One of the most fundamental building blocks of the internet is the Internet Protocol (IP) address. You might have heard of an IP address before, and you might know that it has something to do with your privacy. But what exactly is an IP address, and how can you find your IP address?
We’re going to break down everything you need to know about finding your IP address in a bit, but first, let’s take a closer look at what it is and why you would want to know yours.
The Fastest Way to Find and Hide Your IP Address
The fastest way to find and then hide your IP address from hackers and government eyes is by using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN will assign you a decoy IP address and then encrypt your web traffic through a private tunnel. Today’s top VPNs are affordable and easy to set up and use. Below are a few top-rated VPNs that we’ve tested and reviewed.
What Is an IP Address?
To understand your IP address, you need to know a little bit about the history of the internet. Its predecessor — the ARPANET — was created to connect the U.S. Department of Defense’s computers and allow employees to communicate with one another digitally. That’s where the protocol system, which became the foundation of the Internet Protocol system, was developed.
FYI: The internet as we know it has been around since Jan. 1, 1986. Before that, computer networks did not have a standardized way of communicating with each other.
In order for the internet to function in the way we use it today, devices that are connected to the network are assigned a number, known as an IP address, that allows network traffic to be routed to the correct place. Just like the mailman knows to deliver your parcels to your home because of its physical address, your IP address allows the right information to reach you at the right moment.
That’s a simplification of a pretty complicated topic. We’re not going to get into subnet masks, network classes, subnetting, or any of the other more complex topics that are required for the internet to work, but this basic understanding of what an IP address is used for is sufficient for our purposes. And now that you know what it is, let’s talk about how to find yours.
How Do I Find My IP Address?
Before we talk about how to locate yours, we should let you know that there are actually two types of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6. Some networks use one or the other, and some use both.
If it looks like “105.134.300.677,” it’s your IPv4 address. If it looks like “2600:1db8:85a3:0001:0003:7a3e:0480:6734,” it’s your IPv6 address. The reason for the difference is that we’re running out of IPv4 addresses, and with the IPv6 conventions, there are simply more numbers available.
Pro Tip: Want to learn more about the state of cybersecurity and digital criminal activity? We have everything you need to know in our privacy and technology report.
With that in mind, the process for finding your IP address is going to be different depending on which operating system you’re using and your device. Let’s go through some of the popular ones.
- Step 1: Click on the Apple icon at the top of the screen and select “system preferences.”
- Step 2: Click on the Network icon.
- Step 3: In the left column, select “Ethernet” for a wired connection or “Wi-Fi” for wireless. Your IP address will be listed under the connection status.
- Step 1: Go to your control by pressing the Windows key and the X key at the same time.
- Step 2: Click on “Network and Internet,” select “Network and Sharing Center,” and click on “Change adapter settings” on the left-hand side.
- Step 3: Highlight and right-click on “Ethernet,” go to “Status,” and click “Details.” Your IP address will be displayed.
- Step 1: Open up your settings menu.
- Step 2: Select “WLAN.”
- Step 3: Select the network you’re connected to, and your IP address will be displayed.
- Step 1: On your home screen, tap settings and select “WLAN.”
- Step 2: Select the information icon (a blue lowercase i) to the right of the network you’re connected to.
- Step 3: Your IP address will be displayed, along with your subnet mask and router.
It’s also worth pointing out that there are several websites available that you can visit that will read and display your IP address for you, and those are just a Google search away.
Pro Tip: There are several ways to hide your IP address, and just as many reasons. Some people want to spoof their physical location to stream georestricted content; others might just want to increase their privacy online.
And one last thing to note: Your IP address changes every time you connect to a different network or if you restart your router. Unless you’re running a server, this is a good thing for your security. Which brings us to our next point.
What Does Your IP Address Have to Do With Digital Security?
Now that you understand what an IP address is and how to find yours, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with privacy and security online. It’s just a random assortment of numbers, right?
To the layperson, yes, your IP address doesn’t really mean much. But to hackers and scammers, it can mean a lot. While there isn’t any personal information contained in the address itself, it will immediately let the hacker know where you’re generally located, and from there they can work to unravel more details about you.
For example, a hacker could use your IP address to build up enough information to frame you for illegal activity, steal your identity, or attempt to breach secure services like your bank account, email account, or cloud services. That’s why it pays to invest in security measures like identity theft protection or a virtual private network (VPN).
How Can I Hide My IP Address?
There are several ways to hide your IP address, and some are more effective than others. You can use proxy servers, for example, but that might end up significantly slowing down your internet speeds. The best way, in our opinion, is to use a VPN.
We’ve created an in-depth resource on how VPNs work, but the long and short of it is that a VPN encrypts your internet connection so that no one can see what you’re doing online. This involves routing your traffic through a secure network and assigning you a new IP address to maintain that connection. Your actual IP address will not be used to connect to the internet, effectively keeping it private.
There are a ton of reasons people use VPNs, but if you’re interested in improving your privacy online, this is the best way to do it. And lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best VPN services of 2023 to get you started in your search. Good luck, and stay safe out there!