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What does an IP address tell you and how it can put you at risk
April 23, 2021
Cars have VINs. Humans have Social Security numbers. And our internet-connected devices have unique identifiers, too — Internet Protocol addresses, commonly known as IP addresses.
Similar to those other identifiers in our lives, an IP address does reveal a little bit about you, namely your geolocation.
Here, we’ll dig further into the meaning, purpose, and inner workings of an IP address to explain just what does an IP address tell you — and others.
What is an IP address?
An IP address is a string of numbers assigned to an internet-connected device, much like an address on a house. Your computer network uses the IP address to communicate with other computers, websites, and all parts of cyberspace.
Essentially, IP addresses are how computers on the internet recognize one another. Your internet service provider (ISP) assigns IP addresses to your internet-connected devices, and every IP address is unique. Considering every single internet-connected device has an IP address, billions of IP addresses exist.
You can think of an IP address like a membership card to enter the World Wide Web. Every device that can connect to the internet is a member of the World Wide Web — computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, routers, etc. — and all have an IP address. Websites and computer networks require that form of identification for you to interact with them.
Understanding an IP address and how it works aside, it’s also important to understand the purpose of IP addresses in the first place.
What is the purpose of an IP address?
An IP address can be considered a digital address for your internet-connected devices, as it reveals your geolocation to help the internet deliver content that’s relevant to you.
For example, it’s due in part to your IP address that you see local restaurants pop up when you search “sushi restaurants. ”
How to find your IP address
To find your IP address, simply Google “what is my IP address. ” It’s as simple as that: The internet provides your IP address back to you. The internet knows your IP address because it’s assigned to your device and it is required to browse the internet.
Worth mentioning is that your IP address changes every time you connect to a different Wi-Fi network or router. Online users won’t even know the difference and, generally, they don’t need to — much like how they don’t necessarily need to know how to read an IP address.
Rather, online users should be aware of what information their IP address reveals.
What information does my IP address reveal?
IP addresses do reveal your geolocation, but not your precise location like a home address and never your name, phone number, or other precise personal information. Instead, IP addresses might reveal your city, ZIP code, or area code of where you are connecting to the internet at that moment — this is why IP addresses change every time you connect from a new location or using a new router.
And it’s generally your router’s IP address that is revealed, not the IP address of your internet-connected devices such as a computer, tablet, or mobile phone that communicate with a router to connect to the internet. Sure, these internet-connected devices share their IP address with your router, but your router uses its own IP address to grant your device access to the World Wide Web.
It’s for this reason that your IP address almost always reveals the geolocation of your ISP’s nearest servers — not your physical location at all — and your IP address also reveals the name of your ISP.
Finally, to put your mind at ease, we have answers to a few common IP address FAQs regarding what information an IP address reveals about you:
What does an IP address tell you? For the most part, an IP address tells you the city, ZIP code, or area code of your ISP, as well as your ISP’s name.
What can an IP address tell you? To some degree, your physical location and also the name of your ISP.
Can IP addresses reveal your identity? No, not outrightly. However, others can piece together bits of your identity, using your IP address and by following your online activity.
How others can find your IP address — and why they want to
For others to find your IP address, it is not as easy as searching “What is [insert name]’s IP address. ” It takes a bit more legwork. But it’s also not as difficult as some might think, considering we leave our digital footprints and, in turn, IP addresses behind online with every click.
Remember, IP addresses are like your membership card to the internet and are required to enter any website and webpage on it. So, every time you click something online it’s like signing a guestbook and your IP address is the signature you leave behind. This includes social media sites, internet forums, chatrooms, and blogs you comment on. All of these platforms can view your IP address.
Also, cybercriminals can find your IP address by hacking into your home network or placing a bug in email HTML.
For a more straightforward approach to find your IP address, others might simply borrow your device and Google “what is my IP address” or inspect the header of an email address. There are also IP lookup services, whereby users can simply copy and paste an IP address into a search bar and discover a person’s geolocation.
Authorities, including, law enforcement or fraud investigators, can also use subpoenas to contact your ISP and get your IP address.
But, why would other people want to know your IP address and what would they do with it?
Is it dangerous for people to know your IP address?
Since an IP address doesn’t outrightly reveal your personal information or confidential data, it’s generally not dangerous for people to know your IP address — but it all depends on who’s trying to access it.
Consider the following parties who might be interested in your IP address and why:
Authorities to piece together illegal activities
Employers to understand where you’re spending time online at work
Advertisers to target you with relevant products and services
Blacklist databases to block access from spammers
Retailers to cross-check your geolocation with your payment method’s mailing address
Chatrooms to block inappropriate users
Subscription services to block users from accessing content unavailable in their area or region
Hackers to install malware on your devices
Cybercriminals to put you at risk of Denial of Service attacks
Criminals who, if they already know your personal information, might call your ISP and commit a vishing attack
You might even want to use an IP address to confirm whether an online friend or virtual love interest resides where they say they do
As with most things in life, people’s intentions vary.
When it comes to others trying to find your IP address, some might have malicious intentions, such as to track you. Others, however, might be watching out for you, such as a well-intentioned bank confirming a transfer request is being submitted by you.
Finally, just because someone knows your IP address does not necessarily mean they will wind up on your doorstep. Still, you might want to take measures to protect your IP address.
How to protect your IP address
The simplest and most straightforward way to protect your IP address is to use a virtual private network (VPN) because this anonymizes your online activity using encryption. It also changes your IP address completely, placing your geolocation hundreds or maybe thousands of miles from where you actually are accessing the internet.
Talk about throwing someone off your digital tail.
The bottom line: IP addresses reveal geolocations and you can prevent this
No, IP addresses are not as sacred as our Social Security numbers, but it’s still worth understanding what an IP address reveals and also how to hide your IP address if you want to.
After all, being informed is a best practice when it comes to protecting our online privacy.
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What is an IP address and what can it reveal about you?
Gary Nichols via U. S. Military
The nomenclature of the web is vast. But even though words become commonplace, people often don’t know what they really mean.
But they should.
An IP address, for instance, is a ubiquitous part of the online experience, but few know what it is. And, even scarier, many don’t know the kind of information IP addresses can reveal.
What is an IP address?
At its core, an IP address is an online unique identifier. Every computer has its own IP address, and it is through this naming system that computers can connect with each other and share data.
A standard IP address (using what’s known as the IPv4 protocol) contains four individual numbers separated by a decimal.
While every computer is given its own IP address, the outside world rarely has access to it. Routers, instead, connect to individual computers, and it’s the routers that then connect to the rest of the internet using their own individual IP address. Think of routers as the bridge between the network within your house (or business, library, coffee shop, etc. ) and the outside world network (that is, the internet).
When you send an email or visit a website, the IP address being shared is that of your local router — provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) — and not the individual address assigned to your computer. All the same, whether someone knows the address of your computer or your network, these numbers are able to tell a bit about who you are and what kind of sites you surf.
What sort of personal information is shared with an IP address?
This most personal kind of information that can be shared in IP address itself is geolocation. But the good news is, because you are connected to a network and it’s the network’s IP address being shared, your precise location is not shared.
For instance, you may send an email from your home, and someone may be able to know the city from which it was sent, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to access any other granular information about you.
Instead they’ll probably see the information of your ISP. While this may give geolocation data about the general area of your router, it will not give a street address.
But there’s a catch…
Alone, the IP address can’t share much more about you than a generalized location of where you might be at a certain time.
The trouble is, onlookers can in some cases look at the online activity associated with a particular IP address. Then, they can stitch together a lot of information about the people or even a single person who’s accessing the internet from that address.
The Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s Office (OPC) set out to see what sort of information it could dig up using the IP address of its own network. From there the researchers used a search engine to find details about the people who had used the internet via that network.
Here are some of the sites and services the people using the OPC IP address visited:
Legal advice related to insurance law and personal injury litigation
A specific religious group
Online photo sharing
The revision history of a Wikipedia entry
The OPC also did a second experiment where it looked up the IP address of a person that had edited a Wikipedia entry (these IP addresses are public), then entered that IP address into a search engine. It got all kinds of information back, such as all the other entries that person had edited, and the fact that the person had visited an online message board related to sexual preferences.
The report explained that using these tactics it was not hard to get a “glimpse into the kind of portrait that authorities could be able to paint of individuals without needing to obtain prior judicial authorization. ”
In other words, an employer can figure out a lot about the people who are using the internet from work. Or, in theory, your ISP could figure out a lot about the activities of its subscribers. Or, an online advertising network could associate a particular IP address with a lot of online activity over time and use that to target advertising.
What is the worst case scenario?
With the help of the authorities, it is possible to discover more than just hearsay information. For instance, the OPC cites a case in the US where the authorities, knowing only the IP address, contacted the ISP and were able to find the identity of a person sending harassing emails.
They did this by receiving the exact locations where the emails were sent from the ISP. Many of these places were hotels, and the FBI was able to find one common name on all of the hotels’ guest lists. Then, the FBI got a warrant to investigate that person’s email account.
This does require a certain set of knowhow. While it’s relatively easy to find out an
(you can look up your own by going to websites like IP Chicken), finding real actionable information from it takes some finesse.
But once you have that finesse, with a little bit of imagination, some creepy details may be discovered.
What Does an IP Address Tell You? – Neeva
Nearly all of us have at least one IP address. Most of us have multiple. Some of us have had dozens, even hundreds. Yet we rarely stop to think about them. There are many reasons to learn more about these ubiquitous strings of numbers—especially when your privacy is is an IP address? Your IP address is a unique number identifying an internet-enabled device, such as a router, laptop, or smartphone, which helps deliver content and information from the internet to your device. It’s issued by your internet service provider, or ISP. IP addresses are the internet’s way of differentiating between the billions of devices it’s connected to, from printers to refrigerators. Anything with an internet connection has an IP home networks use the IP address of the router their ISP provided. A router is a device that receives and sends data between the internet and the devices in your home. When a device connects to your network, it sends out a broadcast message requesting an IP address. Your router then assigns an available IP address to your device. Note that IP addresses, including your router’s, can sometimes change, though usually not very often. This helps make sure there are enough IP addresses for every internet aditionally, IP addresses are a string of four numbers, separated by periods. Each of the four numbers is in the range 0 to 255. They look something like this:231. 230. 78. 1The ‘IP’ in IP address stands for Internet Protocol, which is a set of rules dictating the format of data sent over the internet. Think of this as a kind of language. When people speak and understand the same language, they can talk to one another. Likewise, devices exchange information using a set of guidelines, or a addresses are coordinated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The IANA assigns blocks of IP addresses to regional internet registries, which in turn assign smaller blocks to national and local registries. Smaller blocks of addresses are eventually assigned to internet service providers, who then assign specific IP addresses to individual of IP addressesEvery device has its own IP address, but not every IP address is accessible to the public. Again, the IP address being shared with the internet is your router’s, not the IP address assigned to your device. Your router, like your front door, is your gateway to the world. This means you have both public and private IP addresses:A public IP address (aka an external or global IP address) is provided by your internet service provider and is used to communicate between your devices and the internet. This is your router’s IP address and the primary address associated with your home network. As the name suggests, others have access to it. Devices outside your internet network use your public IP address to recognize your network. Want to know your public IP address? Visit mEvery device connected to your internet network has a private IP address (aka your local or internal IP address). These addresses are not directly visible to the public internet, work only within your private network, and can’t be seen from outside. Private IP addresses allow your router to identify each device separately, and let your devices recognize one another within your home are also different versions of IP addresses. The two main ones used today are IPv4 and IPv6, aka IP version 4 and IP version 6. Your internet service provider dictates the version of your IP address. IPv4 is the version we’ve been talking about. It was developed in the early 1980s and remains the most common version of IP address. The problem is we’re running out of possible IPv4 addresses. The format allows only 4. 3 billion potential addresses. That might have seemed like a lot in the early days of the internet, but a lot can change in forty years. A study from Juniper Research estimates the total number devices connected to the internet will reach 83 billion by 2024, up from 35 billion in comes IPv6, a newer, longer IP format. In 1999, with the increasing commercialization of the internet, people began to worry the IANA would run out of IP addresses. So, the Internet Engineering Task Force came up with a version that would allow for far more address configurations. IPv6 addresses are written in a 128-bit hexadecimal format, with numbers and letters separated by colons. They look something like this:7ee0:b39c:3f99:52d1:5ce1:4057:2ae4:c7c6There are several advantages to the IPv6 format:It allows for some 340 undecillion—340 trillion trillion trillion—addresses for every person on the device gets its own unique IP address, not one based on the router’s address, allowing data to move more efficiently by making addresses directly accessible to one another. It’s like having your own unique phone number rather than having your calls forwarded to a phone allows for more data per transfer, and can prioritize which bits of data should go first when your connection is option of IPv6 is steadily increasing, but as Google reports, only about 30-35% of users are currently connecting to the internet with an IPv6 do you need an IP address? IP addresses are an essential part of all online activity. Data transmitted over the internet is divided into segments called packets. Among the data stored in a packet is the IP address of the origin device and the IP address of the destination device. These addresses ensure the data you request is sent to the right place. Without an IP address telling the data where to go, accessing the internet would be impossible, in the same way that sending or receiving mail is impossible without an address and a return can an IP address tell you? Whenever you use the internet to send an email, visit a website, or watch a movie on Netflix, you’re also sharing your IP address. When you type search terms into mainstream search engines, they collect data, like your IP fingerprints, no two IP addresses are exactly alike, and like fingerprints, you leave behind traces of your IP address when you roam the internet. These numbers can tell a bit about who you are and what you do online, and can help lead anyone who finds them back to cause IP addresses are assigned geographically, like phone number area codes, the main thing an IP address can tell you is your general you’re curious about your public IP address you can go to a site like It can give you a general idea of your geographic location, even the approximate latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of your router. (Try for yourself. ) These tools show how easy it is for anyone to know the city—perhaps even the neighborhood—you sent an email what if someone isn’t willing to stop there? The more an onlooker peeks at the internet activity associated with an IP address, the more details they can uncover about the people accessing the internet from that 2013, a report from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) illuminated that IP addresses can be used to paint a picture of an individual’s activities and interests, including:Online services for which they have rsonal interests, based on websites anizational affiliations. Locations they have visited findings of the study also indicate what law enforcement could obtain from individuals without needing prior judicial authorization, such as a common IP address security threatsYour online activity can reveal your IP address to attackers who can do a lot with just this fragment of access. Potential threats include:Tracking your location. As mentioned, your IP address can reveal your general location. This can then be cross-referenced with other data, such as your social media profiles, to gain more information about you. Hacking into a device. A hacker who knows your IP address could attempt to force a connection to your device. Once they have access, they can obtain personal information, install malware, or impersonate to protect your IP address with a VPNUsing a VPN is the best way to protect your IP address. A VPN, or virtual private network, masks your public IP address with one not tied to your internet service provider, and therefore not indicative of your location. A VPN reroutes your internet activity to a dedicated VPN server before connecting you to the internet. In other words, the internet doesn’t see your true IP address. Most good VPN services, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, charge a small monthly is the world’s first private, ad-free search engine, committed to showing you the best result for every search. We will never sell or share your data with anyone, especially advertisers. Sign up today and try Neeva for yourself: