When you ask: “What is my IP address?” on a search engine, you’ll be greeted with tools that return your IP address in full. And, if these tools could easily pick up your IP address, so can other hidden parties like hackers and government agencies.
Every single device that connects to the Internet is assigned an IP address. As much as it’s a necessity, having your IP address exposed may lead to dire consequences. We’re not peddling horror tales or urban myths but shedding light on the mistakes the common public have encountered with their IP addresses.
What is My IP Address?
In order for devices like computers to communicate on a network, a unique identifier is needed. The identifier, which resembles the mailbox number of the digital world, is known as the Internet Protocol Address or IP address.
Currently, there are two standards of IP addresses, i.e. the IPv4 and the IPv6. The IPv4 is what the public is more familiar with. It is represented by 3 numbers separated by a “dot.” A typical IPv4 address looks like “126.96.36.199,” which is the address of the BBC UK website.
The IPv6, which has a different structure, was introduced to overcome the limitation of the IPv4, including providing almost unlimited numbers of IP addresses.
Generally, when you’re looking for your IP address, it automatically refers to the IPv4. There are two types of addresses associated with a single device, the private and public addresses.
When you’re connected to your home network, your device is usually assigned an IP address by the router. Here’s what a common private address looks like 192.168.1.100. A private address is only visible within the local network.
Besides the private Internet Protocol Address, your device will be assigned a public IP address when it connects to the Internet. The public Internet Protocol Address is assigned by the internet service provider (ISP) and looks like 188.8.131.52.
The public address of your device is the one that’s revealed by online tools. It’s also visible to any parties that have been snooping around on the Internet.
Why Should I Protect My IP Address?
While an IP address is needed to send data around the internet, it is also a vulnerability that exposes your safety and privacy to the public. Based on an IP address, your location is immediately revealed.
Knowing your physical location is the least of your concerns. Armed with just an IP address, third parties can track the history of your internet activities. The sites that you’ve visited, chat forums that you’re a member of, and even what you’ve purchased on the Internet can be revealed.
The danger of getting hacked is real and even more so if you’re using public WiFi. Despite the convenience of public WiFi, they often lack basic security protection. In other words, connecting to a public WiFi with your address exposed is an open invitation for cyberattackers.
To find out more about the dangers of using public WiFi, read Why Use A VPN When Connecting to Public WiFi.
In a digital world where advertisers are blasting users with incessant ads, your address is a perfect giveaway to your shopping habits, interests, and preferences. Ever wondered why you keep seeing the same ads on different websites? That’s a perfect example of how advertisers target you by referring to your IP address.
If you’re living or traveling to a country that practices strict internet censorship, you have valid concerns that every one of your online activities is being spied on. China, with its infamous “great firewall,” is a perfect example. Protecting your address, by masking it with a foreign IP, helps to escape state surveillance.
You might also be interested in: Best VPN to Unblock Apps and Sites in China.
Even if you’re not particularly concerned about internet privacy, hiding your address can be advantageous. If you want to access geo-restricted content, such as watching Netflix US when you’re in another country, masking your Internet Protocol Address is a key step in connecting to the streaming provider.
How to Hide Your Internet Protocol Address
There is little control over how your address shows up on the Internet unless you’re using a VPN. A VPN, which stands for the Virtual Private Network, is a service that enables internet users to cloak their addresses and take on random IPs that belong to the VPN servers.
Using a VPN is an ingenious way to cover up your traces on the Internet. With a “fake” IP, attackers will be unable to pinpoint your exact location, nor identify your identity. Any attempts to trace the source of the transmission will end up at servers belonging to the VPN provider.
The same IP-cloaking feature on a VPN is also useful when accessing geo-restricted content. If you’re trying to access Netflix US in France, all you need to do is to connect your computer to a VPN server in the US.
(Of course, there are other measures taken by Netflix to safeguard its content, which means only a select few VPNs are able to access its libraries even when the original IP is hidden).
Best VPNs to Keep Your IP Safe
A VPN does more than protect your Internet Protocol Address. The service also encrypts the communication, making it unintelligible for potential hackers. If you’re trying to keep your address, these are the best VPNs that are worth subscribing to.
|Safe Jurisdiction||✅||✅||✅||No (USA)|
|Voice call-friendly connection speed||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|Number of countries||50+||61+||59||75+|
|24/7 Customer support||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|No of devices||6||Unlimited||6||10|
|Supports chain VPN connections||Yes (Double VPN)||Yes (Multihop)||Yes (Double VPN)||No|
|$4.99 – $7.99||$1.99 – $11.95||$3.49 – $11.95||$3.25 – $5.00|
It’s a mistake to assume that leaving your IP address exposed brings no harm. While some cyber-attacks result in obvious damage, other spying activities are conducted in stealth and right under your nose. Sign up to a VPN right now and start protecting your IP address.