What is an IP Address (and Why You Should Protect it with a VPN)?

What is an IP Address?

An IP Address (Internet Protocol address) is a numerical assignment for each device (cell phone, iPad, laptop computer, printer etc) inside a network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. Internet Protocol is responsible for routing information packets across network boundaries. It is the main protocol establishing the Internet.

An IP address serves two predominant functions. First is to host or network interface identification. Second, it provides location addressing. To put it bluntly, an IP address tells wherever you are connecting, to whom you are visiting, and where you are located.

What is an IP Address? What is the difference between IPv4 & IPv6? Should I get an IPv6 capable router?

Map of The Internet (IPv4 Allocations in 2006) from xkcd


What Does Connecting to a VPN Do to an IP Address?

For some sites, an IP address makes it easier to recognize friendly faces, but in other cases, it is used for a nefarious purpose of sharing your browsing preferences to marketers and hackers to better target you based on your preferences.

Using a VPN like IPVanish shields the location of your actual IP address by masking it with an assigned IP address of allotments that the service currently utilizes. Many VPN service providers have IP address in various countries including IPVanish, which offers connection in 60+ countries including the US, UK, India, Denmark, Germany, Korea, Ireland, Russia, Brazil, UAE just to name a few.

Connecting to a VPN is the equivalent of getting a Post Office box that can be used for correspondence and packages while not revealing your actual location. If a website can see your IP, it can basically see your “home” on the Internet. It can see where you are connecting to and place a tracking cookie. Turning on a VPN is helpful in preventing this data-mining of your digital tracks that one is inherently forgoing (often without their knowledge) when browsing through a website.

Almost all major websites have advanced analytic and tracking software allowing them  various important information regarding your browsing preferences, allowing them to analyze your every move online and tailor ads all around you to be creepy as possible.

You may think this can be fixed by switching to a different website, but with the wide reach of high-powered advertising networks, powerful entities can collect this high valued information, profiting on knowing exactly what you do, how you do it, and when you do it. Scary isn’t it?

How often do you see the ability to make comments or log into different websites using your Google, Facebook, Yahoo, or Microsoft ID?  It may make it easier for you to not have to sign up for an account on every website but it simultaneously allows them an advanced insight into your leanings, preferences, and desires. I see this all the time. I click on a link for a deal somewhere online and for the next day, ads for that “deal” website repeatedly pop up everywhere reminding me “the deal” that I passed up.

What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?

The designers of the Internet Protocol defined an IP address as a 32-bit number. This system, known as Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4), is still in use today.

However, due to the enormous growth of the Internet and the predicted depletion of available addresses, a new addressing system (IPv6), using 128 bits for the address.

IP addresses are binary numbers, but they are usually stored in text files and displayed in human-readable notations, such as (for IPv4), and 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 (for IPv6).

Simply this means that IPv4 has about 4.3 billion IP addresses it can assign. 4.3 billion sounds like a lot until you remember we are about to crack 7 billion people on Earth and few of them will have less than one device going into the future.

IPv6 offers 340 undecillion addresses. A picture is worth a thousand words so I made this quick image comparison between IPv4 & IPv6.

What does 340 undecillion look like when written out?

IP Address Exhaustion: The Need for IPv6 Integration

IPv4 address exhaustion is the quickly disappearing supply of unallocated IPv4 addresses available at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) for assignment to end users and local Internet registries, such as Internet service providers.

According to Wikipedia,

IANA’s primary address pool was exhausted on February 3, 2011 when the last 5 blocks were allocated to the 5 RIRs. APNIC was the first RIR to exhaust its regional pool on 15 April 2011, except for a small amount of address space reserved for the transition to IPv6, intended be allocated in a restricted process.

Upgrade to IPv6 Standards & Secure Your IP Address From Prying Eyes!

Using a FlashRouter in conjunction a VPN can slow the trough of information that users are leaking about their identities online, securing the web browsing experience, and making it feel imminently less big-brothery.

Recent router models with DD-WRT also support the upgrade of IP address assignments to IPv6, the IP address protocol of the future. Purchasing a new router like a Netgear R7000 DD-WRT or the brand new offering of a Linksys WRT1900ACS DD-WRT with DD-WRT will have your Internet connection prepped for the future assignment specifications for years to come.

A DD-WRT enabled router integrating a VPN service of your choice is a great way to prevent any web connection hiccups in the future while providing significant performance upgrades for your wireless network capabilities. Upgrade the browsing comfort, modernization, simplicity simultaneous with a FlashRouter.

As a much-desired side benefit, many companies have geo-location restrictions on content, preventing US users from viewing UK media content and vice versa. Logging into a VPN connection can mask that connection so the website can’t tell the difference. A VPN service provider can be a quick and simple way to open an truly uninhibited “world wide” web browsing experience.

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