Every device that is connected to the internet has a unique IP address. Using this IP address, websites can identify the specific device that is sending them content request. The IP address also reveals other important information such as the specific location of the device and the name of the ISP. The websites or apps that you access on your device can see its IP address. This information allows them to improve user experience. For example, by simply looking at your IP address, a news website can figure out your location and show locally relevant news to you.
Some applications and surveillance agencies also use the IP address to target specific individuals. Your IP address reveals your identity. By simply targeting your IP, they can keep a tab on your online activities. Advertisers can target your IP address, monitor your online activities, and send targeted ads to your device. If you are into torrenting, copyright holders can target your IP address and send you settlement letters. Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix use your IP address to decide whether you can access their content or not. Netflix US content is only available in the US. So if you send Netflix a content request from a non-US IP address, they will simply refuse to load their content on your browser.
As you can see, there are several disadvantages of showing your true IP address. If you are concerned about your online privacy and security, you should hide your IP address. This requires a proxy. There are several different types of proxies but they all serve the same purpose. They send your internet traffic through a server in another country or city. This way, the websites that you access on your device cannot see your real IP address. What they see is the IP of the server.
The easiest way to hide your IP address is to use a VPN. A VPN is a type of proxy. It sends your traffic through an encrypted tunnel and thus protects it from prying eyes. The VPN also encrypts the incoming traffic before it reaches your device. As a result, no one can monitor your online activities or see your IP.
VPNs have servers in different parts of the world. When you connect to a VPN, you can choose any one of these servers. A server in the US will have a US IP address. Likewise, a server in Germany will have a German IP address. When you connect to a German server, the websites on the internet or your ISP cannot see your actual IP address. What they see is a German IP address and they will assume that you are in Germany. This way, the VPN prevents government agencies, hackers, advertisers, and ISPs to target you.
It is easy to set up a VPN on your device. Some devices have built-in support for VPNs. Alternatively, you can install a third-party app on the device. VPNs use several protocols for encrypting your traffic. L2TP/IPSec and PPTP are the most popular encryption protocols; however, PPTP is not as safe as L2TP.
How to get started with a VPN
Sign up for a VPN company of your choice. Some of our favorites include:
Most VPNs have dedicated clients for Windows, Android, and iOS. Install the client on your device, sign in, select a server and connect.
Popular VPNs use shared IP addresses to make it impossible for anyone to identify their users. A shared IP is used by hundreds or thousands of users. This makes your surfing sessions anonymous. However, some websites can easily spot shared IPs and may block them altogether. If security is more important than anonymity for you, you can choose a private dedicated IP address. A handful of VPNs provide this option as well.