Do you give everyone you meet your home address? We hope not. Why give millions of people around the world the chance to see your digital address?
Why Hide If You Have Nothing to Hide?
If you don’t illegally download, visit any sketchy sites, or care about access to geo-restricted content, you may be rolling your eyes right now. After all, anyone can drive past your house and decide to target it, what makes an IP address different?
Well, a house has a few nearly innate levels of privacy that an IP address does not. Curtains to keep people from seeing everything inside, for example. Who’s watching you update your Facebook status? Honestly? Everyone. That’s why an ad for the book you just looked at on Amazon pops up on your newsfeed. It’s why an ad related to the job you just applied for pops up on YouTube. Every site you visit is watching you and sharing what they learn with other sites.
When someone you don’t know is looking into your home, you close the curtain, at the very least. It’s even better to lock the door. Luckily, there are similar ways to protect your computer. There are browser extensions that hide your IP address to allow something similar anonymous browsing. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is similar to locking your front door.
How to Hide Your IP (and Keep It Hidden)
A VPN is the best way to hide your IP address and be sure it stays completely hidden. VPNs use remote servers to make your internet traffic appear to be coming from somewhere else entirely. From a couch in New York, you can choose a server in London and trick all eyes watching into believing that is where your traffic is coming from. A VPN goes a step further, scrambling the data so that these third parties may see activity coming out of the London server, but they won’t know if you’re playing Candy Crush or watching cat videos. They protect communication between all devices, so conversations with friends via e-mail are safe from prying “eyes” too.
Different VPN services have different features and range in price from around $40 to $99 annually. Some services like TunnelBear have a free plan that allows the user a certain amount of data encryption per month for free. Companies like ExpressVPN, NordVPN and Private Internet Access provide more full service protection in their VPN clients: strong encryption rates and unlimited data, P2P sharing and protected access to geo-restricted media on streaming websites.
We understand these can be expensive, especially if you have no secrets to hide. You can hide your IP with a browser extension or plugin like Hide My IP, Hide My Ass, or Windscribe. Some of these services have extra features like ad-blocking and access to geo-restricted content as well. A trustworthy service is never completely free, but some of them come with a free tier of service. Remember, these are web proxies so they only encrypt your browser traffic not all of your other applications. Web browser extensions are certainly cheaper than a full VPN service and sufficient if you have nothing to hide but your address.