Your IP address is essential for sending and receiving information online. But if a hacker knows your IP address, they can use it to seize valuable information, including your location and online identity. Using this information as a starting point, they could hack your device or steal your identity, just for starters.
Before we go into how your IP address can be abused, let’s start with finding out what your personal IP address is: What is my IP?
By the end of this post, you’ll know what to protect yourself against and discover ways to hide your IP address. Pretty neat.
Your IP address is a unique string of numbers assigned to you by your ISP – like a delivery address for online traffic. If you connect to a different Wi-Fi or move house, your IP address will change along with your location.
Most ISPs use dynamic IP addresses, which aren’t fixed to your device, but you can have a static IP if you wish to (you can learn more about different types of IP addresses here). For example, if you want your computer IP address to always stay the same, you’ll be able to specify that through the device’s settings. This can be useful when port-forwarding – if you want certain data to be sent directly from your router to your computer IP address.
Since your IP address holds certain information about you, someone could use it for malicious purposes. People can get hold of your IP address in plenty of ways. Here are just a few:
Check out our brief video on this topic below.
Tracing your IP address is legal as long as it’s not used for criminal activities. The websites you visit, apps you use, and even your ISP collect your IP address along with other personal information.
However, individual users can also easily trace your IP address. If they have no intent to harm you, no law prevents them from snooping on you — unless their curiosity involves hacking or social engineering techniques.
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While your IP address won’t give away sensitive information like your phone number or approximate location, hackers can still use your IP against you. If a cybercriminal knows your IP address, the consequences can be devastating:
They can get your location and intrude on your privacy in real life.Your IP address shows what city you’re in, so if someone ill-intentioned finds it out, you could be in trouble. Let’s say you’ve announced that you’re going on holiday on your social media. A criminal only needs to do a little extra digging to find your house and burgle it while you’re away.
Hackers can impersonate you to get hold of your personal information. If your IP is stolen, it could result in identity theft. Cybercriminals could use your IP address to track down your ISP and launch a phishing attack to trick them into disclosing your personally identifiable information that they store — for example your birthdate, phone number, bank account number, or Social Security number. This information can later be sold online. Also, online thieves who know your name from social media can contact your ISP and try to impersonate you — using a vishing attack — to steal your personal details, which can later be sold online.
They can sell your IP address and other sensitive data on the dark web. Some hackers might steal your IP address for the sole purpose of selling it on the dark web for profit. Some VPN services providers, like NordVPN, offer the dark web monitoring feature as part of their product package. It alerts you to accounts in danger so that you can take action to protect your online data.
Cybercriminals can use your IP to hack your device.The internet uses ports as well as your IP address to connect. There are thousands of ports for every IP address, and a hacker who has your IP can try all of those ports to brute force a connection, taking over your phone, for example, and stealing your information. If a criminal does get access to your device, they could also install malware on it, which could expose your IP.
Employers can track your activity. IPs are owned by ISPs, and each IP is assigned to a user. When you’re connected to your work network your employers could potentially see and track everything you do online, giving you hardly any privacy at all. The same goes for your home network – if someone gets access to it, they can track your online activities.
They can send you personalized ads and spam. Online advertisers embed tracking programs like cookies, tracking URLs, and tracking pixels in their online articles and ads to collect data about how people interact with their ad campaigns. These trackers record your IP address to send you targeted spam and ads based on your browsing history. One day you are browsing healthy dog food, and the next day you get flooded with ads for pet shops.
A hacker can hit you with a DDoS attack. If a hacker has your IP address, they could harm you with a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. A DDoS attack uses an army of computers controlled by a hacker to flood your device with traffic so it disconnects from the internet and completely shuts down.
Cybercriminals can frame you for illegal activity. Hackers are known to use hacked IP addresses to download illegal content that threatens national security as well as anything else they don’t want traced back to them. They could buy illegal substances and banned goods and pin it on you. So protect your IP address with a virtual private network, and prevent hackers from getting their hands on your IP address.
You should always protect your personally identifiable information even if you think the risks do not apply to you. With enough determination, a bad actor can stitch together an entire identity with stolen personal data, and your IP address could be the starting block.
Here are three ways to protect your IP address and prevent yourself from being exploited by hackers:
Change your privacy settings. Change the settings on all your instant messaging as well as other apps to “private,” and don’t accept calls or messages from people you don’t know. Hackers are known to gain access to your IP address through messaging apps like Skype.
Update your firewall and router. A criminal can hack your router remotely and retrieve your IP address, especially if you’re still using the default one. Change the password of your router regularly and be sure to use a long mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Use a VPN. A VPN will protect your IP address and your private information. By routing your online data through a VPN server with its own IP address, you can prevent websites from knowing your real IP address and virtual location.
Yes, a VPN completely hides your IP address and encrypts your internet connection. Even better, a VPN prevents third parties like your ISP from eavesdropping on your data. Your online activity cannot be traced back to you, giving you a powerful layer of security.
NordVPN has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries, providing you with the best speeds available. With one NordVPN account, you can protect up to six different devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. You can also install it on your router and secure gadgets that don’t support VPN functionality directly.
You might have heard of proxy servers that route your internet traffic so it looks like the traffic comes through the server’s IP address and not yours. However, free proxy services are especially risky to use because most of them collect and sell your data. Also, a proxy doesn’t encrypt your internet traffic, while a VPN does. Check out other VPN advantages below.
While you might be principally interested in VPNs for their IP-switching functionality, they also come with a range of additional features.
Security. A VPN establishes an encrypted tunnel between your device and a VPN server. That means that no one can spy on your data as it moves from your device to the server — not even your internet service provider (ISP).
Data has never been more valuable. Your ISP can monitor your activity and sell that information to advertisers and other third parties. Hackers can steal your passwords and use your private details to launch phishing attacks. It’s vital that you protect your data.
Anonymity. Even though absolute anonymity is impossible, a quality VPN service is a huge step towards making sure your online traffic and identity are secure. Using a VPN, you can jump from one server to another in seconds, changing your IP address as you go and masking your location.
Plus, NordVPN doesn’t log your browsing activity. Your internet service provider will only see the IP address that NordVPN gave you, shared by thousands of other users, increasing your anonymity online.
A dedicated IP. NordVPN offers the service of assigning you a dedicated IP address that will not change and will only be used by you. A dedicated IP is great for signing into corporate remote access systems or private servers, available only to authorized IPs. It also helps to access online services securely and prevents you from ending up on IP blacklists, which may happen if you use a shared IP with users who carry out shady or illegal activities online.
A secure internet protocol. NordVPN uses IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN protocols, which are well known for their security and reliability. Also, NordVPN uses NordLynx, an advanced technology built around the WireGuard® VPN protocol. It facilitates faster connection to NordVPN servers and improves VPN connection speeds without reducing security or privacy.
Threat Protection. NordVPN’s Threat Protection system enhances your protection against malware by shielding you from high-risk websites and warning you about infected files during download. It also blocks trackers and intrusive ads, so you can enjoy safer and smoother browsing.
Kill Switch. When Kill Switch is enabled, you can avoid unexpected data exposure or leaks on the web. If your VPN connection drops, Kill Switch blocks internet access for your device.