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Every device that connects to the internet is assigned an internet protocol address – an IP address. Your unique IP address is kinda like a virtual license plate. To glance at it it just looks like a sequence of numbers and doesn’t immediately seem to reveal much information. However, your IP address actually reveals a lot about you: your country, your internet service provider, and your approximate location.
Because of this, many people are looking for ways of changing or obscuring their IP address. In this article, we will take a look at why people change their IP addresses and how using a proxy can enable you to do so.
What Does Your IP Reveal?
Every device needs to be assigned an IP address as part of both TCP and IP – the protocols that networks use in order to get us online. This means that it is impossible for a device to connect to the internet without being assigned an IP address.
There are numerous free services online that will enable you to see your IP address. If you haven’t done so before, we’d recommend heading to a site like tracemyip.org where you can find your IP address and also see how it can be traced to reveal your location.
Tracing an IP address back to a specific physical address usually requires more specialized tools, the exception being when you have a single remote property. In this case, you don’t need total precision to identify the source. However, in a city or built-up residential area, it’s relatively difficult to get an exact location.
Why Should I Change My IP Address?
There are two main reasons why people want to change their IP address – privacy and circumventing geographic blocks for online content.
The privacy advantage is easy enough to understand. Your naked IP address can be traced back to you. Law enforcement agencies and hackers can easily resolve an individual physical location from an IP address. Even someone with nothing but an IP address and a Google search can use a variety of services to examine that IP address and find out which ISP it is linked to, as well as the general area the connection is coming from.
Therefore, if you can alter or obscure your IP address, you will be making it significantly more difficult, albeit not impossible, to trace your online activities.
The other big motivator for people to change their IP address is that they want to access content that is region-locked. For example, the BBC’s iPlayer makes BBC TV and Radio shows available for free – if you live in the UK. If iPlayer detects a non-UK IP address, it won’t serve up content.
However, if you can change your IP address to one from the UK, iPlayer won’t be able to discern your physical location. Changing your IP address to one from a different country will have the effect of making websites and services think that is where you, or at least your device, is located.
How to Change Your IP Address?
As we stated earlier, an IP address is required for a device to go online, there’s no way of connecting to the internet without a valid IP address. Your IP address is assigned to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) as soon as you go online, so there’s no getting out of the fact that your ISP is going to assign you a local IP address.
However, with your local IP address, you can connect to the wider internet. So, if you can connect to another computer, and then have that computer connect to the website that you want to access, it will be the IP address of this intermediary that the website you connect to sees.
These devices that act as intermediaries are called proxy servers. They handle connections between you and the wider internet. Popular applications called VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) operate in the same principle, with an added layer of encryption to the connection between users and the proxy servers. However, there are a couple of reasons that a simple proxy server might be preferable to a VPN.
The main advantage of a proxy over a VPN is that a proxy can use residential IP addresses. When you connect through a VPN, your IP address will link back to the VPN’s data center (i.e. a large server that is not associated with any ISP), which websites can identify as not being a personal internet connection. That is why many VPNs get their IP addresses banned.
Finding a Proxy
Unless you know how to set up your own proxy server, you will need to use a commercial service. There are both free and paid proxy services available, but you should never use a free proxy.
Free proxy services need to make their money somehow, many of them will gather data about their users to sell on. Cheaper proxy services on the market will share server space amongst a number of users. These are known as ‘shared proxies’.
If you want to have a server all to yourself, you want a ‘dedicated proxy’. For general web browsing, a shared proxy is fine. However, if you want to take advantage of the more advanced capabilities of proxies, you’ll want to upgrade to a dedicated proxy service.
Using a proxy service in order to change your IP address will keep you safer, more secure, and more anonymous while you’re using the internet. It can also enable you to access content that would otherwise be unavailable in your location. Make sure to avoid free proxy services and stick with reputable providers with a proven track record.