Note: This topic is very much a technical matter. However, this discussion is only intended to be an overview that also highlights some dangers.
What is an IP Address?
IP Address = Internet Protocol Address. (URL (Uniform Resource Locator) contains some information regarding ‘Protocols’.)
An IP Address is a unique number that defines a computer or other device on a network. In effect it is similar to a property address or telephone number.
These are binary based numbers i.e. made up of ‘1’s and ‘0’s. The most well-known form comprises eight characters, for example: 10101100; 11111110; etc. However, the number is always displayed in readable format e.g. 172.18.249 (N.B. This is a fictional number just by way of example). It is worth noting, although the above format is the one most users will be familiar with it has proven necessary to introduce a new system that uses a different format e.g. 2001:AC24:FB56:HG98 (again fictional, just for example). BOTH are valid.
IP Addresses are managed globally by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and by five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). Service providers also have their own management systems (RIRs are frequently also internet service providers).
Addresses are allocated by either the Internet Service Provider or the Network Administrator. They may be assigned either permanently to the hardware or software (static) or may take place anew at each reboot (dynamic). Static address are assigned manually whereas dynamic ones are assigned by the computer interface.
IP Addresses enable systems to identify the Host (the individual device) or Network and location.
Whenever information is sent over the internet both the destination and sender IP Addresses are required.
IP Addresses are either private or public. In a home network there is a residential gateway, usually the router, that has a public address. Connected computers have private addresses. It is the router’s public address that communicates with the internet. The router allows multiple devises to share one public address.
Possible dangers: IP technology can enable a person’s country; city; post code; organisation; etc. to be determined. It is possible even the actual physical location may be discoverable.
Naturally, some users value their privacy and would prefer personal information not to be made available. There is a solution for these. However, before moving on, it should be noted some sites utilize this information to control the kind of content and advertisements presented to a user.
Solution: Those who prefer to retain anonymity may hide their IP Address by using a ‘Proxy Server’. Where this option is adopted, the proxy server’s address is used to forward information; the ‘real’ IP Address is effectively hidden.
A proxy server acts as an intermediary that provides anonymity.
Where a proxy server is used it is invisible to a user and gives the appearance of connecting directly with the searched site.
Proxy servers can be accessed online or configured in web browsers.
How to access? – Search ‘Proxy Server List’. A list of sites usually comprising: IP Address; Port used; Country location, is presented. There are different types of server however, as this is not intended to be a detailed discussion on proxy servers, no further details will be included here. Descriptions and explanations are available, by means of a simple search, to those who may be interested.
Users may set up a proxy server in their device’s browser: Tools/Internet Options; Settings; etc. as relevant.
Note: A proxy server does NOT provide protection against hackers: they can be hacked.
How to find a devices IP Address?
Windows pre 10: Start Menu – Select Run – Type ‘cmd’ – Click OK – When prompted type ‘ipconfig’. (Not tested by writer.)
Windows 10: Settings – Network & Internet – Wi-Fi (or Ethernet if used) – Hardware properties – IPV4 Address or equivalent.
Apple Mac: Terminal programme – Type ‘ifconfig’. (Not tested by writer.)
- All devices have an IP Address.
- IP Addresses are required if a device is to connect and interact with the internet and websites.
- Privacy may be an issue for some: The use of a proxy server may be appropriate in such circumstances.
Possible conflict: Though it should not happen, it is possible for two devices to claim the same IP Address (the conflict). This would impact upon functionality and may cause a complete stoppage. An error message would be displayed.
IP Addresses are a necessity for computing and it is therefore worth having some understanding of them. The writer hopes the above overview helps.