If you’ve been on the internet long enough (or just watched a TV show about hacking) you’ve probably heard of an IP address.
What is an IP Address?
If all you knew about IP addresses came from TV shows or the ads for VPNs that are suddenly everywhere, you’d think that you need to hide yours at any cost. Won’t I get hacked?
An IP address is just a number that uniquely identifies where your computer is on the internet. Any site that you connect to also has one; and whenever you visit a site, your computer trades IP addresses with it. You can get to google.com by typing the IP address 188.8.131.52 into your browser directly. Equally, google.com knows your IP address when you connect to it. Just try typing “my ip” into google to get your IP address.
Your IP address can reveal some information about yourself, such as your approximate location. This only works down to the regional level, and even here isn’t very accurate.
An IP address can also be used to deliver targeted ads. Oh, 184.108.40.206 searched for vacuum cleaners 20 minutes ago? I’m going to show them ads for those until they buy one.
Although IP addresses are commonly used this way, this doesn’t mean that communication isn’t secure. If a site is secured with https, there’s no way for an outside observer to view the traffic itself, even if they know the IP addresses involved in the communication.
How does DNS work?
If we only used IP addresses on the internet, the internet would be pretty hard to use. Imagine if you had to remember the address for each site you want to visit!
It would be like using your phone without the contacts app – incredibly frustrating. Luckily, there’s a system to give names to IP addresses. That system is called DNS, which stands for Domain Name System. Every time you navigate to a new site, there are actually two steps involved.
- First, use DNS to find the IP address
- Connect to the IP address and load the site.
DNS allows us to connect to sites based on their name, instead of an IP address, which is much easier to remember. DNS is usually provided by your ISP, e.g. Vodafone or Spark. However, you can switch to any provider you like, such as Safe Surfer!
Safe Surfer is a DNS provider, and it’s how we filter out the nasty side of the internet. In step 1 in the example above, we do something a little differently. Instead of always handing out the IP address of a site, we first look up what we know about it, and depending on your settings, we may block access to it. This means we give you the IP address for our block page instead, or depending on your settings, give nothing at all, which gives a blank page in your browser.
There’s just one problem with regular DNS. It’s totally unencrypted! If you’re using normal DNS, anyone on the same network may be able to view the sites you’re visiting. This doesn’t mean that they can view the content of the site, however. An observer could see that you’re visiting a bank, but as long as you’re using an https connection, wouldn’t be able to view what you’re doing.
How do I visit sites privately?
Although the content of sites you visit remains secure, it’s still a privacy concern that someone could see which sites you’re visiting. That’s why secure DNS is becoming ever more popular. There are three main types of secure DNS available today, and we’re happy to announce that we now support all of them. They are:
- DoH (DNS over HTTPS).
- DoT (DNS over TLS).
They’re all equally secure, and from a user perspective, all do the same job. Deciding which to use comes down to what your particular platform supports. We’ve made that easy by automatically detecting which platform you’re on and offering easy setup instructions for all of them.
Just check out Safe Surfer device setup (requires login).