IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are numeric strings that uniquely identify every resource and device connected to the network: think of the IP as a street address or telephone number.
Since IP addresses are composed of a long sequence of numbers, and it would therefore not be easy to enter the code of a website every time you surf the net, they are associated with a domain name by the DNS.
The two IP protocol versions available at the moment are:
- IPv4 – the standard version, consisting of 4 sets of numbers separated by a dot. Each group is represented by a combination ranging from 0 to 255;
- IPv6 – the most recent version of IP, was introduced to counter the imminent exhaustion of available number combinations. Unlike the IPv4 version, this standard allows for the creation of an almost infinite number of IP addresses, as it consists of 8 blocks of letters and numbers.
The IP address is usually assigned by an Internet Service Provider, i.e. a company that provides a user or device with access to the network.
These providers can assign two types of IP address: static or dynamic.
A static IP address, as the name may suggest, does not change over time or according to geographic location. Static IPs are generally associated with systems that contain sensitive data or with servers that handle several connections at the same time. We are therefore talking about streaming services (such as Netflix), platforms for the distribution of online games (such as Steam) or social platforms.
A dynamic IP address, on the other hand, is assigned on the basis of a set of available addresses that change each time you connect to the network, being assigned by a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server.
The allocation criterion in these cases generally depends on the geographical location from which the connection is made: most domestic devices are identified with a dynamic IP address.
Since users’ IP addresses can be found by anyone on the network and provide sensitive information about the user’s location, it is possible to hide one’s IP address thanks to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). By relying on this kind of service, the user will show the IP address of the VPN he is relying on, regardless of his geographical location, effectively protecting his privacy.