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Can "hackers" get to me by using my IP address?

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 3, 2000 12:00 AM

Question

I'd like to know how do I go about finding out my IP address. Also, I'd like to know if there's any way that someone else can find out my IP address and finally, can (they) find out personal information about me using the IP address.

-Linda

Answer

This question was answered on July 3, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are unique numbers that are assigned to everyone that access the Internet. Depending upon how you connect to the Internet, you may have a dynamic (temporary) or static (permanent) IP address. If you use a traditional (28.8/56k) modem and have a dial-up account with an ISP (Internet Service Provider) you most likely are being assigned a “dynamic” IP address from a pool of addresses. This means that every time you make a connection to the Net you are using a different address that belongs to your ISP. If you use a cable modem, DSL or any “always on” connection, your IP address is most likely “static” meaning it has been assigned to your specific machine. Windows users can run a built-in utility called WinIpCfg to obtain their IP address. (Connect to the Internet then, click on Start/Run then type “winipcfg” and click on Ok.) MacOs users can open the Apple Menu in the upper left hand corner (after connecting to the Internet) and select "Control Panels." Look for MACTCP or TCP/IP to display your current IP address.

The ability for others to obtain your IP address is rather simple; virtually everything that you do when on the Internet has the IP address encoded within the request. Since the IP address is one of the basic components used to route information from and to you, it can very easily be obtained from something as simple as an e-mail message. Most websites track the IP address of every visitor that comes to their site in an effort to determine how many users are repeat visitors among other things. As far as getting personal information about you through your IP address, while it is certainly possible, it is of less concern to me than other IP security concerns. Users of “static” IP addresses are at a higher risk for attack from “hackers” because the address is the same every time allowing them to target that user. Everything from sending the “ping of death” which can lock-up your system to “IP spoofing” which allows hackers to assume your “identity” to making your system a “zombie” in a Denial of Service attack, such as the ones that brought down Yahoo and CNN.

To protect yourself and your IP address you can make yourself invisible by installing a personal firewall program that blocks access to your system via your IP address. My column on “How to prevent Screen Jacking” earlier this year spells out specific ways of protecting yourself as well as a link to a free personal firewall program. It is posted at <a href="http://computerproblems.com/allcolumns.cfm?columnID=29"><font color="#003399">http://computerproblems.com/allcolumns.cfm?columnID=29</font></a>. The column also has a link to the Gibson Research site that will allow you to see exactly what others can see on your system when you connect to the Internet.

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 3, 2000

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