User and project cloaks
There are two types of cloak which can be set on accounts on freenode; both replace the hostname/IP displayed when you are connected (but only when you're identified to NickServ—see below).
There are also gateway cloaks, which are automatically applied if you're connecting from certain providers, gateways or web IRC clients, whether or not you are identified to NickServ, and which override unaffiliated cloaks.
Project cloaks typically take the form
project/role/user, for instance
freenode/staff/bigpresh (though some take other forms). They are designed to
demonstrate that the user is connected to a project in some way. Different
projects use cloaks for various roles—some only use them for their core
team, some will assign user cloaks as well.
Project cloaks can only be requested by a registered group contact of an already registered group—they should contact a member of freenode staff to request that a user be given a project cloak.
Unaffiliated cloaks for users take the form
indicate that you are not affiliated with any specific project on freenode.
They can also help obscure your IP from casual observers to a certain
degree—but see the weaknesses section below.
Bots can also be cloaked to indicate their owner—unaffiliated bot cloaks
take the form
If you are connected via a gateway which sets a gateway cloak (for instance, our
webchat, or KiwiIRC, or some bouncer/shell providers) you will receive an
automatic gateway cloak—for instance
gateway cloaks override unaffiliated cloaks, but do not override project cloaks.
There are also gateway cloaks which may denote that the host the user is coming from is recognised as a large-scale NAT gateway (where the public IP is being shared by many individual customers behind it) or conferences, where many users are at one location temporarily.
Cloaks do not effectively hide your IP
Cloaks can help obscure your IP address/hostname from casual observers, but should not be relied upon for that purpose, as they are not reliable:
- Connecting before identifying to NickServ (or whilst services are unavailable due to a netsplit or maintenance) will show your uncloaked IP/hostname. Authenticating with SASL avoids this if configured to abort the connection on authentication failure.
- Connecting via a gateway (for instance, the webchat) will override unaffiliated cloaks (see the "gateway cloaks" section above)
- Due to the nature of IRC services, there are some tricks which can cause services to reveal a cloaked user's IP/hostname.
- Accepting a DCC chat/file transfer session, or clicking a link someone sends you could reveal your IP to them
For these reasons, we advise you to consider cloaks as only very basic protection from casual observers, and a way to stop your IP/hostname being passively logged in most cases, but caution that they cannot be relied upon to hide your IP/hostname robustly—if you want that, you should consider an IRC bouncer, VPN or Tor (see our blog post on connecting to freenode via Tor).
Do consider, however, just how much you need to hide your IP address; it's disclosed routinely during normal Internet usage—for instance, every website you visit will necessarily see your IP address, unless you are using a VPN or Tor. Many, many users happily use IRC for decades, never hiding their IP address, and do not have any problems.
To reiterate, the primary purpose of cloaks is to show your project affiliation, or lack thereof. Hiding your IP is not their primary purpose, and they cannot be fully relied upon to do that.
Also, even when you are cloaked, you will see your own IP if you /whois yourself.
Requesting a cloak
Once you've read and understood the above, if you would like an unaffiliated cloak, please drop in to #freenode or speak to a member of the staff team and we'll be happy to set one up for you.
For project cloaks, a registered GC for the project needs to contact staff to request the cloak be added to the desired user.