How Can Someone Misuse Your IP Address?

Although it's public information, your IP address could be a potent weapon in the hand of a tech-savvy hacker...

Misuse IP address

Your IP address is used for sending and receiving information online and without it you wouldn’t be able to connect to the Internet. However, if a hacker knows your IP address, he/she can use it to seize valuable information such as your location and perhaps even your online identity. With that information as a starting point, they could potentially hack your device, steal your identity, and cause more harm.

The problem is that the dangers of someone knowing your IP address are rarely discussed. For instance, criminals can use your IP to launch cyberattacks and scams against you and others.

In this article, we will try to explain how a tech-savvy yet malicious actor can misuse your IP address. Let us first discuss…

How can someone find your IP address?

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the one that assigns an IP address to you — and to all of its users. It represents a unique string of numbers and it is used as a delivery address for online traffic.

Most ISPs use dynamic IP addresses, which aren’t fixed to any particular device or user, except if you opt for a static IP address. In this setup, you can run your own server from your home or office, allowing your friends and/or colleagues to connect to your computer. This is the way businesses set up servers for employees to connect to.

In both instances, your IP address is public but it’s not like you’re broadcasting that information. Nevertheless, every website you visit knows your IP address; just type “what’s my IP” on Google and you’ll see it.

Aside from visiting websites, you let other know your IP address by:

  • Using BitTorrent – which needs it for the service to work
  • By using some email clients like Yahoo! Mail and Microsoft Outlook, which are known to include IP addresses in the email header.
  • By clicking on a link in an email – which will lead to some website from where the server administrator can learn your IP address.

Let us proceed to the next point…

What can someone do with your IP address?

Although your IP address alone won’t give away sensitive information, hackers can still use your IP against you. In fact, the consequences can be devastating:

They can get your location and intrude on your privacy in real life
This is because your IP address shows what city you’re in, so if an ill-intentioned person finds it out – you could be in trouble. For instance, when you announce that you’ll be on a holiday through social media – a criminal will have to do a little extra digging to find your house and burgle it while you’re away.

They can use your IP to hack your device
Because an IP address is used for connecting to the Internet and routing all the traffic between multiple computers, your IP address could also be used for hacking of your device(s). A savvy hacker who has your IP can try multiple ports to brute-force a connection, taking over your phone for example and stealing your information. From that point on, they could also install malware on the device, which could lead to further chaos.

Employers can track your online activity
This is already happening folks, with some employers using modern technologies to track what their employees are doing when connected to the company’s networks. Not if you are able to hide your IP address and encrypt all traffic flying between your computer, phone or tablet and the rest of the Internet. More on that in a moment.

A hacker can launch a DDoS attack against you
If a tech-savvy hacker knows your IP address, they could harm you with a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. This sort of attack uses an army of computers controlled by a hacker to flood your device with traffic so it disconnects from the Internet. In this scenario, your computer or other Internet-connected device gets more requests than it can handle.

You could be framed for illegal activity
Hackers have been doing this for years, using other people’s IP addresses to perform their malicious activities online. For instance, they could do things ranging from downloading illegal content to threatening national security and everything in between. This way, you could end up being questioned by the police without knowing what in the world is going on.

How to stop someone from using your IP address?

Even before addressing this question, we must add that it is up to you to protect your personally identifiable information and other valuable data as much as you can. Whenever possible, make sure it’s password protected and encrypted so that even if someone manages to access your device, it can do little with it.

With that part out of the way, here are several things you could do to protect your IP address:

1. Change privacy settings
Make sure that if there is the “private” setting, it is turned “on.” Disclose as little information as possible across all the apps. Arguably, this setting is most important on various messaging and VoIP apps where you should prevent strangers from contacting you. Check out the Settings and set that option.

2. Update your firewall and router
Old firmware is one of the biggest sources for vulnerabilities and hackers are happy to take advantage of all the users who don’t do the work of keeping their firewall and router software up to date. Since you’re reading this, you’re not “that guy” and you know you should have all your devices running the latest software versions. Right?

3. Use a VPN
A VPN will protect both your IP address and your private information. It does that by routing your traffic through its (VPN) servers that have their own IP addresses. As a result, websites you’re visiting and services you’re using don’t get your real IP address but the one a VPN has provided to you. Furthermore, it will also encrypt all data travelling between your device(s) and the rest of the Internet, so that even if it gets intercepted – a hacker won’t be able to do much with it.

A VPN offers even more…

We’ve just scratched the surface here with VPNs as they offer so much more. Beyond protecting your connection, they can also make and keep you anonymous on the Internet. Again, as far as the websites you’re visiting are concerned, you are accessing them from the IP address provided by your VPN service — rather than the one your ISP has assigned to you. And you get to pick your virtual location with all VPNs and based on that – get a different IP address.

This same capability lets you unlock parts of the Internet that could otherwise be outside of your reach. For instance, HBO Max may not be available in your country, but with a VPN – you can connect to a US-based server and then sign-up for the popular streaming service. This, in case you wonder, is one of the most popular use cases for VPNs.

Similarly, in high-censorship countries where governments are known to block parts of the Internet, a VPN can help you access the Internet in its entirety.

And there’s of course more, and that is why we think everyone should be using a VPN these days. If you still don’t have one, we suggest checking out our page with Best of the Best VPNs from where you can pick and choose the service that “sounds” the best to you. All of them have been field tested and all offer money-back guarantees – just in case something goes wrong. It’s good to know you can always get your hard earned cash – back…