I trust you know you should keep your IP (Internet Protocol) address somewhat secret. 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.

Table of contents

    What can someone do with your IP address?

    There are quite a few things someone can do with your IP address. Before we dive deeper into all those details, here’s a quick refresh of what an IP address even is and where you can find it. 

    What’s an IP?

    IP — standing for Internet Protocol — is a shorthand for “Internet Protocol address.” On the internet, it serves as a home address for computers and other devices. It’s vital for transferring data online. Without IPs, your device wouldn’t know how to reach a website or service, and those wouldn’t know how to find your device.  

    Typically, an IP looks something like this:

    How do I find my IP?

    The simplest way to find your IP address is to use an online service that does it for you – they’re always free. You can use our What is my IP page to do so!

    What information can someone gain from my IP?

    The easiest data to get from your real IP address is your approximate physical location and internet service provider.

    Unfortunately, IP addresses have ways of falling into the wrong hands. 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. This is often a company that wants to restrict your access to particular websites. These IP bans target a specific network.

    Restrict access based on your geographic location

    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? Then you’ve experienced geoblocking.

    Since IP addresses give away your location, 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 the articles you’ve opened. And, sure, you might like to see online ads for the things you search for. Yet, this often makes future searches less organic as your search engine is more focused on selling you things based on your IP and other personally identifiable information.

    Ban you from online games

    If you upset the server admin in a multiplayer game you’re playing, they may add your IP to the blocklist. When that happens, it’s curtains to you playing on that server – and, if the admin feels like going any further, possibly the entire game. 

    @surfshark Your IP address is like a key to your house. Your IP getting blocked from an online game can feel like being locked out of your home. ? You know the solution for the latter. But what about being blocked online?Follow us to learn more about what someone can do with your IP address and how to prevent it ✅ #cybersecurity #cybersec #gamingvideos #twitchstreamer #cybersecurityawareness ♬ original sound – Surfshark

    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 track 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 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. You might even get sued by copyright trolls if your device is used as a proxy for illegal file sharing. 

    Sell your data on the dark web

    In isolation, your IP address may not be worth much. But when bundled with other data, it can become very lucrative.

    Some of that data might be information that helps identify you – name, location, anything gleaned from social media. Or it may be packed with other IP addresses and profiles to create a bigger package.

    Anyone from data brokers to hackers and scammers would be interested in it. And what can hackers do with your IP? You’ve read the article this far – so you may have some idea.

    How do people find your IP address? 5 likely methods

    Looking glass reveals the last number of a mysterious IP address.

    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 the websites you visit – every time you open a website, that website logs your IP (that includes phishing websites).
    • By running ads – ads, both legitimate and phishing, 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.

    How do I know if my IP address has been hacked?

    In a very literal sense, an IP address can’t be hacked. It is not a system that can be broken into. 

    The closest thing to your IP address being “hacked” is hackers figuring out your IP address and using it for nefarious purposes. What kind of nefarious purposes? I would direct your attention to the “What can someone do with your IP address” section in this article. 

    5 tips to protect your IP

    A picture of the Surfshark VPN app. The user has connected to a server in the US.

    You’ve learned the risks and how someone can access your IP, now let me tell you how you can protect yourself:

    1. 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. 
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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 other benefits does a VPN offer?

    Sure, a VPN is the easiest way to change your IP on the fly. But what are the benefits of a VPN that extend beyond obscuring your real IP? Very many, actually:

    • Securing your data: all the data passing between your device and the VPN server is encrypted. This means that anything transferred via your internet connection is unreadable to your ISP, the administrators of local firewalls, or hackers that compromised a public Wi-Fi hotspot. 
    • Bypassing blocks: workplaces, universities, intercity buses – those are a few internet service providers that may not allow you to visit any website you want. Luckily for you, a VPN bypasses basically any block they can come up with.
    • Increasing access: is your country blocking your access to some foreign sites? Are you annoyed with American sites not giving you access as they’re too lazy to become GDPR-compliant? Just switch to the right VPN server and read whatever you want. Obscuring your location: your IP can tell people only where approximately you’re located. This is undesirable in situations ranging from web forums and  stores to those who don’t want to leave a trace. Solve this issue by connecting to a VPN server, thus hiding both your IP and your real location. 

    What should you do if someone has your IP address?

    First off, don’t panic! 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 also 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. 

    Is IP tracking illegal?

    As far as we know, there are no legal boundaries for tracking someone’s IP. Websites would have to go out of their way to not register your visits on their logs, and so would online services. An IP is like the footprints you leave, so making online spaces not track you would be a real legal mess.

    The only illegal thing is to use your IP for criminal purposes. Which is hardly surprising as crimes are, by definition, illegal. 

    In conclusion: 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. So, knowing what to do if someone has your IP address, I’m guessing you’re ready to start hiding that IP address with a VPN?

    Before you go: Interested in learning more about cybersecurity? Find the best tips and tricks, in short, bite-sized video form on our Tiktok @Surfshark. All that’s left is pressing that follow button.

    Keep your private information private

    Get Surfshark


    What’s the difference between a private IP and public IP?

    The difference is that nobody can see your private IP, but a public IP is recorded every time you do anything online. To go into more detail:

    Private IP address – These IPs are used internally for devices communicating to your router, but not to 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 are unique IPs used to communicate to the internet. Functionally, whenever people online talk about finding your IP and other IP-based shenanigans, they have the public IP in mind.

    Can you change your IP address?

    There are two ways to change your IP address:

    1. To change your IP permanently, you can file a request with your internet service provider. 
    2. To change your IP temporarily, use a VPN. As soon as you connect to a VPN server, the IP address changes to that of the server. And as long as you’re using a VPN, you’ll have a different IP. 

    How do I know if my IP is leaking?

    If you want to know if your VPN is leaking your IP address, you can always run a VPN test. However, if you’re accessing the internet without a VPN or anything similar, your IP will always show up everywhere – it’s not leaking, it’s just how it all works.