So you’re looking for a way to go into stealth mode when downloading files. Or maybe even when just doing some normal browsing. Let me be the first one to say that’s a great idea! Your IP address, that seemingly innocent series of numbers, can easily be used to figure out who and where you are. It can also be used to track you regardless of where you go or what you do on the internet. If you stop and think about it, that is a very scary thing.
What’s even scarier is that the vast majority of people know nothing about this, and of those that do, many see no harm in it. You and I, however, are different. We want to protect ourselves while we’re online. And since we easily can, why wouldn’t we?
How to Hide My IP Address
There are three primary methods you can use to mask your IP, and some of them work better than others.
A VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, is by far my preferred way to hide my IP address.
The mechanics behind this method are straightforward. You first download a client application from the VPN provider and install it on your computer or mobile device. Then, you simply use that client to connect to a VPN server. Once connected, all data you send or receive is going to be funneled through the VPN server. It will then be the server’s IP address, not yours, that everyone out on the public internet will see.
In addition to keeping your IP address hidden, a VPN will also encrypt all of your transferred data. This protects you from hackers, your internet service provider and other corporations snooping for information. Encryption also does a great job against government agencies and any potential surveillance.
When you connect to a VPN server, you are able to pick the location that you want your new IP address to based out of. Think of it as a virtual vacation. This gives you the ability to “move” to another state or another country as you wish. It will allow you to access websites or services that may be blocked in your country. It will also let you bypass any government imposed censorship.
VPN services are quite inexpensive and typically run about $5 a month. They are a highly effective way of masking your information and are my personal favorite way to hide my IP address. Some of the more popular choices include HideMyAss, PureVPN and Private Internet Access.
Another great way to hide your IP address while downloading, along with any other internet habits you may have, is the Tor network.
Before your internet data ever reaches its final destination, Tor will first tunnel and bounce it around the world through volunteer networks that consist of over 6,000 relays. While this may sound rather confusing, all you need to know is that Tor is one of the most secure and confidential ways of accessing the internet. Not only is your data encrypted, but it also randomly hops all over the world, making it very tough to track. Another huge plus to be considered is that Tor is 100% free to use.
There are, however, a few disadvantages to using Tor. First, for many inexperienced users, it may be complicated to set up. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Tor is slow (especially when compared to VPNs). Using it should be mostly fine for your run-of-the-mill daily browsing. But, if you plan on downloading large files, or binge watching some out of country Netflix, you may be in for a bumpy ride. Tor is available to download for free at the Tor Project.
The third method of hiding your IP address is through the use of a proxy service. This is a very popular method because it is easy to use and can be free. Unfortunately, it is not even close to being your best option.
While proxies work similar to a VPN, they do not have the ability to encrypt data and are strictly browser-based. When you use a proxy, all browser data is directed through a server that acts as a gateway between your computer and the internet. The traffic that passes through the proxy is not going to be encrypted unless you are on a website which uses HTTPS. This means anyone with some decent technical knowledge and tools can easily find your location or the sites you have visited.
A good number of proxies are also free, meaning a lot of people use them. This, in turn, makes them quite slow. Paid alternatives do fare better in that respect.
Ultimately, I would not recommend using a proxy to hide your IP unless you are out of other options. If you do insist on using one, go with a paid service. BuyProxies.org is a provider I have use in the past with good results. With a paid proxy your data still won’t be encrypted, but at least your internet connection speed shouldn’t suffer too much.
And there you have it. You are now in the know on how to change your IP address and hide both your downloading and other online habits from prying eyes. Of the three methods, I would hands down recommend going with a good VPN service. You can find my guide to the top providers here. Start now. Why delay protecting yourself online when it can be this easy.