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My IP address

We all know that, in order for a letter to reach its recipient, it must have the exact address: street, number, city, zip code and country.

This is the only way for post staff to know where to send it. The same happens on the internet: each device within an internal or external network needs a specific “door number” to be able to communicate with other devices and receive data packets from them.

This IP address, however, looks very different from that of postal mail. Find out what these cryptic figures mean.

Your IP address

35.170.81.210

Find out more: my IP address

The internet protocol address, that is, the IP address or simply IP, is based on the Internet protocol, which is also the basis of the operation of the Internet. It's what you can name: my IP address.

This is the unambiguous address of a device (for example, a computer, a web server or a printer) in an internal or external network.

An IP address can also refer to a set of devices, as in the case of broadcasting or multicasting. Similarly, several IP addresses can be assigned to a single computer.

What is certain is that each IP address of a network can only be assigned once at a time.

my IP address

What is an IP address composed of?

There are two types of IP addresses with very different aspects.

What they have in common is that they consist of a so-called network identifier (to find the way in IP routing) and a device identifier (to reach a specific device).

The current IPv4 addresses

Currently, mostly addresses of version 4 of the internet protocol (abbreviated as IPv4) are used.

They consist of 32 bits, so from the technical point of view they are a 32-digit binary code, such as 11000000 10101000 10110010 00011111.

To deal with this monstrous figure, it is usually represented as a combination of four decimal numbers with values ​​between 0 and 255 separated by points.

In that format, our example would have the following form: 192.168.178.31.

With IPv4, a total of about 43 billion different addresses can be represented. These are much less addresses than devices in the world (and many of them are reserved for special uses) but, since they are never needed all at once, and since some are only used in private networks, so far they have been more that enough.

IPv6 addresses of the future

However, and not only for the internet of things, this situation will not take long to change: since more and more devices connect to the Internet and a large part of them need an IP address, the ability of IPv4 to assign addresses becomes little A little insufficient.

For this reason, IPv6 was introduced as its direct successor, with which some 340 sextillions (a number of 37 zeros) of addresses can be generated: an almost inexhaustible source for all future IP needs.

The addresses in this version are made up of 128 bits so they should be written as a 128-digit binary code.

Such a figure would be too long and impractical, so hexadecimal writing is used that separates the 128 bits into 8 16-bit blocks separated between them by two points. In this way, for example, the IPv6 address 0000: 0000: 0000: 0000: 0000: ffff: c0a8: b21f is obtained, in which the letters "a" through "f" also refer to hexadecimal numbers.

If we omit the zeros at the beginning of each block and substitute a series of consecutive blocks type 0000 for two points (: :), we can simplify this format even more. In our case, the simplified form is: :: ffff: c0a8: b21f.

Network and device identifier in IP addresses

If we want to send a letter, it is not enough to write the city and the country of the recipient. For an address to be complete, we also need the street, the portal number and even the floor.

The same goes for data transmission: for a data packet to arrive at the right place, the IP address must not only refer to the network in question, but also to the final device (the host) within that network.

Therefore, each IPv4 address is divided, using a so-called netmask, into a network identifier and a device identifier.

In the case of IPv6, however, the address is divided according to the length of the prefix: the first 64 bits form the so-called prefix (network address), and the last, the interface identifier (host address).

What is the IP address for?

An IP address is used to identify and locate a device unequivocally in an internal or external network.

Therefore, it is the basis for the transmission of information from the sender to the correct recipient.

If a device wants to send a data packet, the corresponding router is guided by the so-called IP header and collates the source IP with the destination IP.

If the network identifiers match, it is that the sender and the recipient are on the same network, so the package is delivered directly.

Otherwise, the router (the internet post office) contacts the domain name system (DNS), accessible worldwide.

This system is responsible for the resolution of names on the internet, that is, the conversion of device names into IP addresses and vice versa.

Thus, the DNS returns with the request of a web page the IP corresponding to the URL.

For example, from the domain www.example.com gives us the IPv4 address 93.184.216.34 or the IPv6 address 2606: 2800: 220: 1: 248: 1893: 25c8: 1946.

The data packet is then transmitted through several routers, networks and sub-networks to the recipient's router.

Who assigns the IP addresses?

The supreme authority in the assignment of IP addresses is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which, in turn, is a department of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

This authority has full control over potential IP addresses and distributes them in blocks to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIR), whose names are AfriNIC, APNIC, ARIN, LACNIC and RIPE NCC (initials of Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Center) .

The latter, which is responsible for Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe (and, therefore, Spain), distributes the IP addresses assigned to local contracting entities (Local Internet Registries or LIRs) and national (National Registries of Internet or NIR).

These entities in turn transmit the addresses to the suppliers, sub-suppliers or directly to the end customer.

What types of IP addresses are there?

Mainly distinguishes between dynamic and static IP addresses. In addition, there are also IP addresses "for special uses", of which most are reserved for private networks.

Dynamic IP addresses to surf the internet

Dynamic IP addresses are mostly used to navigate normally on the internet. When a DSL client connects to the internet through its router, its internet service provider (ISP) assigns it a random IP address that is available.

This assignment is deleted after each session or automatically changed at regular intervals, usually every 24 hours.

Note

As soon as a dynamic IP address changes, the client suffers a brief "forced disconnection" from the Internet. This disconnection generally occurs between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Ongoing downloads and phone calls are interrupted briefly during this interval, and then the router immediately connects again. Most users do not even notice this process.

Since, in this way, each available IP address can be "reused", the provider needs many fewer addresses than customers have since, after all, they never connect all at once.

Thus, together with IPv6, dynamic IP addresses help to counteract the shortage of IPv4 addresses.

And, since they are also cheaper than static addresses, they involve a lower cost for the provider, which can supply more customers with fewer addresses.

Customers also benefit from the protection of their privacy from third parties, since a dynamic IP address offers more anonymous browsing.

For web page operators, on the other hand, they have disadvantages: a constantly changing IP address is not suitable for monitoring user behavior.

Instead, cookies are generated that can be deleted again. Only the internet service provider can find out, thanks to the IP, what users do.

This has long generated controversy regarding data protection or, more specifically, data retention.

Static IP addresses for websites and businesses

A static IP address is always the same, unless its owner orders a change. These types of addresses are used, for example, for web servers, which must always be accessible through the same URL.

They are also used in private networks (LAN) to connect to a local printer or another computer in the home network. From the user's point of view, the biggest drawback of static IPs compared to dynamic ones is that it is much easier to monitor them.

IP addresses reserved for special uses

The IANA reserves approximately 14.5 percent of IPv4 addresses for special uses. Some examples are:

The IPv4 address range from 0.0.0.0 to 0.255.255.255 - summarized in the CIDR address block 0.0.0.0/8 - identifies the host of a network.

If the IP address 127.0.0.1 is selected, the local host can be contacted, that is, with the same computer that requests it.

This is necessary, among other things, to test new scheduled applications.

IP 255.255.255.255 is used in broadcast.

The addresses in the ranges of 10.0.0.0 to 10.255.255.255, from 172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255 and from 192.168.0.0 to 192.168.255.255 are reserved for private networks, in which they can be used without registration.

In the case of IPv6, the prefix fc00 :: / 7 is intended for private uses.

These IPs are not reassigned by the IANA and do not direct to the Internet. If, despite this, you want to access the Internet, the router transforms the private IP address, by means of the so-called network address translation (NAT), into an IPv4 or a valid IPv6 that serves on all devices on the local network.

With the incoming data packets, the opposite process occurs. Administrators can assign private IP addresses, either manually, or through a DHCP server automatically.

IP addresses and data protection

Although the IP address itself does not contain any private information, thanks to it you can draw conclusions about the user.

That makes it a very controversial issue in the field of data protection.

What does the IP address tell about the user?

First, using a user's IP address it is relatively easy to find out what their internet provider is. Depending on which figure you start, for example, you can tell if it belongs to Ono, Jazztel or Movistar.

Simply reverse DNS lookup or with the tracert command in the command line interface to find out. Other figures, on the other hand, give clues about specific companies or institutions, if it is known what range of addresses the corresponding LIR or NIR has assigned them.

Depending on how close the user is to the IP of the nearest switching node, the location will be more or less accurate.

In rural areas, only an approximate region can usually be identified, while in cities, “geolocation” is much more precise, given that there are switching nodes almost every hundred meters.

Are IP addresses considered personal data?

The short answer is yes". Through IP addresses, Internet providers can monitor and track the data traffic of their customers.

Therefore, the conservation of IP addresses is a particularly sensitive issue, since the General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679) definitely establishes the following: IP addresses, both static and dynamic, are considered, so to speak, online identifiers of personal data or related to them and are therefore subject to special protection.

That gives rise to strict rules on data protection, for example, in eCommerce. In this way, web page operators can only save a user's IP if it is absolutely necessary for the purpose and operation of the product or service they offer.

Only the security authorities have special access rights in specific cases.

Can you hide an IP address?

IP addresses can never be completely hidden, but they can be covered up with different methods.

The basic principle is always the same: first, the data packets are diverted to a server that uses its own IP address, from there to send them to the recipient. For this there are several tools:

The Mozilla Firefox package of the Tor browser allows users to surf the Internet anonymously.

However, since all data packets must first pass through a separate network, sometimes large bandwidths cannot be reached.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are virtual communication networks that allow encrypted data to be transmitted.

If you browse a VPN, the requested web server only sees the IP address used by the VPN, not the user's. A proxy server can also receive data packets and transmit them using its own IP address.

How can you see what your IP is?

To configure an email client or a cloud, sometimes you have to enter your own IP address manually. How do you find out?

To display the local IP of a computer, just use the standard operating system tools: