How to Find and Protect Your Website‘s Origin IP Address

When running a website, one of the most important things you need to protect is your origin IP address. This uniquely identifies your backend servers that power your entire site.

If hacked or exposed, attackers can use your origin IP to launch DDoS attacks, steal data, or exploit other vulnerabilities. That‘s why hiding your real IP must be part of your cybersecurity strategy.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll cover everything you need to know about website origin IPs, including:

  • What is an origin IP address – Let‘s first understand what an IP address identifies
  • Why you need to hide your origin IP – We‘ll explore the security risks of leaving backends exposed
  • 9 ways attackers uncover origin IPs – I‘ll detail tactics hackers use to bypass defenses
  • Protecting your infrastructure – Tips to shield your real IPs even under scrutiny

By the end, you‘ll have in-depth knowledge to find and protect your own site‘s infrastructure from the outside world. This applies whether you manage small sites or global enterprise domains.

Let‘s get started!

IP Address Basics – What Exactly is an Origin Server?

Every computer on the internet is identified by a unique IP address made up of numbers like It‘s like the street address for devices to route traffic between each other.

When you connect to a website, your browser first uses DNS to resolve the domain name to an IP address pointing to the host server.

For example, might resolve to a Cloudflare data center IP to cache and protect the actual origin server handling requests in the background.

This origin server IP is the actual address of the physical or virtual machine running the web application and database software powering the site:

Origin server diagram

Origin IPs sit behind frontend defenses and aren‘t exposed externally – but if revealed, attackers gain a blueprint to directly target your infrastructure.

That‘s why uncovering and abusing origin IPs is a common tactic of hackers performing recon on high-value domains. Next I‘ll explore those risks in more detail.

Dangers of Exposed Origin IP Addresses

Your website‘s origin IP address directly points to servers containing sensitive data like:

  • Confidential company information
  • Customer personal information (PII)
  • Proprietary application code and APIs
  • Databases like MySQL, Mongo holding records and info
  • Hosting provider cloud platform access
  • Admin dashboards and logins

With access to origin IPs, attackers can use them for:

  • DDoS Attacks – Flood origin bandwidth to take sites fully offline
  • Data Breaches – Steal database contents, inject malware to spread
  • App Exploits – Reverse engineer apps, find flaws, extract data
  • Cloud Account Takeovers – Pivot from servers deeper into cloud provider accounts

In fact, over 28% of companies suffer breaches and attacks specifically abusing exposed origin infrastructure according to DevOps research:

Origin server attacks stat

And average costs of an attack through origin servers averages around $5 million across impacts like outages and legal damages.

Simply put – leaked origin IPs open doors for hackers to do maximum damage through direct server access. That‘s why several techniques are used to hide IPs.

Shielding Your Origin IP Address

There are several layers you can implement to conceal backend infrastructure IP addresses:

Proxy Services – Proxies like Cloudflare and Akamai accept visitor requests, check for attacks, cache content, and pass safe traffic to your server. This hides IPs while absorbing attacks.

VPNs – Hosting providers offer Virtual Private Networks to segment your servers into private subnets instead of Internet-facing IPs. This adds a layer of obscurity.

Cloud Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) – Cloud WAFs filter inbound threats based on rules to normalize traffic before passing to origin. This prevents volumetric attacks and probes.

IP Rotation – Frequently changing your IP address makes it harder to pinpoint infrastructure lasting more than a few days as past IPs expire.

With these shields in place, most external vantage points won‘t be able to spot your actual IP address. However, skilled attackers have ways around them – usually by finding leaks and holes through misconfigurations.

In the next sections, we‘ll cover exactly how hackers attempt to break through defenses using advanced reconnaissance.

Technique #1: DNS Lookups

The first place reconnaissance begins is DNS lookups to view what IPs your domain name resolves to.

Utilities like dig, nslookup, and host query DNS servers to find addresses tied to your domain. However, they will primarily return proxy or load balancer IPs shielding your origin rather than direct server results.



Here the Cloudflare proxy IP is returned, not the hidden origin. But that doesn‘t mean DNS can‘t leak clues.

DNS Misconfigurations

If your DNS records are misconfigured, they may accidentally point visitors directly to your origin IP bypassing perimeter defenses.

For example, a stale CNAME record could resolves requests straight to your server address without protections filtering traffic first. Attackers relies on these leaks to uncover origins.

That‘s why keeping DNS configs and records updated is vital to account for infrastructure and IP address changes on the backend. Relying on outdated records exposes you.

And even if DNS appears locked down, intruders have other reconnaissance approaches to try next.

Technique #2: Reverse DNS Lookups

Regular DNS converts domains to IPs. Reverse DNS does the opposite – resolving IPs back to domain names and host information.

Reverse DNS queries on proxy IPs often just return generic hostnames belonging to the service provider due to the scale of their infrastructure.

However, reverse lookups on origin IPs can reveal more identifying details about the server environment itself:

dig -x +short

Here this hostname contains "" indicating Google Cloud infrastructure revealing the site runs on Compute Engine/Kubernetes hosting.

Attackers use this to map out backend hosting environments and platforms. It also tells them when they‘ve reached real origin IPs when unique hostnames appear.

While you don‘t directly control public reverse DNS records, using cloud hostnames internally helps avoid leaking data.

Technique #3: Subdomain Enumeration

Large websites utilize multiple backend origin servers across different subnets, hosting providers, and geographic regions.

Subdomain enumeration scans try to discover and resolve all the subdomain variants tied to your main domain.

For example, attackers may find additional origins via:


Tools like Subfinder, Amass, Sublist3r bruteforce subdomain permutations combined with certificate transparency logs and search engine scraping.

Each unique subdomain resolved expands the IP attack surface. They then reverse DNS each IP to fingerprint hosting environments looking for custom origin server names.

Technique #4: Virtual Host Scanning

Sites hosted on shared IP addresses can also be uncovered through virtual host scanning.

Many cloud hosts place sites on the same server IPs with "virtual hosts" used to segment domain traffic between customers.

Tools like VHostScan search for virtual hosts by sending HTTP headers like:


And domains responding to fake Host names reveal other virtual hosts sharing IP space:

Virtual host scan

Attackers exploit this to find admin portals, test sites, etc on your servers via neighbors co-located on the same hardware. Any sites you host on shared IPs should sit behind proxy layers to avoid leakage.

Technique #5: Searching Online Databases

Several search engines like Shodan, Censys, and ZoomEye continuously scan and catalog connected infrastructure. These engine act as a Google-for-hackers.

By letting them crawl your site and servers, they may unintentionally reveal:

  • Origin IP addresses
  • Cloud provider account IDs
  • Software versions
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Unprotected login portals
  • Backend technologies powering sites

Many organizations block these engines to avoid accidentally exposing attack surface. Use firewall rules and IP blocks to keep them away from internal assets – don‘t rely on just proxies and CDNs.

Technique #6: Checking Caches

Proxies and CDNs serve cached copies of your site to visitors instead of hitting origin infrastructure directly. However certain paths can bypass caches, leaking backend IPs:

  • Error pages like often aren‘t cached and return origin details
  • Security scanner user-agents from tools like Nessus tell proxies to skip caching to test sites – allowing testers origin access
  • Misconfigured TTLs can allow stale caches instead of hitting updating origins

Pay attention to error routes, misconfigured settings, and anything allowing external parties to bypass frontline caches pointing to your backends. Monitor these to avoid becoming victim.

Technique #7: Reading Headers

HTTP response headers contain details added by servers answering requests – sometimes with more information than intended:


Headers like X-Originating-IP can leak backend server addresses even when sitting behind reverse proxies if the proxy passes this header along.

Attackers scrutinize headers for any clues exposing origin IPs, sometimes even spoofing certain headers to trigger IP leaks from cloud platforms trying to be helpful.

Audit headers from your site to ensure nothing sensitive gets revealed from backends. Header security filters on proxies can help strip unwanted leaks too.

Technique #8: BGP & IP Neighbor Scanning

On the network infrastructure layer, peering arrangements between ASNs and internet exchange points can expose closely connected IP neighbors hosting nearby subnets.

ASN look ups on IP blocks assigned to your cloud provider can uncover adjacent IPs you may utilize.

Scanning tools like Nmap can then test nearby IP neighbors through subnetting, ZMap IPv4 sweeps, and BGP heuristics to uncover hidden, unintentionally public assets.

While deep networking reconnaissance, your cloud IPs may sit in close proximity to others in the same region/AZs that are reachable.

Technique #9: Historical DNS Records

Even if you currently hide origin IPs safely now, your past DNS records may still reveal previously hosted environments.

Archives of historical DNS data exist across:

  • SecurityTrails
  • Wayback Machine
  • Farsight DNSDB
  • VirusTotal

These databases record years of passive DNS activity including now outdated A records pointing visitors to old IP addresses hosting previous iterations of your site infrastructure.

Attackers search through historical DNS trails looking for breadcrumbs leading to IPs still tied to current backend assets and accounts. Don‘t let past misconfigurations continue haunting you.

Now that you‘ve seen the most popular tactics hackers deploy to deobfuscate origin IPs, let‘s cover how to protect your own site‘s infrastructure.

Securing Your Origin Servers from Exposure

Protecting your origin IP boils down to layers of redundancy where if one fails, others continue filtering access:

Origin server security diagram

  1. Utilize a Reverse Proxy – Proxies like Cloudflare or Akamai accept inbound requests first to filter attacks, serve caches, handle encryption, obscure origin servers.

  2. IP Block Scrapers – Infrastructure rules preventing search engines like Shodan from crawling interior assets. Strip identifying headers.

  3. Filter Internal DNS Records – Disable zone transfers and visibility of sensitive A records and hostnames pointing to backend IPs.

  4. Web Application Firewalls – More advanced inspection of payloads looking for SQLi attacks, XSS, path manipulations trying to circumvent outer defenses.

  5. Limit Server CSP Metadata – Disable unnecessary HTTP headers, error messaging, and other fingerprints enumerating infrastructure details.

  6. VPN Your Origin – Host your infrastructure within private cloud VPNs instead of Internet-routed IPs. Limit exposure to intranets only.

With these controls, you force external parties through proxy gauntlets before reaching backends, limiting surface visibility.

Next I‘ll share what to do upon discovering your own site‘s origin IP has leaked.

Your Origin IP Leaked? Next Steps

If an origin server IP still manages to leak out, all is not lost. Here are quick incident response steps:

1. Increase Web Application Firewall (WAF) Rules

Notify your WAF provider to ramp up filter rules, layer 7 protections, and threat detection alerts based on the compromised IP. Tighten controls against app attacks.

2. Rotate Exposed Infrastructure

Spin up new cloud infrastructure with entirely different IPs under your proxy – migrate data and services away from the leaked assets to fresh servers.

3. Search Exposure

Check website scanners, public internet databases, and data streams for any screenshots, vulnerabilities, or visibility offered by the leaked server. Purge any public data exposures you can find.

4. Penetration Test

Hire white hat hackers to thoroughly penetration test the leaked infrastructure looking for other weaknesses attackers could also exploit before it‘s decommissioned.

5. Post-Mortem

Conduct a security review across all layers to understand exactly which misconfigurations, gaps, or oversights allowed the server access. Implement new controls to prevent repeat issues.

While IP leaks introduce risk, getting out ahead quickly minimizes impact and reduces your overall exposure timeframe.

Conclusion: Keys to Protecting Your Origin Infrastructure

In closing, here are main takeaways around safeguarding website origin IP addresses:

  • Utilize proxy services offering hiding, caching, filtering, and protection of your prized infrastructure. Never expose origin servers directly.

  • Configure firewall, scraper, and DNS blocklists to cut off database search engines, random scanners, and subdomain crawlers from reaching backend environments.

  • Practice least privilege access controls internally, limit visibility of sensitive hostname records pointing to production assets. Compartmentalize teams and services.

  • Clean up old DNS records that no longer serve active site IP addresses to erase historical breadcrumbs flaws.

  • Regularly penetration test your layers of infrastructure as an attacker would to find gaps proactively instead of waiting until real intruders strike from the shadows.

Hundreds of attacks yearly abuse leaked origin IPs – don‘t underestimate their destructive potential. Apply these controls to manage risk and deny disruption of your online business and services.

What other techniques have you used to conceal backend server infrastructure from unwanted attention? I welcome any other tips in the comments!