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Does your IP address betray you to data-harvesters?

Julie Sartain | July 22, 2013
In today's world of hackers, stalkers, and cybercriminals, not to mention government spy programs and commercial sites that collect data about you in order to target ads, does your IP address rat you out to these information-gatherers?

"The greatest danger here, in my opinion, is from malware such as toolbars and other downloaded utilities that can secretly and systematically collect information and interfere with communications," cautions Andrew Frank, research vice president at Gartner. "IT professionals should prioritize malware prevention and home users should enforce basic rules about not opening unknown email attachments, how to identify suspicious sites, and regular use of a virus protection service. IT professionals concerned about this should talk to their ISP about proxy services and other privacy protection methods that may be available. And last, concerned citizens should support common-sense privacy options that give them choice and control over tracking and targeting, but should recognize that illegal tracking is unlikely to be curtailed by any new privacy laws."

How to mask your IP address
In addition to caution regarding how much personal information you disclose on the Internet, you can further protect your privacy by hiding or masking your IP address. The easiest and most effective solutions are anonymous proxy servers or VPN software and services. An anonymous proxy server functions as a liaison between your home network or computer and the Internet. It requests information, on your behalf, using its own IP address instead of yours, so only the proxy's IP address is revealed instead of your home IP address.

VPN protection generally requires that you download a software product that works with the company's VPN services, which bounce your connections around the globe through various distributed networks. These virtual tunnels burrow through the Internet landscape creating a random path, which thwarts traffic analysis.

If you search for proxy servers,' VPN services,' or hide my IP address,' note that dozens of products are available; some free and some with fees. The Tor Project is a free "onion routing project" that was originally designed for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, which provides multiple privacy services including IP protection. Fee-based VPN products include Private Internet Access, Hotspot Shield, Banana VPN, Black Logic, and Unblock Us. Free proxy services include Hide My Ass and Mega Proxy, and fee-based services include Proxy Solutions and AllAnonymity.


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