You’ve probably heard the term “IP address” time and time again while using the Internet, but do you know what they actually are and how they function? Well,there’s a perfectly good reason why these numerical combinations exist.
Here’s a brief breakdown of everything you need to know about IP addresses:
What is an IP address?
An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is a random string of numbers that act as an identifier for devices across the Internet. Just as your residential address indicates where you live, your IP address indicates the general geographical location from where all your Internet activity is originating.
If IP addresses didn’t exist, computers and smartphones wouldn’t be able to connect to the Internet, let alone have the capability to communicate and send information to each other.As of today, there are two main standards of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6.
Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) utilizes 32-bit addresses and provides a total of 4,294,976,296 unique addresses for devices to connect to the Internet. However, IPv4 addresses are running out, and this has much to do with the increasing proliferation of Internet-enabled devices.
This is where a new Internet addressing system known as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) comes into play. It utilizes 128-bit addresses and provides340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 unique addresses to meet the growing global demand for more IP addresses.
How do IP addresses work?
When you connect your device to the Internet, you connect through your router, which connects through your Internet Service Provider. It’s the network of your ISP that allows you to connect and browse the Internet. In simple words, your ISP assigns your device an IP address and uses it to ensure the Internet traffic that you send – as well as receive – reaches the intended destination.
What is the difference between public and private IP addresses?
A public (or external) IP address is provided by your ISP and can be accessed by anyone over the Internet. Generally, your home or business router is issued the public IP address, because devices residing in the local area network get their private IP addresses via the DHCP protocol. If you want to know your public IP address, use an IP lookup tool like “What is my IP”.
A private (or internal) IP address, on the other hand, is provided by your router to every device inside your local area network and can’t be accessed over the global Internet. The devices with private IP addresses actually use the router’s public IP address in order to communicate with others outside the local area network.
Is your IP address always the same?
Not really as your IP address changes as you switch between different networks. For instance, if you’re using the network at acafé, your IP address will be different than the one given to you by your home network. To put it simply, your IP address is going to change every time you connect to the Internet through a different ISP.
Can IP addresses reveal your precise location?
Your IP address can be used to determine your approximate location, but that information isn’t always correct and can’t be relied upon to pinpoint someone’s exact physical address. However, all your online activities can indeed be traced back to you by ISPs, governments, and advertisers with the help of your IP address. If you want to avoid this privacy invasion, you should consider hiding your IP address!
What is the best way to hide your IP address?
While there are a variety of tools available on the market, the best way to hide your IP address and location is using a virtual private network (also known as VPN). Basically, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the Internet for all your private data to pass through, so that nobody – not even the ISP – can know what you’re up to online.
Furthermore, it also replaces your real IP address with that of the VPN server you’re connected to, adding an extra layer of security and privacy to your online activities. Sure, you also have the option of free VPNs, but it’s important to remember that they sell your data to third-parties to keep their business afloat. For this reason, you’re better of sticking to reliable, paid options.
Wrapping Things Up
If you’re a beginner when it comes to the concept of IP addresses, hopefully this article will prove useful in getting you started. If you have any thoughts or queries, feel free to mention them in the comments section below!