The concept of anonymity on the Internet is a sliding scale. Can you make up a fake name, fake email address, and fake life story on a multitude of websites? Sure. But there is always one little tell, that pesky IP address permanently attached to all of your web activities. So how can you legitimately employ the "invisibility cloak" of IP address masking, and is it really necessary to prevent privacy attacks?
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First, most users do not need to worry about IP masking to protect personal files and computers from hackers. Why? Well, most elite hackers are not going to take the time and effort to break into personal computers because it isn't worth the pay off in information or bragging rights. True threats to personal identity, or malware attacks use more legitimate ways of attacking computers, like email attachments or riders on legitimate downloads.
If you happen to frequent websites that are notorious for spyware and adware, IP address masking can help in the crusade against tracker cookies and keyloggers. However, many of these websites, like gaming and social networking sites rely on legitimate cookies to provide functionality and speed. Employing IP masking may unintentionally bar you from accessing these favorite sites altogether, or significantly hamper performance.
An IP address stands for Internet Protocol, and creates a virtual "location and identity" of your computer for data transfers. Data transfers, also called package transfers, are what make the Internet work. Most people rely on their Internet Service Provider (ISP) to assign an IP address. The only true way to hide this IP address from the world is to use a proxy service.
A proxy service allows you to login, and then surf the Internet using their IP address. There is a danger to this practice because while it will allow you to possibly override access restrictions based on your country or state location, as a user you are still responsible for your actions. Just because there is a way, doesn't mean it's legal. Using IP address masking to engage in illegal activities, download copyrighted material, or access websites legally barred from dealing with your country is not a safe way to get around laws and restrictions. Once traced back to the proxy service, a quick subpoena of user names is all it takes to follow the crumb trail back to you.
Another problem with proxy services for IP masking is it places an extraordinary amount of trust into one company by an individual. Proxy services act as a type of filter, and now there is a centralized location of all actions you take on the web. While most proxy service companies claim to not track their users' online behavior, it may still know when you are using IP address masking to access areas you are not otherwise permitted to go.
Overall, if you cannot access a website due to your IP address, you really shouldn't try to work around the restriction. Few websites employ htaccess (Hypertext Access) restriction files unless it is absolutely necessary for the management of the site. Online protection is more a reality with professional malware monitors like Paretologic's security offerings than with IP address masking. The true threats to privacy are the openings granted to your computer from email and downloads, not someone attempting a difficult hack with your IP address information.