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How to protect your IP address

How to protect your IP address


When you hop online, your computer uses your IP address to communicate – something that is easy to find and exploit by cybercriminals. Here’s how to hide your IP address from prying eyes.

You may not know it, but every time you use the internet, from checking your social media to playing games and chatting with friends, you can be recognized to the rest of the world by a digital address.

This “address” is your IP address, or Internet Protocol address. It is a unique set of numbers that identifies computers or devices from each other to allow them to communicate over the Internet. It might look like this:

Your digital devices work the same way as your physical address – your device needs an address to send information to another device. It sounds harmless, but attackers can launch attacks against you (or in some cases masquerading as you) if they know your IP address.

Now before we dive into this, keep in mind that finding and using a victim’s IP address in a cyber attack is really just a cog in the attack machine. Therefore, it is important that all the information presented here represents the worst case scenario. However, knowing personal vulnerabilities and how to secure them is important in every aspect of computer security.

What can someone do with my IP address?

There are many reasons why cybercriminals might want to get hold of your IP address, ranging from just messing with you to large scale and targeted malicious attacks. Three of the main reasons why they look up IP addresses are to do the following:

1. Download illegal content with the identity of your IP address: They can download pirated movies, music and videos – which can get you in trouble with your ISP – even child pornography or content that threatens national security. This puts an unnecessary target on your back for law enforcement to pursue. For example, in 2012, online threats to local police in Indiana were traced back to an IP address. After the SWAT team broke down the door and threw light bulbs into the hallway, they realized they had the wrong place.

2. Track your location for massive attacks: Given an IP address, an attacker can use geolocation technology to determine which region, city, or state you are in. They use this to determine if your area is a worthy target for future attacks. For example, they may look for IP addresses in richer locations or less security-savvy areas to receive more rewards from an attack or compromise a system more easily. Combine this with the ability to collect additional information, such as in the case of falsely declaring the ability to system fingerprint, and an attacker can determine if you or someone you love is the perfect victim.

3. Direct attack on your network: Criminals can not only use your IP address for large-scale attacks, but also directly target your network and launch a variety of attacks. One of the most common attacks is a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. This type of cyberattack occurs when the bad guys use previously infected devices to generate a large number of requests to flood the target system or server. By doing this, it creates a lot of traffic for the server to deal with, which leads to disruption of services. Essentially, it turns off your internet, which in turn prevents you from accessing vital resources. Although this attack is mentioned frequently when launched against companies and video game services, it is possible to perform it against an individual, albeit not as common.

Online players are especially at high risk, as their screen is visible during broadcasts (as an IP address can be detected). They accounted for more than half of all DDoS attacks in the past year, according to Akamai’s Q3 2015 State of the Internet Security report. If someone’s IP address is known to other players, they can launch a DDoS attack, banishing them from the game and the Internet. Even worse (and in a worst-case scenario), this could lead to a SWATTING attack, in which the attacker locates his victim and tricks the authorities enough to send an emergency response team to the victim’s home. Imagine them breaking into your door without warning!

How do criminals find my IP address?

Just as they do to find personal information online to target users for malware infection, cybercriminals can be very cunning to find your IP address. Here are some of the ways attackers drill down to see this magic number.

Attackers can use social engineering to trick you into revealing your IP address. For example, they can find you through Skype and other instant messaging apps, which all use IP addresses to communicate. If you happen to chat with strangers using these apps, it is important to note that they can see your IP address. Attackers can use a tool called Skype Resolver, where they can find your IP address when all they know is your username.

In addition, criminals can track your IP address by keeping track of your online activity. Any number of online activities can reveal your IP address, from playing video games to commenting on websites and forums.

After finding your IP address, the attackers simply go to an IP tracking website, such as, type it in, and then BAM – they have an idea of ​​your location. With a little grease, hackers can reference other open source data if they want to check if an IP address is specifically associated with you. They can use LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social networks that show where you live, and then see if that matches the specific area. If a Facebook stalker uses a phishing attack against all people under your name to install spyware malware, the IP address associated with your system will likely tell the stalker that he got the right person.

How can I protect my IP address?

A dynamic (cyclically changing) IP address is usually assigned by your ISP. However, you can sign up for a static address (that never changes) if you want to run a web server from your home. There is some debate about which is more secure, although it is arguably safer to have a dynamic IP address because “there is no static target for the attacker,” says Stephen Byrne, Malwarebytes Malware Intelligence Analyst.

It all boils down to the steps you take to secure your IP address. Here’s how you can keep your IP address out of the hands of criminals.

1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN): This protects your data online by using encryption and proxy tunneling. It hides your IP address and redirects your traffic through a separate server, making it safer for you online. VPN services are undoubtedly best practices for masking your IP address, says Burn. They can be found online with a monthly service fee, however, the price may not be worth it for every home user. There are free VPN services out there, but don’t expect them to be fast enough for any streaming or gaming.

In addition, you can run a proxy, which acts as an additional hub through which Internet requests are processed, all while masking your IP address. It can determine legitimate requests over illegal requests.

2. Update your router and firewall rules: Your router forwards data between networks, and your firewall prevents unauthorized access. Make sure to change the administrative password on your router, as default passwords are frequently used by attackers to break into your network. Every default password provided by your ISP is the same and can be easily searched online. Also, set your firewall rules to not allow any ping requests from the internet. This ensures that unauthorized visitors will not pass by.

3. Change privacy settings in instant messaging apps: Only allow direct calls from contacts and do not accept calls or messages from people you do not know. Changing your settings to private makes it difficult to find your IP address because people who don’t know you can’t contact you.

4. Update your antivirus solution and add layers of security: Making sure you are up to date with all of your security software updates ensures that you are protected from threats. Adding extra security on top of your antivirus software gives you more protection. For example, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware blocks malicious URLs that originate from phishing emails as well as blocks bad sites that you may encounter.

Protecting your IP address is one aspect of protecting your identity. Securing it through these steps is another way to stay safe against the wide range of attack vectors that cybercriminals use today.

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