Using the internet is a complicated affair. It may not feel like that to you as a user. You click on your browser of choice and get on with your day — it’s as easy as pie.
Behind the scenes, though, is a whole different story. It’s full of numbers like your Internet Protocol (IP) address, basically your digital home address. This numeric label distinguishes your phone or computer from other devices across the world.
When you type in a website, your computer translates that into numbers, searching the site’s IP address and loading it onto your screen. Just as money makes the world go round, so, too, do numbers keep the internet chugging along. But when someone snatches your IP address, your whole digital world can come crashing down.
An exposed IP address puts you in danger
Your IP address plays a big role in sending and receiving data online. It’s tied to sensitive information, like your online identity and location. If someone tracks down this number, they could use it as a starting point for a nefarious investigation.
Sadly, it’s easy for strangers online to find your IP address. It’s a huge vulnerability: They could hack your device or steal your identity. Or they could enter your address into a free tracking website like iplocation.net to find out where you live. It even comes with a built-in map:
A lot of people on social media apps will doxx one another. Suppose you comment that you like pineapple on pizza on Twitter. Someone having a bad day might respond to that by tracking down your IP address and posting your name and address, along with a call to their followers like “Let’s protest in front of their house.”
Of course, that’s a light-hearted example. Reality can be much grimmer.
And get this: Tracing someone else’s IP address is legal. Authorities only step in when people use one another’s IP addresses for crimes. All of the apps and websites you use collect your IP address along with other private data.
So, how does someone find out your IP address?
First, they could try to impersonate you. For instance, a hacker could break into a vulnerable social media account you aren’t using two-factor authentication. If you reuse passwords, they could break into even more accounts until they reach one with sensitive data. Then, it’s a free-for-all with your private info.
Hackers can also collect your IP address if you connect to a vulnerable public Wi-Fi network. They can even be nefarious and create a link that gives away your IP address upon clicking it.
Free websites like Grabify let you spin your own personal spider’s web. Once victims click it, you find out their IP address. That’s yet another reason why you should never click on suspicious links on the internet. You could be giving away your location!
This is the best way to protect yourself from prying eyes
Big tech corporations are supposed to handle our personal data safely, but now they’re getting into the political game. I don’t want to be any part of that, and neither should you.
That’s why we trust and use our sponsor, ExpressVPN. These big tech companies match your internet activity to your identity or location by using your public IP address, but with ExpressVPN, no one can see your IP address – no one.