There are roughly 1.5 billion IP addresses in the US alone, each corresponding to its own network. Most users think it’s a harmless set of numbers, but cybersecurity experts will warn of the dangers if your IP address is leaked.
With a plethora of victims to choose from, what do cybercriminals actually do with an IP address?
Today, we’ll uncover how threat actors can gain access to your IP and the all-too-real possibilities if your IP address getting leaked.
How does a cyber criminal get my IP address?
Let’s cover the most common ways that your IP address can get revealed:
- Clicking on a fraudulent link or ad: Every time you follow a link or view a website, your IP is shared with the site’s server.
- Connecting to unencrypted Wi-Fi: Hackers can set up fake “Free Wi-Fi” or hide on unsecured public connections. If you connect without a VPN, you’re sharing your data with the hacker.
- Social engineering: These tactics have been used for decades. Cybercriminals try to trick you into revealing your IP address by impersonating authorities.
The simplest way to mitigate the following issues is to avoid revealing your IP in the first place. Try out a free Surfshark trial to ensure your IP address is hidden and disguised at all times.
6 ways that cybercriminals are using your IP address
#1. Determining your real location
Spotting your real-life location through your IP address is possible and relatively easy. Creepy, right? Well, it’s not as simple as that. With your IP, a hacker can find your approximate location — country, state, city, or even your ZIP code.
It doesn’t sound that bad when you put it like that, but this is just a launching point for data thieves. With your name and rough location, a quick search on social media can quickly fill in any missing details about you.
#2. Tracking all of your online movements
If you work in a corporate setting, you may be aware that your employer can track your browsing habits over your work network. For many, this might already be a violation of personal privacy.
But did you know a hacker can do the exact same thing?
You got that right — anyone with access to your IP address and network can track every single move you make online. Often, hackers will hide in the background until they can steal your login or payment data.
#3. Executing destructive cyberattacks
Your IP address connects to the internet through thousands of ports. When a hacker has your IP address, these ports are where an attack will originate. Cyberattacks can come in many forms:
- Distributed denial-of-service attack: This brute force attack aims to overwhelm your network with requests until it shuts down.
- Malware: The silent killer can hide away on your devices, feeding your Personal Identifiable Information (PII) straight to hackers.
- Ransomware: Cybercriminals can demand a ransom for the safe return of your private data or just to leave you alone.
- Man-in-the-middle attack: Snoops can linger on your connection, stealing any PII that you transmit across your network.
#4. Committing illegal acts under your identity
For a large number of cybercriminals, the endgame is data theft. If you were to commit illegal and malicious acts, would you do so under your own identity? This is why PII (Personal Identifiable Information) carries so much value to hackers.
Before you know it, you may be accused of cybercrimes that you never perpetrated. Identity theft like this can cause you to be framed for fraudulent activities, and all begins with a leaked IP address.
#5. Getting you banned from websites
If a cybercriminal steals your identity, you may get banned from specific websites based on your IP. Known fraudulent IPs are added to blocklists, denying you any further access to the specific site.
Depending on the hacker’s chosen targets, you can be banned from:
- Banking and trading sites;
- Social media platforms;
- Online multiplayer games;
- Streaming providers;
- Various forums.
Scams are growing on remote job sites too, and suspicious IPs are swiftly banned. If you rely on a remote job site for work, being banned could spell financial troubles.
#6. Selling your stolen data on the dark web
Once your IP has been compromised, cybercriminals will try and make a profit from your stolen data. Now, you might be thinking, how valuable could a few scans of my old passport be anyway?
The black market for stolen data is lucrative — according to the 2023 Dark Web Price Index, a forged European Union passport can fetch $3000. Maybe now you can imagine why hackers are so driven to steal your data.
So your IP address is not so innocent after all. Just like any other PII or otherwise private data, your IP address should be protected and hidden far from the sticky fingers of cybercriminals.