People have a variety of reasons for wanting to surf the Net with anonymity. If you thought all this time that you have had anonymity simply because you were the only person home while surfing.. you’d be mistaken. Some people are concerned because they may be researching to do a book or term paper and might need to visit sensitive websites on topics such as bombs, terrorism, crime, murder, etc. Other people have little to no trust in the government’s use of their net-activity and want to be as anonymous as possible, careful to not leave a digital-trail behind them. Some people have relocated to remain safe from a stalker and wish to keep their whereabouts unknown. And still others want to remain hidden so as to commit fraud or deception of some kind.
“Can a person trace my IP address and find me at my home?“
The bottom line is ‘No’.. unless they have a court-ordered subpoena. Your IP address only tells what Server you are using to connect to the Net. Chances are it is from a city as much as 60 miles away from your home in any given direction. However, once it is known who you get your Net service from (AOL, Verizon, DSL-Extreme, TimeWarner, etc).. police can apply for a subpoena with a judge and, if there is sufficient cause for a legal search regarding a crime.. go to your internet provider with the subpoena and have access to who used that IP address on specific dates. That leads them to your account, which has all the info you gave your ISP (Internet Service Provider.. the company you get your internet connection from.).. when you signed up for service.
It has been a grey area when it comes to keeping a back-log of what sites you have been visiting for an extended time. Some legislators want ISPs to keep records on up to two years of your internet activity. People for privacy are opposed to this and have said they will cut service to any ISP doing this voluntarily. That leaves ISPs stuck in the middle until possible new laws mandate otherwise. My opinion is it will either fall under jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Act or else a quagmire over Constitutional rights regarding illegal search and seizure (of information) on a citizen.
“How Is My Net Activity Monitored?“
When you use various websites, send an email or order something online your IP address is usually recorded by the receiving site. It is also recorded by your email server for emails. Your IP address does not trace back to your physical or home address. At least not online, which is a good thing for privacy reasons. There are two types of IP adresses.. ‘Static’ and ‘Dynamic’. These are determined by your ISP.
In the case of a Static (non-changing) IP address, the ISP provides IP allocation records to the American Registry for Internet Numbers (www.arin.net), the non-profit organization responsible for managing Internet numbering resources in North America. Chances are, as a home user you do not have a Static IP unless you requested one. If you own a website, a person can use the WHOIS search in the upper-right corner to see the info you entered when you signed up for your domain. GoDaddy offers a privacy service which hides your ownership information on a domain hosted with them.
In the case of a Dynamic(variable-changing) IP address, you are assigned an IP that will remain the same for the most part, but may change without notice due to ISP user demands, power-outages and/or physical disconnection of your modem/router at your home. If you are curious to see your own IP address, try this link; IP Address Lookup to look up your IP address. As you will notice, the information points not to your home address, but instead to the address/location of the server used by your internet provider to give you your connection.
A way you can use this info for your protection is when you have a questionable email. If a person is sending you an email, say.. a penpal or dating service, and they claim they are currently in Florida.. you can check their email IP address to see what city/state they are logged in from. Just use the link above and if it comes up that they are located in Nigeria, Africa or some other continent.. you know something is amiss. You can get the IP address from an email by clicking on the ‘Show Header’ button of your email program. The sending IP address will be listed there.
“How Can I Change or Hide My IP Address?”
Changing your IP Address — The easiest way to see IF your ISP will allow your Dynamic address to be changed is to simply un-plug the power from your Modem and Router. Depending on your IP’s demand rate and protocols, when they see you are not using that IP number they will assign it to someone else.. a new customer perhaps. This could happen as quickly as in 10-15 minutes of being “powered-down”. Simply re-connect the electrical power to your Modem.. let it boot.. then give power to your Router and it will reconfigure a new IP address (IF..) yours was given away. A more sure method is to do the same procedure OVERNIGHT, plugging back in after 8 hours or so.
Hiding your IP Address — There are several sites who offer this service as both a free and pay service. They will act as a ‘Proxy’ each time you visit a site or do anything on the Net. Once in place, when you click on or enter a URL to visit a website.. instead of your ‘click’ going straight to the site, it first goes to your Proxy (the site hiding your IP). They, in turn, auto-route your request to one of their random servers (often in other countries) before then passing along your request to the site you wanted. By doing this, the other site thinks someone is visiting from say, London-England when in fact you are located in Burbank-California.
As you can guess, this adds a few milliseconds or so to your speed in getting to a site.. but at least you can now hide your location, ISP, etc from them. This might be useful for those wishing to do research on say, terrorism, without worrying that a list of government-sensitive sites are showing up on your ISP account. By paying for the Proxy service they often will add a faster connection and transparent experience, making things better for you. The free version will be slower and often involve pop-up ads to pay for the service. Three of the most popular Proxy services are;
“Can I use a Proxy service to make multiple listings to Craigslist?“
About ten years ago.. yes, today.. no. Craigslist got hip to who the major proxy servers are and will refuse processing a listing if it comes from that ‘blacklist’. If anyone knows of a Proxy who has successfully managed to evade detection by Craigslist, send me a comment or email and I will add them here. But otherwise, CList has gotten hip to this. HOWEVER.. that is not to say there isn’t a way, it is simply a bit inconvenient and time-consuming.
Thus far we’ve been talking about DSL/Fios connections. Thanks to dinosaur-technology, when it comes to Dial-Up internet service.. you get a new IP number each time you disconnect. Starting to see it now? 🙂 A person with a dial-up connection could, feasibly, make a listing via one email account.. then log-off the internet connection. They would then have to log back on.. enter Craigslist from a DIFFERENT email account/password and enter their next listing.. AND have enough changes in the wording of the Ad-listing so that it didn’t get caught by Craigslist as a duplicate. Even if Craigslist doesn’t see an identical IP.. it will then check for identical or similar text as a means of detecting multiple postings. Also know that if Craigslist sniffs you out, they may ‘blacklist’ your IP address thus making it impossible to post any more to their site, no matter what email account you use. The only solution, if that happens, is to change your IP address. (see above on how to do that)
“What about logging in at an Internet Cafe, Cyber-cafe or Starbucks?“
While this works in the movies, there’s one thing they usually make no mention of.. the video cameras. Most of these public places have video surveillance simply for security/theft reasons but also for assisting local police so as to protect the legal owners of the cafe. Recently a man who was logging in at a Starbucks after using a hidden camera in the ladies room was caught simply by going through the video for that day and noticing he used his Debit Card at the register to buy a coffee. His card was traced and he was arrested at his home.. much to his surprise, I am sure.
There is a way around everything mentioned here so that a person could log-in.. do what they want online.. and leave without a digital trace. But at this point I will not get into that as it is more likely a criminal would want such instruction rather than a person simply concerned over privacy so.. just know that, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And I’ll just leave it at that.
I hope you find this useful. Play safe.. have fun and be careful out there.
p.s. You might also be interested in this article;
Author: Henry The PC Guy
Since 1983, Henry The PC Guy has been working with the most basic of computers and continued to today’s Win10 operating system. From 2007 until 2012 was the owner/operator of ‘Up&Running PC Repair’ in Southern California until moving to a life in the Philippines in 2012. He has been building websites since 1993 and is well versed in various aspects of blogging, vlogging and podcasting.