While it seems like something from a science fiction movie, locating where someone is based on the information that is gathered while they visit a webpage is a common practice. This can be used to serve specific advertisements to a visitor, guide them to the nearest retail location, or help prevent fraud. The key component to geo-location on the internet is the I.P. address of a visitor.
There are a variety of tools on the internet that can be used to look up the owner and location of an I.P address. These tools are mostly accurate in locating a user to a specific geographic area, but not pinpointing their exact location. Their location will be drilled down to the country, the region, city, and finally postal code. In some cases, there may be more detail available on specific I.P. addresses.
The Pitfalls of Geo-Location
Geo-location is dependent on databases that store information on where an I.P. address is located. However, these databases can become out of date or spoofed with inaccurate information over time. While this is less of a problem when directing someone to a store, it can be very problematic when shipping an order to a customer that was believed to be in a specific location. For example, if the customer’s device location matches their billing and shipping location, there is less risk of fraud than if the device was located in a different country when the purchase was made.
One of the other pitfalls of passive geolocation is that visitors who are behind proxy servers or corporate firewalls or are using VPN services, are often using I.P. addresses that are not true to their location. The I.P. address of these users will be identified according to the location of the server they are behind, which is not necessarily the same as their physical location. This can be indicative of a fraudster hiding their location to prevent detection or an innocent case of someone shopping from work behind a centralized firewall. Corporate users will often appear as if they are coming from the company’s headquarters where the network is maintained, while in reality, they are in another region or country.
Because most geo-location data is based on passive data cached in databases and can be fooled, it is a valuable resource that has some issues. Aware of these issues, NS8 created our patent-pending technology that actively verifies geo-location data.
What is Active Geo-Location?
Active geo-location is a process where a visitor’s location is verified by using Domain Name Server (DNS) technology. By measuring response times from the customer to specific locations around the world, the visitor’s location is verified. This active process can verify where a customer isn’t and identify a mismatch between their claimed location and response times. For example, a visitor is using an I.P. address that claims to be in Las Vegas, Nevada, and has low response times to nearby servers and high response times to distant servers is most likely in Las Vegas.In direct opposition, if that same user has very low response times in China and high response times to locations near Las Vegas, they are certainly not in Las Vegas. Using this approach, a visitor that is masking their true location can be identified.