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Do You Know Your IP Address and Why is it Important to Know?
comment 1 Comment December 3, 2007 – 11:05 am

According to Wikipedia, An IP address (Internet  Protocol  address) is a unique address that certain  electronic  devices use in order to identify and  communicate with  each other on a computer network  utilizing the Internet  Protocol standard (IP)—in simpler  terms, a computer  address.

Just as we have a specific  home address and  telephone  number distinctly ours, so  does our computers.  Unless  we’re sharing internet  connection through a  router, each  IP address is unique  to every computer. Just  as  we don’t give away our  home address and phone  number  to strangers for  security reasons, so should our  IP  address. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

In  order for our computer to talk to the internet and visit websites we have to give them our IP address and in turn they give us cookies so they’d remember us the next time we visit the website. Websites do this to protect their own from hijacking and other attacks. However, it seems unfair that we don’t have a say on the matter. If we refuse to accept cookies from say, Yahoo would not allow us to browse their website hence we won’t be able to access our mails or any of their services.

If we try to hide our IP address via a proxy or a software, majority of the websites are intelligent enough to know this and will not allow access to their website. Websites want to know specifically where we are in the world and how we are using their website. It is primarily for security reasons but is also part of their research, statistics and however they want to use it for. Of late it is also being used on “targeted ads” directed at us, users. If you’re surfing the internet in Manhattan, New York for example, don’t be shocked if you start seeing advertisements telling you great Broadway shows to watch or if you’re on a travel site, would offer hotels and restaurants within that specific area. That’s the IP address and cookies talking.

Why is this a cause of concern for us? Why is it important  to know?

While our IP address is safe with  Yahoo!, Google, Blogger, Wordpress or other major and secure websites, our  computers are exposed and vulnerable to malicious attacks and probes from other unknown websites posing as safe  and frightfully we really can not know the difference. We search something on Google and we are presented with thousands of links, we click one, one link leads to another link and then another, and still another. The links are endless.

Along the way, unscrupulous websites are already tracing our every move and without our knowledge, hackers already know what we’re reading. They monitor our online shopping habits and they have already accessed our name, address and other vital information by way of our IP address. These personal information are used in identity theft- a huge issue affecting thousands of people in America every year and is a growing concern for other countries as well.

I have always been conscious about what I do and where I go online because I use the internet for almost everything. I do 80% of my shopping online. From buying clothes, medicines, shoes, CDs, DVDs, books, etc. I even buy some of my groceries online! I do my banking online too through direct deposit and online transfer between accounts. I pay all my bills online and I don’t go to the post office anymore as I buy postage over the internet, print the label and have my mails pick up. I use voice over IP (VoIP) to talk to my family and friends in the Philippines, Australia and the UK. A huge part of my day-to-day activities is connected to the internet and so it is important that I am on top of it everytime I use the web.

Still, I got the shock when I was browsing recently. I was reading a news article and then it led me to a blog and then another blog and then a political website. I read it briefly and on the bottom, something caught my eye that made me very uncomfortable and scared. The website had an ad, asking me directly to donate to their website if I found it useful. Golly, I read my name on their website! How in Google’s name did they ever know my complete name?!!

I was only logged on to my Yahoo! email and Wordpress account. I didn’t log in to any site that required me to fill in my name! It could have been from anywhere. A cookie left from a previous website I used and the websites have a way of exchanging information (which should be illegal by the way- but every time we click ‘I agree’ to join or sign up at any website, there it is as a fine print that they exchange relevant information with their partners or third party associates or something vague to that effect–that protects them from any liabilities!).

It still is a mystery to me so now I am in search for a software that can somehow hide my IP- or just do something. I have cable, phone and internet package from a cable company and they insist that they change IP addresses routinely to all their subscribers but apparently, it’s not changing it as often.

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