It’s a question I often get asked yet it’s very often asked in completely the wrong context. More often than not it’s related to a spat or a squabble in a forum or board somewhere, or something related to gaming. An administrator announces the ban and suddenly you can’t log in anymore!
People sometimes tend to worry they’re on some global list and they’ll be blocked and banned from all sort of sites. Now although there are some fairly extensive lists which we’ll mention later. Mostly these blocks are simple IP address blocks on a single site. It’s unlikely your IP address will be affected anywhere else,
However first we need to backtrack slightly and clarify what your IP address is and some of the methods employed for these bans. If you know this stuff then skip forward a paragraph or so, there’s a link to an IP black list checker right at the end. However please, note that many bans are not even related to your IP address at all.
At Home you Almost Certainly have Two Separate IP Addresses
This is an extremely important point, if you look at the IP address registered to your network card on your computer or device, you’ll probably see something like this –
Yes, I’m incredibly brave posting my IP address on a public website where any hacker can see it easily. Except I’m not, because the addresses you see here are actually internal IP addresses which allow me to speak to other devices on my own network. My network is in the range 192.168.1.1- 255 like literally millions of other people’s. The addresses are assigned by my Wifi/Modem and are completely inaccessible to the outside world. In fact there’s a very good chance that you’re running with exactly the same IP address range yourself as they’re set as a standard default range on most routers. We commonly refer to these addresses as internal addresses, as they’re valid only on internal networks.
Now on the internet, this isn’t going to work as IP (Internet Protocol) requires that every address is unique so it can route traffic properly. An internet with a million duplicate addresses would simply not function. So this is where your other IP address comes in to play, our internet or external IP address. This is the address that’s unique to you and although it has a similar format, no one anywhere on the internet will have the same address. It’s the address that will be visible to others and basically ensures you can talk to other computers across the world. It’s the important one that defines you and your internet connection, it’s also the one that can potentially be blacklisted or blocked.
Your External IP Address
So, we’ve established that your external address is the ‘internet facing’ one and does all the important stuff. So where does it come from? Can I choose it? Can I control what the address is?
Well, unfortunately this address is almost completely out of your control as it’s assigned by whatever device that’s enabled your access to the internet. So for example at home, you ISP will have assigned your IP address when you make a connection to it’s servers. Therefore you might have ten devices at home with different ‘internal IP’ addresses but they’ll all have the same external address.
This is one of the reasons, that you have to be careful what is accessed through your internet connection because it all links back to your account. So while you and your wife happily surf the web browsing, shopping and looking for parenting tips, your children could be upstairs downloading pirated films and music directly through that address. It’s all linked to the same IP address assigned by your ISP.
Other situations work in a similar way, when you use free Wifi at a coffee shop or hotel, your external IP address will be controlled by the Access point connected to the internet. Your smart phone will use an address assigned by a mobile tower although mobile addresses work slightly differently. Although basically the same situation applies – your IP address will be unique and assigned by whatever facilitates your access online.
Methods of Banning Online
There are actually a few methods which are commonly used to ban someone from a website, forum, game or application. Here’s the most usual ones which account for 99% of blocks.
- Ban by IP Address – your address is blacklisted and will be blocked automatically. Anyone using this address will therefore be also affected – so if one household member get’s blocked from a Call of Duty Server, then everyone’s banned in the house too. See below for options of bypassing this.
- Ban by Cookies – simple, block which is easily solved by deleting the cookies from your browsers. If this is associated with a user account though it’s likely this is banned too.
- Ban by Specific Token – many games, applications or software are assigned unique numbers when installed or purchased. Or they’ll generate IDs based on computer hardware addresses or similar. Typically lots of games do this, registering this number on installation from the CD or setup file. Re-installing can sometimes clear this ban depending on how the token or key is registered.
- Ban by Specific Information – if you have a account with the website in question, there’s likely a lot of associated information recorded too. So for example email address, postal addresses, credit cards or other payment methods – anything like this. So if you create a new account using this information it may be banned automatically – eBay is known to do this. If you create a new account be careful not to include any of this sort of information associated with the banned account.
- Combination of the Above – the most difficult blocks to get around are when a selection of the above methods are used. You can still bypass these blocks but it can take quite a lot of effort. Often this is a deterrent enough and people just give up.
IP Address Blacklisting Issues and Fixes
Blocking or banning an IP address is probably the most common method, simply because it’s probably the easiest. Adding the IP address to a filter or blacklist is very easily done on most websites. Every major web hosting administrative panel offers this facility – i.e. a single click to add the address to a list which makes the site inaccessible.
There are lots of issues with blacklisting IP addresses however and one important one is that although addresses are unique, they’re not static. Most home users for example will get a new IP address routinely, and if I reboot my modem at home it will get assigned a new address every time. Mobile addresses move around between devices all the time too as each travels around between different towers. So you can ban an IP address but it won’t necessarily be the same person using it on subsequent occasions.
Therefore the simplest fix to unblocking a ban based on an IP address is just to get another one. Simply waiting might be enough to get a new address or rebooting your modem to restart the IP address allocation process from your ISP.
If this is not possible then the other simple option is to use a VPN or proxy service when accessing the site. Although this doesn’t change your IP address it does hide your real address allowing you to access any site without issue. VPNs are commonly used for bypassing other IP restrictions like blocking access based on the country of origin. A simple example is using a VPN service like Identity Cloaker to watch the BBC when outside the UK whereas you’d normally be blocked. Although in these situations you have to be careful to choose an IP address based in the United Kingdom for it to work.
Domain Name System Blacklists
Having your address blacklisted or blocked can be very frustrating, however it’s even more so if it’s not your fault. As mentioned, although an external IP address is unique, it’s not linked permanently to a specific connection. That means someone else has previously used it and it’s perfectly possible to end up using a blacklisted or blocked IP address caused by someone else. So for example if by sheer chance you are assigned the same address that has been used by someone for a spamming a website, you can have trouble accessing the site.
It would be very bad luck if it happened on a specific site, after all we all visit different websites. However there are some global lists that many sites use as a point of reference called DNSB (Domain Name System Blacklists). These are centrally held lists of IP addresses known to have been used for illicit behaviour like sending out spam email messages.
There are lots of these sites and if your current IP address ends up on one of these it can cause quite a few issues. Fortunately the majority of these addresses are datacentre addresses rather than residential ones, but it can still cause issues if it’s your mail server or personal website.
Here’s a simple way to check whether your IP address is on one these large blacklists – Domain Blacklist Checker which checks many of these lists and points you at the removal method for each one if required.