You probably have heard of the term “IP address” and know that it somehow relates to identifying your computer. We are going to take you on a deep dive regarding IP addresses and in the process talk about how important they can be. Reasons that you would want to keep your IP address private and the means with which to accomplish this goal will also be discussed.
What is an IP address?
As defined by techopedia, an Internet Protocol (IP) address is a logical numeric address assigned to all devices that are part of a TCP/IP-based network. In some respects, it is similar to a home address in that it is used to enable communication between other network-attached devices.
In other ways, it is very different than your home mailing address, and you will never have to give your IP address to the pizza delivery guy. In fact, you can get along very well without knowing your actual IP address. But in order to get on the Internet, it is a requirement that your computer or device has an IP address.
What Information Can Be Obtained From an IP Address?
Using an IP lookup tool can provide a wealth of information regarding the IP address being queried. These are the types of details that can be revealed about you through your IP address.
- The ISP, hostname, and owner of the IP address
- Country, region, and city information
- Known services that are running at that IP address
- An estimate of the latitude and longitude of the location
- The regional area code
That might be enough to make you think twice about broadcasting your IP address all over the place, and we will discuss ways to limit this practice later in the article. Data that cannot be gleaned through your IP address includes:
- The name, phone number or email address of the person associated with an IP address
- Precise physical address information
Are there Different Types of IP Addresses?
There are a variety of different types of IP addresses. The most basic differentiating factor is whether a given IP address employs the IPv4 or IPv6 format. Let’s see how these two formats differ.
An IPv4 address is comprised of four sets of numbers from 0 to 255. The four sets are separated by three dots, as in 188.8.131.52. There are three classes of IPv4 addresses, based on how many of the numerical blocks are variable.
IPv4 addresses range from 000.000.000.000 to 255.255.255.255 for a total of 4,294,967,296 possible IP addresses. While at one point this was thought to be sufficient for all worldwide computers, that has proven to be incorrect. To handle the growing numbers of network-connected devices, many now use the IPv6 format.
In order to greatly expand the number of possible addresses, an IPv6 address consists of eight sets of four hexadecimal digits. This increases the address range to encompass 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 unique addresses. This should be sufficient for the foreseeable future. An example of an IPv6 address is 2001:0db8:0001:0000:0000:0ab9:C0A8:0102. Leading zeros are sometimes eliminated to allow compression. The preceding address in compressed form would be 2001:db8:1::ab9:C0A8:102.
All IP addresses will be of the IPv4 or IPv6 format, but there are other factors which differentiate IP addresses. Here are some categories of IP addresses with which you may want to gain some familiarity.
An internal IP address is also known as your local IP address. It is assigned by your local router and is only seen by other devices on your local network. These addresses often have the form 192.168.x.x.
External IP addresses are assigned by your Internet service provider (ISP). It is with this address that any computers or devices outside of your local network identify your machine. This IP address is also known as your public IP address.
Dynamic IP addresses are assigned by your ISP and may periodically change over time. The majority of addresses that ISPs assign are dynamic as it is a more cost-effective method than tracking static addresses. You essentially lease an IP address from your ISP. This is the address that will be visible to computers and servers that you access while on the Internet. It may remain the same for an extended period of time, but still is considered dynamic and can be changed if your ISP desires to change it.
Static IP addresses
Static IP addresses are also assigned by your ISP but do not change over time. They usually come with an extra cost and are available on a request only basis. They can be useful for businesses, dedicated services, and hosting servers. Using a static IP address requires some configuration that is not needed with a dynamic address. Another feature of a static IP address is that geolocation services can more accurately locate you.
Default IP addresses can refer to the IP address that is assigned to a computer by an internal network. It is more commonly used to identify the IP address that is assigned to a network device, like a router, by its vendor. This IP address is used by other devices on the network to communicate with the network router. These addresses are usually left alone but can be changed if needed for network architectural reasons.
How Did I Get My IP Address?
Your IP address is assigned to you through your ISP and is most likely a dynamic address as discussed previously. In a corporate setting, the IP address of your machine is usually assigned by the local network to conform to the overall addressing scheme that is being used.
How to Find My IP address
Depending on the computing platform that you are using, there are different methods used to find an IP address. Here is one way to check your IP address using popular computing platforms.
- Launch the command prompt.
- Enter the ipconfig command.
- Your IP address is shown as your IPv4 address in the command output.
- Open System Preferences.
- Choose the network panel.
- Select your connection and click on the advanced button.
- Click on the TCP/IP tab to display your IP address.
- Select Settings.
- Tap on WiFi Network.
- Tap on the network connection.
- Your IP address is now displayed.
- Select Apps –> Settings –> Wireless & networks.
- Select the network you are currently using.
- The IP address and other network information will be displayed.
- Enter the hostname -l command to display your IP address on the Linux command line.
How to Change an IP Address?
You might want to change your computer’s or router’s IP address for a variety of reasons. They include:
- Correcting a misconfigured static address.
- Changing addresses provided by a malfunctioning router.
- Reconfiguring your home network after installing a new router.
Changing a router’s IP address involves logging into the router as an administrator. This should not be necessary unless there is a compelling issue that needs to be addressed. Most of the time you will not have any need to change this IP address.
The IP address you are most likely to change is your external address which allows you to access the Internet. Here are some methods which can be used to change your IP address.
When connecting via a modem you are assigned a different IP address by your ISP each time you connect. You can disconnect for a few minutes and reconnect to change this IP address.
Broadband routers also obtain their external IP address from the ISP providing service. In most cases, this is a dynamic address, but ISPs lease addresses for varying periods of time. This means that simply turning off your router and modem may not change the IP address. You may need to access the router and release the IP address. Steps will differ based on your brand of router. Disconnecting your router from its power source for an extended period of time may cause the IP address to change.
If you really need to change your IP address and the previous methods do not work, you will have to contact your ISP.
How to Hide an IP Address
While it might be interesting to change your IP address, you are more likely to want to hide your address to preserve your online anonymity and privacy. Some of the most common reasons to hide your IP address are to:
- Visit websites anonymously.
- Protect yourself when using public WiFi.
- Subvert government or organizational censorship.
- Access websites that are geo-blocked due to your location.
- Hide online activity from your ISP.
- Protect your location from surveillance.
As noted previously, there is a lot of information that can be found about you through your IP address. By hiding your IP address this information is not available as you move around on the Internet and cannot be used to restrict your access to any sites.
Here are the two most common ways to hide your IP address when engaged in online activity.
Use a VPN service – Making use of a VPN service masks your IP address by routing your Internet activity through one of the VPNs servers. You are then using their IP address rather than your own, keeping your identity and location private.
Use the Tor browser – The Tor browser is perhaps best known for its ability to access websites on the deep and dark webs. It can also be used to access any Internet site and protects your IP address by routing traffic through a number of different servers. This obscures the original IP address and preserves your anonymity while online.
Some Common IP Addresses
If you are interested in IP addresses at all and start investigating the addresses of various routers and devices you will find that some addresses are very common and show up time after time.
Routers are built with default IP addresses. The IP addresses 192.168.0.1, 192.168.1.1, 192.168.2.1, and 10.0.0.1 are all examples of IP addresses that will be found as the internal or private address of your network router or gateway. They can be changed if needed to resolve specific networking issues, but are usually left alone.
Usually, websites are accessed through their name and not by using their IP address. If you are interested in knowing a site’s IP address, or have an IP address that you would like to associate with a website, you can use a WHOIS IP lookup tool.
As you can see, IP addresses are a critical component of Internet usage. Understanding them and how they may affect you and your devices is important for anyone who spends any time online. While in many cases you can get away with not being concerned about your IP address, if you value your privacy and want to protect your anonymity, you should definitely look into hiding your IP address when engaged in online activities. Moving around on the Internet with your public IP address exposed leaves a trail which can be followed by many entities that you may wish to avoid. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself whenever you access the Internet.