What Can Someone Do with Your IP?
Everyone has an IP address associated with their internet connection. It is essential for internet protocols, yet few people outside computer specialists know exactly what it does. This unique number shares essential but not specific information about you that hackers can use to learn more about you in order to commit cybercrimes. Cybercriminals can easily acquire anyone’s IP address, but there are many ways to protect your real IP address while surfing the internet.
What is an IP?
An IP address is a tag with a string of numbers and periods which provides a device with a unique label to the network. Its main goal is to communicate information about your device over the internet while providing servers and websites to your nonspecific geographic location and your internet service provider (ISP). It is used to send information to and from your device and differentiate your device from others that access a network or a website.
There are two types of IP addresses that people have: one assigned by your ISP to your router, and every device has its own IP address.
Your public IP address is the identity of your home network or business on the internet but does not reveal your home address or business address.
A private IP address helps identify the specific devices that connect to your network.
How can my IP be found?
One of the simplest ways to find your IP address is just to search “What is my IP address?” on any search engine to find out your public IP address.
As for your private IP address, this varies based on each device’s settings.
- Select network from “network & internet” option
- Click “properties”
- Scroll to the bottom of the tab to see the IPv4 address.
For mac OS
- Select “system preferences,”
- Click “network”
- Scroll down to “ethernet.”
- Select “about device.”
- Click “status information” to see your IP.
- Select “settings,”
- Click “WiFi”
- Find your active network to see the IPv4 address.
How is my IP address used?
Your IP address is essential for websites to keep track of how often you visit their website and keep track of what you are viewing. This information allows them to cater their online services to your needs and suggest other products that you might like. Unfortunately, this information can also be sold to third-party websites and used to tailor advertisements to you.
Websites also use IP addresses to prevent bad actors from accessing their websites. For instance, forum moderators block problematic users from posting on their forums, and social media networks can stop bad actors from harassing people on their sites by blocking their IP addresses from accessing their websites.
In addition, your IP address provides the internet with your geographic location which allows websites to adjust prices and services based on where you are located. Websites like NETFLIX use your IP address to show the specific content that it has available in the country where you are located. However, your IP address prevents you from accessing certain websites because those websites are prohibited, like Facebook and Google in China and Wikipedia in Turkey.
Lastly, workplaces can track your internet activity at work using your private IP address. This is not to say that companies do this, but there is no law saying that they cannot track your internet usage during working hours.
What tools do hackers use to get my IP address?
It is surprisingly easy to get someone’s email address by using both free and paid email search engines or just searching a person’s first and last name followed by the term “email address” on any search engine. From there, they can enter your email address into an email and check the email header to find your email address using Yahoo! mail and Microsoft Outlook or utilize email header analyzers for other email providers such as Gmail.
Targeted online ads
Any online ad that you click on communicates your IP address with the server that is running that online ad. Hackers could put up an online ad that looks identical to a legitimate online ad in order to collect IP addresses and then do more targeted online ads to gather your personal information such as address, phone number, credit card information, or social security number.
Accessing your router
Your router is the easiest way for people to find your public IP address, so it is important to have a password for your router that is difficult to guess rather than a commonly used password that can be easily guessed. Hackers can only find out your public IP address from your router but not your individual devices’ private IP address.
Any time that you post on a forum, the admin of that forum can see the IP address that you are posting from. In addition, Social media websites collect a lot of users’ personal data, including IP addresses which hackers can gather if they hack into that website. Make sure to read the terms and services for every social media site that you are on and opt out of sharing your IP address.
Whenever you download a torrent, it is easy for hackers to view who is downloading the file using that torrent file’s peers list and collect their public IP address. Hackers can also use information about the file you are downloading and report you for copyright infringement in order to blackmail you, find vulnerabilities in your public IP address like an open port, or know more about your interests to develop more personalized phishing attacks.
People who you allow to borrow your device can find your device’s private IP address using the methods that were mentioned earlier in this article. Though this seems quite cavalier, they only need a few seconds to discover your public IP address and private IP address.
What are some things that hackers can do with my IP address?
Find your location and know your ISP
As mentioned earlier, your IP address labels who your ISP is as well as your geographic location. Fortunately, it does not provide your exact address, but hackers will know the country you reside in and the city, both of which they could use to implement more focused phishing attacks to gather more of your personal data.
Steal your identity
After hackers have your IP address, they can use social engineering, which is when they manipulate you into doing actions that will give away more of your personal information. They can also send phishing emails in order to acquire your phone number, name, mailing address, social media handles, Social Security number, and birthdate. Once they have this information, they can use your identity to get a credit card in your name, do illegal activities in your name, or sell your personal information to cybercriminals over the dark web.
Track your Online Activity
Your IP address can be used to discover what websites you surf along with the apps that you use. Hackers can use this information to develop and send you targeted ads related to your personal interests in order to manipulate you into revealing more of your personalized information.
Gain access to your device
Hackers can get into your device using your IP address and a port scanner. There are many ports (openings for apps and other programs uses to communicate on the network) associated with any private or public IP address available at any time. However, hackers can use a port scanner to find out what apps are being used and which apps are best for gaining access to your device or network.
DDoS attacks and other cyber attacks
Once hackers have access to your device, they can implement a variety of cyber attacks, such as malware or ransomware, to block you from accessing your data or device in order to earn a payday. Another common attack that often occurs to people playing online games is a denial of device DOS or distributed denial of service DDoS attack which is when cyber criminals overwhelm your network to the point that it shuts down and you lose access to the internet.
What can I do to protect my IP address?
It is impossible to surf the internet without an IP address because your ISP won’t let you connect to the internet without an IP address. Fortunately, there are many options that hide or keep your IP address away from potential cybercriminals while not impacting your internet access.
Check your privacy settings for every app and website
Every app requires users to share some form of information with them, like an email address or phone number. Make sure to check your privacy settings on each app and website that you are using to set all your information to private and not allow apps to track you. Some added benefits are that you will not receive as many directed spam ads, and apps cannot share your info with other websites and third parties.
Use proxy address
A proxy server’s IP address is not connected to your ISP but to a data center like Amazon Web Services. You will not give your IP address to a specific website, but that third-party data center will use their IP address. Using a proxy address still has problems, from a lack of encryption to the risk of your IP address being exposed if the data center shuts down or has a lapse in service.
Connect to a different network
Your IP address will change each time you connect to a new network. You could connect to one of your neighbor’s routers, your smartphone’s data plan, or public wi-fi network to change your IP address, but these have their own problems as public wifi is a simple way for cybercriminals to hack into devices that are on that network.
Request a change of IP address from your ISP
Most ISPs will change your IP address for you if you request it. However, your IP address changes once in a while (dynamic IP address), or you might have an IP address that is being recycled from a deactivated user. To avoid having a dynamic IP address, most ISPs offer a static IP address which usually has an application process and costs money.
Unplug your modem
Unplugging your modem works because your ISP provides you with a dynamic IP address or recycles your unused IP address. The more time your router is unplugged, the more likely you will get a new IP address.
Use a Nat Firewall
A NAT (Network Address Translation) firewall uses your device’s private IP address rather than the public IP address that is provided by your ISP. This prevents other devices using the public IP address from accessing data on your device or sending messages to your device at the same time hiding your private IP address, but hackers can still find out the public IP address associated with your network.
VPNs or virtual private networks hide your IP address by providing you with an IP address from their own servers in order to prevent other devices on the internet from seeing your real IP address. The only information that your ISP can see is that you are connected to a VPN server. VPN services also use encryption to prevent your ISP from tracking your online activity.
IP addresses are a good starting point for cybercriminals to commit identity theft or disrupt your internet activity using a variety of scams. Having good cybersecurity is essential in order to keep your personal data safe when surfing the internet. Consider the options that you have to hide your IP address and choose one that ensures that your real IP address remains hidden.
Should I be worried if someone has my IP address?
Not necessarily. Websites use your IP address to differentiate you from other visitors to their website in order to track how often you visit their website and what you view. However, cybercriminals can use your IP address as a tool to gather more personal information about you.
What happens if someone gets my IP?
Any website that you visit has your IP address which allows them to know your geographic location and internet service provider. People who have your IP address can also track what other websites you visit and for how long.
What can someone do with my IP?
Your IP address does not give specific information about your location, but they can use your IP address to find out what apps and websites you use. From this information, hackers can develop phishing attacks in order to find your address, social security number, credit card number, or phone number.
What is the most common thing someone would do with my IP?
The most common thing that people do with your IP address tracks your internet activity. Websites sell this information to third-party websites that use this information to cater advertisements to your needs.