What Is IP Hacking?

By Marie Cartwright

If an IP hacker gets into your system, his presence can be difficult to detect.
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Unlike computer viruses, which attack users indiscriminately, an IP hack is a targeted attack against a Web server or a personal computer. Most depictions of hacking in television shows and movies are exaggerated representations of IP hacking. Though IP hacking may lack the flash of what you see on TV, it's nonetheless a very dangerous attack.

What Is an IP?

An Internet Protocol address is a series of numbers that defines a networked device. Your computer has its own IP address, which you can find by opening up the Command Prompt window and typing in "ipconfig." Some computers have dynamic IP addresses, which means that their IP address changes every time they reboot. Other computers, such as those on office networks, have static IP addresses, meaning that their IP address is always the same.

IP Hacking Basics

An IP hack is a two-step attack. The first step determines the victim's IP address. If the hacker is trying to gain access to a website, she can use a simple command prompt ping to find the server IP. If the attack is being carried out against an individual, one of the most common ways to determine an IP is to use port scanning software while instant messaging with the victim. The second step remotely accesses the IP address. Once the hacker has breached the IP login requirements, she will have full access to a server or to another computer.

Purpose of IP Attacks

IP hacks against Web servers are typically done to gather private data or to deface a particular website. An IP attack against an individual may be carried out to steal personal information, upload viruses, or more benignly, to cause mischief. Hackers rarely choose a random target -- generally, an IP hack is carefully planned with a specific purpose in mind.

Protection Against IP Hacking

A firewall is your first and best defense against IP hacking. Because firewalls help to prevent unauthorized incoming connections, IP hacks can be executed only while a computer is online, so if your firewall is reporting incoming connection attempts, going offline for a while is usually a wise idea. Never give out your IP address. A customer service representative or a computer repair specialist has no reason to need your IP address, so be wary about these requests as well.