I trust you know you should protect your IP (Internet Protocol). Yet, you might wonder what can someone do with your IP in the first place? You’d be surprised to know there are quite a few risks – from restricting your access to websites to tracking your activity to framing you for crimes. I’m here to explain more about what your IP can reveal and how to avoid it.
What is an IP address?
A computer’s IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique set of numbers that makes it possible for devices to communicate over the internet.
Let’s say you order food and forget to provide your home address. The food will never reach you. IP addresses work like that too – if you search for something on Google, it needs to know where to send the content.
Before you jump to hiding your IP, you should know that IP addresses can be private and public. The latter is the one you want to keep secure.
Private IP address – These IPs are used internally and do not communicate with the internet. None of your devices will share the same private IP, but a computer across the world could have the same IP as your router.
Public IP address – These IPs communicate with the internet and are unique. No two public IP addresses in the world are the same.
If you want to check your own IP address, it’s easy, simply use Surfshark’s IP checker.
What can someone do with your IP address?
Now let’s get to the point – what are the risks if someone gains access to your IP? Here’s what they could do.
Ban you from accessing certain websites
If someone knows your IP, they could easily ban you from accessing certain content or playing online games. Be it a company that wants to restrict their access to specific websites, your ISP or an angry game moderator who’s mad you won against them in an online match. These IP bans target a specific network.
Restrict your geolocation
Many websites or services may be restricted based on your physical location. For example, have you ever run into an error saying that a video is not available in your area? Since IPs give away your geolocation, that is how a website knows to restrict your access to their content. Unlike IP bans, these restrictions are not personal and are applied to everyone in that physical location.
Show personalized ads
Advertisers may track your information based on articles you’ve opened. It may be enjoyable to see online ads for things you search for. Yet, this often makes future searches less organic as your search engine is more focused on selling you things than it is on giving you the information you asked for.
Track your online activity
Let’s say an employer would like to know what exactly you do on your laptop during work hours. Luckily for them (and less fortunate for you), they can easily use your IP address to gain access to your every move via the work Wi-Fi network.
Execute DDoS attacks
Distributed denial-of-service attacks are malicious attempts to disrupt the normal traffic of a target by overwhelming it with a flood of internet traffic. Imagine opening so many apps on an old computer that it starts lagging or even freezes because it is overwhelmed. A DDoS attack does a similar thing by overwhelming your network until you can no longer access anything. This can be done by petty gamers or hackers just looking to ruin someone’s day.
Find and use your personal information
If a hacker knows your IP, they could easily find your ISP. Then, they could use phishing attacks to impersonate government officials and demand your information. With this information, they could steal your identity or sell your financial information on the dark web.
Impersonate you to commit illegal activities
Once hackers manage to install malware on your operating system, they could route their activity through your IP address instead of their own. This way, they can frame you for any illegal activities they do.
5 ways someone can gain access to your IP
You might think that simply keeping your IP to yourself is enough to protect it. However, it’s actually pretty easy for someone to access your IP address. Here’s how:
- By connecting to your network – anyone connected to your network can easily find out your IP address because a network provides the same IP to all connected devices.
- By running websites you visit– every time you open a website, your IP is visible to that website. Generally, this is harmless and done so the website could send you content. However, if you open a phishing link by accident to some website, it can collect your IP and make you vulnerable to hackers.
- By running ads – it’s not just phishing websites that can collect your data. Legitimate ads may record your information as well if you click on them.
- By reading your emails – some email clients (like Yahoo) will display your IP in the heading.
- By moderating forum threads – if you participate in online discussions, the admins of forum threads can see your IP every time you post.
5 tips to protect your IP
You’ve learned the risks and how someone can access your IP, now let me tell you how you can protect yourself.
- Update your Firewall – Firewalls are there to protect you, but you need to keep them updated. If you don’t, you may miss out on security patches and updates made to ensure the best performance.
- Use secure passwords -Make sure to use secure passwords on all your devices and accounts, and update them regularly. Doing so will help prevent anyone from using brute force attacks (usually scripts run by hackers that allow a computer to keep guessing your password until it gets it right) on your systems.
- Use a VPN – A virtual private network routes your internet activity through one or more servers, which gives you a new IP address and hides your personal IP. No hacker will be able to trace the new IP address to you.
- Update your privacy settings – If you’re using a service that collects your private information like Microsoft Outlook, make sure you check your privacy settings. Many of them will let you either opt out or limit where your real IP address is shared.
- Ask your ISP for a dynamic IP – Your ISP may be able to provide you with a dynamic IP address. This means you would get a new IP address every few hours or so rather than using a static IP address that always stays the same.
What should you do if someone has your IP address?
What if it’s already too late and someone has gained access to your IP?
Don’t worry! All hope isn’t lost. The most productive thing you can do is change your IP address. This would usually involve changing your network. You can contact your ISP and ask for a different plan with a different IP or change ISPs altogether. As long as your network changes, you should get a new IP.
Hide your IP from peeping eyes
As scary as it may be, now you know the truth – your IP can be used to restrict your access to various websites, track your information, and even impersonate you. I’m guessing you’re ready to start hiding it? There’s only one decision left to make – where to start. How about with a VPN? Start your Surfshark journey with our free VPN trial today and protect your IP from snoopers.