One important thing about the internet is that you may be effectively broadcasting your location to any website you visit. That is if you browse it without any protection and if they care to check. And a lot of them do!
When you connect to the internet from a computer, it communicates something called a public IP address. Necessary for traffic between your computer and the computer which hosts the website you visit. The problem is that the real public IP address you have can give away your location quite precisely.
To test how precisely, please go to the following website, click on Show Location and then come back here: DNSChecker
Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
You have seen multiple locations there, determined based on various IP to Location databases. Some may be more accurate than others. While it is only an estimation of your address, quite often it can be scarily accurate.
What is the solution for this?
There are a few different solutions, but the best one is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service. Your computer connects to a server from the VPN provider. Then you connect to anything on the internet through that providers’ server. In terms of IP address, then everyone on the other end will see that VPN provider’s IP address, which doesn’t give any truly identifying location information.
Of course, the VPN provider that you use needs to be trustworthy, and it needs to perform well. You can search online for ratings and reviews of the best options. I am a satisfied customer of Private Internet Access, but when my subscription renewal comes up, I also plan to give a proper evaluation to ProtonVPN.
Once you have chosen a VPN provider, make sure that you install their application on all your devices (computers, tablets, smartphones). Also, configure it in such a way that it will automatically connect and protect you. It should be simple to do or even the default option for most good providers.
Benefits of a VPN
Hiding your real IP address (and location) is not the only benefit of using a VPN. There are several other significant benefits:
- encrypts your internet traffic end to end between your computer and any websites that you access
- makes it way more difficult for others to track your browsing activity
- you can access many websites which block users in your country
Provides end to end encryption
With such encryption, if anyone intercepts your internet traffic, they won’t be able to make any sense of it. For example, when you log in to your online banking, if someone gets access to your internet connection, they could intercept your username and password after you submit it before it even gets to that website.
You are especially exposed to this if you are on public Wi-Fi or some other shared internet connection. It’s pretty hard to do for your home connection. Through a VPN though you are pretty safe.
Obscures tracking of your browsing activity
When you browse through a VPN, this doesn’t directly block the tracking activity that is done by Facebook, Google, or many others. But when they collect the tracking information, it is associated with the IP of the VPN server, which may be used by thousands of customers, so it’s harder to link it directly to you.
To block such tracking activity completely, we need to look at other tools as well, which is a topic for another blog post.
Access websites blocked in your country
Another great benefit is that if there is some web content that blocks users from your country, there is a good chance that you will be able to circumvent this blocking through your VPN provider. When you connect with the VPN, you can choose a different country, and then any website will view you as coming from that country.
Not a 100% foolproof solution, because certain websites (like Netflix) will actively try to detect and block any VPN traffic, precisely to not allow such circumvention. But it should work fine for you in many cases.
I hope that by now, I have convinced you that using a VPN service is essential for your privacy and protection on the internet. A lot of the available services have free tiers or trials, and the paid versions as well are very reasonably priced for the value that you are getting.
I wish you all the best and safe browsing!