Over the past years, our privacy and the protection of our personal data have become increasingly important. You might have heard it’s a good idea to change or hide your IP address when surfing the web. Google, social media platforms and even secret services track your online behavior on a large scale. Despite the fact that this is mostly common knowledge at this point, many people still don’t hide their IP address as well as they should. Those people risk their privacy. Perhaps they believe it isn’t necessary to hide their online life, because they don’t have anything to hide. However, there are many other reasons to change your IP. Will you get on the bandwagon and change yours? In this article we’ll explain how you can easily hide and change your IP address – and why you should want to.
What is an IP address?
The ‘IP’ in IP address stands for ‘internet protocol’. An IP address is a unique series of numbers that’s assigned to any internet connection. These numbers make your device identifiable when it’s connected to the internet. An IP address is essential for transmitting and receiving data across the internet. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to perform even the most basic tasks online.
However, your IP address can also compromise your privacy. It reveals your general location, and third parties can use it to track your online activities. Moreover, websites and governments can choose not to show you certain pages or services depending on your location. Even worse, cyber criminals can intercept your IP and do all sorts of damage to your device. For these reasons, many users opt to hide or change their IP address. One of the best and simplest ways to do this, is to use a reliable VPN. A VPN service that we recommend is CyberGhost. This provider offers great speeds and has a strong focus on safety and privacy. Moreover, it’s very cheap and user-friendly, so it’s a great VPN to get started with. If you want to check out our personal experiences with this provider, you can check out our extensive CyberGhost review.
- Very user-friendly
- High quality for a low price
- Torrents and Netflix possible
Would you rather try out a limited, free VPN first? Feel free to take a look at our list of the best free VPNs on the market at this moment. These are our personal favorites, all of them reliable and a good choice for anyone who wants to try out a VPN before committing to a yearly contract.
How to change your IP address with a VPN: a step-by-step guide
To make things as easy as possible, we’ll show you how to change your IP address using a VPN step-by-step. As an example, we’ll be using CyberGhost. The process of setting up your VPN is quite straightforward. To change your IP address with CyberGhost, all you have to do is follow these steps:
- Click this link to head to the CyberGhost website
- Click the button to claim the deal. You’ll automatically be redirected to the price page
- Select the contract that suits you best (monthly, yearly, etc.)
- Choose the payment method you wish to use and enter your email
- Log in on the CyberGhost website and download the VPN client that works on your operating system
- Open the installation file once the download is completed
- Go through the installation process to fully install the VPN on your device
- Open the installed VPN software
- Log in with the account you made
- Click ‘Surf anonymously‘ and turn on the VPN
As soon as the VPN has connected, your own IP address will be hidden and you’ll have taken on the IP address of your chosen VPN server. For as long as this connection stands, you’ll be able to safely and anonymously use the internet. Leave the VPN software to run in the background, and your connection will be protected.
If you want to, you can change the location of your ‘new’ IP by choosing a different server. Simply scroll through the server menu and pick the country you’d like your new IP to be situated in. By doing this wisely, you can get around geo-restrictions put up by websites, as we’ll discuss in more detail later on.
Why should you hide or change your IP address?
Hiding your IP address is a way to protect your online privacy and anonymity. Changing your IP address to another IP can greatly increase your internet freedom. Usually, hiding and changing your IP address happens in one go, for example when you use a VPN. This means you can get both the extra protection and more online access with just one solution. Change your IP, and you’ll get to:
Stop your ISP and other third parties from tracking you
Your internet service provider (ISP) and other third parties regularly track users’ online activities by way of their IP address. In the United States as well as many other countries, it’s perfectly legal for ISPs to do so. In addition to recording your online activities, your ISP may share this information with other parties. They may, for example, hand over your personal data to the government, if asked to do so. They could even sell your browsing history to advertisers in exchange for a profit.
Not only your ISP, but also websites, social media platforms and ad networks can log your online activities and browsing habits. They usually sell this data to advertising companies, so those can show you ads tailored to your specific interests. If you hide your IP address, your ISP, websites, social media and other third parties won’t be able to track you and your device as effectively any longer.
Stay secure and anonymous on (public) Wi-Fi hotspots
When using public Wi-Fi, it’s essential to take the proper precautions to keep your IP address and other personal information secure. While public Wi-Fi hotspots are extremely convenient, they are also very unsafe. Anyone on the network could see your IP address and spy on your activities. This leaves you vulnerable to cyber criminals and other people with bad intentions. Hiding your IP address is an important step towards protecting your personal information and browsing activities on an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.
Up to a certain degree, this also goes for a home network. Even your family, roommates and colleages could easily see what you’re doing online if they’re a bit tech-savvy. Whether this might not always be a problem, it could definitely make for some unfortunate circumstances. What if you found an amazing birthday present for your mother which you don’t want her to know anything about? And what if your business network doesn’t give you access to social media, but you really need to use Twitter – for whatever reason? In all of these cases, changing your IP address can help you.
Safely download torrents
Most countries around the world have laws surrounding downloads. Usually, whenever material (music, films, books) is being spread online without the owner’s permission, this is considered illegal. Some national copyright organisations are actively trying to stop this practice. Depending on where you live, downloading illegal material might result in a fine.
Moreover, downloading anything can be dangerous, as hackers and malicious torrents could use your IP address to keep track of all your downloads. This information can be used in all sorts of illegal ways. Cyber criminals could send you a ‘fake fine’, pretending to be an official organisation fighting for copyright while they’re actually just after your money. Even if you’ve downloaded something completely legally, they could still try to squeeze money out of you by threatening to reveal your downloaded files to the public – something you might really want to avoid.
With these cyber criminals and organisations keeping track of your online activity, chances are you want to win some of your privacy back. You can do this by using a VPN to hide your IP address and download safely and privately.
Get around geo-restrictions
A popular reason some users change their IP address is because it helps them access geo-restricted content. This includes websites and streaming services (or specific content on those services) that are only available in certain countries. For example, streaming services such as Hulu and HBO GO are only available to users in the United States. However, if a user based in the UK wants to access these services, they can get around this regional restriction by masking their true IP address and changing it to a US one. This is most commonly done with a VPN, which you can program to transmit your data through a server based in another country. Your IP address would then appear to originate from another country.
Bypass government censorship
In some countries, such as China and Iran, strict (online) government censorship is widespread. These governments typically restrict access to a great deal of content and closely watch their citizens’ online activities. They aim to control media and news outlets so they can influence their populace. You can get around these restrictions and prevent the government from spying on you by changing your IP address. If you use a VPN to mask your true IP address, the government won’t be able to see what you’re doing online.
How do I hide or change my IP address?
There are a couple of ways to hide or change your IP address. Some of these are far more secure than others. To give you the best overview, we’ll be discussing the most common options for masking your IP address, comparing them to each other as we go.
Invest in a high-quality VPN
As we’ve already suggested in other sections of this article, the most secure way to hide your IP address is to use a high-quality VPN service. A VPN is a secure network connection that transmits your data through remote servers. Moreover, a VPN encrypts your data, adding an extra layer of security. When you connect to a VPN, your real IP address is hidden and you take on the IP address of one of your VPN provider’s remote servers instead. Third parties will only see the VPN server’s IP address, making it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to trace your data traffic back to you.
If you want to start using a VPN, you can simply purchase one from a reputable provider, as we’ve described above. Aside from CyberGhost, there are many other great VPN-providers, such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
Use a proxy server
Proxy servers are another method you can use to hide or change your true IP address. An important fact to mention, however, is that proxies don’t have any of the security features most VPNs have. A proxy is a type of server that functions as an intermediary between users and the internet. When using a proxy, all your online requests will be sent through the proxy server. The proxy then forwards your requests to the web server you’re trying to reach. During this process, the proxy changes some of your data, including your IP address. The proxy’s server will have an IP address of its own. Since all of your data is sent through there, this IP will be sent out to the rest of the web, instead of yours.
Proxies are often used to access region-restricted content, especially when it comes to streaming services. However, it’s best to use proxy servers only when doing low stake tasks, because they don’t encrypt your data and can’t prevent third parties from accessing it. When you use a proxy, your ISP and other third parties can still monitor what you’re doing online. In short: proxies can be very useful to get around geo-restrictions, but should not be used for torrenting files or other privacy-sensitive activities.
Download the Tor browser
Another option to conceal your real IP address is by installing the Tor browser. Tor is a free browser you can use to surf the internet anonymously. It encrypts your data and then routes it through different servers (Tor nodes) all across the world. This makes it much harder for others to trace your online activities. The Tor browser also hides your IP address so other parties can’t see it. One drawback is that it only encrypts internet traffic within its browser, so it doesn’t protect you as completely as a VPN would. In addition, since your data is routed through many different servers, your browsing experience is likely to be considerably slower, unlike when using a top-tier VPN.
Connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot
A final method to use if you want to hide the IP address of your private internet connection, is to connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot instead. Although this can help you mask your true private IP address, it’s a very risky tactic. In this situation, you take on the Wi-Fi network’s IP address instead of your usual one. However, as we’ve previously mentioned, the majority of public Wi-Fi hotspots are far from safe, so anyone using the same network could be looking into your online activities. If they wanted, they could even intercept your data. While it’s true you can hide your real IP address by connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, this makes you incredibly vulnerable to hackers. If you use public Wi-Fi, we would therefore always advise you to do so with a VPN to protect you.
If you don’t protect your IP-address, governments, the websites you visit, your ISP and even the people using the same network could be looking into your data traffic at any time. If you don’t like this idea, it’s wise to hide your IP address. This is also the case if you think you don’t have anything to hide. What you’re doing online simply isn’t anyone’s business but yours.
Moreover, changing your IP comes with a couple of nice benefits. You could, for example, use a VPN to get access to blocked websites or geo-specific content. Similarly, changing your IP-address will make it much harder for your ISP to track you or spy on you, and it will also keep advertisers from accessing your data. When it comes to hiding and changing your IP address, a VPN is by far the most secure and effective method. By investing in a reputable VPN service, you can conceal your IP address and maintain the highest levels of privacy and security whenever you’re online.