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Involuntary Geolocation To Within One Kilometer 207

Schneier's blog tips an article about research into geolocation that can track down a computer's location from its IP address to within 690 meters on average without voluntary disclosure from the target. Quoting: "The first stage measures the time it takes to send a data packet to the target and converts it into a distance – a common geolocation technique that narrows the target's possible location to a radius of around 200 kilometers. Wang and colleagues then send data packets to the known Google Maps landmark servers in this large area to find which routers they pass through. When a landmark machine and the target computer have shared a router, the researchers can compare how long a packet takes to reach each machine from the router; converted into an estimate of distance, this time difference narrows the search down further. 'We shrink the size of the area where the target potentially is,' explains Wang. Finally, they repeat the landmark search at this more fine-grained level: comparing delay times once more, they establish which landmark server is closest to the target."
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Involuntary Geolocation To Within One Kilometer

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  • Re:implications (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rinisari ( 521266 ) * on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:43AM (#35756556) Homepage Journal

    There was that story a while back about some physicists figuring out that they couldn't send email more than 500 miles [].

    Back on topic, I'll bet VPNs throw wrenches in their methods.

  • by cavreader ( 1903280 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:48AM (#35756610)
    Back in the early 80's a Physic's grad student at Berkley was working in their data center and noticed a descrepency in user usage statistics and started investigating. He was able to isolate the user ID of the unauthorized user by analysing the usage statistics. At the time the user statistics were used for billing computer time. The user was basically trying to use the Berkley system as a proxy for attacks on other systems. He eventually spliced into the network to intercept packets containing the User ID in question and calculated the amount of time it took for those packages to complete a round trip to determine the geo location of the person hacking into the system. At first he thought he was wrong because his calculations based on signal response time said the unauthorized user was 6000 miles away. He later discovered the calculation was correct and the hacker was located in Germany. He published a book called "The Cuckoos Egg" with all the details. It is a really good book.
  • 1.. "my connection is too weird/ unique/ confabulated/ etc..."

    yes, but you are 1% of internet users. the average bloke on a cable modem is reliably caught with this method

    2. "there is traffic/ no way to ping/ etc..."

    you have a speck of javascript on a webpage that keeps track of timestamps, opens an AJAX XMLHTTPRequest and pings alot, and the server averages things out. voila: you could get 60 samples in the time it takes you to read this comment, and therefore a good lock on your location


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