Your IP address is your own unique address that identifies your device and location on the web.
To access the Internet, your devices - and all other devices online - each has an IP (internet protocol) address.
So, what's the big deal if someone gets ahold of your IP?
Giving someone your IP address is not quite the same as handing over your credit card details or your social security number, but it will give outsiders an "in" to access your private world that they would have to work much harder to attain without your IP.
Unfortunately, if your IP address falls into the hands of hackers or cybercriminals, this numerical identifier can empower them with very valuable information about you, like your online location and identity, that will make it easier for them to hack into your computer or personal accounts, or otherwise compromise your privacy online.
What Is IP?
Before we get into what someone can do with your IP, let's first address what an IP is.
Someone's IP address is their "Internet Protocol" address - a numerical tag assigned to all devices that are connected to mobile data or wifi networks, used for all communication on the web.
The main purpose of an IP is for location identification and interface with other sites on Internet networks.
How You Can Find Your IP Address
Don't be overwhelmed if you don't know how to find your own IP; You can uncover your public IP address by using an online IP lookup tool like the one on this site.
When you get to this site, you will see your 7-digit IP number, as well as a pin marking your actual location on a map, your ISP, city, and region.
If you want to find your IP on your computer, you can also type in "Command Prompt" to find all of your IP info for the network adapters that are in use.
Your IP address identifies the location in which you are accessing the Internet, so if you bring your computer from your house to the public library, your IP address will reflect the library's location and IP.
If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) uses dynamic IP addresses, this means that they are not tied to your device.
A dynamic IP address will change intermittently, as opposed to a static IP address, which ensures that your device's IP address is always the same.
Static IP addresses are usually used by servers - not your personal devices.
While your IP address is just a series of numbers, it can give people access to private information that can put you at risk for hacks or cyber-attacks.
How Can Someone Find My IP Address?
Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways people can find your IP address. Here are some of the most common ones:
1. Email services:
When you send someone an email, as I'm sure you do often, your IP address is sometimes written in its header.
While Gmail leaves this address out of its email headers, platforms like Yahoo and Microsoft Outlook list it.
2. Torrenting files:
If you are downloading files using a torrent client, your IP address is visible to seeders and leechers in your swarm just by looking at the peers list.
In addition, people often don't realize that torrent traffic and IP addresses linked to p2p file-sharing are constantly being logged (by torrent monitoring).
3. Phishing attacks and corrupt links:
How many times per day do you click on links online? A lot, right?
Any time you click on a link, your IP address is given to the destination server, giving them access to your IP data.
Clickbait is a prime example of a tactic cyber-scammers use to get your IP address and access to your information.
Fake links; an alluring, strategically placed, online ad; and fake websites - often very similar to the real website - trick you into entering your details, all of which then lets hackers download malicious software on your operating system or hack into your private data.
4. Lending out your device:
Be vigilant about who you allow to use your device.
If someone you do not fully trust uses your computer or device, he can easily find your IP address in no time just by googling "What is my IP?"
5. Online advertisements:
Nowadays, our browsing habits are tracked and online ads are often targeted directly at us.
If you click on one of these ads - particularly on social media sites - your IP address will be visible to hackers and advertisers who planted the ad.
This is another one of the phishing methods used to connect to your private data.
What Can Someone Do With Your IP?
Once the wrong person gets ahold of your IP address, hackers, criminals, and even your ISP can use it against you in numerous ways.
This is what someone can do with your IP:
1. Track you online:
Like we mentioned before, your IP address is not based on your device, but on your network.
If you connect your mobile phone or laptop to a work network or a school network, all of your online activity can potentially be tracked by the school administration or by your boss.
2. Hack into your device:
If a hacker gets ahold of your IP, he can then try to scan for any open ports he can find.
If he can't find an open port he can try out all of the different ports for your IP address and take control of your device with brute force.
Once the hacker accesses your device, he can then steal your information or install malware.
3. Sell your IP on the dark web:
To make a dime, cyber-attackers have been known to sell users' IP addresses on the dark web.
Via this route, criminals can buy all sorts of illegal stuff in order to impersonate you or use your personal information to scam you in another way.
4. Compromise your real-life location:
When your IP is compromised, this puts you and your family in harm's way in real life.
When a criminal sees your IP, it makes it easier for him to quickly figure out your exact location.
This can be particularly dangerous if he is able to access your social media, where you announce to the cyberworld that you are going to be at work all day, making you vulnerable to robberies or break-ins.
5. Bust you for downloading copyrighted files:
If you have been violating any copyright laws, the authorities, or copyright agencies, can track you based on your IP address and either sue you or prosecute for a torrenting crime or other illegal things you've done online.
6. Steal your identity:
Someone can impersonate you to get ahold of your IP address on your cell phone provider's network.
If your ISP shares your real IP address with someone posing as you, they'll then easily be able to get their hands on your personal data.
While most ISPs are doing their best not to fall for these scams, telecom operators do make mistakes.
7. Affect online gaming:
When playing online games, someone on the platform can simply decide to block you from playing.
If he does this, it's your IP address being banned from gaming servers.
While this ability to block IP addresses can be useful if someone is being abusive, it can backfire if players block users from online activities without cause.
8. Block access to online service:
If you're looking to gain access to certain websites that are geo-restricted, these websites can block you based on your IP address - which reveals your physical address.
Content providers - like Hulu or Netflix - will turn you away from their websites when they see you're not in their permitted geographic region to connect their website.
How To Prevent Others From Discovering And Exploiting Your IP
Ok, so now that you know that any hacker can gain remote access to your personal details through your IP address, what can you do to prevent this?
Check out these simple steps to help keep you and your IP addresses and valuable information secure on the Internet:
1. Keep your router secure:
A cyber-criminal can remotely access your network.
Make sure to update your router password routinely with a complicated password - not something simple like your birthdate.
2. Update your settings:
One way to protect yourself is to enhance your privacy settings.
If you change your settings to "private" on your social media apps, and make sure to never click on links from people who are not in your contacts, it'll be harder for hackers to access your data.
3. Get a reputable VPN service:
A VPN (virtual private network) will mask your IP address so that no one will be able to access your actual location - including your ISP, hackers, or third parties.
When you connect to a VPN proxy server, you get a new IP address that reflects your server location - not your actual location.
A VPN connection sends your traffic through military-grade encryption so it will be completely indecipherable if anyone is able to access it.
With a VPN, if you are downloading torrent files, or on an unsecured website, your online activity cannot be traced to you.
A VPN is the ideal solution to keep your IP address and online activity anonymous and secure, no matter what website you visit.
Now that you know that your IP address can put you at risk online, the very best step to take that will give you maximal protection is to use a reputable VPN whenever you are online.
Try SwitchVPN today!