IP address tracking and how to protect yourself

There were 5.18 billion Internet users worldwide in April of this year, constituting no less than 64.6% of the world’s population. As much as we enjoy the revolutionary benefits of information technology, we must be prepared to accept its opposite reality, which is not always pleasant for unprotected users.

When it comes to online security, a key concern is the Internet Protocol (IP) address. An IP address is a string of numbers that serves as a unique identifier for every device connected to the Internet. The problem with these numbers is their traceability.

Once known, a person’s IP address can expose their online activities and compromise their privacy and security. In fact, as long as IP addresses identify online devices, tracking them will always pose a threat.

But users are not necessarily powerless. Protection begins with a solid understanding of IP tracking, the rationale behind it, and the proactive steps users can take to block malicious attempts.

IP address tracking and how it happens

Tracing an IP address can be as simple as using a free IP address tracker online. By entering an IP address into the lookup tool, the searcher can obtain information about the user, such as city, postal code, and Internet Service Provider (ISP).

More often than not, Internet users unknowingly reveal their IP addresses, exposing themselves to hacking and other dangers. For example, by simply clicking on links or ads, their IP addresses will automatically be accessed at the source.

Whenever people visit a website, fill out an online form, send an email, post on an online forum, or register with a social media or P2P platform, the server on the other side instantly stores the their unique identifiers.

Connecting to fake free Wi-Fi hotspots is another way people can inadvertently show their IP addresses. Daring hackers can trick people into revealing their IP addresses in advance through impersonation or other social engineering attacks.

The dangers of exposed IP addresses

As mentioned, an IP address can reveal a person’s geographic location and ISP. While these two pieces of information may seem harmless, cyberhackers can exploit them for malicious purposes, including:

Profiling of crime victims

After knowing the physical address of an IP address owner, hackers can stalk them on social media, displaying their activities, contacts, and other information that makes them easy prey for robberies and other crimes.


In phishing attacks, perpetrators digitally impersonate a person or entity to capture confidential data such as login credentials and credit card numbers.

A phisher can’t make a sensitive transaction with just one IP address, but he can help deceive you. For example, they can convince a bank to give out the victim’s account number using their IP address, which institutions have been known to use for verification purposes.

Selling data on the dark web

Cybercriminals have been known to sell IP addresses on the dark web, as was the case during the 2019 Avoid security breach. When the social planning company refused to pay for the security of compromised information, including IP addresses, all the data ended up for sale on the unregulated side of the internet. The data breach affected over 10 million Evite users.

Data theft and malware infection

An IP address has thousands of ports through which a hacker can access a victim’s device. Once inside, they can steal stored data or infect the system with malware, allowing them to continue their hacking agenda undetected.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack

In a DDos attack, attackers bombard a website with traffic to prevent future users from logging in. Motivations can vary, from disgruntled employees making a statement to a competitor stealing time and business. It can also be outright extortion, with the attacker agreeing to stop in exchange for paying a ransom.

In 2020, Amazon Web Services (AWS) survived a 2.3 Tbps attack the largest in history but the reasons remain unknown.

Criminal compromise

With the information hackers can obtain through an IP address, they can easily commit crimes using their victim’s identity. They can buy explosives or controlled substances, framing their victim for their illegal activities.

Privacy violations

Some people can look up IP addresses without any criminal intent. But the act can still be inconvenient for the targets and can even constitute an invasion of their privacy. Below are some common scenarios involving privacy violations related to IP address lookups:

  • Marketing. Some companies search the IP addresses of their website visitors to send personalized ads and spam.
  • Employee monitoring. Employers can monitor their staff’s online activities through their IP addresses.
  • Block/blacklist. Online service providers such as social media sites and gaming platforms can block the IP addresses of users who have violated their policies or whose actions or opinions they deem unacceptable.

How to protect yourself

The threat of IP tracking is so significant that internet giants like Apple and Google are restrict the use of IP addresses with new technologies. These technologies include those that prevent cross-site tracking or those that allow users to use fake IP addresses. However, the problem remains controllable with basic user knowledge, common sense, and some helpful tips, such as the following:

Be careful with passwords

Passwords aren’t foolproof, but they can be stronger and more reliable when created strategically.

The first basic rule of password security is to create one yourself instead of relying on a default password programmed into a device. The second is to include a good mix of alphanumeric and special characters. The third is to change passwords regularly.

When combined, these techniques leave enough room to confuse a hacker and evade a hacking attempt.

Restrict apps accordingly

Instant messaging services and other communication apps are useful for most users, but cybercriminals can also use them to mine IP addresses. Therefore, people must be discriminating when deciding on which apps to install. Switching the app settings from public to private is also smart, as is avoiding calls from unknown numbers.

Be wary of emails from unknown sources

Phishing emails can be deceptive. They are often disguised as emails from trusted sources, but can be easily spotted. They are usually sent from public domains or domains that read like famous brand names with a slight spelling change, such as nikee.com instead of nike.com.

Another telltale sign of a phishing email is an email body riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and a message that creates a sense of urgency.

Use antivirus or antimalware software

Due to the nature of the Internet, users usually remain vulnerable to threats despite having security measures in place. Antivirus or anti-malware software provides that extra layer of protection everyone needs. Among other capabilities, these tools can detect ambiguity in received emails, warn users of clicking suspicious links, and notify them of any unusual activity on their devices.

Use a virtual private network (VPN)

By installing a virtual private network (VPN), users can go about their normal online activities without fear of being hacked, thanks to encryption. This means that all data entering and leaving a VPN-protected device will be indecipherable to hackers, including your IP address.

By blocking access to IP addresses, VPNs also effectively block other risks that threaten non-VPN users. Even a hacker who knows how to find the ip address on a printer or any seemingly hacker-safe hardware won’t stand a chance with a reputable and properly installed VPN.

Online security starts with a secure IP address

As posted on International Association of Chiefs of Police website, all cybercrime investigations begin with an IP address. This highlights how critical this identifier is to the security of its owners, and by the same token, it’s a gold mine for hackers.

Fortunately, securing an IP address is a simple task. But it requires fundamental knowledge of this crucial bit of data, especially its vulnerabilities. Beyond that, vigilance is enough to ensure that an IP address remains safe from the lurking eyes of a cybercriminal.

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