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The internet is a part of our daily lives and we often use it without giving a second thought as to what kind of virtual footprints we are leaving and how this information might be used. The truth of the matter is that you are leaving more cookie crumbs than you think, every single time you access the internet. It all starts with your IP address. Let's take an in-depth look at IP addresses, their different kinds, the information they provide, and what you can do to protect yourself.
The term IP address stands for Internet Protocol address. An Internet Protocol address is a unique numerical name that every electronic device connected to a computer network has.
You can think of an IP address as being similar to your home address. It is specific to that particular device and serves as a way to identify and locate these devices. There are currently two types of IP addresses used: IPv4 and IPv6.
IPv4 is the original design of the internet protocol address. Even though it is still in use today, it isn’t very common because it uses 32 bits and only allows a total of 4 billion addresses. Since 4 billion addresses weren’t enough for the exponential growth of the internet, a phenomenon called “IPv4 exhaustion” took place. “IPv4 address exhaustion” is a severe decrease of unallocated IPv4 addresses available. That’s why the newer version, IPv6, was introduced to accommodate the massive growth.
IPv6 is the up-to-date version of the internet protocol. As opposed to the 32-bit addresses used by IPv4, IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses. IPv6 is designed so that the internet world does not run out of IP addresses anytime in the near future as it has the capability of infinitely more addresses than IPv4. IPv6 also helps as IP spoofing prevention. IP address spoofing is a cyber-attack where hackers impersonate a user, device, or client on the internet. It’s used to mask the source of attack traffic.
Your IPaddress location is the portion of your IP address that allows for identification of the geographic location of your computer. If you are using a proxy server or a router, then the location of the server or router is identified. In most instances, the specific street address of your location is not revealed, but instead, the city, state or general area is shown. However, there are exceptions and for those who are talented with computers and the internet, it is possible to discover your exact location. This particular ability is known as geolocation and is very popular in the marketing world.
Apart from the usual IP addresses, there are also virtual ones. A virtual IP address (VIP or VIPA) is an IP that isn’t related to a particular physical location. These public VIPs can be shared by numerous devices connected to the internet and are common in home or office networks.
Hiding your location is the first step to protecting your online activity and information. It is possible to change your IP address and hide your location. How? You will need a VPN, which stands for virtual private network.
A VPN routes you through an encrypted server or proxy that changes your location virtually. Let's say you are in New York, but the server that your computer is routed to is in California. It will appear as if your computer is physically located in California, although you are actually still in New York. Your data is encrypted before it ever reaches your provider. It is so secure that not even your internet service provider will be privy to your online activities.
What many do not realize is that all IP addresses are not the same. The two different IP addresses are public and private IP addresses and although they have a lot of similarities there are significant differences in the way each work.
A private network is a network that uses private IP address space so that devices outside this network cannot access it. These networks are standard in businesses and private organizations because of the demand for better security and the protection of company assets. Private IP address ranges are defined by IPv4 and the IPv6 specifications.