“What is my IP Address?” It’s a question we often ponder as we surf the web, send emails, and stream content online. Your IP address, your digital fingerprint, is the key that unlocks communication between your device and the vast expanse of the internet. It’s like your online identity, revealing not just where you are but also how you connect to the virtual world.

Understanding your IP address is like peeking behind the digital curtain of the internet. It’s knowing how your device talks to others, shares data, and finds its way through cyberspace. From the familiar IPv4 to the newer IPv6, each address has its own story and its own way of connecting us all.

In this article, we’re diving deep into the world of IP addresses. We’ll explore the basics, break down the jargon, and help you make sense of it all. Whether you’re a tech guru or just curious about how the internet works, understanding your IP address is a journey worth taking. So, let’s unravel the mysteries together and discover the digital world that connects us all.

What is an IP Address?

The way computers find each other is by using numbers called an “IP address”. IP is an abbreviation that stands for Internet Protocol. Just like every house has a physical address, and every computer has an IP address or shares an IP address with other computers connected to the same network. Everyone knows the physical address of where they live, but not everyone knows what their IP address is.

It is important to understand what an IP address is because this information can be used to locate a computer and tell others exactly where you are. An IP address can be used to figure out where you or others are in the physical world and also to track the activity of your computer and how it was used, where it connected to other computers, and what you did online.

The IP address of a computer is used to create a profile of the users of that computer. Security agencies of major developed countries like the UK and the US have routinely used searches of “metadata” to spy on people. Part of this metadata includes the IP Address. It tells what a computer was looking for and what it did on the Internet.

Types of IP Addresses

What is My IP Address?

Types of IP addresses refer to the various classifications and categorisations based on their use, allocation, and scope in computer networking. Here are the main types of IP addresses:

  1. Public IP Addresses:
    • Public IP addresses are globally unique addresses assigned to devices connected to the internet.
    • They allow devices to communicate across the internet and are routable on the public internet.
    • Public IP addresses are assigned by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or obtained through other means, such as Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).
  2. Private IP Addresses:
    • Private IP addresses are used within private networks, such as local area networks (LANs) or corporate intranets.
    • They are not routable on the public internet and are meant for internal communication within a specific network.
    • Commonly used private IP address ranges include:
      • Class A: 10.0.0.0 to 10.255.255.255
      • Class B: 172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255
      • Class C: 192.168.0.0 to 192.168.255.255
  3. Static IP Addresses:
    • Static IP addresses are manually assigned to a device and do not change over time.
    • They are typically used for servers, network devices, and other devices that require permanent addressing.
    • Static IP addresses are configured either by manually entering the IP address settings or through DHCP reservation.
  4. Dynamic IP Addresses:
    • Dynamic IP addresses are assigned to devices automatically by a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server.
    • These addresses are temporary and may change each time a device connects to the network or at regular intervals.
    • Dynamic IP addressing is commonly used for client devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets.
  5. Reserved IP Addresses:
    • Reserved IP addresses are set aside for specific purposes or special uses.
    • Examples of reserved IP addresses include:
      • Loopback address: 127.0.0.1, used for testing and troubleshooting network connectivity on the local device.
      • APIPA (Automatic Private IP Addressing): 169.254.x.x, used when a device cannot obtain an IP address from a DHCP server.
      • Multicast addresses: Used for multicast communication to multiple recipients simultaneously.
      • Broadcast address: Used for sending data to all devices on a network segment.

IP Addresses Used in Spying

What is My IP Address?

Edward Snowden worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States. While doing this work, he became aware that the NSA was spying on American citizens and also on the citizens of other countries. Under American law, spying on U.S. citizens is a violation of their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, which does not allow “unreasonable searches and seizure of property”.

This part of the Bill of Rights is so dear to American citizens that it is at the heart of the foundation of the United States and was made law in 1792. The law was created to restrain the government from barging into the privacy of its citizens without a just cause. In order for the government or police to invade the privacy of an American citizen, a court order by a judge having proper jurisdiction is required.

Edward Snowden, as a US government employee, directly participated in the massive spying on average citizens without any legal court supervision. It was clearly a violation of the rights of those being spied on because they were not suspected of any crimes, and there was no court order in place to authorise the invasion of privacy.

Edward Snowden is a heroic whistleblower who risked his life exposing the crimes being committed by the governments involved. He had to seek asylum in Russia to stay out of jail in the US even though the Prism program was a collaborative effort between telecommunication companies and the US government, which allowed the NSA to get copies of emails, Facebook messages, and Skype conversations (including “private” intimate videos not meant to be shared with anyone except the participants involved).

Under the Prism program, the NSA tracked a person’s IP address, photos or videos, and emails, tracked all their Internet activity, and even had their mobile phone number (Facebook requests this for “security” purposes). Without any court-ordered warrant, this information about targeted individuals and groups was collected and kept for up to ten years.

What is My IP Address?

Go to this website, and your IP address will be shown to you at www.whatsmyip.org. IP addresses are twelve numbers shown in four groups separated by periods such as 123.456.789.012, and if your computer is directly connected to the Internet (not using a proxy server) and is not part of a network, your IP address will show approximately where your computer is physically located.

In order to obtain the exact physical location of any particular computer, one needs to gain access to the Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) records of its users. This information normally would need to be obtained by court order, except it is clearly obvious that government privacy intrusions did not need any court orders whatsoever.

Finding out the IP Address of a Website

Every computer has an IP address, and every website also has an IP address. A global system of Domain Name Servers (DNS) translates the names of the websites into numbers. For example, Google.com has an IP address of 74.125.224.72.

How do we know this? It is very easy to figure it out.

There is a wikiHow showing the steps to find IP addresses. We went to the command prompt and typed in ping google.com. In a few milliseconds, it returned the answer with Google’s IP address. Using the geo-locator at ip-lookup.net, we can find the physical location of the computer from its IP address.

Finding out the IP Address From an Email

All emails contain information about where they came from. This information is in an area called “headers”. Normally, this is hidden from view because it is only used by the computers to communicate with each other. It is possible to see this information by choosing an option for the email message to show headers.

More information about the IP address of who sent the email is revealed, and it looks something like this:

Received: by 10.194.240.98 with SMTP id vz2csp269506wjc;

Wed, 4 Feb 2015 05:37:42 -0800 (PST)

X-Received: by 10.107.154.17 with SMTP id c17mr34612412ioe.74.1423057061921;

Wed, 04 Feb 2015 05:37:41 -0800 (PST)

Return-Path: <[email protected]>

Received: from www.writeraccess.com (smtp2.writeraccess.com. [216.248.203.82])

by google.com with ESMTP id xp12si1559711icb.20.2015.02.04.05.37.41

Wed, 04 Feb 2015 05:37:41 -0800 (PST)

Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of [email protected] designates 216.248.203.82 as permitted sender) client-ip=216.248.203.82;

Authentication-Results: google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of [email protected] designates 216.248.203.82 as permitted sender) [email protected]

Received: from mail pickup service by www.writeraccess.com with Microsoft SMTPSVC;

Wed, 4 Feb 2015 08:37:26 -0500

X-Mailer: Nodemailer (0.6.5; +http://github.com/andris9/nodemailer; pickup)

Date: Wed, 04 Feb 2015 13:37:25 GMT

Message-Id: <efc3d4ba9086547597bc3a9725d545@190161-9>

From: [email protected]

Subject: [WriterAccess] Assignment Approved

Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8

Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

MIME-Version: 1.0

X-OriginalArrivalTime: 04 Feb 2015 13:37:26.0158 (UTC) FILETIME=[B68ECAE0:01D0407F]

——-

We can see from this header information that the email coming from [email protected] has the IP address of 216.248.203.82

IP Address Spoofing

Senders of Spam (unwanted emails) have found ways to circumvent this system and even use fraudulent methods to misrepresent where the emails are coming from.

Protecting Privacy When Using the Internet

What is My IP Address?

It is rather sad that the Internet, a network designed to be an open-sharing platform, has been abused by governments to create massive spying tools. Of course, criminals will want to hide their illegal activities. Governments want to have the power to find these criminals and it is not easy to find them. However, there is a balance between the complete removal of personal privacy and government or police activities to thwart criminals.

The reason why the US Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures is that without a balanced check on activities of this nature, the possibility of abuse of the system is extreme. One only needs to look at the historical record of massive state-spying systems that were implemented in China, Germany, or the former Soviet Union to see how really intrusive, unfair, and destructive these systems become when left unchecked.

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to Hide Your IP Address

It is clear that anyone who respects privacy needs to take active steps to prevent being spied on while using the Internet. The first step is to remove any direct connection between your IP address and your physical location. There are services that provide this, and they are effective and inexpensive. However, some of these “privacy” services were created specifically as Internet traps to catch criminals.

For the ordinary person, it is probably a good idea to use one of these services that are NOT based in the country where they live as an extra security measure.

Understanding our IP addresses isn’t just about memorising numbers; it’s about grasping the essence of connectivity that defines our online experiences. They’re the threads that weave our digital interactions together, facilitating everything from streaming videos to heartfelt emails sent across the globe. So, as we bid farewell to this exploration, let’s carry forward the knowledge and appreciation for the intricate role that IP addresses play in shaping our interconnected world. After all, in a digital age where connections matter more than ever, our IP addresses serve as the compasses guiding us home.