What Can Hackers Do With Your IP Address?
Every 39 seconds, a different phone, laptop, or other internet-connected device is hacked [*]. But while hackers have sophisticated methods for targeting you, many stick with a simple approach: IP address hacking.
If hackers have your IP address, they can uncover your location, online habits, and even your financial assets.
Individually, these pieces of personal information may not seem like much. But in the hands of hackers, they can be exploited and used to gain access to your devices, hack into your accounts, and even steal your identity.
So, how do you know if your IP address has been hacked? In this guide, we will explain how hackers use your IP address, how to tell if your IP address has been hacked, and what you can do to protect your devices and personal data from hackers.
What Is an IP Address? Why Do Hackers Want Yours?
An IP address — or “internet protocol” address — is a number assigned to a network or specific connected device (laptop, smartphone, etc.), which allows you to send and receive information over the internet.
For those with even rudimentary hacking skills, IP information is an essential part of profiling a potential victim. That’s because hacked IP addresses reveal your:
- State or region
- Internet service provider
- (Approximate) GPS coordinates
- Type of IP address (private, static, dynamic, or public IP address)
Cybercriminals often collect this first set of data in the research phase of their attack. And no one is completely safe.
How Do Hackers Find Your IP Address?
Here’s how your IP address can be hacked by bad actors:
- When you open a phishing or scam email. These always include a tracking pixel. As soon as you open it, the hacker gets your IP.
- Through infected attachments distributed via emails, social media, and text messages. When opened, these attachments plant malicious code on the device — which starts collecting information, including the IP address.
- When you click on a link to which hackers have added tracking information, or an online ad is snuck into your search results or placed on a fake website.
- By redirecting your traffic to a website they control, either through unnoticeable tabs in the background or in a visible way (e.g. you end up on a different page than the one you wanted to access).
- By infecting your browser with a malicious add-on or extension to find out your device type, operating system, browser version, and even your screen resolution.
- By breaking into servers that host websites and gaining access to all their traffic data.
- By breaching companies that collect personally identifiable information (PII), including advertisers who hoard massive amounts of data.
- By hacking unprotected Wi-Fi routers and intercepting all incoming and outgoing traffic from all devices connected to it.
- Through fake security and privacy products that they persuade you to install, and which can fully monitor your device and internet traffic.
- With remote access desktop (RDP) software that they get you to install under false pretenses — like your system supposedly needing a cleanup after a malware infection.
- By breaking into your online accounts, since almost every service on the internet records your IP address (e.g. social media, online banking, streaming apps, etc.).
- By monitoring traffic data over unencrypted networks, such as unprotected Wi-Fi or fake hotspots that attackers set up themselves.
- Through fake or malicious smartphone apps that collect data about everything that happens on your phone or tablet.
- By gaining physical access to your device and planting surveillance or malicious software on it.
- By purchasing lists of potential victims from the Dark Web, which include breached, leaked, or stolen records packed with personally identifiable information.
Personal data is a core source of revenue for cybercriminals. But bad actors don’t just want to collect your personal information — they want to use it to fuel their attacks. So, how worried should you be that someone has your IP address?
What Can Someone Do With Your IP?
- Close in on your physical location
- Determine if you’re a valuable hacking target
- Plant malicious software on your devices
- Take control of your home devices
- Capture your login credentials and take over your accounts
- Frame you for illegal activities (including cybercrime)
- Get your IP blacklisted and banned from sites you use
- Craft personalized attacks to steal your identity
- Take you roofline with DDoS attacks
- Get you sued for copyright infringement
Here’s the good news: Your IP address alone doesn’t give malicious hackers access to your devices, accounts, or personal data.
The bad news is that a hacked IP address is often the first step in larger hacks and cyberattacks — from hacking your home Wi-Fi network to capturing your passwords and even stealing your identity.
With your IP address, malicious hackers can:
1. Close in on your physical location
Your IP address won’t give away your exact geographical location. But it can get hackers close. And combined with other publicly available information in your online footprint or social media profiles (like location data or check-ins), hackers can quickly find your home address.
And your address matters. It plays a key role in identity theft, giving cybercriminals and scammers credible information to impersonate you or steal from you.
2. Determine if you’re a valuable hacking target
Unless you use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your data, all of your online activities expose your IP address. Every website and app you use can see and record your IP for security and legal purposes.
This means that cybercriminals can use your IP address and online identity to check if you’re a valuable target. Malicious hackers will scan your Wi-Fi to see:
- What devices are connected to it.
- What vulnerabilities your devices have.
- Which access points they can use to infiltrate your network.
This is exactly how Ellis Pinsky hacked Michael Terpin, one of the most notable figures in the cryptocurrency world. Along with a partner, Pinsky used publicly available information and social engineering to steal almost $24 million worth of Bitcoin, all before Pinsky had even turned 16 years old [*].
3. Plant malicious software on your devices
Malicious hackers rely on vulnerabilities in software and operating systems to run their schemes. With your IP address, they can determine what apps and software you’re running and tailor their attacks to known cybersecurity issues.
For example, hackers could discover that you haven’t updated your iPhone to the latest version of iOS. Then, they could use any known vulnerabilities to plant malware onto your device and hack your phone.
Malware comes in many forms, from infostealers designed to covertly collect data about everything you do online to ransomware that encrypts your data and asks for money to unlock it.
Without a robust antivirus solution to identify and block these threats, you might never know that malicious hackers are spying on you.
4. Take control of your home devices
The same vulnerabilities that allow hackers to spy on you can also give them full control of your home gadgets.
Cybercriminals use your IP address to discover what type of home Wi-Fi router you use. Then, they can “brute-force” hack your network and infect any internet-connected devices (like your smart TV, Home Assistant, or even baby monitor).
These hacked devices become part of a larger botnet — a network of “zombie” devices used for cyberattacks — to mine for cryptocurrency, or to help criminals hide their tracks.
At best, hacked devices will only lead to slower internet and higher energy bills. But at worst, this could lead to losing private information, such as your Social Security number (SSN), as well as financial fraud or identity theft.
5. Capture your login credentials and take over your accounts
Once malicious hackers have access to your home network, they can see virtually all unencrypted data that you send.
This gives them the perfect opportunity to steal your passwords and take over your online accounts (email, social media, banking, etc.) — especially if you’re not using two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your accounts.
Know in near real-time if your credentials have been compromised: Aura constantly monitors your online accounts and personal information, and will alert you in near real-time of any suspicious activity.
6. Frame you for illegal activities (including cybercrime)
Authorities use IP information to track down cybercriminals, scammers, and other types of felons — while bad actors use stolen IP information to hide their illegal activities.
For example, customers of a Canadian bank were defrauded of thousands of dollars and the bank wouldn’t return the money — telling victims “that the IP address [...] that was linked to the activity matched their own.” [*]
Malicious hackers can use a technique called IP spoofing to make it look like their traffic is coming from a different IP. In this case, they spoofed the victims’ IP addresses and used the information that they stole from them to log into their accounts and transfer funds — all without raising any red flags with the bank’s security systems.
7. Get your IP blacklisted and banned from sites you use
It’s not uncommon for bad actors to get their victims’ IP addresses blacklisted, which is especially effective with static IP addresses.
By getting victims’ IP addresses onto spam lists that many services use to filter out malicious traffic, attackers restrict their victims’ ability to use internet services — including playing online games, visiting forums, and even online banking.
8. Craft personalized attacks to steal your identity
Identity thieves need to learn as much about you as possible to pull off their scams. For example, you’re less likely to fall for a generic phishing email versus one that uses your name and looks like it comes from a company or service that you already use (like LinkedIn, Microsoft, or PayPal).
With the information they get from hacking your IP address, identity thieves can craft convincing scams to lure you in.
9. Take you offline with DDoS attacks
IP addresses are targets for a common type of cyberattack called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). These attacks involve using botnets to flood an IP with internet traffic until it caves under the pressure and crashes.
Cybercriminals usually go for higher-value marks for their DDoS attacks, often threatening service owners to take businesses offline unless they pay a ransom. Other times, they may use the mayhem created with a DDoS attack to sneak into the target network and steal confidential data.
10. Get you sued for copyright infringement
Your IP address acts as a unique identifier and is attached to all internet traffic coming through your device — including when you download or torrent copyright-protected material like movies and music. If a scammer spoofs your IP address and illegally downloads content, authorities may come after you.
15 Signs Your IP Address Has Been Hacked
- Traffic redirects. You end up on a website that you didn’t search for — or have browser windows open behind your current tabs.
- Pesky pop-ups. You get annoying pop-ups, either trying to sell you something or convince you that your device is infected and needs urgent attention.
- Malware in your browser. You find unfamiliar add-ons, extensions, or even toolbars in your browser.
- Account takeovers. You can’t log into your accounts because your passwords don’t work anymore. This is often a sign that someone has stolen your credentials and taken over your account.
- Collateral damage. Your friends and family claim they’ve received strange emails, DMs, or requests from you. This means that malicious hackers have harvested your contacts and are now targeting them.
- Unstable internet. Your internet connection becomes slow or unstable.
- Rogue devices. You find unfamiliar devices connected to your Wi-Fi network when you look in its administrative interface.
- Successful phishing. You click on a link, an online ad, or an email that turns out to be a phishing attack.
- Unsecured networks. You use unprotected public Wi-Fi without a VPN.
- Malware on your device. Your device seems glitchy, runs hot, or its performance visibly declines.
- Ransomware pop-ups. You get a message on your device that your data has been encrypted and you need to pay a ransom to regain access to it.
- Remote access. Your mouse moves on its own without you touching it. Your device’s camera light is on even if you’re not using it. A friend with IT or security knowledge tells you that the software you installed has given attackers access to your device. (Here's what to do if you accidentally gave hackers remote access to your computer.)
- Data breach notifications. You receive an email from a service provider explaining that they’ve been breached and your data has been leaked.
- The police are contacting you. Authorities show up at your house with questions or even intent to arrest you.
- Getting served. You receive a subpoena that states you must show up in court as the potential target of a lawsuit.
Do not ignore indicators of unusual activity in your digital life. These indicators can point to something trivial, or they can turn out to be signs of identity theft.
The Truth About IP Address Hacking: Is It a Real Threat?
What all cyberattacks against IP addresses have in common is that they highlight how much this data point exposes you.
Your IP address won’t give malicious hackers access to your accounts or devices, but it does give them an opportunity to attack.
Remember that bad actors focus on methodic, pervasive data collection because it’s part of their core business. No target is too small or too insignificant. But to maximize their potential profits, they deploy attacks that automatically seek out the most exposed victims, including those:
- Without antivirus protection.
- Who reuse weak passwords.
- With multiple connected devices that are outdated and have exploitable vulnerabilities.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of vulnerable devices.
Hackers will move on to their next victim rather than waste time and resources on targets that are well protected and difficult to hack. You can reduce your exposure by making yourself too pricey an “investment” for them. Here’s how.
How To Protect Your IP, Wi-Fi, and Devices From Hackers
Your IP address is fundamental to your ability to use the internet. This means there are many things outside your control when it comes to protecting your IP, especially if you don’t have technical or security expertise.
Still, there are things you can do to protect your IP – and yourself – against malicious activities:
1. Know your exposure and risk level
Hackers rely on your having a false sense of security when they try to gain access to your accounts. Even if you think you haven’t been the victim of a data breach, you should still regularly check your accounts for signs that they’ve been compromised.
Do hackers have access to your passwords? Check to see if your passwords and online accounts are compromised using Aura’s free leaked password scanner.
2. Hide and protect your IP with a VPN
Once someone has your IP address, you can’t keep them from using it. Your only option is to change it.
But you can stop hackers from seeing your IP address in the first place by using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts any data you send so that hackers can’t use it to spy on you or target you with their attacks.
The other option? Power off your router for a couple of minutes. This tells your internet service provider (ISP) to assign you a new IP address when you turn it back on.
3. Don’t ignore software updates
Companies and developers regularly update their software to fix bugs and patch security issues. Don’t ignore these updates. Make sure you regularly update the software on all of your devices — laptop, smartphone, tablet, smart TC, Wi-Fi router, etc.
Even better, enable auto-updates so that you don’t have to worry about implementing updates yourself.
4. Max out your Wi-Fi router’s security settings
Your Wi-Fi router is a major target for IP hackers. Make sure you keep your router as secure as possible. Specifically, you should deactivate the remote administration option and enable WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) encryption which increases the level of protection for all of the internet traffic coming and going through your router.
5. Protect all of your devices with antivirus software
IP address hacking can often lead to malware, ransomware, and other malicious software infecting your devices. Keep all of them safe by using powerful antivirus software that can monitor and scan your devices for malware.
6. Regularly check your credit report and bank statements
Scammers are almost always after your financial accounts. Check for the warning signs of identity theft — such as strange charges on your bank statement or accounts you don’t recognize. An identity theft protection service like Aura can monitor your credit and statements for you and alert you to any signs of fraud.
7. Use a password manager to increase your digital security
The use of unique and complex passwords is one of the best ways to protect your digital life. But many people reuse passwords (or use easy-to-hack ones) because they don’t want to have to remember more complex passwords.
A password manager can securely store your passwords and login credentials for you so that you have easy access to them across all of your devices.
8. Boost your browser’s security and privacy settings
To add even more obstacles to a cybercriminal’s path, turn your attention to your browser.
This list of browser security recommendations includes how-to tips that range from enabling Enhanced Tracking Protection in Mozilla Firefox to Preventing Cross-Site Tracking in Brave. Additionally, here are more security tips for Chrome, Safari, and Edge.
9. Minimize your digital footprint
The less cybercriminals can find out about you online, the harder you are to hack.
Minimize your digital footprint by limiting the amount of information you share with businesses. Keep your personal information private on social media and avoid checking into locations online.
10. Set up alerts for personal data leaks and identity theft
If you become the victim of a hacker or identity thief, you need to act quickly to shut them down.
An identity theft protection service like Aura will constantly monitor your online accounts, financial accounts, and personal information (like your SSN, home title, and more) for signs of fraud. If someone is illegally trying to use your bank account, credit card numbers, or online accounts, you’ll be alerted in near real-time.
Plus, should the worst happen, every adult member on your Aura plan is covered with a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft.
11. Watch for the warning signs of online scammers
Knowing how to react to risky situations online doesn’t come naturally. Your instincts may help, but they can serve you much better if you keep fueling them with expert knowledge.
Stay up to date with the latest online scams by learning how to tell if someone is scamming you, so that you can continue to use the internet safely.
12. Consider signing up for identity theft protection
Aura’s top-rated identity theft protection monitors all of your most sensitive personal information, online accounts, and finances for signs of fraud. If a scammer tries to access your accounts or finances, Aura can help you take action before it’s too late. Try Aura’s 14-day free trial for immediate protection while you’re most vulnerable.
The Bottom Line: Keep Your IP Address Safe From Hackers
IP address hacking may seem like a small issue — but it can yield cascading and long-term effects. While your IP may be just one piece of the puzzle, every bit of your personal information is important and can lead to bigger problems down the road.
Stay safe by protecting your home network and devices with antivirus software and a VPN. And for added protection, consider Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution.
With Aura, you get identity theft protection, credit monitoring with near real-time fraud alerts, antivirus, VPN for all of your devices, and more.