Things that can be done to an IP

by on May 24, 2010

Q: Can someone check my computer’s Internet history using my IP address?

A: We get a good number of questions related to IP addresses and what people can do if they have your IP address so lets get to the bottom of what an IP address really is. An IP address is very similar to a phone number. This implies you can do almost anything to an IP address that you can do to a phone number. The first and simplest thing is you can try to call up the phone number/IP address and see if it responds.

This might sound funny to some at first but to do this all you have to do is type in the IP address in the location bar of your web browser, very much like you would type in http://www.askakgeek.com you could put in the IP address for askageek.com and see if that would load anything. Now you could do the same thing with FTP, SSH, and other protocols to see if the computer connected to that IP address will answer.

This is why it is important to be behind a firewall because it stops people from getting to your actual computer. Instead they hit your firewall and that just wont respond so you will be safe. You don’t need anything fancy. A normal high speed modem will usually have a firewall built in so that alone will usually stop everything you need stopped.

So now we know that if someone has our IP address they can try to connect to our computer and we know that we can protect our computer by being behind a firewall to stop those connections. The next thing someone can try to do is to figure out where we are in the world.

There are services like IP2Location.com that offer free services that will give you a good idea as to where a given IP address is being used from. It will not give you a street address but it gives you city, state, and country. The country is just about always correct and the state as well but the city could be incorrect. The reason for this is that a service provider might service multiple small cities/towns with one set of IP addresses so the city will show up as the main city.

So a user can figure out, to a point, where you are in the world. This information is actually really useful for e-commerce websites because it allows websites to figure out if you are a fraudulent user but for the home user or anyone else who gets their hands on this data it isn’t very useful at all.

The last thing someone can do with an IP address is report you to your ISP or the authorities for doing no so nice things. If you are harassing someone via email, or some other way online, then the person could use the IP address included in the header of the email to report you.

So someone getting their hands in your IP address is not something you need to be concerned about. There is not much someone can do with an IP address in terms of getting at your personal information but it can certainly be used against you if you start doing bad things on the Internet so be smart and be safe.

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