This article explains why you may need to hide IP address while you are online. Your IP address is your online identity - it is what identifies your device or network when you use the Internet. You can think of it as your physical address. Just like a physical address, your IP address tells others how to find you, where to send messages, etc.
Why Hide IP Address?
In short, the upsides of hiding your IP address dramatically outweigh any potential downsides. Your online identity is an essential first step towards regaining some control over your privacy. The IP address reveals your physical location in addition to all of your online activities.
Your online activity is extremely valuable - to you first and foremost, but also to large companies that want to sell you products and hackers that want to steal your data for nefarious purposes.
Three Best Ways to Hide IP Address
Here are the three best ways to hide your IP address. Each has trade-offs for security, cost, speed, and privacy.
1. Use a VPN
A VPN is like a middle-man server that encrypts your connection. It also substitutes your IP address with a "virtual" IP address provided by the VPN. This means that when you connect to the Internet on a VPN, whether using a browser or app, no one will be able to see your public IP address.
Well, no one sees your IP address except your VPN provider. This means it's crucial that you use a trusted VPN provider that does not log your activities. Just know that high-quality VPN servers are usually paid services.
2. Use Tor
Tor is a free-to-use network that hides your identity online through three layers of encryption. When you use the Tor Browser, your encrypted connection is through a process where it goes through three relay nodes. Each note decrypts the previous node to learn its identity, then sends the information to the next node. Once it gets to its final destination, it is fully decrypted and provides you full anonymity. Even if a hacker intercepts your traffic at any point, it would be nearly impossible to parse your original IP address.
However, with Tor, you compromise speed for privacy. Tor's multiple layers of encryption cause connection delays. This may be worth it for some that absolutely need privacy (imagine a political dissident in China). But if you're just a normal Internet user, shopping on Amazon or streaming Netflix, a VPN will suit your needs well.
3. Use a Proxy
A proxy is sort of like a VPN in that it is a server that works in between you and the server you're trying to reach on the Internet. They hide your IP address by substituting it with a "fake" IP address before your traffic gets to its final destination.
But unlike VPNs, proxies do NOT encrypt your traffic. They also do not hide your IP address while it's en route to the proxy server. Additionally, most proxies (outside of high anonymity proxies) do not hide the fact that you're using a proxy.
Because proxies are a step below VPNs, they're best suited for situations where you can't use a VPN and need a quick added layer of privacy.