By Bob Gourley
Please take a quick look at our free IP address checker at IPwonk.com
That page does something very simple, it shows what IP address you are using. This use useful for many reasons. One is to confirm whether or not your proxy system is working.
There are many ways to hide your IP address. The easiest way is to use a proxy server (like the free one we offer at ProxyWonk.com), which is a computer that has been configured to offer a network service that connects computers to other networks. It works this way: Your client web browser requests information from the proxy server, and that proxy server asks the destination website for the webpage or other services.
That is the basic idea but there are several nuances and features and configurations that are possible. So this can get really complex really fast. A danger to watch for is that if things get too complex you might think that you have anonymity but flaws in configuration might have you totally visible. That is a key reason it is important to have ways to check your IP address (using IPwonk.com is a fast way to do that).
VPN Services build on the basics of a proxy server to give you something more. A VPN is a virtual private network. VPNs protect your data and identity over public networks by building encrypted tunnels that transport data securely. The goal of the VPN is to give you the protection of a private network, but for a much lower cost. Commercial grade VPNs provide users with an ability to access the VPN from anywhere and exit from gateway servers around the globe. One of the benefits is that this allows access to servers that try to block out certain regions.
Without a VPN, your ISP and every website you visit can see your IP address, your location and a great deal of information on your computer’s set up (enough to fingerprint your browser). ISPs and others can also see more, including what websites you are visiting, what videos you are watching, who you e-mail, who you chat with and what items you download and upload. With a VPN the websites you visit see the IP address of your VPN provider. And ISPs and others only see encrypted traffic.
Tor is a famous capability in this space. Tor is a a large network of proxy servers plus software you can download to run a connection to those proxies. Think of Tor as a proxy server on steroids. It can really help provide a level of anonymity to users. But Tor also has many problems. Many security systems block IP addresses that they believe are associated with Tor. And many Tor exit nodes are notorious for being riddled with malicious code.
If you need more anonymity there are a wide range of commercial companies and open source vendors providing VPN services. We recommend checking out write-ups and tips on Lifehacker before making any choices on your VPN or proxy solution, they do a great job of explaining how things work and will help you find the solution that is right for you.
After establishing your VPN return to the IPwonk IP address detector to see the difference your VPN makes. Using IPwonk.com will let you confirm whether or not your solution is really hiding your IP address.