How many internet-connected devices do you own? If you took a quick inventory around your house, you may be surprised at exactly how many there are. Have you ever wondered how they all communicate, not only with each other, but with the internet as well? This is, in part the result of technology known as IP addressing.
What is an IP address?
An IP (Internet Protocol) address is your computer's address on the internet. Just as your home has a postal address, a unique IP address is assigned to every device on the internet, serving as an identifier for your system, allowing the ability for communication over a network. A protocol is the set of rules that govern the structure and function of the addressing scheme. Just as there are rules for interacting with others in a social setting, IP addressing
In the world of cybersecurity, IP addresses play a crucial role in identifying and preventing cyber threats. Every time we connect to the internet, we leave a digital footprint that can be traced back to our IP address. Understanding IP addresses can help protect us from online risks.
Types of IP addresses
There are mainly two versions of IP addressing, IPv4, and IPv6.
Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is the older version of IP addresses which uses a 32-bit format allowing 232 or approximately 4.3 billion unique IP addresses. Each IPv4 address is made up of 4 sets divided into octets separated by a period, containing decimal values between 0 and 255. For example, 188.8.131.52, or 192.168.1.1 and all combinations up to 255.255.255.255.
With increasing numbers of devices connected to the Internet, the 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses were insufficient to support all the devices. This led to the development of IP version 6 (IPv6). IPv6 uses 128-bit addressing format allowing 2128 unique IP addresses making it provide enough IP addresses for the future. To give you a better sense of how large 2128 is, it is a 39-digit number.
Unlike IPv4 addresses, IPv6 addresses are represented using a system known as hexadecimal notation, which ranges from 0 to FF. Each of the 8 segments that comprise an IPv6 address is separated by a colon. An example of an IPv6 address looks like this: 1234:FFFF:db8F:3456:7815:6666:7777:8888.
IP addresses are further classified as either static or dynamic.
Static IP addresses
Static IP addresses are also known as dedicated IP addresses. These are fixed IP addresses provided by Internet Service Providers (ISP). They are usually a separate cost above the standard internet service charge. Static IP addresses are used mainly for businesses that operate servers that require a constant presence on the internet, such as web servers.
Dynamic IP addresses
Dynamic IP addresses are assigned by an ISP to the end users and are part of a typical home internet plan. Dynamic IP addresses can change over time. This doesn’t affect the functioning of your home network, as those devices are managed inside of where your internet connects to your service provider, rather than each individual device in your house. This is because your home devices fall into a category known as private addressing. Think of it the same way that electricity is provided to your house. The electric meter is managed by the electrical provider, but the provider has no control over whether you use an LED bulb, or an older, incandescent bulb.
The IP address assigned to your home router is known as a public IP address; it is our unique internet address, managed by your ISP. However, private IP addresses are assigned to the devices connected within the network by the router and can't be seen on internet. All of your home devices have a private address that remains inside your environment.
IP tracking is the process of monitoring and analysing IP addresses to identify potential security threats or to track down the source of malicious activity. There are several tools and techniques that can be used for IP tracking, including:
Geolocation databases: These databases map IP addresses to physical locations, allowing analysts to identify the general area where an IP address is located.
Packet sniffing: This involves capturing and analysing data packets sent between devices on a network to identify various characteristics of the packet, including the source and destination of traffic.
Reverse DNS lookups: This involves looking up the domain name associated with an IP address
IP addresses can be used for tracking the location of a device or a user. By using geolocation techniques, it is possible to determine the physical location of a device based on its IP address. This can be useful for various purposes, such as targeted advertising or fraud detection.
However, IP tracking has also raised privacy concerns, as it can be used to track the movements and activities of individuals without their consent. In some cases, malicious actors may use IP tracking to carry out cyberattacks or identity theft.
To protect against these threats, it is important to take steps to safeguard your online activities. This includes using a Virtual Private Network (VPNs) to hide your IP address and protect your online identity, as well as implementing strong cybersecurity measures, such as good anti-malware software.
Additionally, most compromises of home networks are usually the result of allowing the bad software in, either by clicking on a malicious link, or visiting an infected website. Malware has the potential to communicate back to the attacker from within your network. This emphasizes the need to practice good cybersecurity hygiene, and to use reliable anti-malware software.
IP Addressing Gets Very Deep
The subject of IP addressing is extraordinarily deep. Entire textbooks have been written about the subject, college courses include it as part of most computer science disciplines, and numerous aspects are present in every computer certification exam.
IP addresses play a crucial role in the functioning of the internet and are an essential part of cybersecurity. By understanding even the most basic information about how they work and the potential risks they pose, we can better protect ourselves and our online activities.
About the Author:
Kushalveer Singh Bachchas is a Certified Ethical Hacker | Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator | EC-COUNCIL Certified Security Analyst | Information Security Consultant | EC Council Certified Instructor | Cyber Crime Investigator to Law Enforcement agency and Visiting Faculty-Lecturer at Police Training Academy. He regularly conducts Training on Cyber Crime Investigation, Cyber Threat Intelligence, Digital Forensics Investigation methodologies for Various Law enforcement agencies across the nation.
He has conducted Cyber-Security Workshops for Engineering Students across the nation. He is working as an Information Security Consultant, presently executing the “Digital Security Awareness Campaign”, conducting seminars on “Cyber Threats to Children in Digital World” & "Certified Secure Computer User" for students, teachers and parents to sensitize them about the Types of Cyber Crimes, Preventive Measures to be taken while surfing the Internet, Information Technology Act and the Remedial Measures that can be taken if one is victimized by the cybercriminals. Cyber Security Workshops. To date he has successfully completed workshops Students and Professors for various engineering colleges Nationwide.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire