Why would it ever be necessary to disguise yourself online? Isn’t such behavior only for the likes of hackers, spies, and lowlifes? Well, not exactly. If you really think about some of the situations you might get in where your IP can get blocked, coming up with a good online disguise may be necessary for even the most strait-laced person on the Internet.
Here’s an example. A few years ago, I was very active in the debate surrounding an online hoax. The details about the hoax aren’t quite as important as the fallout from the debate. In the end, both myself and one of my close friends from the UK were ultimately banned from accessing a forum filled with people who believed in the hoax. My friend and I had exposed the hoaxer – and an overzealous believer admin on the forum felt that we were no longer welcome there.
The only problem was that my friend and I wanted to keep close tabs on the scam artist in case he tried to strike again. So we needed a way to get around the IP ban and monitor the forum. This required coming up with a disguise – a user account filled with location and ID details, and an IP, that the forum administrator wouldn’t recognize.
There are plenty of similar situations out there that you could find yourself in where you need to disguise yourself online. Maybe you made a comment on a blog and a trigger-happy moderator banned your IP from ever commenting again. Maybe you want to download content that is only accessible from a particular country. Or maybe you want to post a public comment on a forum without people knowing that it’s you who posted the comment. It isn’t always easy to fully disguise yourself in a way that is untraceable, but using the tools described in this article, you should be able to pull it off in fairly short order.
Disguising Your Identity and Your IP
The fact is that the core of your online identity is wrapped around your IP address. It tells the web server that you’re connecting from the location of your computer. Beyond that, web servers can detect your operating system, your browser brand and version, and more. Whether you’re concerned with your online privacy, or you want to access a website that decided to block your particular IP address, the following tools and techniques will help.
First – Create a Fake ID
The easiest part of this is coming up with believable dummy details that you can enter into registration forms to sign up with the forum, blog or other website that might have banned you. I highly recommend Craig’s article on a couple of sites you can use to auto-generate fake ID information like this. Personally, I think that the first site he mentions – Fake Name Generator – is the best one for the job.
In this case, I want to become a male from the UK. I don’t care about the details, I just want to create my identity with that location in mind. The fake ID generator tool uses typical names from that region of the world, and then it generates a fake address, phone number, user name and password, and a whole assortment of other bogus information that you can use to fill out a registration form.
The only other thing you may need is an email address, but MakeUseOf has you covered there as well with lots of articles about generating temporary email accounts. These email addresses are usually used by people to avoid getting spam, but you can also use them for any registration form, including creating accounts on forums and other websites.
Using Desktop Software to Cloak Your IP
Now that you have a fake identity, the most important part of disguising yourself is stopping that remote web server from “seeing” your computer’s real IP and location. Before you get started, you’ll want to do a quick check of your current real IP address. Just head on over to
So, there’s your mission. You need to be able to visit that website and have it read a different IP. There are a few ways to do this, and the first I’ll touch on are a couple of useful free desktop apps that will do the trick.
The first is Hideman, which was originally covered here at MUO as a solution to bypass timeout limits on file download sites by changing your IP address for each download – another creative reason for disguising yourself! Hideman installs quickly and will run as a small desktop pop-up window, which shows your current IP and location.
Once you click “Connect”, Hideman will activate and cloak your IP, changing it to an IP inside of one of the countries you’ve selected from the dropdown list. Here, you can see Hideman has disguised my IP, and made it appear that I am connecting to the Internet from Sweden.
The website didn’t even recognize that the IP was via a Swedish proxy server (see the “No Proxy Detected”). Combined with a Swedish identity using Fake Name Generator, this would be a very, very convincing disguise.
As you can see here, Hideman even convinced a popular site like CNN that I was connecting from a foreign location, prompting CNN to ask me if I wanted to switch to a non-U.S. edition.
Hideman does have a limitation with the free version that you can only use it for 5 hours a week. Another great desktop application for disguising your IP is Hotspot Shield, which stays in your taskbar and can be activated at any time. You can tell it how and when to activate your Internet access using a fake IP.
The pop-up tells you if you are disguised (protected) or not. With the free version, you can’t select from other countries – you’re stuck with the default of United States.
However, even with that limitation, I was able to disguise myself as a web site visitor from San Jose, California.
Keep in mind that some of these services may get flagged on some sites as a proxy server or as an anonymous proxy. If this happens and you can’t get through the registration process because of it, just move on to some of the other solutions in this article. At the very least, the TorBox solution below should do the trick.
Web Based Proxy Services
Probably the simplest solution to disguise yourself is to just use one of the many web-based cloaking services that will mask your IP when you access the web through those websites. The most well-known one is Hide My Ass, but there are many others that will do the trick.
Angela listed a bunch of them in her article on finding Facebook proxies, and offered many more solutions in her article on accessing the BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world. The web based solution is the most commonly-used cloaking approach, because it doesn’t require a download and it’s so easy. Unfortunately, it’s also the least likely solution to give you a reliable IP that won’t get flagged by the target website as an anonymous proxy. It’s worth trying a few, then moving on to one of the desktop solutions, and if all else fails – then it’s time to pull out the big guns, and disguise yourself using the TorBox solution.
One of the best methods to disguise your IP and location on the web is using a TorBox gateway on VirtualBox. This solution comes in two parts – the TorBox Gateway which sort of runs its own network separate from whatever you’ve got going on elsewhere on your desktop. It’s essentially like running a whole other computer with its own IP address.
While the process of setting up the TorBox Gateway and Workstation is outside the scope of this article, you can go through it (it’s not that bad) on my article where I describe using it for anonymous emailing. Once you’ve gone through that setup, you’ll see the two TorBox systems in your Oracle VirtualBox. Run the Gateway first, and then the Workstation. Browse to WhatIsMyIp.com from the TorBox Browser, and you should see something like this.
Which, in my case, is an IP from a location far, far away. Even Google thinks I’m at that IP when I browse the web through my awesome TorBox Gateway – fully disguised and ready to explore the Internet without anyone knowing who or where I really am.
Combined with a fake online ID and a throwaway email address, the cloaked IP tops off the perfect plan to disguise yourself online. You can be anyone at all, located anywhere in the world, and no one – not even that obnoxious forum administrator who banned you based on your email address and IP address, can stop you.
Have you ever hidden your true identity on the web? What tools do you use to do it? Do you prefer one of the desktop solutions, or web based ones? Share your own tips and feedback in the comments section below!