We frequently emphasize the significance of your IP address in our security guides. However, why is it critical? If obtained by a malicious party, your IP address can lead to various damaging consequences, such as spam or computer attacks. This guide outlines the potential dangers of IP address exposure and provides practical tips to safeguard this sensitive information.
What is an IP address?
An IP address, or internet protocol address, is a set of numbers that serves as a unique identifier for your device and its location on the internet. It is essential for the functioning of the internet as it allows devices, networks, and websites to be differentiated from one another.
Each device has both an external (public) and an internal (private) IP address. The external address identifies your router and your general location, while the internal addresses distinguish devices within your home network.
Your devices may have two types of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 is the most commonly used address system and was introduced in 1983. However, with the concern that all IPv4 addresses would eventually be exhausted, a more complex system with more characters, known as IPv6, was introduced in 1999.
The Importance of Protecting Your IP Address
Safeguarding yourself against online threats is crucial, and one effective way to do so is through a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN conceals your genuine IP address and replaces it with its own, preventing websites from seeing your actual location. It also encrypts your internet traffic, ensuring secure browsing. We’ve conducted extensive testing on numerous VPNs and identified the top three options that provide the highest level of protection.
What Can Someone Do With Your IP Address?
Send spams: Sophisticated advertisers now use tracking programs embedded in online articles to note your IP address and send spam messages based on your browsing. For instance, after reading an article on how to do dolled makeup, you might start receiving emails from local makeup shops.
Know your location: By determining your IP address, it is possible to figure out the city you are located in, and potentially even your home address by exploring the internet. Some burglars monitor social media to detect when homeowners are away, and with access to IP addresses, it becomes easy for them to target specific houses. Therefore, it is important to take measures to secure your home when you are away.
Limit your availability to specific online offerings: Your geographic location is crucial for some online services. They use your IP address to detect your whereabouts and limit your access to their content. For instance, YouTube TV restricts your access to local channels based on the city you reside in. Similarly, Netflix determines your country of origin and restricts access to that country’s library of movies and TV shows, unless you modify your Netflix region with a Netflix VPN.
Restrict you from playing games: In the context of online gaming, if you manage to beat a game administrator and they become unhappy with you, they may ban you from the match. This ban could then lead to your IP address being blacklisted from the entire website, which would prevent you from playing any games on that site.
Deploy DoS/DDoS attacks: To carry out a DoS (denial of service) attack, a person can use your IP address. These attacks prevent you from accessing network resources such as websites, online accounts, and emails. The typical approach for such attacks is to send a high volume of server requests to your address, overloading and disrupting your system with traffic. In the case of a DDoS attack, the process is similar, but involves multiple machines generating even more traffic. Therefore, people often use VPNs to prevent DDoS attacks.
Get access to your personal information: Gather sensitive information about you: Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for Personally Identifiable Information (PII) which they can use to commit fraud or impersonate you. Examples of PII i.e. phone number, security number, mailing address, and date of birth, all of which are valuable for identity thieves. Although your IP address is not classified as PII, if a hacker obtains it, they can use it to locate your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This information can then be used in a phishing attack to trick the ISP into revealing any PII they have on file for you. One effective way to protect yourself against identity theft is to invest in a high-quality identity theft protection service.
Impersonation: A hacker with enough skills can use your IP address to pretend to be you online, routing their activity with address. This can lead to false accusations of illegal activities like downloading child pornography, buying drugs or even causing security threats.
Dark web selling: Some thieves are not interested in impersonating you but rather in stealing your IP address and selling it on the dark web. To prevent this scenario, consider using one of the best identity theft protection services with dark web monitoring.
Activity tracking: Many employers want to monitor their remote workers’ activities by tracking their IP addresses, which is an invasion of privacy.
Copyright infringement lawsuits: In many countries like U.S., strict copyright laws monitor torrenting services to identify IP addresses associated with protected content downloads. Law enforcement agencies can demand ISPs to disclose the names and addresses of users associated with those IP addresses, which can result in copyright infringement lawsuits. Using one of the best VPNs for torrenting can help prevent this scenario.
How to Find Your IP Address on Different Devices
Each device has its own unique IP address. Here are some steps to find your IP address on different devices:
To find your IP address on a Windows device:
- Right-click on the Windows icon and select “Network and Internet.”
- Choose either “Wi-Fi” or “Ethernet,” depending on your connection type.
- Click on “Network” in the center column.
- Your IPv4 address will be displayed.
To find your IP address on a Mac:
- Pull down the Apple Menu and select “System Preferences.”
- Click on “Network” and select either “Wi-Fi” or “Ethernet” from the left column.
- If you’re using Ethernet, your IP address will be in the middle of the page. If you’re using Wi-Fi, click on “Advanced,” then select “TCP/IP.” Your IP address will be listed under “IPv4.”
To find your IP address on an Android device:
- Go to your “Settings” menu.
- Choose “About” and select “Status.”
- Your IP address should be listed.
To find your IP address on an iPhone:
- On the home screen, select “Settings.”
- Choose “Wi-Fi” and select the network you’re connected to.
- Your IP address will be displayed at the top of the screen.
How Can Someone Obtain Your IP Address?
Locating your IP address isn’t that difficult as it’s not considered personally identifiable information (PII), and most services & companies don’t take extra measures to conceal it. The following are some sources through which someone can obtain your IP address:
- Emails: Some email servers may reveal your IP address in the email header. You can opt for email services such as Gmail that don’t do this if you’re concerned.
- Torrenting: When torrenting, your IP address can be seen in the peers list. However, you can use a VPN for torrenting to bypass this issue.
- Phishing Attacks: Your IP address can become vulnerable to hackers if you respond to phishing attacks or click on suspicious links.
- Online Ads: Legitimate ads may record your IP address if you select them. This is known as adware, and it’s how many companies conduct their business. Fortunately, there are effective methods available for removing adware.
- Your Computer: It’s simple for someone to search the IP address in the device settings if you lend your device to someone, even for a short period.
Ways to Protect Your IP Address:
- Update your firewall: Ensure that you use secure passwords for your firewall, router, devices, and accounts, and update them regularly. This will help prevent breaches to your security.
- Change your privacy settings: Set your messaging apps to private and avoid accepting calls or messages from unknown people to prevent hackers from accessing your IP address through messaging apps like Skype.
- Use a VPN: A virtual private network traces your internet activity through multiple servers and provides you a new IP address that cannot be traced back to you.
- Use a proxy server: Proxy servers hide your IP address, but do not provide high-end encryption to protect your online activity.
- Use Tor software: Tor is a web browser that allows you to browse online anonymously, hiding your IP address by routing it through an open-source network of other Tor users. Despite a breach in 2019, Tor has fixed the issue.
- Switch to mobile data: Mobile data does not involve IP addresses. If you have enough data, switching to mobile data ensures that you don’t have to worry about IP address leaks.
- Talk with your ISP: If you’re especially concerned about IP address security, you can chat with your ISP about assigning you an IP address that is dynamic and changes regularly.
Is it possible for someone to remotely control my computer using my IP address?
It is not possible for someone to control your computer remotely just by knowing your IP address. IP address is only a unique identifier for your device and does not provide any control over it. However, if hackers manage to infiltrate your computer using malware or other means, they can use your IP address to carry out illicit activities, such as threatening or selling drugs, while impersonating you. To prevent such scenarios, it is recommended to keep your operating system updated and use good antivirus software.
How to Change Your IP Address
If someone has your IP address, you can change it to prevent them from using it to conduct shady activities in your name. Here are the steps to change your IP address on various devices:
Changing IP Address on Router
- Unplug your router for five minutes and then plug it back in to get a new IP address.
Changing IP Address on Device
- Windows: Press the Win+R keys, type Cmd in the Run box, type Inconfig /Release, and then type Inconfig /Renew.
- Mac: Click the Apple icon, choose System Preferences, select Network, select Advanced, click TCP/IP, and click Renew DHCP lease.
- Android: Navigate to Settings, choose Connections, choose Wi-Fi, select the network you’re using, choose Forget, and then log on to the network again.
- iPhone: Find Settings, choose Network, select the network you’re using, click Configure IP, and select Automatic or type in your new address.
Changing IP Address Manually
- Windows: Go to Start, choose Control Panel, select Network Connection, choose your LAN connection, click Properties, select TCP/IP, and type in your new address.
- Mac: Find System Preferences, click Network, select Network Connection, click IPv4, click Manually, and type in your new address.
- Android: Navigate to Settings, select Connections, choose Wi-Fi, select the network you’re using, tap the gear-shaped icon, select Advanced, choose IP Settings, click on Static, and type in your new address.
- iPhone: Navigate to Settings, click Wi-Fi, click Network, click Configure IP, and type in your new address.
To begin with, an individual who has your IP address can perform a variety of actions, ranging from spamming your email to performing illicit activities under your identity. However, there are ways to safeguard yourself, including antivirus programs and virtual private networks (VPNs). If these measures fail, changing your IP address is always an option. Nevertheless, the most critical aspect of maintaining a secure system is ensuring the protection of your IP address.
No need to panic if someone gets hold of your IP address. They can only send spam or limit your access to some services. In rare cases, they may pretend to be you. But don’t worry; you can easily change your IP address by adjusting your device’s settings or resetting your router.
Your IP address only reveals your approximate geographic location, such as your city or postal code. Hackers could use additional personal information, like your birthdate or Social Security number, to steal your identity or impersonate you online. Additionally, law enforcement can track your activities through your IP address by contacting your internet service provider. However, simply having your IP address doesn’t automatically give anyone access to your personal information.
By using your IP address, it’s possible for someone to determine the city or region where you are located. However, unless they have additional information, it’s not possible for anyone to locate you precisely.
To resolve any concerns about someone having your IP address, the simplest solution is to change your IP address. This can be done by turning off your router for five minutes and then restarting it, after which all your devices will receive new addresses. Alternatively, you can update the IP address on each device through its settings. Another option is to use a VPN service, which routes your online activity through a server and assigns a new, untraceable IP address.