What is an IP address? A definition + how to find it (2023)

What is an IP address? A definition + how to find it (1)

Written by Dan Rafter for NortonLifeLock

July 25, 2022

Ourinternet-connected devices have uniqueidentifiers — Internet Protocoladdresses, commonly known as IP addresses.

An IP address can reveal a little bitaboutyou, namely your geolocation.

If you’re asking the question, “How do I find my IP address?”here are the basics on what IP addresses do and how you can find your own.

What is an IP address?

What is an IP address? A definition + how to find it (2)

So, what is an IP address? At its most basic, an IPaddress is astring of numbers assigned to an internet-connected device.Think of it like anaddress on a house. Your computer network uses the IPaddress to communicatewith other computers, websites, and all parts ofcyberspace.

Essentially, IPaddresses are how computers onthe internet recognize one another. Yourinternet service provider (ISP)assigns IP addresses to your internet-connecteddevices, and every IPaddress is unique. Considering every singleinternet-connected device hasan IP address, billions of IP addresses exist.

Every device thatcan connect to the internetis a member of the World Wide Web — computers,laptops,tablets,mobile phones, routers, etc. —and allhave an IP address. Websites and computer networks require this formofidentification for you to interact with them.

Understanding how to find your IPaddress andhow it works is important. But, it’s also important to understand thepurposeof IP addresses and why they matter.

Why do you have an IP address?

An IP address can beconsidered a digitaladdress for your internet-connected devices, as it revealsyourgeolocation to help providers deliver content that’s relevant to you.

An example? Thanks to your IP address you’ll seelocal restaurants pop up when yousearch “sushi restaurants.”

How can I find my IP address?

You can find your IP address by running a Googlesearch for ”What is my IP address?” Once you do this, theinternet sendsyour IP address to you. The internet knows your IPaddress because it’sassigned to your device and is required tobrowse the internet.

Your IP address changes, though, every time youconnect to a different Wi-Finetwork orrouter. Online users won’tevenknow the difference and, generally, they don’t need to —muchlike howthey don’t necessarily need to know how to read an IP address.

Rather, online usersshould be aware of whatinformation their IP address reveals.

What information does my IP address reveal?

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IP addresses doreveal your geolocation, but not yourprecise location like a home address does. IP addresses will also never revealyour name, phone number, or other precise personal information.Instead,IP addresses might reveal the city, ZIP code, or area code fromwhere you areconnecting to the internet at that moment, which is why IPaddresses changeevery time you connect from a new location or when youare using a new router.

And it’s generallyyour router’s IP address that isrevealed, not the IP address of yourinternet-connected devices such asyour computer, tablet, or mobile phone thatcommunicate with a router toconnect to the internet. Sure, theseinternet-connected devices sharetheir IP address with your router, but yourrouter uses its own IP addressto grant your device access to the World WideWeb.

It’s for this reasonthat your IP address almost alwaysreveals the geolocation of your ISP’snearest servers — not your physicallocation at all — and your IP address alsoreveals the name of your ISP.

  • Whatdoes an IP address tell you?For themost part,an IP address tells you the city, ZIP code, or area codeof your ISP, aswell as your ISP’s name.
  • WhatcananIP address tell you?To some degree, yourphysical location and also the name of your ISP.
  • CanIP addresses reveal your identity?No,not outrightly. However, others can piece together bits of your identity,using your IP address and by following your online activity

Can others find my IP address?

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It’s not that easy for others to findyour IP address. Theycan’t just run a Google search for “What is [insert name]’s IP address?” Butit’s also not as difficult as youmight think, considering we leaveourdigital footprintsand,in turn, IP addressesbehind with every click we make while online.

Remember, IPaddresses are required to enter any websiteand webpage on it. Every time you click something onlineit’s like signinga guestbook, with your IP address acting as the signature youleavebehind. This includessocial media sites,internet forums, chatrooms,and blogs you comment on. All these platformscan view your IP address.

Also,cybercriminalscan find yourIP addressby hacking into your home network or placing a bug in emailHTML.

For a morestraightforward approach to find your IPaddress, others might simply borrow your device and Google “what is my IPaddress” or inspect the header of anemail address. There are also IPlookup services, whereby users can simply copyand paste an IP addressinto a search bar and discover a person’s geolocation.

Authorities,including, law enforcement or fraudinvestigators, can also use subpoenas tocontact your ISP and get your IPaddress.

But, why would other people want to know yourIP addressand what would they do with it?

Is it dangerous for peopleto know my IP address?

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Because an IP addressdoesn’t directly reveal your personalinformation orconfidential data,it’s generally notdangerous for people to know it — but it all depends onwho’strying to access it.

Consider the followingparties who might be interested inyour IP address and why:

  • Authoritiestopiece together illegal activities
  • Employerstounderstandwhere you’re spending timeonline at work
  • Advertiserstotarget you with relevant products and services
  • Blacklistdatabasesto block access fromspammers
  • Retailerstocross-check your geolocation with your payment method’s mailing address
  • Chatroomstoblock inappropriate users
  • Subscriptionservicesto block users from accessingcontent unavailable in their area or region
  • Hackerstoinstallmalwareonyour devices
  • Cybercriminalstoput you at risk ofDenial of Service attacks
  • Criminalswho,if they already know your personal information, might call your ISP andcommit avishing attack
  • Youmighteven want to use an IP address to confirm whether an online friendorvirtual love interestresideswhere they say they do

When it comes to others trying to find your IP address, somemight have malicious intentions, such as to track you. Others, however, mightbe watching out for you, such as your bank confirming that it was you whosubmitted that transfer request.

Just because someone knows your IP address does not necessarilymean they will wind up on your doorstep. Still, you might want to take measuresto protect your IP address.

How can I protect myIP address?

The simplest way to protect your IP address is to use avirtual private network(VPN).This hides your online activity by using encryption,scrambling the data you send while searching the Internet so that hackers candecipher it. It also changes your IP address completely, placing yourgeolocation hundreds or maybe thousands of miles from where you are accessingthe internet.

The bottom line:Knowing what an IP address is matters

Now that you know the answer to the question “How doI find my IP address?” you can better take the steps necessary to protect yourIP address while online. It’s a good idea to understand what an IP addressreveals and how to hide your IP addressif you want to.

After all, beinginformed is a best practice when it comestoprotecting our online privacy.

What is an IP address? A definition + how to find it (6)

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What is an IP address? A definition + how to find it (7)

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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