Nowadays, we’re all a little more privacy-conscious, but not without good reason. However, while we might think we’re keeping ourselves safe with antivirus software or private tabs, we’re not hiding the main thing that can lead a hacker through our virtual door — our IP address. But how can you hide your IP address?
You can’t stick your IP in a cupboard, put a password on it or…sit on it? IP addresses are not physical items and anyone can access them. This article will tell you all the reasons why that’s bad and provide you with three ways to hide it, including step-by-step instructions for how to hide your IP address with our top VPN, ExpressVPN.
Why Hide Your IP Address?
Before understanding why you should hide your IP address, you first need to know what it is. You can read a full explanation in our what is my IP address article, but it’s basically like an ID number for your internet connection. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to connect to the internet, and so technically, you can’t actually get rid of it.
What you can do, though, is replace it with another IP address, essentially cloaking your true IP address — IP catfishing at its best! Still, that doesn’t explain why you would want or need to hide your real IP address. To put it simply, privacy is the top reason, but that one word can have many different explanations.
Hiding your IP address will ensure that your internet activity is kept secret, like your browsing habits, downloading copyrighted material or taking part in dodgy deals on the dark web… shhhhh. Neither your ISP (internet service provider), the NSA or Herbert the hacker will know what you’re doing. Websites you visit online will be logged with the “fake” IP address, so there’s no way of knowing it was you.
Additionally, if I’m sitting in a cafe using its free public WiFi to check my emails or bank account (definitely doing something more important than, say, looking at cat memes), hiding my IP address will ensure that a hacker can’t gain access to my device and steal my identity or other sensitive information through my IP address. Hiding your IP address gives you that extra little bit of security.
Plus, let’s not forget that if I use an IP address from a different country, I can TAKE OVER THE WORLD…erm, I mean, access that other country’s content. By using a country-specific IP address, you can access content and services as if you are physically there.
That’s great for geoblocked content, such as Netflix, but also for accessing financial accounts. I mean, it’s important that I can keep up to date with my favorite shows while I’m lounging by the pool on holiday — cue the nice mobile-sized untanned patch on my face. After that, I make sure that I don’t spend all of my money on a fake tan to cover that patch up, too. Winner winner.
Three Ways to Hide Your IP Address
In this section, I’ll provide three ways that will help you hide your IP address, though I recommend using the first method, a VPN.
1. Use a VPN: The Best Way
Using a virtual private network is the best way to mask your IP address. Not only will you have access to a ton of different servers located around the world, but you’ll also benefit from an encrypted connection. Your connection will essentially be sent through an encrypted tunnel, meaning that no one can see it. That’s crucial for sensitive activities.
Aside from the security aspect, a VPN is the most reliable way to access restricted content. For instance, if I wanted to watch a Bollywood film in India or do some shopping online in Australia, a VPN would allow me to do that and stay safe at the same time.
2. Use a Proxy Server: The Potentially Risky Way
Using a proxy server is the easiest way to hide your real IP address, but it might not be the best option. That’s because although proxy servers will change your IP address, it’s not a secure connection. Any tech-minded person could see what you’re doing or trace the connection back to you if they really wanted to.
3. Use Tor: The Slow Way
The third choice is to use Tor — or, as you may know it, The Onion Router. Tor is free, open-source software that lets you browse the internet anonymously. Your connection basically bounces around a network of servers, disguising your location and online activity from anyone and anything.
That said, Tor has a bit of a stigma attached to it because it was the go-to software for cybercriminals. Using Tor isn’t a criminal offense, but law enforcement agencies like to keep an eye on Tor traffic in the hope that they’ll catch an offender. That also makes other websites less keen to let anyone in that’s using a Tor browser.
How to Hide My IP Address With a VPN
In this section, I’ll give you quick step-by-step instructions on how to use a VPN to hide your IP address. I’ll use my favorite VPN service, ExpressVPN, as an example, but the process will be similar for other VPN providers, too.
- Sign up to ExpressVPN and install the app on your device
- Launch the app, enter the activation code provided and sign in to your account
- Find a suitable server — perhaps in a particular country
- Connect to the server and access what you want anonymously
The Best VPNs to Hide Your IP Address
A quick search on Google or your app store will return a ton of VPN providers, but it’s not a good idea to just pick one like a game of pin the tail on the donkey. That’s because, in short, some VPN services don’t actually protect you like they claim to.ExpressVPN is without a doubt the best VPN service you can get, and that goes for any use case, such as security and privacy, streaming and so on. That said, it’s not a great option if you have more dust in your wallet than dollar bills. If that is the case, then both NordVPN and CyberGhost offer a great service with decent multi-year plans.
Having said that, there are other budget-friendly options, such as Surfshark, Windscribe and TunnelBear, with the latter two offering a free plan. Just be aware that the free plans will be limited in bandwidth allowance, available servers and other features.
Either way, using one from this list will ensure you have the best experience and stay protected online.
Whether you’re twitching with paranoia or simply want to add a notch of privacy to your internet connection, hiding your IP address is certainly a step in the right direction. How you do it, though, is up to you.
Choose between a VPN, a proxy server or Tor. But before you make your final decision, understand that the most secure route is through a VPN. It’s the only option that includes dedicated security and privacy. Plus, you’ll benefit from extra features, such as accessing geoblocked content. For the best experience with all of that, I recommend using ExpressVPN.
Do you think a VPN service is the best way to hide your IP address? Which method do you use and why? Let us know in the comment section and thank you for reading.