What can someone do with your IP address?

Data protection is more important today than ever – especially on the Internet. In fact, you hear tons of people talking about it and read dozens of articles about the importance of hiding your IP address when you go online.

But what can someone actually do with your IP address?

Here’s everything you need to know about it:

What is an IP address?

An Internet Protocol (IP) address serves as an identifier for the device you use to access the Internet. In this way, websites know exactly where to send the requested data.

Your IP address not only identifies your device but also indicates your geographic location as it contains information such as:

  • What country are you from.
  • What city are you from.
  • Who is your ISP.
  • What is your zip code.

How can others find out your IP address?

  • The easiest way for someone to find out your IP address is if you upload files via a torrent , any member of the swarm (the total number of all users, including those who only upload files and those who only download files) can very easily, your display the IP address. All you have to do is check the list of peers and you can see your entire address right there – along with the type and version of torrent client you’re using.
  • When you send an email to someone else, they only need to check the email message header as it may contain your IP address. However, not all email services reveal IP addresses. For example, Gmail doesn’t do this (it only shows the mail server’s address), but Yahoo! and Microsoft Outlook show these .
  • A more unconventional way for someone to find out your IP address is through a website that you run, hosted on your own server at home. Others can simply open their operating system’s command prompt and ping the website’s domain. In this case, the prompt returns the IP address of the website.
  • Alternatively, others can also use an online IP lookup lanc tool to do the same.
  • Of course, if you’re using a server in a data center to host your website, you don’t have to worry about that.

Here are other “little” ways someone can find out your real IP address:

  • By checking the web server logs of the websites you visit. Don’t forget that every website you access shows and stores your IP address. Of course, only website owners and administrators can see this information – or pretty much anyone if the website has a data leak .
  • Email HTML errors can reveal your IP address when you open an email or view an image in that email. This is not exactly an error, but part of the code in a transparent image included in an email. People can use services like WhoReadMe to attach such an image to the email they send. If you interact with the message, the service notifies the sender and also shows them your location (i.e. your IP address).
  • If someone is visiting you and using your WiFi network, they can just use Google and “What is my IP address?” enter. The IP address is then displayed immediately.
  • Forums, blogs and game server administrators can see your real IP address. Because of this, they can also block you.
  • When interacting with online advertisements (particularly on social media), your IP address is displayed to advertisers.
  • Someone could use a tool like Grabify to create a link to a legitimate website and send it to you. Clicking on the link will take you to a real website. However, the person who sent the link may also track information about you, including your IP address.

So what can someone do with your IP address?

Here are the top ways that having someone have your IP address can affect you and your online experience:

Your access to certain services will be restricted

“If someone has my IP address, what can they do with my online access?”

Well, content providers can use your IP address to hit you with geo-blocks – content restrictions that essentially prevent you from accessing a website or a website’s content if you’re from a blacklisted geographic region .

As previously mentioned, your IP address reveals your geographic location and any website you send connection requests to or visit may view and log your IP address.

For example, services such as Netflix or Hulu prevent users from other countries from accessing American content. 

You will be overwhelmed with “personalized” advertisements

Have you ever opened, read and closed an article about the best vacuum cleaners and later seen tons of vacuum cleaner adverts on your social media feed?

The vacuum cleaner is just one example – actually everything fits with this statement.

Well, this spooky “coincidence” is actually how advertisers track you around the web and bombard you with ads that you “may” be interested in.

Advertisers typically use tracking pixels, but they also use your IP address. This allows you to place location-based advertisements in your native language.

Some people might find this useful, but for most of us it feels like an invasion of our privacy.

Information is collected on a database and sold on the dark web 

Some hackers collect IP addresses to sell on the dark web for a profit. Of course, a cybercriminal doesn’t just sell your IP address. That’s really of no value to anyone. Instead, they create an entire database of user data they’ve stolen from various websites – and that data includes your IP address.

However, that doesn’t mean you should take it lightly. When someone buys your IP address on the dark web, they usually don’t have good intentions. They are either trying to impersonate you, get personal information about you, or use it to scam.

Personal information about you can only be found out to a limited extent 

Don’t think that just because someone knows your IP address, someone can find out your name, physical address, and phone number.

At most, they can pinpoint your location to a specific area – a country, a city, or even a neighborhood.

However, if the cybercriminal has enough knowledge, they can use your IP address to find out who your ISP is and use phishing and vishing attacks to get your personal information. Something like this has happened before, so no speculation.

Cyberstalkers who are persistent enough can also try to use your IP address to track your actions online and find out more personal information about you. However, this would only work if your ISP is tricked into revealing confidential data or if they are hacked into doing so.

DoS/ DDoS in your network

If a cybercriminal knows your IP address, they can perform DDoS/DoS for you – basically flooding your network with unwanted traffic to the point where your Internet connection is lost.

This often happens in online gaming – when players want to annoy others with DoS/DDoS.

Yes, this can happen if you live in a country where the law on torrenting is very strict – like the US for example.

Torrent monitoring and copyright agencies monitor torrent traffic and select your IP address. If they do, they can find out who your ISP is and contact them to ask them to pass on your contact and personal information.

Depending on how serious your “torrenting crime” is, they might just threaten you with DMCA notices, or they might sue you outright.

Prevent this when playing online games

This only applies to online games. Basically, an admin who is a bad loser can ban you from the game.

If they block you now, your IP address will actually be blocked. Because the game server creates a blacklist, you won’t be able to connect until someone unblocks you.

“Can my IP address be hacked and used?”

Not exactly, although you may have heard others talk about “IP hacks” online.

However, a cybercriminal cannot technically hack an IP address. It’s just a number, not software or hardware.

“Okay, then what can a hacker do with an IP address?”

Well, a cybercriminal could theoretically use your IP address. To do this, they would have to hack your device to gain access to the IP address. This or that is trying to gain access to your home WiFi network – this is very easy to do if you don’t secure it properly .

Once they use your network or device, they can use your IP address to perform illegal activities – such as making death threats or downloading illegal torrents, child pornography, or content that could endanger the country’s national security.

“ Can someone remotely access my computer with my IP address?”

It depends on.

Usually no. Just knowing someone’s IP address is not enough to remotely hack their devices.

A highly skilled cyber criminal could still use your IP address to scan for open ports associated with it. If you’re new to ports, think of them as pipelines that carry data in and out of your network and device.

If a hacker manages to find an open port and gain control of it (and many others), they have the ability to remotely control your computer. However, this can only happen if your operating system is outdated, you are not using antivirus/antimalware software and you have disabled the firewall.

A cyber criminal can also use your IP address to obtain personal information about you and your browsing habits, and use phishing methods to try to trick you into installing malicious software on your device. If successful, they can access your device remotely.

How to protect your IP address from hackers, advertisers and surveillance

Here are some good ways to hide your IP address to make sure nobody can track or steal it:

Use a VPN serviceA VPN is an online service that allows you to quickly and easily hide your IP address. All you have to do is connect to a VPN server , which will automatically replace your real IP address with its own address.

Before setting up a VPN, you should carefully test the connection to ensure there are no IP leaks. Using a VPN with a kill switch is also preferable. This way, if your VPN connection ever drops for any reason, you don’t have to worry as the VPN will automatically disconnect your internet access until the connection is restored.

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