Its unique number identifies every computer on a network. On networks like the internet (which uses the TCP/IP protocol stack, this unique number is what we know as the IP address. When two computers on a TCP/IP network communicate with each other, they identify themselves by their IP address. For tech-professionals, IP addresses consist of 32-bit binary numbers. However, ordinary people know them to consist of four individual numbers, each between 0 (zero) and 255, which are separated by decimals.

Every computer has its IP address, though the world outside rarely gets access to it. It’s the routers that link to the individual networks, and then connects them to the internet using their unique IP address. In a way, routers act as bridges between the world outside (here, the internet) and your home network (or the network in your office, coffee shop, or library). Thus, when you browse a website or send an email, the IP address that’s shared is of your local router, which your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has provided, and not the individual address that has been allotted to your computer. Finding what’s your IP address these days has become a cakewalk since there are several online sites, which can show you your IP address within a few seconds.

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What does your IP address say about you?

Your IP address shares your geolocation (since you are connected to a network), but doesn’t give precise information about where you are located (street or home address). In other words, when you send an email sitting at your home, someone snooping on the network may be able to know from which city the email was posted, but it’s unlikely for that individual to be able to access or extract any other granular information related to you. What such a person would probably see is the information of your ISP. Thus, s/he may get the geolocation data about your router’s general area but won’t get any home or street address.

The risk lies in some cases where studying the online activity linked to a specific IP address over time helps unscrupulous elements stitch together a lot of information about the individual or people using the internet from that address. Such information, in turn, can be used for online scams, phishing, etc. by creating replicas of sites or pages which are frequently accessed by these unsuspecting people. So, it always pays to keep your browsing sessions private because you never know who’s spying on your IP address.

Watch this IT training video by Cisco and learn more about IP address, host address and what is dotted decimal. Enjoy!