Answer all your doubts about IP Addresses with this complete guide
When we think about the internet, a set of terms come to mind, such as HTTP, WWW, and IP address. The latter defines the location and identification of each device or page that is connected to a network. The internet, a global computer network, is made up of billions of IP addresses, which exchange files mainly via the HTTP protocol.
This foundation provides the basis for everything we see on the internet, our favorite websites, e-commerce sites where we make our purchases, and the streaming site where we watch our films and series. In this post, we bring a complete guide to IP addresses, showing their definition, types, classes, and how they can be structured.
We also bring tips for you to have more privacy, disguise your IP for more security, or access geographically restricted content. Come with us in this complete guide on IP addresses!
What is an IP address and what is it for?
To talk about an IP address, we must look for the meaning of the first word, “address”. An address is nothing more than a reference to a place where we want to go or send something. If you want to send a package to someone, just put the person’s address on the package and the carrier will deliver the item to the person’s home.
The IP address has a similar objective, which is to provide a unique reference for each device, website, or application that is on a network. When you create a WiFi network in your home, the router will create a unique IP address for each connected device.
When we type a website address into a browser bar, it is converted into an IP address for the page, which is stored on a server. Domains arise from the need to create friendlier addresses for pages, to facilitate memorization and customization.
While residential addresses are made up of information such as street, number, zip code, city, neighborhood, etc., the IP address is made up of a 32-bit numeric sequence. This combination is formed by four sequences of 8 bits, also called octets, which can receive a number from 0 to 255, separated by a period. An example IP address would be 220.127.116.11.
This division into four parts is not in vain, because, just as postal addresses are separated into streets, numbers, zip codes, neighborhoods, etc., to facilitate location, in the IP address each sequence has a meaning. For example, it is common for the first two octets to represent the network and the last two to identify the connected device.
What is the difference between fixed IP and dynamic IP?
In the previous topic, we generically conceptualized the IP address, but, contrary to what many people think, IPs do not have a unique standard. Like everything in technology, they have their variations. In this topic, we will look at the basic difference between a static and dynamic IP.
A static, or fixed, IP is permanently linked to a device, that is, even if you disconnect the device and reconnect later, it will have the same IP address assigned. A fixed IP will only be changed manually or through a specific procedure.
The dynamic one is the one that is assigned to the device when connecting to a network, that is, the router controls the network and, whenever there is a new connection, it assigns some of the available addresses to the device, not reserving an exclusive address.
When to use each type of IP?
We already know that there are 2 types of IP addresses, but in what situation should each of them be used? Suppose you have 80 computers on your company network. You decide to use 100 dynamic addresses for these machines. As there are no fixed addresses, whenever a computer is turned on, it will receive one of the free IPs.
Internet providers work this way, in most of them, with each access to the internet your computer or router will gain a different address. DHCP — Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol — is the most used method for distributing dynamic IP addresses.
How does the IP address work on websites?
As we know, every website has an IP address, but do you know how the machine transforms a domain like “www.minhaempresa.com” into an IP in the format 18.104.22.168? Take the test, type this IP into your browser, and see the result. When you type the website’s domain into the browser, a query is made to the DNS server — Domain Name System — which informs which IP this address is associated with.
DNS has a very well-defined hierarchy, and, in our example, we have a generic company website, “www.minhaempresa.com”. To convert to the IP of this website, a request is sent to the server that is responsible for “.com” extensions. This server will locate the corresponding IP and respond to the request. If the site ends in “.br” a server responsible for that extension will be consulted and so on.
What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?
The traditional IP address standard that we have covered so far in this post is called IPv4, but there is a more recent format, IPv6, which is gaining more and more space. For a long time, the only way we had to connect to the internet was with computers and notebooks.
Then came smartphones and tablets and, more recently, other connectable objects, such as smart watches, smart TVs, and even cars. Soon, we will have smart homes, in which practically everything will be connected to the network.
With this growth in points connected to the internet, the tendency is for there to be no IP addresses available for so many connections. IPv6 appears to meet this demand, as it supports a huge number of addresses. This is not only due to an increase in the number of octets but also to a greater variation in characters. An IPv6 address can have the following sequence:
How to find out an IP address?
We already know that the IP address is a numerical sequence that serves as the address of a device or website on a network. But how do I find out the IP of a network, device, or website? That’s what we’ll talk about in this topic. Follow along!
How do I find my public IP address?
We often need to know the IP address of our routers, assigned by the ISP, especially when we want to access the settings page. It is quite necessary when we are using remote access software, for example. Additionally, you can access other information that is linked to that IP, such as your general location.
To find out the public IP is very simple, just go to your browser search bar and type “what is my IP address”. Click on the first link and that’s it. Several sites do this type of query and show exactly where the IP is. This is possible because the server where the website is installed receives a request from your router and can see your IP.
How to find my private IP address?
Discovering the private IP address of a computer is no longer as simple a task as the public IP. To perform this query, type “win+R”, write “cmd” in the text box and execute. When you open the command prompt, type “ipconfig”, without the quotes.
After carrying out these procedures, information about your private IP should be shown as shown in the example below:
- Wi-Fi Wireless Network Adapter:
- Connection-specific DNS suffix. . . . . . :
- IPv6 address. . . . . . . . . . : 2804:14d:9481:103f::1001
- IPv6 address. . . . . . . . . . : 2804:14d:9481:103f:1ca4:339b:2092:3bc2
- Temporary IPv6 Address. . . . . . . . : 2804:14d:9481:103f:6517:c390:e80c:bc82
- Link-local IPv6 address. . . . . . . . :fe80::1ca4:339b:2092:3bc2%10
- IPv4 address. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.0.59
- Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . . : 255.255.255.0
- Default Gateway. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . : fe80::ea20:e2ff:fe79:5990%10
For those using a Mac, searching for a private IP will be simpler, the user simply has to go to system preferences, select Network and that’s it. On the iPhone, just click on the “i” inside the circle next to the network you are connected to.
How to find out the IP of a website?
You can find out the IP of any website through your computer’s command prompt, just type the shortcut win+R, type “cmd” and run. With the fir prompt, type “ping”, a space, and enter the domain you want to find out the IP number.
For those who want to do a simple search, sites like www.meuenderecoip.com also allow website IP discovery.
What are IP classes?
In addition to being divided into types, IPs can be separated into classes. We already know that an IP can be used to identify a device on a local network and to identify it on the internet. On a corporate local network, if your computer has the IP 22.214.171.124, a computer on another network may have the same address, as the two networks do not communicate. What cannot happen is having more than one device with the same address on the same network.
The internet is a global network, meaning the billions of devices connected to it must have a unique address. If two or more machines have the same IP address, we have a problem called IP conflict, generating interference that can range from the device in question to the entire network.
To facilitate the organization between local network IPs and global IPs, for the Internet, IANA, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, and ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, have a distribution scheme divided into three main classes and two more complementary, which are as follows:
- Class A — IPs from 0.0.0.0 to 127.255.255.255 — which allows up to 128 networks, each of which can have up to 16,777,214 connected devices;
- Class B — 126.96.36.199 to 188.8.131.52 — which allows up to 16,384 networks, each of which can have 65,536 devices;
- Class C — IPs from 192.0.0.0 to 184.108.40.206 — which allows up to 2,097,152 networks, each of which can have up to 254 devices;
- Class D — addresses from 220.127.116.11 to 18.104.22.168 — multicast;
- Class E — from 240.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255 — reserved multicast.
For what types of networks are the IPs of the first three classes reserved?
IP addresses that belong to class A should be used in places where there is a need for few networks, but there is a high demand for machines. The first octet is used as a network identifier and the following ones identify the devices that are connected.
Class B IPs are used when the number of networks and devices is equivalent or similar. In this scenario, the first two octets are used to identify the network and the rest to identify the device.
Class C addresses should be used in places that have a large number of networks and few devices connected to each one. Here, the first three octets are used to identify the network, and the last one to identify the machines.
Class D and E IP addresses are used on special occasions, with the first being used to propagate special packets for communication between devices and the second being reserved for experimental or future applications.
We must emphasize that several addresses are reserved for special purposes:
- generally, when an address starts with 127, it indicates a specific network for testing;
- the address 255.255.255.255 is used to send messages to all hosts on a network simultaneously.
How to hide your IP address?
Just like you don’t want just anyone to have access to your home address, your IP address can reveal the exact location you are in. Many people, for reasons of privacy, security, or concerns about legislation, try to hide their IP address. Some people change their number to access restricted content where they are. But how can I hide or change the IP address of the location? Follow along!
Use a VPN
VPN is one of the safest ways to hide an IP address, and you can use a free account, which only changes your address, or a paid option, which offers better security, privacy, and performance mechanisms.
The function of a VPN service is to assign a virtual IP address to the user, leaving their real address hidden. Reliable VPN providers have servers in various locations around the world, offering options to hide or modify your IP for the most diverse situations, placing your address as originating from various parts of the globe.
One of the benefits of hiding your IP with a quality VPN is taking advantage of the high connection speed, because, unlike other IP camouflage methods, you won’t have to deal with slow and annoying connections, being able, for example, to watch your favorite movies and series, without crashes.
For those who want to maintain security when downloading torrents, VPNs are also great options, as, in addition to protecting your IP address, good VPNs are also capable of protecting your identity, with some providers offering profiles that are fully dedicated to P2P and torrenting.
Reliable VPN providers offer high-quality data encryption and good security protocols that drastically reduce the risk of your real IP address being leaked.
Some contents are geo-blocked, either due to state imposition or copyright restrictions. Netflix, for example, offers a different catalog for each country, according to the rights it acquired in that region. The best VPNs can bypass these restrictions by giving the user access to different catalogs of films that are released in different countries.
You can use a Proxy
Despite not offering the same security and performance as VPNs, proxies are still widely used for IP address camouflage. One of the most common uses is to access content with geographical restrictions. See below how proxies work.
Suppose you are in the United States and want to watch a football match that no East African TV station has purchased the rights to broadcast. The match broadcast links are only available in Brazil, and the game is in a blind spot there, so how can you watch it?
To overcome this barrier, you can use a proxy, what happens is that, when accessing the website on your PC, the proxy will intercept the request from your computer and send it via an IP from the location where the game is available — many of streaming providers are developing mechanisms to combat this type of practice.
Once the website provides the proxy with access to the video, the server will direct the request to your computer. Compared to other solutions, the proxy has a series of disadvantages, the main one being the low connection speed. You will likely experience much slower browsing speeds than normal when using a proxy.
Another concern you should have regarding security is that, unlike VPNs, proxies do not encrypt your data, which can leave you prone to security risks due to data interception halfway between the request and the server’s response. Therefore, they are not considered a good solution for torrents.
If your goal is to use a proxy to access geo-blocked content, you will have to check whether the proxy you choose runs the chosen streaming. Large streaming sites, such as Netflix and GloboPlay, can already identify when a user is trying to circumvent the system using a proxy, blocking access.
Another good option for camouflaging your IP is Tor, which can keep all your online activity completely anonymous. Tor is nothing more than a free client that operates based on a large network of volunteer servers. Tor was wrongly linked to the deep web, as it is nothing more than a tool for accessing websites of any type.
When using Tor, all your traffic will be routed through a series of different servers before the request reaches its final destination. Once your traffic reaches a website’s hosting server, it will have no way to track you and associate you with the original IP address.
The multiple layers of protection that Tor offers can keep your IP address camouflaged, however, directing traffic through so many servers can make your connection a little slow, which can harm your experience when accessing more robust websites or time-to-consume streaming services.
Tor is free and you can download the browser or the Tor Firefox extension. You can look for the community specialized in this tool to configure it in the best way.
As we saw in this post, the IP address is the way to make a device unique on a network and identify it among countless connected points. With the growing number of devices connected to the internet and the growth of web applications, the IP standard we see today, with four octets, is numbered. We are going to enter a new era, the IPv6 era. In times of digital transformation, knowing the main terms and meanings is extremely important to stay up to date.
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