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When you dial-up to get an internet connection you typically get a different IP address each time. Is that safer or more anonymous? Not really.

Based on what I've just read about DHCP, I believe now that dial-up access may have its advantages in anonymity. Am I correct?

Slightly.

But in reality, the risk's not really that high to begin with, and using dial-up adds less anonymity than you might think.

I first want to review the difference that DHCP makes. DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, if you're curious) is how most internet-connected device get an IP address, which is used to route data to or through that device. For example when you visit a web site, that site's server sends the data containing the web page to you at your IP address. Dynamic IP addresses are assigned on-request and can change. When you use dial-up your IP address is almost always different each time you connect. If you're on broadband your IP address can still change, but it tends to remain the same for much longer periods of time - typically days or weeks.

By having a different IP address each time you connect, it seems likely that it would be more difficult to identify specifically who you are from one time to the next.

"... you're just as anonymous, or not, using dialup as you are on broadband."

Well, for average users even with a static (unchanging) IP address it's not easy to begin with. I've discussed many times that it's nearly impossible for average computer users to determine who, specifically, is at a specific IP address.

So be it static or dynamic, broadband or something else, using only your IP address you're already pretty darned anonymous.

Now that being said, law enforcement can of course contact your ISP and probably with a court order determine exactly from where that IP address connects. So in that sense, no, you're not absolutely anonymous with a static or longer-lasting dynamic IP address.

But the same's probably true of your dialup connection as well. It's quite possible that the ISP would also have logs that would allow them to know which of their users connected when, on what phone line, and what IP address they were assigned for the duration of their connection.

In other words, you're just as anonymous, or not, using dialup as you are on broadband.

The one exception is where it's not your identity that someone is looking for, but perhaps your activity. For example if your IP address gets banned on a message board, then using dialup you could just disconnect, reconnect and presumably get a new IP address that wasn't banned. Repeat that often enough and the board administrator will most likely block all the IP addresses in your ISP's range of possible IP address - blocking any future IP address you might get, as well as all the other dialup customers of your ISP.

All things considered, I'll just take my static IP address and fast broadband connection over dial-up any day. Smile

Article C3252 - December 30, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
George Arauz
January 1, 2008 5:14 PM

Dial up or cable are both not safe. What makes you safe is your firewalls.

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