***Contributed Post***

No matter who you are or what you do, there’s a very good chance that you use the internet regularly to do it. We have, in the space of just a couple of decades, all become extremely proficient internet users and the digital world has become such a ubiquitous part of the way in which we work, do business, shop and socialize that we rarely even think about our internet use. It has become as unconscious to us as breathing, eating or scratching an itch.

Yet, while we love our technology and a great many of us use the internet routinely, we are oblivious of the protocols that can keep us safe or make us vulnerable. We have no idea what people on the other side of the planet can find out about us with just a few keystrokes. Here we’ll take a look at our IP address and why it’s important to know all about it…

What is your IP address?

Your IP address is the address of your internet protocol. While every device that is connected to the internet through your router has its own IP address, the only address that’s publicly visible is that of your router. It’s how the internet identifies where in the world you are. Have you ever wondered why Google always brings you local suggestions when you’re looking for a restaurant, hair salon or coffee shop near you? It’s because you’ve allowed Google access to your IP address. Click this link if you want to find your IP address. Are you a little unnerved by how accurately the page is able to pinpoint you? Any savvy internet user can find your easily.

What can people tell from your IP address?

People can determine your (approximate) location through your router. Don’t worry, your IP address will not give away your physical address. While this is benign enough, in some cases onlookers may parse the online activity associated with your IP address. They can then piece together a lot of information about the people using the IP address or even a single person. What can be accessed legally and by whom depends on where you live and the legalities surrounding digital privacy in your territory.

Can anyone see your IP address? Is there any way to hide it?

Your IP address is information that virtually anyone can access. There are a number of ways in which you can make your IP less visible, though.

You may wish to opt for a private IP address, although this is only really advisable for businesses and individuals who prioritize security over convenience. A less cumbersome alternative would be to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which hides your IP address or redirects it to another region. There are numerous plugins on your preferred web browser which use VPN software. Many users use these to access content on streaming services like Netflix or Hulu which is not available in their local market (although services have gotten wise to this in recent years and started blocking VPNs).

You may also wish to try an alternative internet browser like Tor which conceals browser’s IP addresses, although this comes at a cost of much slower browsing speed even over fast connections.

Who uses your IP address?

Most of the time your IP address is used in fairly benign ways. It’s used by websites to bring you accurate weather reporting, local news or area specific deals and offers. If you are guilty of committing a crime, authorities may be able to track you using your IP address. While hackers can theoretically gain access to your devices through your IP address, doing so is far from easy and if you do not make yourself a target for them you will be unlikely to find yourself their victim.

Nonetheless, if you’re concerned for the wellbeing of your online business or personal data, there are numerous ways in which you can conceal your IP address from malcontents.

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