The Why & How Of Tracing An IP Address
Tracing IP addresses sounds like something a digital James Bond would do in his latest thriller. It reminds us of Hollywood and a team of highly elite techies whose knowledge will save the world from a massive attack. But in reality, how difficult is it to track an IP address? Moreover, why would you want to trace an IP address in the first place? Let’s just make one distinction: while movie geniuses can trace someone to their physical home, our traces are limited to the IP address itself and location of the servers.
Why would you need to trace an IP address?
IP is short for Internet Protocol, a unique address for each computer in the same way a fingerprint is unique to humans. These addresses allow devices to communicate, provided they are connected to a network. The danger lies in this simple exchange: as it is easy to send and receive information, hackers and spammers can join these exchanges and interfere. By tracing an IP address, we can expose the interfering computer and identify the attacker.
Of course an able hacker will do their best to hide their IP address and a spammer might hide using a proxy server, deviating attention from their own actual origin. But even if we manage to uncover all of this, the trace will not give us a physical location of the user, but rather the location of the internet service provider.
Another reason why you might want to trace an IP address is to find out where certain emails are coming from to identify where your potential customers are located.
Below are the three methods to trace an IP address:
- Windows Command Prompt Trace
First of all, we can use the Command Prompt to identify an IP address and then use an online tool to trace it.
Open a Command Prompt Window and run it. Then type the command for tracing the IP: “tracert www.websitename.com” and hit Enter.
Voilà, the IP trace shows the IP address in the square brackets.
Another method for tracing the IP address is to use the ping command. In the Command Prompt type “ping.www.websiteNAME.com” and hit Enter. This again will reveal the result inside the square brackets next to the url.
Now we need to trace the IP address. Go to a website such as “www.whatismyipaddress.com” and choose the option “IP LOOKUP”. Enter the IP address we obtained from the Command Prompt and click lookup. This will provide you with information about the server and the geolocation of it.
- Mac Terminal Trace
Open the Terminal application from the Utilities folder, type in the trace IP address command: “traceroute www.websiteNAME.com” and hit Enter. You will find the IP address displayed next to the website name.
Then go back to the IP lookup website linked to above and enter the digits. You’ll have all the information you need.
- Email IP Trace
As mentioned earlier, it can be of benefit to know where your potential customers (who are sending these emails) are located to better target any online campaigns you might be running. Here’s what to do:
Open the email
Open the source (email header) and choose “Show original” in Gmail or “View message source” in Outlook.
This opens a new window with a long list of numbers. If you look carefully, you will find the IP address next to the “Receive: from (email address name) [IP address]” If you can’t spot it at first glance, there is another way. Go back to www.whatismyipaddress.com and click on the tab “Trace Email”. In the text box that appears paste the whole text from the source email and click on “Get Source”. This function will digest all the information and give you a coherent and easy-to-read summary of the IP address and the geolocation of the server.