What is IP address and how does it determine your location?

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What is IP Address?

The Internet Protocol address also known as IP address is a unique number provided to every device to share information in a computer network. With this assigned number, your device is recognized over a network. It is an integer number which is divided by dots, for example, 192.142.19.241. You can find the IP Address assigned to your device using Google here.

Globally, the IP addresses are managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and by five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) who are responsible for assignment of IP addresses in their designated territories to your Internet Service Providers (ISP) and other end users. 

Your IP Address can be used to determine the country, city or ZIP code and hence determining your geographical location. The regional registries are one of the main sources of guessing of your location using IP Addresses.

What are the versions of IP addresses?

There are two versions of IP addresses and they differ in the lengths. 

IPv4

Internet Protocol 4 or IPv4 is of 32 bits which was first deployed in 1982 and is still used to route most of the internet traffic today. There can be 4.3 billion unique IPv4 addresses which were sufficient then but are now depleting, IP version 6 was developed to accommodate the growing number of Internet users.

You can read more about IPv4 address exhaustion here.

IPv6

Internet Protocol 6 or IPv6 is of 128 bits which was first deployed in 1998 and is the most recent version of Internet Protocol. There can be 3.4×1038 unique addresses which can accommodate the growing number of internet users successfully for the coming years. 

They are a bit harder to read than IPv4 addresses as they are in hexadecimal form. One example of IPv6 address is 2001:db8::8a2e:370:7334.

How does IP Addresses reveal your Geo-location?

There are multiple free and paid software databases that can reveal the geolocation of the device using IP Address. 

The main source for determining the location is by determining the Regional Internet Registry to which the IP address belongs. The regional registries are African, American, Asia-Pacific, Latin American and Caribbean and European(RIPE). You can read more about these registries here

Other sources for revealing your geo-location using IP address are:

  1. Wi-Fi positioning system: By determining the location of the user’s Wi-Fi, their IP address can be linked to that location. 
  2. Using Bluetooth: Bluetooth can be used to detect your location by scanning nearby devices and it can be used to determine your accurate location.
  3. GPS Location: The GPS Location of your device can be paired with your device’s IP Address to determine your accurate location.

Since you provide apps with all those permissions, it becomes easier for them to determine your location and the IP address with the location is saved in a database.

An example for this is URL Shortening services like Bitly that track users using their IP addresses and accurately determine their location (country) and reports it to their users.

muskan

This article is written by Muskan Malkania.

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