It is a common practice for public and private organizations to depend on their IT teams to secure data; While there is nothing wrong with the idea, it is not enough. With more people operating remotely and the number of global data breaches jumping by 273% in the first quarter of 2020, the IT team cannot take on the task of overseeing data protection efficacy alone as we move on.
Even individuals who may not be part of any organization need to secure their data and ensure their privacy; this has become critical in the face of the heightened activities of cybercriminals. The prediction by Gartner Inc. that global security spending will hit $170 billion by 2022 indicates that cybercriminals are not relenting in their nefarious activities.
If your IP (internet protocol) address is exposed, you should expect hackers to leverage the situation to install malware. Every device your organization uses has an IP address, and a hacker can use the information the IP address holds for malicious intent.
What Is an IP Address?
An IP address is a unique number that identifies and can be associated with any device, such as a specific computer in your organization. Connecting your device to the internet enables your IP address to send and receive information that identifies such a device on the internet or a local network.
Due to internet usage growth, the once numerical IP addresses now contain letters. When an individual considers the unimaginable 340, 282, 366, 920, 938, 463, 463, 374, 607, 431, 768, 211, 456 unique IP addresses IPv6 enhances, the question will be what is my IP address?
The answer to this question may surprise you; Apart from you, there are millions of people who can easily access your IP address; some ways hackers can access your IP address include:
1. Sharing Your Device With People
A simple gesture like sharing your laptop with friends or colleagues can reveal your IP address, especially if such people have evil or malicious intentions. Many websites provide IP addresses when users request, and anybody using your laptop can send such a request.
2. Sending Emails
When you innocently send an email through Yahoo or Microsoft Outlook, the recipient can easily access your IP address by simply looking at the header.
3. Social Media Platforms
Some social media platforms hoard your data and your IP address; it’s necessary that before you create an account with any social media platform, you must painstakingly go through the terms of service.
4. Fake Free Wi-Fi Hotspots
Hackers have evolved to the level where they can establish fake Wi-Fi hotspots; They can easily access your IP address if you connect to such Wi-Fi.
5. Clicking an Illegitimate Ad
An ad provider can access your IP address when you simply click on the ad; If the ad provider is a hacker, you have unwittingly exposed your IP address.
The Legality of Tracing an IP Address
No law prohibits tracing an IP address; the danger to you is if hackers use the information for nefarious activities. The website you visit, an app you use, and your ISP can collect your IP address with other personal information.
An individual user can easily trace your IP address; The important thing is the intention behind trying to get your IP address since no law stops anybody from snooping on you if there is no criminal intent.
Hiding Your IP Address With the VPN Technology
The virtual private network (VPN) technology is traceable to 1996; Unfortunately, some individuals and even organizations have failed to adopt the technology. A VPN masks hides your IP address, and changes your geolocation; it also encrypts your internet connection so that even your ISP cannot snoop on your activities while browsing the net.
Once hackers cannot trace your online activities, your layer of security has increased. Incidentally, there are both free and paid VPNs, and the VPN service providers are working tirelessly to improve the quality of their service.
The good news is that even with one account, your VPN can protect about six different devices. To hide your IP address, you don’t have to expend resources to get VPN for each device, and you can install it on your router and security gadgets that don’t directly support VPN functionality.
You can swap servers in seconds to change your IP address, mask your location, protect your data, and enhance your privacy.
Why You Need to Protect Your IP Address
Hackers won’t be able to get sensitive information such as your phone number or your house address, but they can still harm you with your IP address. By accessing your IP address, a hacker can unleash devastating consequences on an individual, organization, or even a government.
- Hackers can access your location through your IP address, intrude on your privacy, and hurt you in real life. Hackers can locate the city you operate from through your IP address, and this information can cause trouble for you. The information a criminal can get from your IP address is enough to drive you severe damage.
- Cybercriminals do their best to hack your device, and with your IP address, they have the much-needed entry point. If you believe it’s not easy for a hacker to try all the ports for every IP address, you must have forgotten that hackers are very patient people; and dedicate so much time to brute force attacks. With access to your IP address, cybercriminals can also install malware on your devices.
- Anybody who accesses your IP address can use it to impersonate you or launch a vishing attack to steal your personally identifiable information. Vishing attack is a variety of phishing where cybercriminals use audio calls instead of emails.
- Employers can easily track your activities with your IP address, exposing all you do online and giving you hardly any privacy.
- A hacker that can access your IP address is ready to harm you with a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, completely shutting down your computer down.
- Hackers can get you into serious problems by using your IP address to download illegal content that may threaten national security.
Data protection and privacy should be everybody’s business; it’s not what we must wait for the IT team or data scientists to do alone; There are simple measures you can implement, such as deploying the VPN technology to hide, mask, and geolocate your IP address. Incidentally, there are both paid and free VPNs; but you must be wary of some free VPNs so that you don’t go from a bad situation to the worst.
When you protect your IP address, you are protecting your data, your privacy, and yourself from unwarranted embarrassment from the government.