Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Is dial-up safer?


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?


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

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

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

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

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

1 thought on “Is dial-up safer?”

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.