Anonymous IP Browsing: Types, Risks, and Detection
Anonymous IP tools obfuscate your identity and location. Use one, and the host server may know very little about who and where you are.
Think of your IP address as your device's fingerprint. A server can tap into that data point and learn critical information, such as where you are located, how often you've visited before, and what other sites you've seen. An anonymous server makes that research difficult or impossible.
What is an anonymous IP address used for?
The internet runs on trust. Visitors promise that they are who they claim to be, and servers agree to scrape just the information they need to operate.
Unfortunately, both parties can violate that trust. An anonymous IP browser can perpetrate some violations, and that same tool can be used to retaliate.
These main anonymous server uses exist:
- Manipulation: An anonymous IP browser connected to a bot farm can make a website or digital ad seem very popular. Clicks seem to come from all over the globe, even when they originate from one hacker's company.
- Censorship workarounds: Almost every country, including the United States, allows companies to block access by location. If you live in China, for example, you may not be allowed to visit some social media channels. An anonymous IP address helps you skirt that problem.
- Privacy: Many people believe companies know too much about them. For example, 44 percent of Americans think digital advertising is invasive. Anonymous IP browsing blocks data collection.
- Theft: Hackers use anonymous IP addresses in their crimes. They might block locations to keep victims from understanding where the attack begins. They might also block locations to make an attack seem like legitimate traffic.
Note that some anonymous IP addresses uses are legitimate. But the same tool you use to protect yourself could quickly be used against you.
Types of anonymous IPs
You can't open a browser window and ask your system to block your IP address. In most cases, you must purchase a tool that makes obfuscation easy.
These types of anonymous IP tools exist:
- Hosting: Your web-hosting company creates proxies you and your employees can use.
- Proxies: You send traffic to an intermediary server that passes along your request to the server. The destination believes all traffic originates at the proxy.
- Routers: Tools such as TOR route traffic through several servers before sending it to the target.
- VPN: Virtual private networks, or VPNs, create a tunnel for communication between an authenticated user and a destination server.
Every one of these solutions anonymizes data and makes tracking difficult. But they all use a slightly different method to make that possible.
Should you use an anon IP?
Hackers almost always use anonymous IP tools to mask their attacks. If you're planning to commit a crime, you simply must use one of these methods. But what if you're a standard user that just wants a bit of privacy?
Anonymous IP browsing helps you reduce the risks involved with intrusive advertising. Servers don't know who you are, where you are, or what you've done. For some people, this is enough to make the tools valuable.
But anon IP tools do come with risks, including:
- Trust. You must partner with a company to screen your identity, and some don't do a good job. It can be difficult to find a company that truly protects your privacy.
- Price. No anonymous IP address tools are completely free.
- Suspicion. Use a tool like this for standard browsing, and your legitimate traffic can look like hacking.
You must balance the benefits and risks before you decide if this solution is right for you.
How to use an anonymous server
Every product and solution comes with different rules and regulations. But most follow a basic protocol.
To use anon IP tools, you must sign into the tool before you hop on the web. You can't assume that your location is blocked unless you're actively connected through the tool you've chosen.
Remember that the method you choose may not be 100 percent reliable. Consider VPNs. While many companies consider VPNs core security tools, they can be breached. Read our whitepaper about that topic to find out more.
The Web Really Isn't Worldwide. Every Country Has Different Access. (December 2018). The Conversation.
Consumer Attitudes Toward Digital Advertising 2021. (July 2021). eMarketer.
Do You Trust Your VPN? Are You Sure? (February 2019). Slate.
Anonymous Web Hosting: Top Options to Protect Your Identity. (September 2021). Cybernews.