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Fred931's avatar

What can a hacker/malicious person do with just an IP address?

Asked by Fred931 (9429points) January 22nd, 2010

I sometimes become a bit worried as to what could happen if my IP were to somehow be known by anyone except myself. Shouldn’t good enough computer security programs prevent anything bad from happening?

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12 Answers

Chikipi's avatar

For some reason I think I heard this somewhere before… I think they can be used and sold to set up a system failure on a different website with high security. If a mass quantity of IP addresses try to hit one site it can cause an overload then the website would crash. This would make it easier for someone to obtain information from a high security site.

Fred931's avatar

@Chikipi Would this operation pose any threat to my computer?

Chikipi's avatar

@Fred931 From the little knowledge I have, I would assume so because a hacker is using your IP portal without your permission. When they trace back it would be your IP address not the hacker. If they gain access to your computer they can get into your personal items such as banking or passwords, but I think hackers would try to go for big companies not individuals.
If you have a firewall installed, it will prevent others from using it and protect your computer

robmandu's avatar

@Chikipi, that’s cute. Way wrong… but cute. You might be interested to read about denial of service attacks.

IP addresses are like street addresses. Simply “knowing” one doesn’t tell anyone much of anything. Plus the fact that your computer often times goes through a set of routers that each acts as a door. Your router’s IP address might be visible, but not necessarily anything behind it.

With your IP address alone, some random person could probably determine your internet service provider and the city you’re in.

If someone attempted to connect to your computer at that IP address, they could then check for available services hosted on your machine (like telnet, http, ftp, ssh, torrent, bonjour, etc.). If your machine hasn’t been kept up to date with security patches, a malicious person could attempt to hack their way in through a vulnerability in one of those services.

Having a firewall in place helps prevent malicious attacks or even just innocent pinging of ports.

My point is, just like your house has a street address that someone can find out, it doesn’t mean that they can actually get into your house. You have doors and windows you keep shut, you’ve got locks, you’ve got a dog, an alarm system, and a neighborhood watch. On your computer, you’ve got many analogues to each of those things, too.

robmandu's avatar

Let me expand a little more. My previous answer was focused on malicious hackers operating outside of the law and propriety.

However, if you were to engage in some illegal filesharing, and your IP address showed up on transactions being monitored by the MPAA, for example, then things could be a bit more problematic for you.

The MPAA could file a lawsuit, get a subpoena for the records of your internet service provider, and identify you personally (or at least your residence) based on that IP address. Then you might end up defending yourself in court.

There are anonymizer services, like iPredator, that you can pay money for and they’ll act as your gateway to the internet. Any attempts to trace traffic back would be to their ip address, not yours. They intentionally keep no records of traffic and so a subpoena would be nigh useless as there’d be no information to get.

Chikipi's avatar

@robmandu I remembered it from somewhere…I guess it was from the denial of service attacks pamphlet :(

jrpowell's avatar

That is how worried you should be about it.

gggritso's avatar

@johnpowell You have a Mac, that doesn’t count :P

Sarcasm's avatar

@johnpowell Triangulating…triangulating….SENDING IN STRIKE TEAMS. You’re going to regret that move, from my secret hacker armies.

poisonedantidote's avatar

scanning for open ports comes to mind with fingers crossed on port 21.

YARNLADY's avatar

It would be sort of like sending you thousands of unwanted subscriptions to your home address, or even worse, sending so many messages so the server that it caused an overload and shut down. I don’t believe there would be any direct action taken against you personally. Something like what happened to the Fluther server a couple of days ago, it’s called denial of service.

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