IP addresses are an essential part of today’s web infrastructure: Acting as virtual counterparts of real life addresses, they allow different electronic devices to communicate with each other.
In certain cases, though, we may want to keep our IP address hidden or randomized: This is especially relevant for web scraping. Thankfully, there are multiple ways of achieving this — and in this article, we’ll explore several methods of generating a random IP address and hiding it.
What is an IP address?
As we’ve outlined in our recent overview of IP addresses, the definition goes: An IP (Internet Protocol) address is an alphanumeric address of a particular device on the web. As is the case with many technical definitions, this one holds a few interesting terms — let’s expand on them:
Internet Protocol: Although the web often looks like black magic, its principles of work are actually easy to understand: The web relies on various protocols which govern its different aspects like transmission of data, navigation, and more.
Alphanumeric: IP addresses are (usually) written with numbers. Here’s a typical example of an IP address, version 4:
22.214.171.124. There is also the version 6 of the internet protocol which utilizes both letters and numbers for their addresses:
2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 — IPv6 is designed to replace IPv4 because the latter protocol is unable to accommodate the ever-growing number of internet users.
Particular device: Each IP address is unique, meaning it’s assigned to a single device. Wi-Fi networks typically have multiple devices connected to them, so the “One device — one IP address” policy is crucial for helping us to differentiate between them.
On the web: There are multiple ways of data transfer between electronic devices (e.g. local area networks, Bluetooth networks), but IP addresses are only used on the internet. Still, the concept of addresses is present in these other methods, too: Bluetooth, for example, uses MAC addresses.
With this in mind, we can create a mental model of how IP addresses work: Upon connecting to the web, our device finds itself among millions of laptops, smartphones, tablets, smart home appliances, and so on. Having received a unique IP address, it can communicate with other devices and servers to transfer data across the web.
Why even try random IP addresses?
In most cases, your IP address is static, meaning it doesn’t change upon reconnecting to the internet. This is convenient for regular users — but when it comes to data collection, it presents a problem: Anti-web scraping systems use web scraping bots’ IP addresses to add them to block lists and prevent the bots from accessing the given website.
Random IP addresses in web scraping
Data collection is crucial in a myriad of industries and use cases:
- It enhances business intelligence by providing reliable analytics.
- It captures detailed price data for price aggregators.
- It enables cybersecurity firms to perform cyber protection testing.
- It allows SEO professionals to work with their metrics with high precision.
Keeping the IP address unchanged hinders your data collection capacities, so you should try using random IP addresses instead.
Regular users may want to try it, too: There are several other reasons for keeping your IP address changing.
Bypassing restrictions is arguably the most common user scenario: Every day, dozens of web resources get blocked for different reasons (e.g. government restrictions or copyright infringement.) Government authorities typically block these websites in their country only, so changing the IP address (and, subsequently, its geolocation) solves this problem.
Anonymity is becoming relevant for more and more people: In an age of web tracking software, many users are wondering if they’re letting tech companies gather too much data about them. IP addresses are just that — addresses that can help to differentiate and track the given user, so making them random helps you preserve your privacy.
Security is the least obvious factor, but we shouldn’t underestimate it: Malicious third parties can use your IP address to attack you via DDoSing or injecting malicious code.
How to generate a random IP address
There are several ways to do that — and it wouldn’t be correct to state that Tool A is always better than Tool B: Different people and different use cases call for different tools — let’s take a closer look at them and explore their pros.
As the name suggests, a rotating proxy server rotates your IP address: Built with peer-to-peer technologies, it provides great privacy and security — but it truly excels at data collection, ensuring that the anti-scraping systems don’t detect your web crawling bots.
The downside of rotating proxies may lie with the proxy provider: It’s crucial to work with ethical proxy providers — otherwise, you’re running the risk of using proxies that perform poorly and can easily be detected.
VPN, a Virtual Private Network, is similar to proxies in how it works: Both these technologies act as a middleman between the user and the web server. VPNs are typically more user-friendly: They just need a client that only involves a few clicks to be up and running.
The downside of VPNs is their un-scalability: It’s practically impossible to use them with numerous bots for data collection.
❔ Further reading: Comparing VPNs with Proxies and Exploring Their Use Cases
Dynamic IP address
In the section above, we mentioned that IP addresses can be static — but they can also be dynamic, i.e. change the address every time the user (re)connects to the internet. You can contact your internet service provider and request a dynamic IP address — most ISPs will give you one quickly and for free.
Like VPNs, this is far from a scalable solution: You’re still possessing only a single IP address and relying on the ISP to change it.
Tor is a special web browser designed for web anonymity and security. It works via relays, connecting numerous users into the Tor network and helping them transfer the data of each other.
Still, Tor’s pros — privacy and security — prove to be its cons, too: It may be too secure for the regular user. Relays, its security mechanisms, significantly decrease the user’s internet speed; furthermore, Tor doesn’t handle cookies too well.
Public Wi-Fi network
Public Wi-Fi networks serve countless users, so of course they assign random IP addresses to everyone. These networks, however, should be your last resort option: Transferring sensitive data over them is a security risk due to their nature — public and free, that is.
Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. 10.0.0.0 - 10.255.255.255
- 2. 172.16.0.0 - 172.31.255.255
- 3. 192.168.0.0 - 192,168,255, 255
- 4 127.(any number).(any number)