What is an IP Address – How to Hide Your Online Activities
By Nick Anderson 4 minutes
The internet, as we know it, is not made up of a central server giving out the internet to devices connected to it – it’s billions of devices connected worldwide. Some devices are clients such as yourself who are visitors, and some computers are servers that host something on the internet (e.g, a website).
The vastness of the internet is overwhelming. With so many devices, it needs some key identifiers to communicate with each other. An IP address provides the unique identifier required to communicate.
IP address comprises of numerical and hexadecimal numbers. Every device on the internet has an IP address that serves as its unique identifier in the digital ocean. The device that you are currently using has one, and FastestVPN’s website as one. So, you are able to connect to different servers and hosts on the internet with the correct IP address,just like the postman knows the right address on the street.
But that’s not the end of our discussion. There are more things you need to know about IP addresses.
IPv4 and IPv6 Explained
These might feel overwhelming terms at first, but allow us to simplify them for you.
Both are internet protocols designed for assigning IP addresses to the billions of devices in the world. The difference is their capacity to deal with the evergrowing number of devices.
As a 32-bit address, IPV4 can accommodate about 4 billion addresses. A part of that IP pool is not available for the public. While 4 billion seems like a huge number – and it is –we are ever so operating on the edges of IPV4’s limit. Some IP addresses get recovered, but there is real concern over IPV4’s diminishing capacity.
Enter IPV6. The Internet Protocol Version 6 was introduced as the successor to IPV4. As a 128-bit address, it can accommodate over a trillion IP addresses.
Here is an example:
- 16.254.1 (IPv4)
- 2001:0DB8:AC10:FE01 (IPv6)
IPV4 is represented in decimals, in four blocks of 8-bits; also known as an octet. IPV6 has hexadecimal representation. Both of them are converted into binary by computers for translation.
You can check your IP address by heading over to whatismyip.com and see the details.
Internet Communication Explained
Now that you have understood how the IP address serves as a unique identifier let’s take a look at how the process of communication unfolds.
The idea that people will have to remember each IP address to visit their favorite websites is very inconvenient, if not completely unrealistic. It’s why we have alphanumeric names. Instead of remembering the IP address for FastestVPN, we can simply write fastestvpn.com and be on the destination. Here, the name fastestvpn serves as a mask for the actual IP address, and .com defines the extension, which stands for commercial.
The right address is determined by what’s called a DNS server. It’s an address book of the internet that keeps records of all domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. Internet service providers have DNS servers that handle DNS requests and route the user to the desired location.
When you send a request to open fastestvpn.com, the request is pushed to the internet service provider. Then, the ISP looksup the DNS tables to determine the correct IP address and delivers the webpage back to the user.
How to Hide Your IP Address
A VPN works in the same manner, but with added security. When you connect to a VPN server, it handles all the requests and delivers the relevant webpages to you. Data is encrypted until it reaches the VPN server. Hence, the ISP cannot see what websites you visit. It makes your browsing experience private and lets you spoof your location by connecting to a VPN server in a different country.
The fact that internet communication is encrypted means that third-parties cannot intervene and sniff your data for valuable information.
FastestVPN has its own DNS server to handle DNS requests. So, the ISP is truly not involved here.
It should be noted that the IP address, while you’re connected to the internet, is your public IP address. It is different from the one that has been allotted by your router. Here you can find router IP address on different devices. When we talk about IPv4 and IPv6, we talk about public IP addresses.
The conversion of local IP address to a public IP address is handled by NAT (Network Address Translator). We’ll cover NAT in another blog. For now, know that public IP address distinguishes you on the internet, whereas the local IP address – assigned by the router – uniquely identifies you among the devices that you may have at home.