To the average web surfer, all the technical jargon around VPNs can get pretty overwhelming. Thankfully, understanding how you connect to the internet and how VPNs work is easier than you might think. Read on to learn what your IP address is and how you can hide it using a VPN.
You could go your entire internet life without ever thinking or even knowing about your Internet Protocol (IP) address. That’s because it hangs out in the background with layers of technology on top of it to make the whole web browsing experience more user-friendly.
At any given time you aren’t actually connected directly to the internet. You connect to a network — often a home or office, or sometimes a public network like in a coffee shop — that’s connected to the internet via an internet service provider (ISP).
Most of the time, you connect to the network through a router, which is responsible for assigning private IP addresses to every device on the network.
This helps it route data between devices so the right content is delivered to the right place. The IP address that websites “see” is the public IP address, which is assigned by your ISP and acts as a unique identifier for your entire network. That public IP address contains information such as the ISP it belongs to and the general location of the server you’re connected to, which could be a city or zip code.
What all this means is that when you talk about hiding your IP address, you’re effectively trying to hide the network you’re connected to and all the information attached to it.
Hiding your IP address is shockingly simple: Use a VPN, or virtual private network.
When you connect to a VPN, you send encrypted requests that your ISP forwards to one of your VPN’s servers that will deliver them to their final destination. During this process, the VPN masks your public IP address behind its own so that when your requests arrive, they look like they’re coming from that server instead of from your network.
This is good news if you’re looking to access geo-restricted content; just connect to a server in the region you need to be in, and you’re good to go.
Some websites try to block access through VPNs by logging IP addresses known to belong to VPN servers.
If you’ve ever gotten a message like this, you know what I’m talking about.
This might lead you to think you should hide your VPN’s IP address as well, but that isn’t really the answer. Web traffic has to have an IP address connected to it, and traffic that flows through a VPN is no exception.
If you find that the IP address of a particular server is blocked by a website you’re trying to reach, your best options are to choose a different server or try a different VPN service.