You know your postal address and your phone number, but are you aware of your IP address? Probably not.
Most people are hazily aware that they have an IP address. And fewer realise how this address can be used to identify your location and the type of device you are using.
But is this a problem, and why might you want to hide this important piece of digital information? Actually, there are plenty of excellent reasons to enhance your online anonymity. And as online threats seem to get worse, remaining visible on the net seems like a risk that’s just not worth taking.
1) Hiding your IP can open up a whole new world of content
For starters, IP addresses are routinely used by online platforms to deny users access if they aren’t located in certain regions. For instance, Netflix offers different portfolios of movies and TV shows in different countries, in some cases drastically limiting viewers’ options.
Streaming fans can get around this by routing their IP address through servers – effectively anonymising their identities. And the only way to do this reliably is via a high-quality Virtual Private Network (VPN).
These apps maintain banks of servers worldwide which confer new online identities on their users. That way, they can watch all of the content hosted by streaming services. But remember: not all VPNs will deliver the anonymity users need. If you want to find a VPN you can trust, check out our Pure VPN review, or other reviews.
2) Put criminals off your scent when using public wifi
If you are familiar with mobile or laptop security, you probably realise that using unsecured public wifi networks poses a major risk. And IP addresses play a key role in how these risks work.
When you log onto an unprotected coffee shop wifi network, your IP address will be available for all members of the network to see. This provides an easy entry-point for man-in-the-middle attackers who seek to hijack your device or monitor your activity to discover login details.
Unsecured networks are also a playground for criminals who want to mount phishing attacks. These criminals seek access to your account to build profiles full of personal data, and they use these profiles to mount social engineering attacks.
In both cases, anonymised IP addresses largely neutralise the threat, especially when coupled with the encryption offered by VPNs like Avast Secureline.
Moreover, if you happen to be accessing an unsecured wifi network owned by an unsuspecting neighbour, you can easily be tracked if you don’t alter your IP address. But with an IP located in Sweden, doing so is much harder.
3) Forget about data profiling and intrusive ads
More fundamentally, hiding your IP address can make you invisible to corporate data gatherers. When we browse the web, we leave footprints everywhere. And companies use data harvest via their own websites along with tracking cookies to build marketing profiles.
Essentially, our data profiles are then monetised by corporations like Google, netting them massive profits, while giving us nothing in return. All we seem to get are pop-up adverts supposedly targeted at our interests.
At the same time, the data we leave lying around online can be provided to security agencies and used against us. Police in the UK has routinely used IP addresses to search for suspects – often with less than stellar results.
This makes it vital to have ways of concealing our paths as we browse the web. Corporations shouldn’t profit from our activity without our consent, just as governments shouldn’t be able to mount fishing expeditions. IP anonymisation makes both tactics much harder.
4) Work around censorship and other barriers
We’ve mentioned streaming geo-blockers already, but IP addresses are used in many other online blockades. Perhaps most famously, China’s authorities operate a powerful censorship barrier called the “Great Firewall of China”, limiting the websites visible to locals.
By using a VPN to reroute their IP address, Chinese internet users can often break free of these constraints, enabling them to maintain social media accounts or browse western news sources.
However, there are plenty of barriers in other parts of the world. Schools regularly block sites that students can browse; Companies may stop workers from accessing Facebook, and countries around the world have started to clamp down on torrent trackers.
Then there are geo-filters used by online booking sites. These filters adjust prices for things like hotels or flights depending on where you are – often resulting in huge differences. By using a VPN to anonymize your IP address, you can equalise things for the customer.
Find a high-quality VPN to anonymise your identity
All of these reasons make IP address anonymisation a no-brainer. It’s not just a question of staying safe or evading official surveillance. Hiding your IP address can help you access more content, or find lower prices for travel.
But we need to stress one thing. Poor quality VPNs often fail to deliver reliable IP protection. Instead, they tend to leak IP data to external observers – a major security no-no. So always opt for reputable, dependable VPNs, even if it means paying a few pounds a month. Hopefully, we’ve demonstrated that the benefits are worth it.