In the UK, cybercrime accounts for over 50% of all crimes, and this is a great cause for concern.
Most people store vast amounts of sensitive, private information on their smartphones and PCs, and it could spell disaster if someone were to steal that information.
Since cybercrime is gaining momentum, it’s important for everyone to be on their toes and ensure they’re well-protected. The first line of defense is hiding and protecting one’s IP address.
But what is an IP address? Why is it valuable to cybercriminals? How can it be protected? Let’s take a look.
What is my IP?
The IP (or Internet Protocol) address is basically a device’s personal ID. Every device that’s connected to the internet has a unique IP address that distinguishes it from the others.
The address itself is a unique combination of numbers that identifies a single device on the network and allows it to connect and communicate through the internet.
The IP address is assigned by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), and it allows all internet activity to go through the ISP and be routed back.
The IP can be changed rather easily. Sometimes it occurs when a modem or router is switched off, for example. Sometimes the ISP changes it.
When the device is connected to another network, it gets another IP. So, when going on vacation, for example, or using a laptop in a coffee shop, etc., the device gets a different IP address.
Users can check their IP address by simply Googling “What is my IP.”
They’ll notice that every time they’re connected to a different network, Google shows a different address.
How can my IP address be found?
An IP address can be found rather easily. Some of the most popular instant messaging apps, such as Skype, use IP addresses to communicate.
Thus, when talking to strangers through such apps, it’s important to know that the IP is visible.
Cybercriminals have a variety of different tools and software that can uncover somebody’s IP address based solely on the username, for example.
The address can also be found by tracking a user’s online activity. Commenting on websites and forums can expose one’s IP, so can giving reviews, or playing online video games.
Hackers have access to IP address tracking websites, which can assist them in finding out the exact physical location of the device. This can allow stalkers or other criminals to easily find out where someone lives.
Why might cybercriminals use my IP for?
There’s a variety of reasons why someone would need another person’s IP address, but there are the 3 most common ones:
1. Attacking the network
2. Downloading illegal content
3. Performing large-scale attacks
Attacking the network
Most commonly, cybercriminals use IP addresses to launch a DDoS attack. DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, is an attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a server.
A DDoS attack creates too much traffic for a server to handle, overwhelming the network. This causes the internet to shut down, and blocks the users from accessing it.
Downloading illegal content
Attackers sometimes use the IP address to simply cause unnecessary disturbances.
They can use it to download illegal content, like pirated movies, music, even child pornography, and the like. This can cause law enforcement to come after the victim and can result in hefty lawsuits, and more.
Performing large-scale attacks
An IP address can pinpoint the exact location of the device, meaning that the cybercriminal can learn the user’s ZIP code, their area, even the exact physical address.
They can use this knowledge to attack bigger targets and launch DDoS attacks on large organizations, banks, even governments.
How to protect my IP?
One sure way of protecting an IP address is through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN works by routing all internet traffic through remote servers, thus generating a fake new IP for the device.
It also creates a hidden, encrypted connection to a network that cannot be intercepted. This means that even public networks can become safe to use.
Public WiFi is notoriously risky, and it’s easy to intercept the connection between the network and the device. Attackers can gain insight into the device activity, getting more information than just the IP address.
With a VPN, users get the benefits of hiding their IP, encrypting their internet connection, and bypassing internet censorship. Read about it here nordvpn.com/what-is-my-ip.
Since an IP address is essentially a device’s ID, it’s important to keep it safe and away from prying eyes. This is a crucial first step toward improving the overall cybersecurity.