To hide a user’s IP address, a VPN relies on a feature known as port forwarding. The first step to understanding how port forwarding works is learning about IP addresses and how they factor into your browsing.

An IP address is a common term that you come across often, but do you know how it works? An IP address is a string of numbers separated by periods, and it facilitates communication between computers and other devices online. The periods separate four numbers that range from 0 to 255, e.g. 132.38.54.81.

Your IP Address can be used to uncover information about you and the device you are using. Using just the IP address, someone can determine your identity and location.

People who are interested in maintaining anonymity online use either a proxy or a VPN to hide or alter their IP address. For this to happen, your device must use the port forwarding feature. Also known as port tunneling, port forwarding is the background process that intercepts data that is meant to be sent to a certain IP address and re-routs that data to another server.

In most cases, you use a proxy program or VPN to re-route data. However, you can also change the course of online data by using a firewall, a proxy server, or a router. Thanks to VPNs in general, and port forwarding in particular, you’re able to transmit data to and from various online destinations without having to give away crucial personal data.

How Port Forwarding Works

Packets of data need to be transmitted from one computer to another on the Internet in order for requests to be carried out. Among the details included in these packets of data is the destination of the information sent by your device or computer.

Before a network router sends an IP packet to a linked interface, it typically examines the header of the IP packet in order to know where to send the information. However, when port forwarding is introduced into the process, things change a bit.

In this case, your VPN client (which serves as an intercepting application) takes note of the packet data destination after reading the header. Then, it changes the header information and directs it to a server, or computer, different from the one it was intended for.

The destination of the secondary host can be a different port, a different IP address, or a combination of both. When a proxy or a VPN is in play, the secondary destination is typically a server owned or managed by the VPN or proxy service for the purpose of obfuscating your actual IP address.

At this point, you may be wondering whether or not port forwarding is safe. One of the main problems with the manual setup of port forwarding through your router is that it opens up your online communications to security vulnerabilities. For this reason, a number of security measures need to be deployed.

Using the Right VPN Service for Port Forwarding

Internet proxies and VPN providers employ port forwarding technology to route online traffic to their server, and thereafter to the Internet. When your online activity is intercepted by a web proxy or VPN service, it examines the data packets, rewrites them, and then transmits them to the Internet.

That raises the question: if there are legitimate security concerns associated with port forwarding, then shouldn’t users be worried about using VPN services that make use of port forwarding technology? The answer is no.

The means by which a good VPN service manages your online traffic is much safer than sending your data to a random computer without the use of a VPN. Top-tier VPN providers integrate additional layers of security to the port forwarding process using security algorithms and tunneling protocols, such as encryption and password verification, to ensure that you are not exposed to any security vulnerabilities.

The Importance of Using Port Forwarding with High-Quality VPN Services

Privacy and Security

In order to ensure a good level of privacy for your public IP address, you need to use port forwarding. It is becoming increasingly important to keep our real IP address hidden while we’re online because of the continuous rise of surveillance by snooping government agencies and cyber attacks by hackers.

Both government surveillance agencies and cybercriminals can use your real IP address to obtain essential data. It provides them with a way into your browsing activities, meaning they can do what they want with your browsing history. Some of the common threats include hackers or surveillance agencies hacking into your emails and monitoring what content you send and receive through your network.

You can eliminate all these problems through the use of port forwarding. Unauthorized users will be unable to access your servers and devices, meaning your online activities will not be within the reach of hackers and spies. While increasing your level of security, port forwarding remains transparent to VPN users.

Dedicated IP Addresses

In the same way, port forwarding can also be of great value to VPN users who are interested in having a single, dedicated IP address, rather than making use of shared IP addresses. Users who are typically interested in this arrangement include corporate employees and entrepreneurs. If you’re among these users, then you should give preference to VPN providers who offer the option of having a dedicated IP address.

The port forwarding feature has also proven useful for people who are interested in running a gaming server on one network. Other users, who want to connect to this network, can use port forwarding to make the connection.

If you’re in search of a powerful VPN that offers the port forwarding feature, be sure to select one that will guarantee your safety. If all the data sent or received by your computer or device is not 100% safe, it would defeat the purpose of using a VPN. A strong encryption and other features ensure that hackers and surveillance agencies cannot penetrate your communication no matter how hard they try.

To get a strong sense of the best VPNs in the industry that offer port forwarding, among other features, read our in-depth expert reviews.