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Websites can be cleaned from your drop-down menus and IP addresses can change. That in itself is not indicative of a hack. A few steps will increase security.

Recently, when opening my internet browser, I noticed that all of my usual websites were gone from my drop-down menu. Then, when I logged onto Facebook, it asked me to identify the device that I was logging on from, which is the same home PC that I've always logged in from. In addition, Facebook sent me an email notifying me of the IP address that was shown when logging on. The IP address does not match anything in my CMD. I understand that routers have different IP addresses, but I'm not sure how to find out mine or if it's possible that they change on their own. My main concern is that my PC/router has been hacked into. My Wi-Fi was not secure because I live in the woods with no neighbors nearby. I read up on how to do that on your site though. Is this something I should be concerned about or am I being overly paranoid?

In this excerpt from Answercast #21, I look at a computer that has had a sudden change of IP address and history.

Worried about a sudden change

I don't believe you're being overly paranoid, but I'm also not going to say it's something you really need to be terribly concerned about. I think there are a number of possible explanations for some of the things that you're seeing.

Drop-down menus gone

Let's start with all of the usual websites being gone from your drop-down menu. I don't know what drop-down menu you mean. There are many possible places that you could be referring to.

  • If you mean your Favorites, that implies that somehow your favorites got cleaned out.

The reason that comes to mind is because of the next item that you specify. "When I logged onto Facebook, it asked me to identify the device I was logging on from." That is usually because the cookie that Facebook saves on your machine to identify that device has been removed.

My suspicion (it's just a hunch) is that perhaps you cleaned that computer; that you deleted cookies; that you deleted history. You deleted a bunch of stuff, inadvertently. You probably didn't realize this was the kind of thing that you would be cleaning. (Potentially, you ran a tool like CCleaner.)

Cookies cleaned

This is the kind of side effect I might expect from having run a cleaning tool, especially an over-aggressive cleaning tool. Not that CCleaner is, but if you ran a different tool and did a bunch of this kind of cleaning, then these are the kinds of side effects that can result.

Changed IP address

Facebook sent you an email notifying you of the IP address shown when logging on. That's actually kinda cool. I like when Facebook does that.

The IP address doesn't match anything in your CMD - absolutely.

You are probably behind a router, as you mentioned. The IP address that's assigned to your computer is not the IP address that Facebook sees. The IP address that's assigned to your computer is private. It's local. It's only an IP address used between you, your router, and any other computers you might have behind your router.

You're right; the router itself has another IP address. In fact, I have an article on Ask Leo! - "What's my IP address?" that will show you your current IP address. That's the IP address that was assigned by your ISP to your router (to the device that connects to the internet) and that's the IP address that Facebook will, in all likelihood, have seen.

Now, don't be too freaked out if you have another, completely different, IP address. IP addresses, as you say do change. I would be quite comfortable if the IP address was similar. In other words, maybe the first three numbers were the same, but the last ones are not. That kind of thing happens all the time when you're connecting to various ISPs.

But my guess is (my hunch is) that the IP address you find when you go to look at "What's My IP Address?" will, in fact, be the IP address that Facebook reported to you. I don't think your PC or router has been hacked. There's nothing here that really smells like a hack.

Securing your router

I appreciate that you aren't using secure Wi-Fi. That's a decision that you can make.

Certainly, if you're out in the woods and there's nobody nearby then, that's a strong argument that it might be an okay thing to do.

On the other hand, if there's ever any question, why not slap a WPA password on that connection and go ahead and set it up. I will admit that for many years here at home, I did exactly what you did. I had an open Wi-Fi access point to which I connected all of my machines.

Again, we're quite a distance from the road; we're sitting on some acreage. It's just not that likely that somebody's going to capture that signal from anywhere nearby... without me seeing them drive up the driveway.

On the other hand, not that long ago I decided that you know, "It's just not really worth it." There's just no cost involved in setting up a WPA-protected network!

So I set up my router with a WPA password on the wireless connection. Any machine that I consider "important" if you will (my laptop, my wife's laptop, that kinda thing) all got switched to use that particular connection, that secured connection.

One open, one protected connection

Now, I happen to have two wireless access points. I went ahead and set up the other one as still open. I never use it for anything important. It's available for guests when they come to visit and it's available for things like my phone or my tablet or whatever: devices that are typically used in insecure situations, anyway like Wi-Fi, hotspots at Starbucks, and such.

Most of what they do is already encrypted anyway, so the incremental value of setting them up to use an encrypted connection at home isn't really that great. You gotta admit that typing your WPA password on the little tiny screens can be a bit of a pain.

I would recommend that you go ahead and set up the WPA. There really isn't much cost to it, but the bottom line here is that I'm not necessarily seeing anything that concerns me greatly.

Article C5393 - May 28, 2012 « »

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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
Gord Campbell
May 29, 2012 7:14 PM

I'm in Toronto, and my IP address is normally "located" in the suburb where my ISP is located. However, I've been assigned IP addresses in New York state, and even in Colorado.

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