If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear, right? The problem with that statement is - you definitely do have something worth hiding. Everyone does. Our personal information. If the digital footprint of your behaviour online wasn’t valuable, why would ISPs, governments, hackers and many other organisations and individuals have designed the entire internet to track it, watch it and sell it? Duh.
Maybe you live in a country where the government makes you want to keep your true location a secret too? The secret to taking control of all of this is simple. Those people who want to get their hands on your data associate it to you through your device’s IP (Internet Protocol) address.
It is the digital version of a postal code, which tells them exactly where on earth you are when you’re online.
That’s correct - every time you log on without a VPN connection, no matter where you are or who you are, your true location is exposed to whoever wants to find it. If that sounds like a scary idea, there are several ways to hide IP addresses, but the easiest and the best is by using a VPN.
Wherever you are in the world, we’ve all got the right to a private life. Some of us need our privacy more than others - but it’s something all of us should care about. That includes where you are physically speaking. I hide my IP because of where I live, no government needs to know exactly where I am!
Why is using a VPN to mask IP addresses the easiest and best way? Because it’s ridiculously simple and 100% effective. You can be absolutely safe in the knowledge that no one will find out your true IP address whilst you’re connected using a VPN. Here’s how:
If you’re capable of following those four simple steps, that’s it. Done. IP address hidden.
Once you’ve connected to the internet using a VPN, you are connected through one of the VPN’s servers. That means your IP address becomes the IP address of the VPN server before your ISP can track where you really are. If you’re connected to a VPN server in Stockholm, but you’re actually in Strasbourg, you appear to anyone trying to check to be in Stockholm.
That means that your ISP can’t see any of your data either, and if someone did somehow stumble across it, it would appear to be meaningless nonsense to them. Which means that your personal information stays where it should be - with you.
On top of that, any site you visit whilst connected to a VPN server won’t know you’re really somewhere else, it will just show you the same local content anyone else in the country where the VPN server is would receive. Sweet.
The truthful answer to that is yes, there are ways you can hide your IP address for free. But none of them have as little effect on your browsing experience as a VPN, or are as reliable as one.
You can use a proxy server to hide your IP, because when you connect to the internet through a proxy, your IP address becomes that of the proxy itself. But, and it’s a big but, this has a hugely negative effect on your experience of browsing the internet. Your connection will almost definitely be slowed down a lot, and your traffic and data won’t be encrypted at all, which means even if your IP is hidden, your browsing activity is still available to be tracked and monitored.
Tor is the browser most commonly associated with the dark web, and because of that, it’s also associated with criminal activity. When you log on with Tor, your traffic is encrypted and rerouted, meaning your IP is hidden, and every time you access a new website your traffic is rerouted again, so your behaviour online is quite well disguised too. But, and again, it’s a big but, the reason everyone doesn’t use Tor is because it’s unreliable. It can be slow, it is known for crashing and most importantly - a lot of websites block access to users who come to them through a Tor browser.
When you log on to wifi at a friend’s house, or unencrypted public wifi, your IP will temporarily change to the IP of the wifi you’re connected to. So when you’re out and about, it will change often, whereas at home it’s always the same. The problem with public wifi connections is how easy they are to fake, by hackers who want you to connect to “Free Wifi 1” so that they can steal your private information. And you need to be at home sometimes, so this isn’t the most reliable way to hide IP.