How an IP Address is Used to Locate & Track You Online

How an IP Address is Used to Locate & Track You Online

Have you ever visited a retail website for the first time and were surprised to have your city already filled in when you went to check store locations? How did the site know where you lived without you inputting anything?

The way the site did that was to read your IP address.

Your IP address doesn’t give your exact home address, but it does give a general vicinity of where you are connecting online. It’s often what’s used by cybercrime detectives to narrow down the origin of a hack, for example.

It’s important to know all the ways that an IP address can impact your internet activities and how you can hide your IP address if you want to remain more anonymous for security reasons, or simply to check out the versions of Netflix available in other countries.

What is an IP Address? 

IP stands for internet protocol. The IP address is a means of identifying devices and networks through the internet landscape. IP addresses are made up of a set of four numbers that will range from to

Your IP address will be assigned by your internet service provider and they are attached to a modem. So, everyone on the same network will share the same IP address. 

If you’ve ever received a notification from your cable or satellite company about potential Copyright infringement (e.g., if someone pirated a game or movie online), your IP address is how you were identified. The ISP won’t know which device was used, only that your network IP address was involved.

When you connect your laptop to a free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, you’ll no longer have the same IP address as when using Wi-Fi at home. It will change to the IP address of the network you’re using. The same is true when you connect at the office. Instead of your home IP address, you’ll be identified with your office’s IP address.

Two Types of IP Addresses

If you’ve ever moved to a new home, gotten a new ISP, and had problems connecting to some of your online services, your ISP may have given you a dynamic IP address instead of a static one. These can sometimes cause problems. 

For example, if your IP address is whitelisted to log into your company’s server remotely, if that IP address changes, you could be blocked.

The two types of IP addresses you can receive from your ISP or a VPN provider are:

  • Static: This IP address is assigned to your network and does not change. You always have the same IP address when connected through that network.
  • Dynamic: Sometimes online providers will purchase a group of IP addresses and then those will change dynamically. A dynamic IP address can be different at any time of day. 

How to Check Your IP Address

There are multiple sites online that can check your IP address and return the result in a few seconds.

Here are a few:

You can also check on your computer in your Wi-Fi settings. Here is some instruction from Microsoft on how to do that.

When you check your address at NordVPN, you might be surprised just how much it can pinpoint your location, down to your postal code.

Are There Ways to Hide An IP Address? 

IP addresses are a necessary part of the way that the internet works. They can be helpful, for example, to get local search results and recommendations. They are also useful to better secure remote teams through the use of IP whitelisting.

However, this online tracking mechanism can also have its downsides. It allows your ISP to track your every movement online. It can also lead to unwanted online advertising.

In certain circumstances, if a person is traveling and using Wi-Fi at a known tourist spot, an online stalker could potentially track them down IRL (in real life) through the IP address.

While you do need an IP address to connect to the internet, it doesn’t have to give away your location. Using a virtual private network (VPN) is a way to obscure your IP address and use one that’s hundreds or thousands of miles away from your actual location.

VPNs encrypt internet connections by running those connections through VPN provider servers. These servers can be located anywhere in the world. So, you could be going online in California, and a website might think you’re in Paris if you’re connecting through a VPN server that’s located there.

Using a VPN gives you the IP address of the server you’re connecting through. Popular VPN services will often let you choose from several, giving you control over how you want your IP location to be seen online.

Learn the Benefits of Implementing Business VPN for Remote Team Security

Neuron Computers can help your San Fernando Valley area business improve the security of your remote team, including implementing a business VPN for more secure connections.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Call 1-818-925-2120 or reach us online