My 3/14/10 Missoulian column
Over the last few months, I’ve covered different aspects of online privacy while using a Web browser, such as cookies and private browsing features.
But there are other privacy implications of using the Web that private browsing modes and cookie management don’t help with. One of those concerns involves IP addresses, a numerical address that identifies your computer to all others on the Internet.
If you really want to (or need to) cover your tracks online and retain the most privacy, you need to conceal your own IP address.
Sometimes a computer’s IP address doesn’t point directly back to a particular computer, especially if you’re on a network or on dial-up at home. But if you have what’s called a “static” address with cable or DSL broadband, you likely have a unique IP address.
The easiest method to conceal your IP address is to use a Web proxy. It’s a Web site that serves as an intermediate step to the Web site you’re really interested in. A proxy takes your Web site request and displays that Web site inside a frame in the browser.
But the difference is that the Web site you want will see a request from an IP address of the Web proxy service, rather than your own IP. Web proxies are located all over the world, so your IP will look like it’s from somewhere else.
To start using a proxy service, just go to a proxy’s Web site and follow the instructions. One popular proxy is the aptly named HideMyAss.com. Google Web proxy to find more.
Now, keep in mind that you are only mostly covering your tracks. Your amount of privacy depends on the proxy itself. Proxy services come and go, and some retain IP addresses for a period of time anyway.
And some Web sites won’t work through a proxy, because those Web sites are programmed to detect proxy users and refuse connections.
Beyond the personal privacy, Web proxies help people get around government or business restrictions on Web browsing. But hackers also use proxies to obscure their own IP addresses when making attacks.
This week in Mac Q & A: Moving Microsoft Outlook Email to Thunderbird