How can you secure your Internet browsing? What are the best practices to follow, how to put them in place and how to make sure that you have good control over your data and personal information when you connect to the Internet, no matter the web browser you are choosing?
All about IP addresses
You may not know it, but every time you surf the internet, view your Facebook profile, play online games, or chat with your friends over the internet, the rest of the world can identify you based on your digital address.
This «address» is your IP address, or Internet Protocol Address. It is a unique combination of numbers that identifies computers or devices, to distinguish them from each other and so they can communicate with each other.
Your computer or other digital devices work the same way as your physical address: your device needs an address in order to send information to another device. It sounds harmless, but hackers can launch attacks on you (or pretend to be you) if they know your IP address.
Before we get into the details, keep in mind that finding and using someone’s IP address for cyber-attack purposes is only part of this malicious system. For starters, just being aware of your vulnerabilities and the things to do to be more secure is already important in all aspects of your computer and internet use.
What can others do with my IP address?
There are a number of reasons why cybercriminals want to have your IP address. They may just want to annoy you, or they may actually want to attack you. Here are the three main reasons they want to hunt for IP addresses:
1. To download illegal content using your IP address and your identity
You could have big problems if they use your identity to illegally download movies, music, videos, or even child pornography or information that endangers national security. It is not at all necessary to blame yourself for the crimes you did not commit. For example, in 2012, an IP address was traced to have been the source of threats against local Indiana police, and it was not until they forced their way into the house and threw tear gas canisters. SWAT realized they were in the wrong place.
2. To locate yourself in order to carry out larger scale attacks
By having possession of your IP address, a cybercriminal can use geolocation technology to identify the region where you are, your city, or your country. They do this to find out if your area deserves to be their target. They can, for example, search for IP addresses in regions that are wealthy or have less security knowledge, to earn more money with their attacks, or to penetrate a system more easily. By combining this with the ability to gather other information, a criminal can determine if you and the people you love are good targets.
3. To directly attack your network
They are not only able to use your IP address for large scale attacks, but they can also directly attack your network and launch various assaults. One of the most popular is the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. This type of cyber-attack occurs when malicious people use affected machines to generate a large volume of requests in order to flood the target system or server. As a result, the server can no longer support the traffic and is forced to stop its services. Put simply, the attack cuts your connection to the Internet, which in turn prevents you from accessing vital resources. While this kind of attack is known to target video game companies and services, it may also target individuals, although this is unusual.
Online video game players are the most vulnerable to this attack because their screens are visible during streaming (hackers can then discover their IP address). If a player’s IP address is known to another player, that player can launch a DDoS attack against them, thereby removing them from the game and the Internet. A worst-case scenario is for SWAT to come to your home because a cybercriminal specifies your whereabouts and tricks the authorities into going to your house. Imagine the scenario!
How do these criminals find your IP address?
Just as they find personal information online to target users, cybercriminals are devilishly clever at finding your IP address. Here are some of these methods.
They may use social media to trick you into revealing your IP address. They may look for you on Skype or other chat apps, for example, because those apps all use IP addresses to communicate. If you are chatting with strangers by using these applications, be aware that they are able to see your IP address.
Additionally, criminals can find out your IP address simply by tracking your Internet activities. Any activity online, not only malicious software installs, can reveal your IP address, whether you play video games, or comment on websites or forums.
After finding your IP address, the criminals will simply go to an IP address finder site, like whatismyipaddress.com, and write your IP address there, and Bam!! They find your location. With a little effort, hackers can look through the references in free data to validate if the IP address is associated with you. They can use LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social networks that show where you live, and then see if that matches the given location. If a Facebook stalker uses a phishing attack against everyone with the same name as you to install a spyware program, the IP address associated with your system will likely notify the stalker that you are the right person.
How can I protect my IP address? Best ways to secure Internet browsing.
Your Internet Service Provider usually gives you a dynamic IP address (which changes periodically). But you can also request a static address (which never changes), if you are using a web server from your home. There is still debate as to which is the safest. But it’s pretty obvious that using a dynamic IP address is safer, because “it’s not a static target for cybercriminals,” as Steven Burn, Lead Malware Intelligence Analyst at Malwarebytes, explains.
This then boils down to the steps you take to have an IP secure address. Here’s how you can keep your IP address out of the reach of these criminals, by making some easy security settings or security protocols.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN is a private network that protects your Internet connection from prying eyes. A solution popular with professionals, but which is also easily accessible for individuals. Why is that?
VPN. These three letters may be familiar to you. Until recently, VPNs (Virtual Private Network) were mainly used in the corporate world to secure an Internet connection, especially when employees travel abroad. Today, anyone can subscribe to such a service, for any reason.
It protects your online data using encryption and proxy tunnels. It hides your IP address and redirects your traffic from a separate server, making the internet safer for you. Burn says VPN services are hands down the best options for securing your online business – you can find them online and pay for their services monthly. There are also free VPNs, but don’t expect them to be fast enough for just any streaming or video game.
In addition, you can use a proxy, which can work as a hub from which Internet requests are made. All this while hiding your IP address. It can also determine which requests are legitimate and which are not.
A VPN, what for?
Nowadays, the VPN has made a name for itself with the general public. There are several reasons for this. If you don’t share sensitive information, you may very well want to remain anonymous on the Internet, whether it’s out of decency, because you really have something to hide, or just so that nothing gets filtered through sites and websites and operators who are collecting navigation data.
Best VPN also allows access to services that are not necessarily accessible in a given country. On vacation in China for example, a VPN is essential to access your favorite sites or social networks that are blocked by local authorities.
You may also simply want to bypass geographic rules, for example to subscribe to a streaming service such as Hulu in the United States, which is still slow to cross the Atlantic. Something allowed again by a VPN. And although Netflix is available for us, access through a VPN offers the possibility of bypassing the media timeline and other exclusives, by directly accessing films and TV series reserved for American customers. Finally, no need to kid ourselves, using a VPN is also the best way to bypass the spy trackers. And most of them also provide kill switch.
Do not forget that best VPNs offer their users Unlimited VPN connexion, web browsing with secure VPN and money back guarantees. You just need to know how to choose a VPN, the most suitable to your own needs, if internet security is on your wish list.
2. Update your router or firewall rules
Your router travels your data between networks and your firewall prevents unauthorized access. Make sure to change the default router password, because cybercriminals often use these default passwords to enter your network. Each password provided by your ISP is the same and can be easily found online. Also, make sure that your firewall rules do not allow a ping to make online requests. Therefore, unauthorized visitors do not enter your network.
3. Change the privacy settings of instant chat applications
Only allow direct connections with your contacts, and don’t accept messages or calls from people you don’t know. Setting your settings to “private” will make it harder to find your IP address, because people who don’t know you can’t connect with you.
4. Update your antivirus and add other security programs
You are going to be protected from dangers if you make sure that you don’t miss any antivirus updates. Also add other security programs to your antivirus to protect yourself even more. For example, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware blocks URLs from phishing emails in addition to blocking malicious sites that you may encounter.
Protecting your IP address is part of protecting your identity. And securing it with these steps makes it even more secure against the various attacks that cybercriminals use nowadays.
Why hide your IP address and how to do it?
There are a lot of reasons for you to hide your IP address. People can use IP addresses to find out your location, and sometimes they do so with remarkable accuracy.
These addresses also work as a kind of identifier, like phone numbers, allowing advertising companies and opponents to follow you online. They can also be used to target and attack you.
But beyond privacy issues, hiding your IP address can also be an easy way to use the web. By hiding your IP address you can, for example, see content blocked in certain regions.
You can even hide from a vigilant or oppressive government. Often journalists hide their IP address when working in dangerous areas or on sensitive subjects. I am not asking anyone to break the laws, I just want to let people know how to protect themselves if it is necessary.
With a VPN, you add an extra layer of security. A VPN is not going to interact directly with the website, instead it creates an encrypted tunnel between you and the website’s server. This server will then connect to the public Internet and normally retrieve the information you requested. This information will then pass through the tunnel again to arrive in your computer. This process ensures that no one intercepts this information, and will ensure that an observer (if any) sees the VPN’s IP address and not yours.
If you are using a VPN, the speed of your Internet connection is likely to decrease due to the actions taken by the VPN. But research has shown that the best VPNs will (marginally) slow down the connection.
Not everyone needs to hide or protect their IP address. The majority of internet users run their business carefree. But if you think you need some security, maybe to protect your privacy, hiding your IP address is a logical step. Then make the right decisions when choosing which services to use. Proxy? VPN Connection? Or both? Follow your instincts. If you don’t see a rating and the VPN is surprisingly cheap, you might be wise to look elsewhere. Then again, if you’ve found a proxy on some forums … this might not be the best idea.