What is the purpose of an Internet Protocol address (IP address)?

what is the purpose of an internet protocol address

Knowing what is the purpose of an Internet Protocol address may help you better understand its importance.

The online world seems very undemanding on the surface but is full of intricacies if we dig deeper. If you’re someone who’s on the internet regularly, then “IP address” is a term that you might have stumbled upon often.

What is an IP Address Explained | T...
What is an IP Address Explained | Tech Education

However, the real questions are “Do you comprehend its meaning?” and “Do you understand the significance of this random number?”

If not, then in the following article, we’ve covered all the key information you need to know in order to get familiar with IP addresses. Read on to find the answer!

Table of Contents

  1. What is the purpose of an Internet Protocol address (IP address)?
    1. What does IP address mean?
    2. IP address components
    3. Origin of IPv4 and IPv6 address
    4. Types of IP addresses
      1. Consumer IP
    5. IP address organization
      1. Dynamic IP
      2. Static IP
      3. Website IP
    6. What are IP packets?
      1. An insight into a trip of a packet (IP Routing)
    7. What is a DNS Server?
    8. The relationship between IP Address and geolocation
    9. Figuring out your IP address
    10. Security hazards related to IP address
      1. Social scamming
      2. Online stalking
  2. How to increase the security of your network?
    1. Proxy server usage
    2. VPN Usage
  3. Wrap up

What is the purpose of an Internet Protocol address (IP address)?

What does IP address mean?

The term IP refers to “Internet Protocol”. Every gadget owns a location mark that is responsible for locating the network device in the online world.

It also assists in communication between networks with the help of data transfer.

When you leave your footprint online by playing a game, searching for a video, or commenting on a public forum, this activity keeps your data in check through predetermined rules set by the Internet Protocol address.

Your computer’s IP number acts as your identity on the internet, like a telephone number. A subnet mask separates the network number and device number.

Which hardware device connects your network to the internet

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is responsible for assigning each electronic connected device to a particular IP address. Its key features are:

  • It helps to detect the host or network interface;
  • It aids in tracking the host’s location on the internet.

IP address components

The IP address consists of two components:

  • The Network ID, is referred by the top three digits of your IP address. Network ID hints at the network the device is using. For example, your network ID is “199.135.2” If your IP is (199.135.2.1);
  • The Host ID indicates the number of your device in the internet list. It ranges from 1 (which usually belongs to router/modem) to 3-4 as the number of devices increases successively.

Origin of IPv4 and IPv6 address

Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4 address) and IPv6 are address spaces of the internet interface. They contain sufficient address space to cater to a large number of devices.

They were both released within a decade’s gap. Currently, both cohabitate in the Internet world.

IPv4 is the 32-bit address space version that was released in the 1980s. It served the internet’s interface by providing up to 4 billion IP numbers. Ease of placement was the major benefit of this IP version.

However, due to the advent of newer gadgets in the 1990s, its capacity began to exhaust. Due to the shortage of IPs, a phenomenon called “IP address Exhaustion” came to the surface back in 2011.

To counter this problem, The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) proposed another version called “Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)”. It has a 128-bit value, which is comparatively larger than the former version.

The capacity of this version is around 340 billion, which will keep the IP shortage issue at bay for the longest time. The major drawback of this version is its length, which ultimately creates hassle in governing the large pool.

Types of IP addresses

Depending upon the domain, an IP address can exist in the following types:

Consumer IP

Your internet has two types of addresses with respect to your network. If you are working from home or from your office premises, then the identity of your PC or laptop will reflect through the following:

Private IP

Private IP is the branch of a public IP address. Your router or modem is responsible for placing it on different devices used within your home or office.

These include laptops, smartphones, tablets, Bluetooth, smart TVs, and other gadgets that require internet connectivity.

A private IP address has no links to the external online world because your modem assigns it to your device. However, Network Address Translation (NAT) converts your private IP into a public one; hence these IPs act as public IPs online.

Nonetheless, the router still needs the information of the private IP to keep its data in check. With the increasing usage of Wi-Fi, the number of private IPs is increasing exponentially.

Public IP

The public IP address is the external IP that serves as a means of your identity over the internet. It’s easily accessible to anyone online, and your Internet service provider is responsible for assigning this to your router.

It is your entire network’s principal address from which your private address emerges. It helps in establishing your identity and directs you towards relevant information on the internet.

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IP address organization

Two types of IPs are used to manage a large number of internet networks/gadgets.

Dynamic IP

As the name suggests, the Dynamic IP address changes at regular intervals due to various factors. Hence, it becomes difficult to monitor and allot specific numbers to the connected devices due to a rapid increase in internet users.

To resolve this issue, the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) automatically assigns an IP to the connected gadget and allows shared networks to multiple devices.

And once the IPs get saturated, the Internet service provider redistributes them for reassigning.

The advantage of having a dynamic IP is that it features strict security. Since hackers primarily use IP to invade the privacy of computer networks, it becomes a hassle for them when the location of the system keeps on changing.

Static IP

The static IP address is constant i.e., it remains unchanged until any changes are done deliberately. A static IP address is particularly useful for businesses having websites.

To ensure constant website traffic, it is essential to restrict a particular IP to the website server.

Website IP

Business owners with websites need a website IP which is of the following two types:

Shared IP

Many business owners having similar interests, or those entrepreneurs who are new to the website opt for a shared IP address to establish their website.

Multiple domains and websites can function within one shared network. Cost-effectiveness, easy installation, and strict checks on security are some of the benefits of this shared entity.

However, there are many risks associated with using one website in a shared IP pool, the main being loss of brand reputation.

Dedicated IP

On the contrary, website owners have an option to go for a dedicated IP address that is exclusive to their website only. This feature is beneficial to the organizations that work with strict security.

Sending Emails and transferring data within an organization becomes hassle-free using their private network. Also, the security risks are reduced and the File Transfer Protocol server runs smoothly in dedicated IP.

What are IP packets?

Data when transferred moves in the form of “Packets”.  Packets move from one gateway to another to transmit information. An IP packet consists of two parts:

  • Header: It is similar to an envelope of a parcel which contains all the necessary information like the receiver’s and sender’s address;
  • Data Component: it is like a letter that a packet delivers. It has the data which is transmitted from one computer to another.

An insight into a trip of a packet (IP Routing)

The operation of the IP address is like a package delivered to its destination. The IP is the location of your device, and any data that reaches you must first locate your IP address.

If you want to send an email, any data that needs to get delivered travels in the form of “IP packets”.

There are a lot of packets within each data, so not every packet goes through a similar route to reach its desired destination. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) has the responsibility of rearranging the packets in their original order.

Each packet that travels to its destination has information about its sender’s and receiver’s location. Each packet first reaches a point called the gateway. A gateway is like a door. It carries the packet and hands it over to the adjoining gateway of the other computer.

The parcel keeps on transmitting through several gateways until it arrives at its specified target. The gateway of the destination recognizes its computer’s location and sends the parcel to its computer.

What is a DNS Server?

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a powerful resource for internet users. Although an Internet Protocol behaves as the home site, the IP numbers are quite impossible to remember.

The domain name service has the job of converting the technical IP address into a readable domain name for the users.

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DNS acts as a bridge between the user and the internet. Now the users can easily access their favorite website by typing a name instead of remembering complex, random numbers.

Also, you can discover the Wi-Fi connection by a specific name which saves an ample amount of time.

The relationship between IP Address and geolocation

The IP address provides users with a customized experience. When a person goes online, their phone’s IP leave their footprint in the digital world.

And this imprint is beneficial in providing them with a personalized and user-friendly online experience.

Streaming websites and browsing platforms use your personal information to customize their sites according to your geolocation. They tailor their website language, time, and date with respect to the location provided by your network.

Moreover, your digital location also helps the marketing agencies in displaying relevant products and advertisements for you.

Figuring out your IP address

There are two ways to figure out your IP address, depending on if the required IP is public or private.

  • You can easily find your public IP address by searching on Google. When you look up something on Google, your router displays your IP to the internet;
  • Your IP varies according to the number of devices in use. Hence, there are different ways to find it:
    • On a Windows PC, go to “Network and Internet settings” to identify your IP;
    • On a MAC system, navigate to “System preferences” and click on “Network” to discover your IP;
    • On an iPhone, your IP address will reveal itself if you click on the “i” icon beside your Wi-Fi.

Because your Internet Protocol acts as a gateway to your computer, it becomes the primary target of cybercriminals that constantly try to intrude on your privacy. Cyber attackers compromise your online security in the following ways:

Social scamming

The popularity of different gaming apps has paved a clear path for attackers. Hackers have engineered scamming techniques that trick the users into revealing their network’s information.

These techniques work by attracting the users through different advertisements. Your public IP becomes its prime target if you get trapped in this online scam.

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Furthermore, if you click on the malicious links, your private information gets disclosed.

Online stalking

Online stalking is another way through which the hackers invade your privacy once they learn about your computer’s IP.

It occurs when your public IP address appears online due to your internet activity, such as commenting on social media and trading.

In addition, hackers can track your personal information by stalking and penetrating deep into your network.

Cybercriminals can harm you in many ways, some of them include:

  • Impersonation: The main reason for hacking a computer is to impersonate someone else. In this, the criminals expand their activity by taking up your identity and tricking your friends and community;
  • Illegal content download: Hackers might use your network to fulfill their requirement of downloading unlawful content and accessing illegal sites;
  • Spotting your home location: Revealing your IP address may expose you to a security risk where hackers may harm you in unimaginable ways by finding your physical location;
  • Messing up the traffic of your server: Online platforms and gaming websites pose a high risk of hacking due to their low security. Attackers use a phenomenon called DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) to clutter the traffic arriving at your server and due to this a point comes where your system shuts down automatically due to overwhelming traffic;
  • Access to your account:  With the help of an IP address, hackers can effortlessly access your files, photos, and other information and misuse them against you. Another way they can corrupt your system is by downloading malware into your computer system.

How to increase the security of your network?

Fortunately, there are some ways through which you can keep the hackers at bay and protect your network from potential damage.

Proxy server usage

You can opt for a proxy server that serves as a mask to prevent your IP address from revealing itself on the internet. It works as an intermediary between the internet server and your network.

VPN Usage

Virtual Private Network (VPN) hides your identity and displays a different IP address on the internet. It helps in misguiding the attackers by providing a fake IP address.

Tech experts recommend using a VPN while using public networks because they are more susceptible to security threats.

Wrap up

IP address holds as much importance as your home location or your credit card number. It is not only exclusive to your gadgets but also responsible for exposing you to the online world.

Therefore, it is essential to get familiar with your network’s location information and take precautionary measures to protect it.

Luckily, the above article discusses everything you need to know about IP addresses and how it works. It also provides an insight into how you can choose between different IPs (static or dynamic IP) according to your needs.

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