What Can Someone Do with Your IP Address (and How Can You Keep it Safe)

If you’re using a computer, one method for protecting your IP address is to turn on a firewall. Firewalls function as a protective barrier between your device and the internet, blocking unwanted traffic and unauthorized access to your IP address.

What to do with ip address

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What Can Someone Do with Your IP Address (and How Can You Keep it Safe)?

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IP addresses form the basis of your entire digital life. They allow the internet to differentiate between devices on a network, and make these devices accessible for sending and receiving data.

Although most people don’t give much thought to their IP addresses, it’s important to understand what this essential internet component reveals about you — and what others can do with this information. In this article, we’ll explain what your IP address does, how other people might use it against you, and how to protect your privacy by using a virtual private network (VPN).

In this article

What is your IP address?

Every device you use to access the internet has a unique IP address. Short for “internet protocol address,” an IP address is a string of four groups of numbers ranging between 0 and 255. So, your device’s IP address falls somewhere between and

IP addresses function as digital addresses for your internet-connected devices. They’re used to identify the network you’re connected to and the device you’re using — allowing websites and other networks to route data to you, check your permissions, view your geolocation, and more.

Your device’s IP address is assigned by your internet service provider (ISP) and may change regularly depending on whether it’s static or dynamic. Dynamic IP addresses change automatically — sometimes every time you connect to the internet or restart your computer — whereas static IP addresses remain consistent.

How can your IP address be used against you?

Because your IP address is required to connect to the internet, it acts as a virtual record detailing everything you do online. However, this record can be used against you in many ways:

Pinpointing your location

Malicious parties can use your IP address in combination with global positioning systems (GPS) and tracking websites to pinpoint your location — and possibly even your home address — for spying, stalking, or other nefarious purposes.

Restricting your website access

IP addresses can be used to restrict access to content. For example, many streaming services with region-specific content, such as Netflix, HBO, or YouTube TV, restrict viewers outside of certain areas to view the content based on the geolocation provided by your IP address.

Performing a DoS or DDoS attack

Cybercriminals can use your IP address to deploy a denial of service (DoS) or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which overloads a network by generating massive amounts of fake traffic to interrupt services. Using a VPN can help prevent DDoS attacks.

Tracking your online activity

Anyone with your IP address can view your online activities. Some employers use this information to keep track of the websites you access at work. Others can use it to learn details about you with the intent of targeting you with a phishing attack.

Rerouting online traffic through your device

Hackers can use your IP address to reroute online traffic and access or download illegal content that law enforcement can trace back to you. This means you could get in trouble for someone else’s illegal activities.

How can someone find your IP address?

If a malicious party manages to get your IP address, they can do significant damage. Although finding your IP address isn’t as easy for hackers as it is for you, there are still many ways a person can track down this information.

Phishing attacks

Hackers can access your IP address through phishing scams, often in the form of fake links in emails or on social media. Clicking a malicious link exposes your IP address and leaves it vulnerable.

It’s a good idea to stay up to date on the ways hackers use phishing emails to steal your data. Scams are constantly changing, and knowing how to spot them is one of the best ways to protect yourself.

Active torrent downloads

When you torrent files, you share your IP address with everyone on the peers list. Of course, not all torrenting peers intend to help you, and hackers masked as seeders or leechers can easily harvest your IP address from these lists.

Web activity

Because everything you do online requires your IP address, malicious parties can find this information by following your online activities, from playing online games to commenting on messaging apps and forums.

Your IP address could be exposed to forum admins

Moderators and admins likely have access to all forum members’ IP addresses. This could be the IP address assigned to the computer you used when you signed up for the forum, the computer you used to make your latest post, or both.

Be sure to check into a forum’s privacy policy before you sign up to ensure this data isn’t sold to third parties or used for purposes other than forum access.

Public networks

Most public Wi-Fi networks don’t provide strong security. If you’re accessing the internet from your local coffee shop, a hacker connected to the same network can potentially break through any basic defenses to find your IP address.

How can you protect your IP address?

Although it may seem as though incognito mode hides your IP address, it doesn’t. Luckily, there are several effective ways to protect your IP address from hackers and other malicious parties.

1. Activate your firewall

If you’re using a computer, one method for protecting your IP address is to turn on a firewall. Firewalls function as a protective barrier between your device and the internet, blocking unwanted traffic and unauthorized access to your IP address.

The steps to activate your device’s firewall will differ depending on its operating system.

Windows 10 or 11

Below is a step-by-step guide for machines using Windows 10 or 11:

  1. Select the Start button, then open Settings. Under Privacy & Security (or Update & Security), select Windows Security, then Firewall & Network Protection.
  2. Choose a network profile from the list: Domain network, Private network, or Public network.
  3. Under Microsoft Defender Firewall, switch the toggle to On. Note that if your device is already connected to a network, the network policy settings might prevent you from completing these steps without administrator credentials.

macOS X v10.6 or later

If your device uses OS X v10.6 or later, follow these steps to activate the firewall:

  1. Select System Preferences from the Apple menu. Under Security & Privacy, select the Firewall tab.
  2. Click the lock and enter your administrator username and password to unlock the settings.
  3. Select Turn On Firewall or Start to enable the firewall.

Use antivirus software

You can also use antivirus software with a firewall. Some of our top recommended antivirus programs that come with a firewall include:

    McAfee: Offering a firewall for both Windows and Mac, McAfee lived up to its reputation as a high-quality antivirus with quick and thorough scans, real-time monitoring, and high scores from third-party testing lab AV-TEST.