Can cybercriminals track your IP address?
The Internet stands or falls on IP addresses. IP addresses allow you to connect to the Internet. If you don’t have an IP address, you can’t access the Internet. Say goodbye to your favorite online store or that series you just started.
Your IP address gives away a lot of information about you. Therefore, you want to prevent cybercriminals from finding out your IP address. If cybercriminals gain access to the information associated with your IP address, there can be nasty consequences. In no time, for example, cybercriminals may have taken over your entire identity or hacked all of your systems.
What is an IP address?
You can compare an IP address to a phone number. An IP address consists of a series of four numbers. These numbers can range from 0 to 255. Each device connected to the Internet is assigned a unique IP address, just like phones have a unique phone number.
Not only computers, phones, and tablets are connected to the Internet. Other devices you might not think of so quickly are also connected to the Internet and thus have IP addresses. Therefore, cybercriminals can track your IP address from a computer, phone, or tablet, as well as from other devices. Think of your printer, your home’s security system, the thermostat, and much more!
How does an IP address work?
Do you ever send mail to someone? After you put the mail in an envelope or box, you write on the envelope or box the address where the mail should be sent. Eventually, the mailman receives your mail and delivers it to the correct address.
An IP address works much the same as delivering mail. Information is exchanged between two IP addresses, for example, your own and that of your favorite online store. Information is sent from one address to the other, and vice versa. The main difference with normal mail is that you do not physically hold the mail that is delivered. You can do that with “real” mail, of course!
Between the time the mailman has received your mail and the time the mail is delivered, the mail is at risk. The letter carrier can lose the mail, the mail can be damaged, but the mail can also be intercepted. The information you exchange between two IP addresses can also be intercepted. Cybercriminals can track your IP address and follow along with the information you exchange on the Internet.
Types of IP addresses
Not all IP addresses are the same. We can distinguish between static and dynamic IP addresses. In general, your devices are assigned a static IP address by your Internet Service Provider (e.g. Ziggo or Vodafone).
Dynamic IP address
A dynamic IP address is changed automatically at regular intervals. If your device’s IP address is dynamic, cybercriminals can still trace your IP address, but it becomes a lot more complicated. After all, it could just be that one day later you have a different IP address.
Static IP address
It is also possible to assign a static IP address to your device. When you have a static IP address, your IP address always stays the same.
This is how cybercriminals can track your IP address
We discussed earlier that your IP address contains a lot of valuable information. Cybercriminals are all too eager to get their hands on this information to use for malicious purposes. But how can cybercriminals track your IP address?
IP address tracing through a fake free WiFi network
First of all, cybercriminals can track your IP address by setting up a fake free WiFi network. Cybercriminals who are a bit handy can do this themselves. When someone connects to this WiFi network, the cybercriminal immediately gets to see all kinds of information, including the IP address.
Using ads to trace an IP address
You see them popping up everywhere: ads. You can hardly open an Internet page without being confronted with an advertisement. Although we like to get rid of these ads, cybercriminals want to keep them. The reason for this? They use ads to track your IP address.
By offering illegal ads, cybercriminals can track your IP address. Once you click on the ad, your IP address is passed on to the cybercriminal.
Borrowing your device
Someone who wants to borrow your device for two seconds may seem very innocent. In reality, you never know what someone’s intentions are. Tons of websites allow you to track a device’s IP address in a matter of seconds. Even cybercriminals are aware of this.
By opening a simple website like whatismyip.com, cybercriminals can track your IP address in no time. They even get to see what city you are in!
Tracing your IP address by clicking on a link
By sending a message to someone containing a link that causes the IP address to be traced, cybercriminals can track your IP address. They create a simple message with a link that seems trustworthy. You click on the link and boom, the cybercriminal has your IP address.
Tracing an IP address via email
Tracing an IP address does not have to be difficult. Sometimes it requires a simple response to an e-mail. Several e-mail providers allow you to see the IP address of the sender of an e-mail. By sending a simple e-mail, and getting a response, cybercriminals can track your IP address.
What can cybercriminals do with your IP address?
Cybercriminals don’t just want to find out your IP address. They want to find out your IP address for malicious purposes.
Cybercriminals can track your IP address to stalk you. Using an IP address, it is possible to find out someone’s location. Someone with malicious intent can track your IP address to keep track of where you are.
Cybercriminals can track your IP address to hack your device. A device doesn’t just use an IP address to access the Internet. To connect to the Internet, a device also uses a host of ports. Each IP address has its ports. If a cybercriminal gets his hands on your IP address, the cybercriminal can try all the ports, and eventually connect to your systems.
Cybercriminals can figure out your IP address to launch a targeted attack on your network. We call such an attack a DDoS attack. When a DDoS attack occurs, a cybercriminal intentionally sends an awful lot of data to a server. Sometimes a cybercriminal uses thousands of computers to do this. Because so much data is sent to the server, the server becomes overloaded. The server can hardly be used anymore, if at all.
Cybercriminals are only too happy to engage in illegal activities. They just don’t want to pay for the problems themselves if ever it comes to light what they have done. This is one of the reasons cybercriminals want to find out your IP address.
Imagine this – a cybercriminal steals your IP address and pretends that your IP address is the cybercriminal’s IP address. While the cybercriminal hides behind your IP address, the criminal downloads all kinds of illegal stuff. The police track down the cybercriminal but come across your IP address during a search. The cybercriminal goes free and you have to prove your innocence.
Here’s how to prevent cybercriminals from finding your IP address
In a fairly simple way, cybercriminals can track your IP address and use it for malicious purposes. Fortunately, there are simple solutions that you can use to stop cybercriminals.
First, it is important to set your privacy settings properly. By setting all the settings to private, you make it less easy for cybercriminals to trace your IP address, but less easy.
Make use of a VPN
A VPN connection is a good service for masking your IP address. Once you set up a VPN connection, your Internet traffic is redirected through a VPN server. This server has its IP address. Now if a cybercriminal tries to trace your IP address they will see the IP address of the VPN server.
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