies use geo-blocking. As mentioned earlier, the IP address itself can be assigned to a relatively exact location. Determining the country of origin is not a problem in this context.
On the other hand, if you disguise your own IP, you use a different IP as a proxy. These are reported to third parties, even if it is not actually the one that the Internet Service Provider has assigned to the respective household or Internet connection. Consequently, it’s possible to bypass geo-blocking, as the website in question then uses the location of the “new” IP.
So, if an IP is set to the USA, users will thus be able to view content that is actually only intended for residents of that country.
Minimize digital footprint
IP addresses are used by third parties to create digital records. For example, if a post is published on Facebook, Facebook not only knows the actual post and its content, but also the IP address used to publish it. Those who disguise their IP address thus also reduce their own digital footprint, making it more difficult to track their own browsing behaviour.
What options are there for hiding an IP address?
The reasons to hide an IP address are well-known by now. Fortunately, there are several efficient ways to do just that, without even sacrificing comfort or Internet speed. In fact, some of the following options are possible without any restriction—thus advocating the hiding of IP addresses while also offering a big step towards more privacy across the board. These specifically include the use of a VPN service, the Shellfire Box, proxy servers, the use of a public WLAN network and the Tor browser.
Best Options First: VPN or Shellfire Box
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. The way VPN software works is by establishing an encrypted connection to a VPN server, which can be used to connect to the Internet. If you have chosen a trustworthy VPN provider without log files (such as Shellfire), your own IP address remains virtually impossible to detect.
The VPN software must be installed on every device that connects to the Internet and whose IP address needs to be hidden. The Shellfire VPN client is currently available for the following operating systems:
To hide your IP address, simply download our app for your operating system, then follow the onscreen instructions and you’re ready to go. Our Shellfire VPN is available as both a free and paid Premium version, which is available for about 5 € per month.
This is even easier with a Shellfire Box, a 4K VPN router that works with Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick as well as game consoles like Xbox, PlayStation 4 and even Nintendo Switch. This allows you to use the Shellfire VPN service even on devices that don’t have VPN support. The following video will show you how easy it is to operate.
The Shellfire Box operates with a brand new Wireguard protocol, which works so fast that you can even stream videos in 4K resolution. Downloads are possible up to 50 Mbps, depending on your connection. The servers used to disguise the IP address are located in 37 countries, which is particularly valuable when you want to circumvent geo-blocking. People with less technical know-how will be pleased, because the Shellfire Box is an effective, easy to use hardware VPN, which connects via plug-and-play. Expert technical knowledge is thus not required.
Public WLAN Network
A relatively simple method, but with many limitations. In this case, a publicly available connection is used in place of the domestic Internet connection, allowing the respective device to dial in wirelessly (WLAN). Therefore it goes without saying that the IP address is then that of the public network—which many other users are connected to. As an individual, you are thus effectively lost among the masses.
Still, there are plenty of disadvantages. On the one hand, a public WLAN is not always available, and on the other, they are vulnerable to hacker attacks. You own digital footprint in the network may not be found through your home IP address, but it can easily be accessed by fraudulent means in a poorly secured network. Therefore, private data or passwords should never be entered in a public WLAN network—or one should only connect to the public WLAN network via VPN.
Proxy service providers supply their own servers which connect the Internet and the device. This means they work relatively similar to VPNs, but they are usually slower. In addition, proxy connections only ever transfer a certain part of your data via proxy server—our actual IP address may still be visible elsewhere. Furthermore, it is essential that the proxy service provider treats the transmitted data confidentially—after all, it ends up on its server.
For this reason, free proxy services are very rarely advisable, because of the high risk that data may be intercepted by third parties or that the provider is not as reputable as it claims to be.
Tor-Browser was developed based on Firefox and is primarily aimed at technologically inclined users. The browser provides full, unrestricted access to the Internet and even the dark net. Encryptions and onion relays mask the IP address, which guarantees a high degree of anonymity.
There are two disadvantages, however, because the Tor browser is traditionally somewhat slower, and at the same time its setup can be an insurmountable obstacle for people who are less technologically inclined.
Is it hiding your IP address enough to remain completely anonymous online?
One hundred percent anonymity and security are not realistic possibilities. Tracing a person’s digital footprint is ultimately a question of technological capability and resources. Inevitably, intelligence services depend on the fact that full invisibility remain impossible.
One example is the “Five Eyes Alliance, an alliance of intelligence services that exchange data and activities collected in an emergency. For regular situations, however, concealing one’s IP address is absolutely sufficient.
Of course, you should also take care not to leave traces elsewhere if you don’t want to. For example, if you register for a service using your email, you remain identifiable in some way even when disguising your actual IP address.