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Your internet service provider assigns a numeric label, called the Internet Protocol (IP) address, to identify your device among billions of others. In a way, an IP functions as an online home address, because devices use IPs to find and communicate with each other.
Here’s how an IP directs data to its destination. First, you type in a website name (example.com) into the browser. However, your computer does not understand words — only numbers. So it first finds out the IP of that website (example.com = 188.8.131.52.), finds it on the web, and finally loads it on your screen.
Your IP address reveals your country, region, city, and internet service provider.
Furthermore, cybercriminals can look up the online activity associated with a particular IP address by simply searching it online. They can find out your browsing habits, hobbies, and surprisingly private details — for example, that you visit fitness websites or edit Wikipedia.
Internet service providers can track and log your online activity. In some countries, they are required to do so by law.
Authorities can then order them to release the browsing history associated with a particular IP address. That’s how your online activity, along with your name, home address, phone number, and credit card details, can end up in the hands of the government.
Advertisers know what ads you click based on your IP (and other digital footprints you leave).
Associating your IP address with your online activity gives advertisers priceless insights about your preferences, desires, and habits. They use this information to create your digital profile, which may include your age, gender, education, income size, etc. Then they sell this data to the highest bidder.
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How an IP address looks depends on the Internet Protocol version it’s using — IPv4 or IPv6.
Most internet service providers still use IPv4. It’s based on 32 binary bits, consists of four numbers from 0 to 255, and is separated by dots. For example, 184.108.40.206.
However, IPv4 can generate only 4.3 billion unique IP addresses. That’s nowhere near enough in this digital age — IPv4 addresses will soon run out.
IPv6 addresses are made up of 8 blocks of numbers. Each block is written as four hexadecimal digits and separated by colons. For example, 2400:BB40:1100:0000:0000:0000:0000:0001.
Number groups containing only 0 are often omitted to save space. Instead, a colon is added to indicate the gap. For example, 2400:BB40:1100::1.
Unlike the IPv4 protocol, IPv6 won’t ever run out of unique IP addresses — it can provide nearly 3.4×10^38 of them. Furthermore, some argue that IPv6 is a more efficient technology, providing better quality and connectivity.
However, IPv6 has not been fully implemented for two reasons:
1. IPv6 isn’t backward compatible with IPv4. You can’t access IPv4 websites if your device runs on an IPv6 protocol.
2. It’s hard to adopt the new technology without immediate gain. IPv4 still suits our needs, and until we reach its limit, a worldwide shift is unlikely.
The IP address provided by your internet service provider is also known as your public IP. Devices on the same network share this IP when accessing the internet.
Take your home network for an example. It’s made up of your computer, phone, tablet, and every other device on your router. When these devices connect to the internet, they use the public IP address that’s been assigned to the router.
Routers assign private IPs to each device on their network, so that devices can identify and find each other. When these devices connect to the internet, their private IP addresses remain hidden, and only the public IP addresses of routers are visible.
What is my IP — it’s a simple question, but it reveals more about your personality than you’d want. If you care about your privacy and security, you need to use a trustworthy VPN service.
With NordVPN, you route all traffic through a remote server and access the internet in the cover of its IP address and location.
Stay secure with 256-bit AES encryption standard, used by governments, cybersecurity experts, and even NSA for securing classified information.
Your data stays private. NordVPN adheres to a strict no-log policy, which ensures that we do not track or log what you do online.