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What is an IP address?

As the web continues to influence our everyday socio-cultural activities, there are certain fundamental elements we ought to understand more clearly. One such thing is the IP address. We're sure you've heard the term often in your life and might've asked to yourself as well 'what is my IP address?'

Basically, an IP address is nothing but a unique representation of the devices we use to connect to the worldwide internet. Such an abstraction is highly necessary as otherwise, we won't be able to tell who's who in any particular network.

IPv4 vs. IPv6 addresses

IP addresses generally fall under two categories - IPv4 and IPv6.

An IPv4 address typically means your IP address consists of 4 different numbers separated by three dots. The address of your localhost, which is 127.0.0.1, can be an example of this. In contrary, IPv6 addresses use 6 different numbers in the same way.

The main difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is the number of possible addresses. IPv4 only allows for about 4 billion, because it uses just 32 bits. IPv6 uses 128 bits, resulting in 3.4x10^38 possible addresses. Thus, IPv6 allows more people to connect over a network. However, they're still not employed and we're using IPv4 addresses for our day to day web endeavors.
What can my IP address reveal about me?

Although alarming, it's a widely acknowledged fact that IP addresses reveal some very sensitive information about people. Many people don't care about them, but there're many who don't like the idea of getting their personal information exposed on the internet. After all, given enough effort, someone can easily find your full name, home address, age, browsing habits, and many more leveraging your IP address.

As we usually get our internet bandwidth from different commercial ISPs, they try to mask a lot of such personal details from floating online. However, you'll realize soon that it might not be enough. Since your ISP tracks your browsing, they essentially just knows what you're browsing. And at this age of data sensitivity, it's a big no for many of us. On a side note, when you signed up with your ISP, they also took information like your name, address, occupation among others.

The websites you are visiting can also link your IP address to cookies, tracking software and other information, to pinpoint your interests, who you communicate with, and the online services that you use. This information can be used to target you with ads or your data can be sold to anyone who wants your private information. Have you ever known that the screen resolution of your device can be combined with your IP address and other pieces of information to figure out your identity?

Even if these webistes and your ISP do not knowingly release your information, they can still be compromised by hackers.

How do I hide my IP address and location?

In fact, there are a number of ways you can hide your IP address from the public. However, using a VPN service is by far the best option.

If you just want peace of mind knowing your IP address is hidden and not exploitable by malicious individuals, simply connecting to the internet through a VPN server. You will, then, be able to use the virtual IP address of the VPN service, not your real public IP address.

Overall, using a VPN has the following benefits:
-A VPN masks your actual location with a different IP address
-A VPN allows you to choose your IP address location and use online services that are geologically restricted
-A VPN encrypts the data you send and receive, dramatically increasing your privacy and security
-A logless VPN does not record your browsing history

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