You have an IP address if you are reading this. Your IP (Internet Protocol) address is simply a series of numbers separated by dots (or octets) that represent where you are, or "what network" you are originating traffic from. Now, you might be behind a firewall - which means you have a NATed IP address, in fact all computers behind your NAT firewall will have the same public facing IP. But none-the-less, you have an IP that anyone can find and reverse to usually your physical location, and sometimes even access into your computer.
Let's assume here that you aren't a conspiracy theorist and you aren't wanting to hide from the shadow government you feel is stalking you. But you understand how important security is and want to take every possible precaution possible to make sure you aren't giving anyone your private information, or giving hackers the ability to spy on you.
The following 10 ideas highlight why you might want to consider hiding or "masking" your IP address from the world. They come to us from NordVPN, who wants you to know why it’s important.
1.) To browse websites without disclosing identity. When a user hides their IP by using encryption, all their Internet browsing activity becomes invisible.
2.) To access to streaming from any location. It’s sometimes impossible to access favorite shows when on vacation in another country, simple because they are geo-blocked and access is denied. Hiding an IP through a VPN allows to connect to the desired country’s server and to enjoy the entertainment as if streaming from home.
3.) To stay safe from snoopers looking to access information. There might be many snoopers lurking around - including advertisers and, more dangerously, hackers. Hiding the real IP address gives a great layer of protection online, because the real physical location is disguised.
4.) To protect oneself when using a Wi-Fi hotspot. Public Wi-Fi networks are unsecured and open to everyone. Using a VPN service allows to be anonymous while logging into an unprotected network, where hackers could be lurking, waiting to steal personal identities and financial information.
5.) To access websites that are not available to the geographic location of the IP address. For example, Facebook and Google are blocked in China; LinkedIn and many other sites are blocked in Russia; many YouTube videos are not available in Germany. Hiding an IP address and anonymously connecting to another country through a VPN allows to access content not available in that particular physical location.
6.) To bypass school or workplace restrictions. Sometimes, a school or workplace will place restrictions on certain sites - but that can be easily bypassed by hiding the IP address through a VPN.
7.) To bypass government surveillance and Internet censorship. Most governments around the world are increasingly tightening surveillance laws. For example, UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill is giving powers for bulk hacking thousands of computers. It becomes especially dangerous if all the collected data falls into the wrong hands, such as those of hackers and fraudsters. Opening a door for government to access web browsing data and metadata makes everyone’s online activity vulnerable. Hiding the IP address allows users to hide their Internet activity from government surveillance.
8.) To hide Internet activity from ISP (Internet Service Provider). Often Internet Service Providers are obligated to track and hold on to data that users generate online. There are also several Internet providers have been known to track, collect and even sell customer data to third parties or use it for their own promotional purposes. Hiding the IP address will keep information private and inaccessible.
9.) To keep private searches private. Search engines track and store data on user’s online activity. The search history can be easily backtracked by any other user who logs into the same computer. It’s important to clear cookies after every browsing session while using a VPN service.
10.) To enjoy Internet freedom. When World Wide Web was created in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, its purpose was for the web technology to be available to everyone, always. Creativity, innovation, education, communication and exchange of ideas are inseparable from the freedom the Internet offers, and everyone should be able to enjoy it without any restrictions. Hiding the IP would guarantee the privacy and right to expression online.