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There are a few ways to hide your IP address, but you probably don't need to.

This question is commonly asked because of concerns about privacy or communicating anonymously. Armed with your IP address, a remote server can match it with a geographic location, or a person or organization can ask your ISP (Internet service provider) for information about which subscriber was assigned that address at the time of your activity.

Before answering the question, let's consider the role of IP addresses. An Internet Protocol address is a number that uniquely identifies any device on the Internet. When you contact a remote server, by clicking on a link on a web page for example, you're making your computer request some data from the server. Just as your computer knows where to send your request by the server's IP address, similarly, the server must use your IP address to send an answer back to you.

In this respect, IP addresses are like addresses on postal mail. If you don't include any return address on a letter, or when ordering from a mail-order merchant, the correspondent or merchant will have no way to get an answer back to you or send you your item. Or, if you use a false return address, the reply will go there instead of to you. Thus, while it is possible to falsify the IP address on your packets, you're unlikely to have any use for such a hack.

You can hide your IP address. In the physical world, you can have a package sent to a friend and then pick it up from him/her, concealing your address from the sender. Likewise, on the Internet, you can use a proxy, i.e. relay your communications through another device. Then, from the remote computer's point of view, the request comes from the IP address of the proxy, and it sends the response there and does not "see" your computer's IP address, but the proxy relays the responses to you.

You can find a proxy server available for use, either free or by subscription, by using your favorite web search page. To use a proxy server for web surfing, you would enter its address in the appropriate box in your browser's settings. Then, any remote computers you connect to will see the proxy's IP address instead of yours.

The problem with this from a privacy point of view is whether you can "trust" the proxy. Your ISP will be recording the fact that you connect to the proxy's address, and the proxy server itself can log your activities. Also note that free proxies are usually not intended for use with high-bandwidth traffic such as video or music.

Another way to be untraceable online is to use an open wireless access point where you don't have to log in. These are rarely offered intentionally, however. To stay within the law, and ethics, you must not make use of someone else's Internet connection without their permission.

If your purpose is to participate in file sharing without getting in trouble for copyright infringement, concealing your IP address is unlikely to be a realistic approach. You will have to look at file sharing sites for more information on that topic.

If you want to hide your IP address to evade a ban at a forum, or to do something illegal, please reconsider your activities instead of seeking help here. If your purpose is to communicate without being subjected to political persecution, look into Tor, which amounts to a trustworthy proxy for this purpose. If your concern is to avoid being tracked from site to site by advertisers, you can counter such tricks by refusing cookies, scripts and images from certain sites.

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • Well, there is increasing use of ip trackers to determine where the computer accessing the internet web site is located. For instance, Companies who have franchises overseas, want people who need to access parts information, to use the franchise in taht Country rather than buy parts more cheaply. I was recently in the UK and tried to buy a part for a machine made in the USA. I could not access the *.com web site and was redirected automatically to the *.co.uk web site. Also my son who lives in London wanted to buy clothes from Ab & Fi but could only access the UK site from the UK. When I checked the site in the US and we compared process, it was apparent that the cost of the items in the UK had been adjusted upwards! Probably because of the high value of the GBP against the dollar. When I checked into the pages, both used an ip tracker to determine where the access to their site was made.

    2007-10-30 17:52:31

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by swhx7 See Profile edited by JMGullett See Profile
last modified: 2007-06-11 16:35:00