How a necessary Internet operation can become a tool for capturing personal information.
The reason why almost every Internet address starts from www is because people remember much easier words than numbers. For example you only need to remember to visit this page is techinexpert.com, while your computer prefers to recognize it as 188.8.131.52 (example).
This number is the IP address. It is the address (unique in the world for each website and each computer) with which the computers and the network “communicate” with each other and route the pages you want to see.
Each computer has its own IP (it’s the original Internet Protocol), even the one you’re currently using. It is its identity and the “name” with which it introduces itself and “chats” with every site you visit.
Note: Websites are given their ip address from their hosting provider. Sometimes a hosting provider may host multiple websites on the same server with the same ip address. So, if a website is scamming people, search engines might penalize your website for having the same ip address. Make sure to choose hosting providers that offer at least one unique ip for your website even if you choose a shared plan.
Every time you connect to the Internet, your internet service provider gives your router an IP address. That is, the device you have on the desk or in a place in the living room and from there your devices (like laptop and smartphone) get Internet. This is your personal “address” for the rest of the Internet.
The IP of your router is not secret; it “transmits” to each communication with each site. The good thing is it’s not your personal IP. If your computer is the mailbox, the IP of the router is your P.O. Box in offline mail. It is known in which city it is located, but one cannot find who it belongs to and where he or she lives. In addition, if you are with your laptop in a café, the IP is that of the coffee.
What does my IP reveal?
The “move” of an IP – for example the websites you visit – is at the disposal of your internet service provider. In fact, it is required by law to hold the login information, which websites you visited, what services you used, etc. and maintain them in the event that an official prosecutor’s investigation is ordered.
Here’s the soft spot.
What happens if someone decides to “exploit” this information, although it is forbidden? It will be able to “assemble” a profile with habits of consumer, information, general online behaviour. Or an advertising agency to analyse the movement of a user’s IP and use these conclusions for targeted advertising.
But there’s no need for anyone to violate anything. In an experiment conducted by the Privacy Committee of Canada, a special public search page was used to determine which addresses were visited by Commission officials. They found that they went to pages of a religious group, which they looked for information on slimming, uploaded photos to social media, etc.
In a second experiment, they took the IP of a user who made a change to a Wikipedia article (the IP of the editors are published). Using a simple search engine they found out which other pages had changed the particular user and that he had visited a forum on sexual preferences.
The Commission concluded that with existing tools it is possible for the authorities to investigate someone and get a very good idea of their character without resorting to warrants and other legal proceedings.
So am I in danger?
Fortunately, hardly at all.
The vast majority of internet users have an IP that changes in each connection. Every time you reboot into the router or cut the power, your IP changes. Even if you’re connected for days at a time, your IP will change at some point.
Moreover, even if someone knows your IP, it is not able to invade your computer or hurt you or find out where you live. These succeed someone only if you are quite careless and unknowingly install a virus or Trojan. That’s where IP is really the last thing he cares about.