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 Does Your IP Address Tell The World About You?
As you probably already know, your IP address is the address or logical location of your computer when it’s connected to the Internet. Networking software/hardware must know your IP address for you to connect and go online. Thankfully, you don’t need to know your IP address every time and enter it in, like a password. However, if you ever want to know what it is, you can find out quickly by going to
Websites and networks also need to know your IP address, in the digital way that computers do. IP addresses are part of TCP/IP, the protocols that networks speak that allow us all to get online. Think of it as a common digital language.
And while it’s somewhat rare for an individual to need or want your IP address, there are ways for them to get it. In fact, almost anyone that you email could find yours out.
But what is it they would get? Click here to find out.
It’s no secret.
A lot of people worry that their IP address might reveal their name, home address, age, what they look at online and more. That’s just not the case. Sure, they might find out some interesting information, but nothing revealing.
Let’s show you what you can discover by running a real IP address through the IP Lookup feature at You can use a random IP address for the test—even yours. But for this exercise, we’ll use 68. 4. 39. 37.
This number is the IP address of a computer/router that’s connected to the Internet somewhere in Southern California. If there is a single computer on that account, it’s the IP address linked to the computer. If the computer is connected to a router, it’s the router’s address.
The IP Lookup feature isn’t linked to an extensive Internet directory. It’s not like the landline phone system, where you could grab a phone directory or call the telephone operator and try to match a name and street address to a telephone number. (Talk about a lack of privacy! )
In the Internet world, there’s no such thing—not for an ordinary citizen and not even for law enforcement, without a subpoena.
IP Lookup in action.
When you visit the IP Lookup page and paste an address into the empty box, here’s what you’ll find out:
The first time you see the IP details—especially your city, ZIP code and the area code of where you live—it can be a bit a surprising. The IP details aren’t always close. They can be hundreds of miles off, and if the person is using a VPN and a different IP address, the information can be highly inaccurate.
But it’s important to see what you don’t get in the IP details, and never will. You don’t see any real information about the person who is using that assigned IP address, including a street name and address. You will get the name of the Internet Service Provider that serves the domain name…in this case, the cable company Cox Communications. In most cases, knowing the name of the ISP is all that somebody wants to know.
Getting to the source.
There are a handful of practical reasons people use IP Lookup, even with its limitations:
Law enforcement and fraud investigators use online tools to see what ISP is hosting a spammer.
Blacklist databases use it to find spammers or other violators and block their access to email servers.
Retailers often use IP Lookup to make sure someone charging thousands of dollars is at the mailing address linked to the card…and not actually overseas with a stolen credit account.
You can use it to verify that someone who tells you in an email that they’re across town isn’t really in an abandoned warehouse in another country.
Find out what can be seeing about your IP address by clicking here.
Get hidden now. »» I want to hide my IP
What is an IP Address?
Can Someone Find Me?
How Someone Can Get Your IP Address
IP Address Lookup Tool
How do I Hide my IP Address?
What you can do with an IP address, and how to protect yours from hackers
With someone’s IP address, you can learn a user’s general location, and disable some parts of their internet browsing device connected to the internet has an IP address, which helps websites identify your third-party programs or services, someone with your IP address could possibly block you from reaching certain you’re concerned about the security of your IP address, consider installing a firewall and Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.
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Every device that connects to the internet has an IP (Internet Protocol) address. The
IP address, which is composed of a series of numbers separated by decimal points, looks something like “198. 169. 0. 100. ” This number is used to help devices talk to each other and exchange data. Your network router has its own IP address, of course, as does every device on your network. But because these identifiers are so important, that means a hacker can potentially use them against you. Here’s what you should know about your IP address, and what it can be used for.
What you can do with an IP addressFirstly: most users won’t have to worry about any of this. It’s unlikely that any hacker would take the time to learn your specific IP address, and manipulate your specific device. There’s no real reward in it for them, so unless they love playing pranks, it would be a waste of fact, every website you visit already knows your IP address — that’s how they know to load on your computer, as opposed to someone else’ said, armed with your IP address, someone has the potential to take certain actions against your network. As such, it’s a good idea to keep your IP private from individuals you don’t could:
Block you from accessing websitesIt’s possible to use your IP address to prevent you from performing certain online activities. The most common example of this is blocking your ability to reach a certain site, or to post messages in forums or the comment section of web sites. In fact, this is the most common way that website administrators ban rulebreakers. It’s often referred to as an “IP Ban. “Your IP address can also be used to block or ban you from playing online games on some gaming services.
Learn your general geographic location Your IP address can reveal your geographic location. In most cases, this won’t be any more specific than your city and state. In rare cases, it could be as specific as your IP address also carries the name of your Internet Service Provider (the company that gives you internet access — think Spectrum, or Xfinity).
Your IP address signals where you are. ; William Antonelli/Business Insider
While there’s not a lot someone can do with this information, it can be combined with details from other sources to piece together data about your identity.
Perform a Denial of Service AttackKnowing your IP address, a malicious user may be able to perform a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, in which your network is flooded with data. It prevents normal traffic from getting through and overloads the network’s ability to function. However, these attacks are usually directed at large companies or websites — it’s rare that anyone would set up a DoS attack on a regular user.
How to protect your IP addressWhile there are some risks, your IP address alone poses very limited danger to you or your network. Your IP address can’t be used to reveal your identity or specific location, nor can it be used to hack into or remotely take control of your computer. That said, if you’re still concerned, a few simple precautions can help protect and foremost, your network should be protected with a firewall. Most routers have firewalls built in, but you should contact your router manufacturer or internet service provider to learn about your additional protection, you can use Virtual Private Network (
VPN) software. A VPN hides your IP address from all outside users, making it extremely difficult for someone to uncover your IP address or monitor your online activity.
NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN services.
NordVPN; William Antonelli/Business Insider
‘What is my IP? ‘: Here’s what an IP address does, and how to find yours’What is a good internet speed? ‘: The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internet’What is Wi-Fi calling? ‘: How to make calls from your smartphone even if you don’t have a cell signalHow to find the IP address of your internet router using a Mac, PC, iPhone, or AndroidNo, Bluetooth doesn’t use cellular data — here’s how the popular wireless technology connects your devices
Dave Johnson is a technology journalist who writes about consumer tech and how the industry is transforming the speculative world of science fiction into modern-day real life. Dave grew up in New Jersey before entering the Air Force to operate satellites, teach space operations, and do space launch planning. He then spent eight years as a content lead on the Windows team at Microsoft. As a photographer, Dave has photographed wolves in their natural environment; he’s also a scuba instructor and co-host of several podcasts. Dave is the author of more than two dozen books and has contributed to many sites and publications including CNET, Forbes, PC World, How To Geek, and Insider.
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Frequently Asked Questions about what does your ip address reveal
Can IP address reveal identity?
A lot of people worry that their IP address might reveal their name, home address, age, what they look at online and more. That’s just not the case. Sure, they might find out some interesting information, but nothing revealing. … You can use a random IP address for the test—even yours.
What does finding someone’s IP address do?
With someone’s IP address, you can learn a user’s general location, and disable some parts of their internet browsing experience. Every device connected to the internet has an IP address, which helps websites identify your computer.Jun 2, 2020