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What is IP address? | Question Page.xyz

Every computer, server, and a smartphone has at least one of them, yet normal users rarely contact them: IP addresses. However, they are currently causing some headaches for Internet authorities.

what is ip address?

The address in the data network

An IP address (named after the TCP / IP protocol on which data transmission in the Internet is based) is the address that identifies a computer in the network. It is used to address data packets in such a way that they reach the desired recipient. Every device in the network needs an IP address so that it can be addressed. If a device has several network cards (e.g., LAN, WLAN, and UMTS), it also has several IP addresses.
IP addresses are divided into specific areas. These differ depending on the geographical region and the respective provider. The IP address can therefore be used to identify where and via which provider a user accesses the Internet.

However, users rarely address web servers via their IP address (although this would be technically possible). Instead, they use the Internet address or domain assigned to the server (such as "google.com"), which is then converted into the corresponding IP address using the "Domain Name System" (DNS) to carry out the data transport.

what is dns?

IP addresses are running out

Today's IP address standard, known in specialist circles as "Ipv4", comes from a time when far fewer computers were connected to the Internet. Today, when most people (at least in rich industrial nations) have several Internet-enabled devices, this leads to problems.

In the long term, this should be solved by introducing the successor standard IPv6. Its addresses are longer and thus offer many more different combination options.

In the meantime, the authorities use various tricks. Dynamic IP addresses for surfers were introduced years ago. While a server always keeps its IP address, since then, Internet providers have only given their customers an IP address when they actually go online (and it is different every time). The provider's IP addresses should last longer, as they are only given to users who actually need them. However, in times of flat rates and numerous Internet services, many people are online almost around the clock, which limits the savings potential of this measure.

what is IPv6?

Another saving measure is the so-called "Network Address Translation" ("NAT"). With this, certain address ranges are defined as "private". They are reserved for home or company networks (and can be used over and over again). The best known of these address ranges is "192.168.xx". Only the router, which communicates directly with the Internet, has a public IP address when using NAT. It then distributes the data packets to the individual computers using the private IP addresses.

How to find out your IP address

Users can have their IP addresses displayed in any operating system. This is usually done graphically as well as via the command line (or "input prompt"). There are websites like "What's my IP? ", Which show users their IP address (and some other information about their system and Internet connection).

IP addresses: everything you need to know

It is well known: for a mail to arrive in the mailbox of the right recipient, it is necessary to specify the exact address including the country, the city, the postal code, the number and the street. This way La Poste and its employees know where the mail needs to be sent. The same is true on the Internet: any device that is part of an internal or external network requires a clear "number" in order to be able to communicate with other devices and receive data packets from them. However, the appearance of this IP address is quite different from the one on our mail. Find out what these enigmatic numbers mean.

Summary
What is an IP address? Definition
How is an IP address structured?
What is the IP address for?
Who distributes the IP addresses?
What types of IP addresses are there?
IP addresses and data protection
How can you determine your IP address?

What is an IP address? Definition
The Internet Protocol Address, abbreviated as "IP address" or simply "IP", is based on the Internet Protocol which also forms the basis of the Internet network. This is the clearly identifiable address of a device (eg computer, web server, printer) within an internal or external network. An IP address can also refer to a set of devices, especially in the case of broadcast or multicast broadcasting. Likewise, several addresses can be assigned to the same computer. In any case, one thing is the same: each IP address can only be assigned once at the same time within a network.

How is an IP address structured?
There are two versions of IP addresses with quite different structures. They have in common the fact that they are composed of a network part (for routing in case of IP routing) and a host part (for allocation to a particular computer).

IPv4 addresses: the addresses of the moment
Currently, the most common addresses are IP version 4 addresses (abbreviated as IPv4). They consist of 32 bits and are therefore technically a 32-digit binary number, e.g. 11000000 10101000 10110010 00011111. In order to tame this numerical aberration, it is usually represented as a combination of four decimal numbers with a value between 0 and 255 separated from each other by periods. If we go back to the example above, that would give: 192.168.178.31.

In total, the IPv4 system can create nearly 4.3 billion different addresses. Although this number is of course lower than the number of devices in the world (much of which is reserved for a specific use), the fact that all these devices are not used simultaneously and that some of them are intended only for private networks has meant that, until now, the number of IP addresses was more than sufficient.

IPv6 addresses: the addresses of the future
However, this situation is set to change in the near future, particularly due to the Internet of Things (Internet of Things, short for IoT or IoT). Indeed, as the number of daily devices with the ability to connect to the Internet continues to grow and as a majority of these devices require an IP address, IPv4 address space is shrinking. IPv6 addresses were introduced as a direct successor to IPv4s to solve this problem. This system builds nearly 340 sextillion (a number with 37 zeros) of addresses - an almost inexhaustible supply to meet all future needs for IP addresses.

Version 6 addresses are 128 bits in size and should normally be written as a 128-digit binary number. But since such a number would be far too long and very impractical, a hexadecimal writing method is used instead which breaks up the 128 bits into eight blocks of 16 bits separated by colons. For example, we can have the IPv6 address 0000: 0000: 0000: 0000: 0000: ffff: c0a8: b21f, in which the letters a to f also represent hexadecimal digits. This format can be further simplified by removing the zeros at the start of each block and replacing a series of consecutive 0000 blocks with a colon (: :). In this case, we would get the short form :: ffff: c0a8: b21f.

Network part and host part of IP addresses
When you want to send mail, it is not enough to indicate the country and city of the recipient. For the address to be complete, we also need a street, a building number and possibly the exact floor, in the case of an apartment. The same goes for data transmission: in order for a data packet to reach its destination, the IP address must make it possible to determine the affected network, but also the target device (host) located in that network.

This is why each IPv4 address is divided into a network part and a host part using what is called a subnet mask. In the case of the IPv6 system, the address is divided using the length of the prefix: the first 64 bits are referred to as the prefix (network address), the last 64 as the interface identifier (host address ).

what is the IP address for?
An IP address enables clear identification and addressing of a device within an internal or external network. This address is the basis on which the transmission of information from the sender to the correct recipient is based. If a device wants to send a data packet, the corresponding router relies on the IP header and compares the source IP with the target IP. If the network parts match, the sender and receiver are in the same network and the packet is assigned directly.

Otherwise, the router (the equivalent of La Poste on the Internet) contacts the Domain Name System (abbreviated as: DNS), available worldwide. The latter is responsible for resolving domain names on the Internet, that is, translating device names into IP addresses and vice versa. When consulting a website for example, the DNS indicates the IP address corresponding to the URL: from the domain www.example.com, we obtain for example the IPv4 address 93.184.216.34 or the address IPv6 2606: 2800: 220: 1: 248: 1893: 25c8: 1946. The data packet is then transmitted to the recipient's router through multiple routers, networks, and subnets.

Who distributes the IP addresses?
The highest authority for assigning IP addresses is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which is itself a department of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It has full control over the entire IP address space and assigns blocks of the IP address space to the five regional Internet registries (RIRs), namely AfriNIC, APNIC, ARIN, LACNIC and RIPE NCC (short for “European IP Networks Network Coordination Center”).

The latter register, which is responsible for Central Asia, the Middle East but also for Europe and USA, distributes the IP addresses assigned to it between local supplier organizations (local Internet registers, abbreviated as " LIR ”) and national (national Internet registers, abbreviated as“ NIR ”). These organizations then forward them to operators or directly to end customers.

What types of IP addresses are there?
A distinction is mainly made between dynamic / variable IP addresses and static / fixed IP addresses. There are also “specific purpose” IP addresses, most of which are reserved for private networks.

Dynamic IP addresses for Internet browsing
Dynamic IP addresses are most often used for normal Internet browsing. When a DSL customer uses their router to access the Internet, their Internet Service Provider (ISP) - such as IONOS - gives them a random free IP address. This assignment is removed after each session or is automatically changed at regular intervals, typically every 24 hours.

Note
As soon as the dynamic IP address has been changed, a "short cut" of the Internet connection occurs at the customer. This cutout usually takes place between 2 and 3 a.m. Downloads and ongoing phone conversations are briefly interrupted during this time, before the router automatically reconnects. However, this procedure goes unnoticed by most users. If the user wishes to change this period (for example from 5 to 6 hours), he can make this setting in the settings of his DSL router.

Since each available IP address is "reusable" this way, the provider needs a significantly smaller number of addresses than the number of its customers, as they are never all online at the same time. Dynamic IP addresses and the IPv6 system thus go a long way to alleviating the shortage of IPv4 addresses. As the cost of acquiring dynamic addresses is lower than that of fixed addresses, the provider can benefit from lower costs and provide services to more customers with a smaller pool of addresses.

Customers also benefit from protection of their privacy against third parties, as dynamic IP addresses generally allow for more anonymous browsing. On the other hand, a permanently changed IP address does not allow website operators to track user behavior. To do this, cookies - which can be deleted later - are generated. Only the ISP can track a customer's activity using the IP address. However, this tracking has long been a subject of controversy in the area of ​​data protection.

Static IP addresses for websites and businesses
A static IP address always remains the same, unless its owner personally changes it. Such addresses are for example used for Web servers which remain accessible at the same URL at all times. On the other hand, they are used in private networks (LAN) to communicate, for example, with a local printer or another computer on the home network. From a user perspective, the main disadvantage of fixed IP addresses over dynamic IP addresses is that they are much easier to trace.

IP addresses reserved for specific purposes
The IANA has also reserved approx. 14.5% of IPv4 address ranges for specific purposes. Some examples :

The IPv4 address space 0.0.0.0 to 0.255.255.255 - grouped into the CIDR address block 0.0.0.0/8 - designates the host on a network.
When accessing the IP address 127.0.0.1, it is possible to communicate with the local host (localhost), that is, with our own computer. This possibility is particularly necessary for testing reprogrammed applications.
The IP address 255.255.255.255 is used for broadcast broadcasting.
The address spaces 10.0.0.0 to 10.255.255.255, 172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255 and 192.168.0.0 to 192.168.255.255 are reserved for private networks, in which they can be used without any registration. In the case of IPv6 addresses, the prefix fc00 :: / 7 is intended for private use.
These IP addresses are not assigned by IANA and do not lead to the Internet. If you want to connect anyway, the router performs a network address translation (NAT) of the private IP address to an IPv4 or IPv6 address valid and valid for all devices on the local network. The reverse process is carried out in the event of incoming data packets. Administrators can distribute private IP addresses manually or automatically using a DHCP server.

IP addresses and data protection
Even if an IP address does not contain information per se, it can allow conclusions to be drawn about its user. This is the reason why it is controversial among data protection agencies.

What does the IP address indicate about its user?
First, it's relatively easy to determine a user's ISP using their IP address. This can be determined very easily using a reverse DNS query or with the Tracert command line tool. Some figures apply to certain companies or authorities; it is only necessary to know which address ranges have been assigned to them by the competent LIRs or NIRs.

Depending on the user's distance of an IP address from the nearest Internet access point, more or less precise location is also possible. While we can generally only determine a vague area in the countryside, in urban areas access points are installed almost every hundred meters which allows much more precise "geolocation".

Are IP addresses considered personal data?
Short answer: yes. Using IP addresses, ISPs can basically monitor and track the data flow of their customers. This is why the registration of IP addresses is such a sensitive topic. Indeed, it has been established in the General Regulation on the Protection of Personal Data (GDPR) that as online identifiers, IP addresses (whether static or dynamic) are part of personal or character data. personnel and must be the subject of special protection.

This results in strict data protection rules, especially in e-commerce. This allows website operators to save a user's IP address only when this is absolutely necessary for the purpose and functionality of their product or service offering. Only the security authorities have special access rights in criminal cases.

Can I hide my IP address?
It is not possible to completely conceal an IP address, but it can be partially masked using various methods. In doing so, the basic principle remains the same: before being made available to the recipient, the data packets are first routed to a server which has its own IP address. The following tools are available:

Tor Browser software based on Mozilla Firefox allows users to browse the Internet anonymously. However, since all data packets must first go through a separate network, sometimes high speed cannot be achieved.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are virtual communication networks allowing the transfer of encrypted data. When browsing through a VPN, the polled web server sees the IP address used but not the user's.
A proxy server can also accept data packets and transmit them through its own IP address.
How can you determine your IP address?
When you want to configure an email program or a cloud, it is sometimes necessary to enter your IP address manually. But how do you find her?

There are more than enough operating system resources to display a computer's local IP address:

on Windows, just enter the command "IPconfig" in the command prompt. The latter can be opened by pressing the [Windows] + [R] keys and entering "cmd" in the console thus opened.
The local IP address of a Mac computer can be viewed in System Settings> Network.



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