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What Information Does My IP Address Reveal?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

IP address is a number that is allocated to each device (computer, mobile device, printer etc.) that connects to a public or private network. IP addresses were initially designed to be 32 bit numbers (IPv4) but due to the explosive growth of the internet and fast depletion of available 32 bit numbers, 128 bit IP addresses (IPv6) were conceived a while ago. Despite being such an oft-used term, there is a lot of confusion among people regarding what IP address actually means and how much information it can reveal. So let’s discuss more about the term and check out what information it actually contains.

Before we reveal more about IPs, it is important to understand how your computer or Smartphone actually gets an IP address. The IP address assigned to you is allocated by your ISP, educational institution, workplace or a hotspot available at a public place. It is important to note that the IP is not tied to a specific device; your IP address would remain the same until you are connected to a specific network but it will change if you leave the network or even reconnect to the same network. Some ISPs do assign fixed IP addresses to users but even in such cases, the IP is supposed to be device independent.

Armed with this information, let’s look at IP addresses in more detail. Although IPs are actually binary numbers, they are displayed in human readable form. A typical IPv4 IP address looks like:

Although the above IP looks like a series of random numbers separated by a period (.), it actually contains very specific information. The first part (98 in this case) identifies the network so anyone looking at your IP address would be able to tell who your ISP is just by looking at that number. If the IP address is assigned by a company or an institution then you can find the name and address of the organization by doing a reverse DNS and WHOIS record search.

The next three parts of the IP identify nodes or hosts within a particular network. In simple words, they identify you and your location to your ISP. Now depending on how your ISP has set up the network, your IP address may reveal your location to block or street level or it may show that you are located in another city (or even country). This happens because ISPs cannot deploy servers in every street or block, they usually assign a single server for a particular area (that may even serve multiple towns). This means that all the users connecting to the service from within that area would connect to the same server and their IP addresses would actually reveal the location of the server (and not their home addresses).

The above paragraphs clearly show that your IP address is not tied to your identity or actual address. However, if someone knows your ISP username in addition to knowing your IP address, he may be able to get your name and address with ease. It is important to protect IP address because ISPs and marketing companies usually rely on it for surveillance and to monitor browsing behavior. In addition, your IP may also enable a hacker to steal data or install a malware on your device by revealing open ports. If you want to protect your IP address from surveillance, marketing companies and security threats, we recommend using a reliable VPN service to mask it.

December 17, 2014

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