There’s a lot in the news about Internet safety: protecting kids from predators, avoiding identity theft, hiding personal information from government agencies that want to take it without your permission, and many other threats. Some of these threats involve your IP address. This article explains what an IP address is, why yours needs to be protected, and how you can go about doing so.
What an IP Address Is
The IP stands for Internet Protocol. An IP address identifies each device (including computers, printers, etc.) that are located within a given network. It tells the Internet servers where the computer is, in order to transfer information from your computer to the Internet and send information back to the computer.
Though an IP address is written in binary code, it’s made readable to humans in text files. According to recent court cases, an IP address is not considered “Personal Identifiable Information” because the IP address alone can’t tell exactly who and where you are. However, when combined with other identifiers, such as a name, physical address, or social security number, it can be used to locate and trace your computer.
Why It’s Important to Protect Your IP Address
The problem is, when conducting personal or professional business online, the IP address is normally associated with other identifiers, such as your name, email address, and in come cases, your physical address, credit and debit card information, and others. This information can be put together by various entities, some benign and some malicious.
For example, it might be used by law enforcement to make sure sexual predators aren’t trying to contact your young daughter. Or, it could be government spying agencies or aggressive advertisers, or even identity thieves. Only by protecting this information completely can you assure it isn’t ending up in the wrong hands.
How You Can Protect Your IP Address
IP address protection begins with smart online activities. Set your social media accounts to maximum privacy settings, and be smart about handing out your personal information for surveys, sweepstakes, and signing up for newsletters or online accounts. Always keep updated anti-malware protection on your computer, and learn to identify and avoid suspicious emails:
- Look for mismatched URLs, such as a URL that reads “PayPall” instead of “PayPal”
- Bad spelling and grammar
- Asking for personal information, such as a phone number, address, social security number, etc. to verify your account
- Offers that are too good to be true
- Emails saying you won a lottery or contest you didn’t enter
- Asking for money
- Mimicking a government agency
Other than basic protection, you can take more steps to safeguard your IP address and personal information, including:
- Getting an anonymous proxy server
- Investing in VPN software and services
- Use a browser that hides your search history, such as Duck Duck Go
- Get a safe, secure plug-in for your browser like SearchLock
Web searchers, SearchLock is the anonymous browsing tool that offers anonymous surfing that’s easy to set up. This is an important step in protecting your online privacy.
And finally, be smart when downloading stuff off of the Internet. Often, toolbars and freebies offered online contain spyware and other malware that can reveal your identity to the wrong folks.