So-called IP Hiders

There is a lot of talk and questions about IP hiding.  IP hiding is a term some folks use to refer to VPNs or proxies.  It is a way to send your Internet traffic through an intermediary server to its final destination making your traffic look like it's coming from the intermediary instead of your own home computer.  There is nothing in the technical realm to "hide your IP address from someone."  You can only route your traffic through someone else's computer to make it look like it is coming from that other person. 

Now before someone calls me out on that, yes, you can do IP spoofing where it looks like your traffic is coming from someone else.  Most ISPs block that for obvious reasons.  Also, it's one-way traffic; return communications would go to the other IP address which makes it unusable in this context.

Before we get to the fun, there is a VERY important note.  The purpose of VPNs and proxies is to take your networking traffic and send it to a third party, who will then forward it to the destination on your behalf.  If you reread that quickly, you should be very, very concerned about your privacy and security.  You're sending your networking traffic to someone other than the intended recipient and you're doing it on purpose.  Those open proxy lists you see?  Yup, most of them are set up by bad guys who want to watch your networking traffic in order to grab usernames and passwords for email, Facebook, BANKS! and other places.  They're just sitting there waiting for you to voluntarily send them your login details.  And people do!  

Make damned sure you know and trust any proxy or VPN provider.  There are fakes.  Lots of fakes out there that use the name of a legitimate provider to scam people into installing their program, then they send you ads, popups, etc. if they're in a nice mood.  If they're in a mean mood, they steal your login details from your networking traffic or just go troll around on your hard drive looking for tax documents, for instance.  You DID install a program on your local computer, right?  Yup. Better make sure you trust these folks.  

I mention some vendor names below.  Be careful if you just go Google for them because you might end up on a fake site where you download and install fake software doing whatever they want.  

Now that that's out of the way, you want to know if an IP changer will make the disconnect/reconnect problems better.  Nope.  It'll make them worse.  Much, much worse.  It'll make you want to cry it'll be so much worse.  You think you have problems with direct connections disconnecting where there are very few hops between you and the server?  Throw in a whole bunch more hops, some of them going across the ocean and see how many disconnects you have.  They don't reduce the number of hops (bits of equipment between you and the server), they greatly increase them.  You'll have so many more possible points of failure IN ADDITION TO the disconnects you had direct connecting.  You direct connect connection will still disconnect, PLUS the hops you're adding.  That's more, not less.

So... We're left with VPNs and proxies.

VPNs are a great solution.  They're easy and relatively fool-proof.  The downside is that it puts your computer directly into someone else's network, bypassing any security measures in place in your home network, namely the NAT provided by your route.  NAT (Network Address Translation) is the technology in place in your router that only allows outbound traffic (and it's associated return traffic) from your inside computers.  If you want specific traffic to come in, such as an internal mail server or web server, you can explicitly allow it but that's done by folks who know what they're doing.  For all intents and purposes, the NAT in your router is your first and best line of defense.  VPNs bypass that.  They put your computer OUTSIDE of your NATted router.  You best know what you're doing before you do this.  It's not for newbies unless you like getting your computer pwned by someone malicious.

My favorite VPN provider is iPredator.se from the fine folks at ThePirateBay.se.  Their mission is anonymity. They're good at it.  Their service is rock solid and relatively inexpensive.  Again, not for the faint of heart.

There is another VPN solution called Hotspot Shield from hotspotshield.com that has some potential.  They have two versions, a free version and a paid version.  I didn't test the paid version but the free one works well enough.  It is ad-supported, though.  Ads on its screen as well as injected into the web pages you visit in a bar at the top of the web pages.  They also claim to have a malware blocking system as well but it is only a filter to stop you from being directed to bad websites.  It is still a VPN with all of the security implications that using a VPN entails.

Proxies.  Yes, proxies.  They're the best option for folks.  The two primary proxies are hidemyass.com (the most well-known) and easy-hide-ip.com.  Both work great and are easy to set up.  Hidemyass.com is easy to use and relatively inexpensive.  It will send ALL of your traffic through their servers with just a couple of clicks.

I prefer easy-hide-ip.com.  I have an affiliate relationship with them which means when you sign up, I get a small return. That was the full-disclosure thingy.  It's really not much in my pocket considering the cost is only $4.95 US per month.

So.  Why do I prefer them?  You can specify which programs are proxied through their servers.  You can allow SOME of your traffic to go directly out your Internet connection, while proxying other programs.  This allows full speed to most applications while masking the IP address for only those programs you want masked.  

Install easy-hide-ip.com, point it towards your bot's executable and select a country you want it to appear to come from.  Easy.

Each upgrade to the bot needs to be set up in easy-hide-ip.com, though.  If you download a new version of the bot and set it up in The Director but DON'T tell easy-hide-ip.com about it, your traffic will be unmasked again.  Bummer.

I don't use any of these programs.

Nope.

No need and I think it only adds risk.  If you're using one of these and you're flagged for any reason, you lose all plausible deniability.  You can't say you were innocent.  In the legal community, that's "mens rea" or "guilty mind."  You knew you were doing something wrong so you tried to hide it. 

Besides that, it slows things down.  Routing your traffic through someone else's computer introduces more hoops for your traffic to jump through and slows things down to the slowest point along the route, the whole weakest link in the chain thing.

Why WOULD you want to use one?  Well, when I record a Director video, I use easy-hide-ip.com so I don't show a video with a throwaway account tied to my main account through the IP address. :)  Also, if you have an IP ban that you can't wait out AND you can't convince your ISP to give you a new IP address, this is one way to force a new IP address.  

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