wYou have probably seen people on TV and in movies tracing a person’s location by their IP address. Even though it looks easy, you might be thinking it takes special skills; well, it does not. It is actually quite easy to learn how to track an IP address.
What is an IP address?
IP stands for “internet protocol,” and it’s a unique identifier for each device connected to the internet or a local network. The IP address allows information to be sent from one location to another through a network. The internet is a vast place, so these IP addresses allow each device to communicate with other devices. In addition, IP addresses contain location information to differentiate each specific connection.
An IP address is made up of four numbers separated by periods. For example, an address on a local network might look like 18.104.22.168, and one on the internet may look like 22.214.171.124. Each number is allowed a range between 0 and 255.
Each IP address is mathematically created by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which is a division of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). According to Kaspersky Labs, “ICANN is a non-profit organization that was established in the United States in 1998 to help maintain the security of the internet and allow it to be usable by all. Each time anyone registers a domain on the internet, they go through a domain name registrar, who pays a small fee to ICANN to register the domain.”
Keep in mind that each person connected to the internet will have a private and public IP address. Private IP addresses only work within the user’s local network. Public IP addresses are used on the internet and are viewable and searchable unless you use a VPN.
There are two types of public IP addresses, dynamic and static. A dynamic IP address is assigned every time you reboot your router/modem and may change frequently. A static IP address stays the same no matter how many times you disconnect and reconnect to your internet provider. It is a solid, static IP address assigned to you for the duration of your service. Most consumers have dynamic IP addresses.
How to Track an IP Address
Data traveling over the internet may make a few stops along the way. Therefore, the route is not always direct. When learning how to track an IP address, you need to understand that you can generally learn where the IP address originated, but if the owner is using a VPN, their IP address may be masked.
Below are some methods of tracing an IP address.
1. Using Command Prompt
On a Windows computer, press the Windows key and type in cmd to get to the command prompt. Next, click ok to run the program. Once you see the black screen, type in “ping” followed by the website address you are trying to trace. This will give you the IP address. If you have it already, you can skip this step.
Now type in “tracert” followed by the IP address. You will see the entire route between your location and the IP address you are tracing.
2. Use an IP Lookup Tool
You can also use a tool like WhatIsMyIPAddress to track an IP address. This free tool will show you the hostname, ASN, ISP, organization, and where the IP is located (map coordinates).
Another IP lookup tool is Spiceworks. It works the same as WhatIs MyIPAdress. To use it, simply enter the IP address that you are tracing into the search box and click “search” to see the results.
Other IP lookup tools like InfoTracer work very well at finding someone’s information, location, along with other details based on the user’s IP address.
3. Using WolframAlpha
Visit the website: Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Intelligence. Click on the search bar and type in the IP address you want to trace. Press the Enter key to initiate the trace. The results will show the company or person’s name, who owns the IP, the ISP (internet service provider), and location (city). You can also click the “More” button to see additional details on some IP addresses.
4. Track an IP Address from Email
Many of us receive unsolicited emails from questionable sources. You can use that email to trace an IP address and find out where it came from.
Open the email on your computer and find the options menu. Look for a menu option that says view “raw source,” “open raw email,” or “view original.” On your screen, you will see the raw details of the path the email took to get to you. Within the code, you will see various email addresses. Check each one using one of the tools above, and you can find out where the email originated unless the user is obscuring their location with a VPN.