It’s a troubling thought. An IP address can reveal all sorts of information about you and your location—country, city, neighborhood, maybe your ISP. But could someone really get an IP address from an email you’ve sent them? The short answer is yes. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you might think.
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How can you get an IP address from an email?
What do you look at first when you receive an email? The email title, who the sender is, and maybe when they sent it? But there’s plenty more information stored in the email header metadata, including the IP address the email came from. And you don’t even need any hacking skills to find it.
Getting an IP address from email in 3 steps (in Gmail)
- Open the email and click on the three dots icon
- Select “Show original”
- Search the plain text for “Received” to find the IP address
We tested it out and found this IP address in an email we had received.
If you’re not sure how to find the IP address yourself, you can use an analyzer like this one from WhatIsMyIP.com—just paste all the plain text into the search field. Once you have the IP address, you can search it and find out the sender’s location. We searched the IP address from the above email, and here’s what we discovered.
Alarming? Well, here’s the thing—that IP address belongs to Google. If someone sends an email using Gmail, you’ll see one of their IP addresses, not the sender’s actual IP address. The same thing goes for basically every other browser-based email service; they don’t reveal the sender’s IP address. So yes, it’s easy to get an email service’s IP address from an email header, but not someone’s personal IP address.
Why would someone want my IP address?
There are many reasons why someone might want to discover an IP address, ranging from mildly annoying to downright nefarious. For example, someone could use your IP address to send you personalized spam, or a game administrator might block you from joining a game. More sinister motivations might be stalking, DDoS attacks, or selling your IP address on the dark web.
Should I be worried about how much information my email metadata reveals about me?
It’s always wise to take precautions to protect your digital privacy, especially when it could transcend from online to your physical location. But the likelihood of someone figuring out your personal IP address from an email you sent is very low.
However, your ISP and your email provider do have your IP address and, depending on laws and privacy policies, may reveal it if compelled.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Check that your email service blocks sender IP addresses in the email header metadata
- Ensure your email password is strong and stored securely
- Use a VPN to mask your real IP address whenever you’re online
- Be aware of email tracking software and how to avoid it.
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