How and Why to Randomize your IP Address

IP Address on mobile phone

Hiding your IP address is one of the first steps to take towards reaching online anonymity.

Your IP address is one single piece of information that reveals a lot about you, which is why it makes sense to hide it by randomizing it.

All of this talk of “IP Addresses” sounds intimidating, right?

Fortunately, it is also easy to do with the right tools and even if you're a novice, you'll be able to achieve better online privacy in a few easy steps.

Today, we will talk more about what an IP address is, how to hide it, and why you might want to do it in the first place.

What is your IP Address?

Before we start discussing methods of hiding an IP address, let's talk about what an IP address is.

An IP address is a unique string of numbers that are separated by full stops. It may look random, but it isn't. It serves to identify each computer in the world.

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A typical IP Address will look like this: 121.89.167.8

An IP address can give away such information as your location, some data regarding your internet provider, and more.

It can, therefore, be used for tracking you and identifying you at any time, which is why it is important to hide it if you wish to improve your online anonymity.

Below are five ways you can achieve it.

1. Use a VPN

One of the easiest and best ways to hide an IP address is to start using a VPN.

VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are apps that you can use to reach the highest level of online anonymity possible (although complete anonymity is improbable) and security that we can currently achieve.

These are apps that use a combination of features to hide your online traffic, as well as your IP address.

They hide your IP by providing you with access to their network of servers.

Whenever you connect to one of these servers, which are located all over the world, your real IP address gets hidden, and you are assigned a new one that is tied to the server you are connected to.

This makes it impossible for anyone to see your real IP. Instead, they will only see the new one, which is owned by the VPN service.

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Thames Valley Police's ‘The Little Book of Big Scams' says “Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connecting to public Wi-Fi. All your data will be encrypted and so if it is intercepted it won't be readable.” (Source).

Some of the leading VPN services to consider are ExpressVPN, CyberGhost and NordVPN.

You can also compare 21 considered the best in our VPN comparison article.

2. Use Tor

Another handy way of hiding your IP address without needing any technical knowledge is to use the Tor browser.

Tor is an anonymous browser that was based on Firefox. However, it works in a much different way.

The Tor browser uses the Tor network, which is a network created by other users who act as ‘nodes'.

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You'll often hear Tor referred to as the ‘Dark Web‘ or ‘Deep Web‘.

When you use Tor, and you send a request to access a specific website, your request jumps randomly from one node to another.

As such, it quickly becomes impossible to track, and by the time your request for information gets fulfilled, no one can tell who requested it.

However, the process does make it a bit slow, which means it's unsuitable for high-intensity tasks like streaming video and you're best to stick with a VPN for those purposes.

3. Use mobile internet

You can also hide your real IP address simply by switching from your WiFi to your mobile internet, your phone's data package.

This is possible because it works differently, following an entirely different system of rules. As such, it will have a different IP address, which is an excellent way to easily hide your real location and protect yourself from being compromised.

There are some downsides, of course.

Your connection will not be automatically encrypted, and it is worth noting that the mobile network is not nearly as fast as your home internet.

Not to mention that there is a limited selection of IP addresses to use. You'll often swap one home IP Address for one mobile internet IP Address, both of which can be used to track your online movements quite easily.

But, it is a good emergency solution to keep in mind.

4. Use a proxy

Another option is to use proxies.

A proxy is a great tool if you wish to hide your IP address, although you should keep in mind that it will not encrypt your traffic at all.

Everything that you are doing will still be visible to your ISP, or anyone else who might be tracking you. There's even the possibility that the proxy owner will be recording your every action.

Proxies act as a man-in-a-middle, standing between you and what you're accessing.

Proxies are available via a variety of different methods. The most common being a web-proxy that allows you to browse websites.

There are other types like SOCKS5, which will work with different apps. In most cases, each app you're using would need to be configured to use the proxy and some apps won't support their use at all.

It's also worth remembering that ‘transparent' proxies exist. These will pass your data via them but your real IP address will still be exposed.

5. Switch off your router

Lastly, there is always an option to simply switch off your router.

If you do it and leave it off for a certain period, you will be assigned a new IP address. This is a simple trick, but one that a lot of people are not aware of.

Simply put, if you turn off your modem, you will instantly cut its connection to your ISP, which provides your internet as well as your IP address.

By the time you re-establish the connection, you will be assigned a new IP.

Although, this only works if you have a dynamic IP, so, you shouldn't assume that it worked just because you went through these steps, and it is best to check once you reconnect.

Top Tip

A Dynamic IP Address is one that changes periodically, whereas a Static one would stay with you continuously.

It's worth noting that you could end up having to wait hours before reconnecting otherwise you could very well end up with the same IP Address again.

Reasons you'll want to change your IP

Now that you know how to change or hide your IP, let's talk about why you might want to do it.

1. Protect yourself

The first and obvious reason to do it is to protect yourself by hiding your location.

This has grown to become a rather common reason for hiding your IP address, especially considering how every entity on the web seems to be after as much data as they can gather.

Also, remember that we already mentioned that your IP carries a lot of information about you.

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A case study by the Technology Analysis Branch of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada found that an IP Address can compile a picture of a user's online activities, including online services for which an individual has registered, personal interested based on what websites they visited and any organisations they are affiliated with. (Source)

That includes your country, region, and even your city. Worse still, all this information can be used to build up a picture of what services you use, the websites you visit and much more.

If you log into any service like social media, then it would also be possible to link an IP Address to your identity.

2. Improve security

If you happen to be targeted by an online criminal, your IP address is one of the most helpful pieces of information that you can give them.

Don't think that this cannot happen to you – hackers can go for anyone at any time, as they are always out to get personal information.

By using your IP Address, it's like directly dialling into your computer or internet connection.

If they have your IP Address, you are vulnerable, and you need to do everything in your power to protect yourself.

Hiding it or replacing it regularly is the best way to do so. It might sound like a lot of work, but when using apps like VPNs, for example, it's effortless.

3. Bypass censorship

Censorship is a common problem in this day and age, although it can be more or less severe, depending on where you live.

In China, for example, censorship is at the maximum, where the Great Firewall of China prevents people from accessing most of the things that a regular internet user from anywhere else would be able to see.

It is simple, your ISP or private network owner blocks your IP address from visiting certain websites or content on the internet. And, that's it.

You can now search for it all you want, but you won't be able to find it. This can be easily fixed with a proxy or a VPN, however.

4. Bypass geo-restrictions

Similar to censorship, but working in reverse, are geo-restrictions.

They are employed by foreign countries, services, and alike, and they want to keep you out. They once again have to do so with your IP Address, which they block from entering their bubble of private content.

This can only be bypassed via a VPN, or a proxy, although a proxy rarely works in such situations.

The most common types of geo-restrictions are on streaming services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer, which try to geo-fence their content, so it's only accessible for users in a specific region.

5. Get away from advertisers

Your IP address has a lot of other information tied to it, as well, including your browsing history, interests, and alike.

By leaving it exposed, you are letting advertisers collect all of this data, which allows them to target you with ads and violate your privacy in a legal way.

But, legal or not, you shouldn't allow it. The problem is that the internet has no default privacy left, and the only privacy you're going to get is the one you secure for yourself.

Conclusion

And, that's it. By now you know why you should hide your IP address, as well as some of the best and easiest ways of doing it.

The best way of hiding your IP address and staying protected is via a VPN, but you are free to choose any method you see fit.

If you're interested to know more read our What is a VPN guide.

The web is not safe, nor private, and least of all anonymous. Protecting yourself by changing your IP Address is a good first step.

Illustration © Sergeyvasutin | Dreamstime.com

Ali Raza

Author: Ali Raza

Ali is a journalist with a keen interest in VPN usage. He is an expert in the field and has been covering VPN related topics for VPNCompare and numerous well-respected publications for many years.

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