Hiding your IP address
Whenever you access something on the internet, the site/service you’re accessing will receive your IP address. An IP address is a location identifier, think of it as the digital version of longitude & latitude coordinates on a map.
If you consider yourself as a bit of a technophobe, let’s think of it in old money… Imagine you phone up a company and ask them to send you some goods – they need your address so they know where to send it. Computers, phones or any other device accessing the internet work in exactly the same way – you make a request and whoever you’re sending the request to needs your address so they know where to send the information.
There’s a very good chance a lot of the websites you visit are storing details of your IP address on their server. If it’s a website which requires login then not only will they have your IP address but they’ll also store that against your login credentials and possibly personal details too.
Now, imagine you’re using your WiFi at home… Every time your device accesses the internet it’s sending details of your home address to the server it’s accessing. Ok it’s actually sending an IP Address, but that can be traced to your physical home address. This doesn’t just happen when you’re using a web browser such as Chrome or Safari, this happens every time you use the internet so that includes all the apps on your phone too.
That’s quite a scary thought isn’t it? Think of all the sites you’ve visited over the years, there’s a good chance records exist in their database which link your visit to their site along with timestamps and possibly even the specific content you’ve accessed. It’s worth noting, it’s not uncommon for websites to get hacked so that information could be in the hands of the highest bidder on the black market. It’s also worth noting, the authorities can request access to that data for certain criminal investigations.
Ok that’s proper scary stuff, what can I do?
There are a couple of fairly simple changes you can make, you can either use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or TOR (The Onion Router). You may have heard the mainstream media refer to these in a less than positive manner, often linking them to criminal activity. Well don’t worry about their scare tactics, not only are these totally legal but they’re also very simple to use. You don’t need to know the boring technical details, all you need to know is roughly what they do and how they work. If you feel the need to get more technical, feel free to post up on the forum.
Both of these have their pros and cons, please read both articles to see which is best for your needs.