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Where has your computer been today? Out for a bit of International travel?

By Dale Reagan | November 1, 2010

Well, at least there is a good chance that YOUR computer/smart phone is an International traveller your IP trail traverses  the globe 24x7x365 (or for however long you are on-line.)  You may have brought some foreign bytes home…  So, where has your computer/smart phone been today?

Is this good or bad?  Hmm.  I started reviewing  GeoIP data** for traffic on my local network – I was a *little* surprised.

I did NOT expect to find that Akamai seems to routinely send US surfers across the pond to fetch data (if my GeoIP reference data is correct…)

On the day of my test it seems that Symantec was using Akamai (Akamai is a CDN**) – Akamai seems to put data/send users all over the globe (hopefully, there is some amount of business logic at work and random, malicious or other reasons for foreign placement are not at play… OR, this could/might be a GIGO** issue with my GeoIP data…)   As a US consumer I expect a US company to use/provide US resources (on the Internet) and that I will be getting data from a US (i.e. ‘trusted’ or perceived as  ‘more trusted’) location/resource. I realize that this might be an old-fashioned expectation in the age of the Internet – but it IS my expectation; and I will GUESS that many US businesses and consumers have the same or similar expectation.

Could be that I am wrong – check your own network traffic logs and run a GeoIP analysis – are YOU getting software updates from Europe/Asia/Somewhere else? Should you be concerned? (IMO, yes we all should be.  We have no/little direct recourse against non-US companies or individuals if there is any network mis-behaviour. Is it acceptable for a US company to deliver Internet content (via a third party or directly) from a non US data location? –  there may be a business reason for doing this (sending network resource requests across international borders); at this point there should not be a  technical reason/limitation for controlling where data is delivered from…)

What about government Web sites?   Any of those being ‘served’ from foreign IP space?   Should we be concerned?

OH! and before you tell me that this is simply ‘how it is’ – please note that I EXPECT more (and I will guess that some enterprising business will come forward and offer Geo-sensitve IP traffic if existing ISPs do not...)  This issue/concern might be at viewed as being as least as sensitive that the recent discussions about Google’s un-intended collection of potentially sensitive data with their roaming photo-cars. All right, time for the New York Times or some other ‘professional’ news organization to take a look at this – it goes beyond privacy/security and most likely beyond my simple view of the issue/concern.

While already prevalent, the use of GeoIP data is the CURRENT disruptive technology (some folks call it location awareness…)  I’m sure that folks are still saying that the current disruptive technology is WEb 2.x, ‘the conversation’, or ‘social web/media’ – but it’s really about where you (any Internet user with funds to spend)  are and the revenue/lead generation that this small bit of information provides to countless businesses.  Since convenience almost always trumps everything else (including security) it will be interesting if GeoIP-Awareness or GeoIP-Sensitivity (not that we need another acronym, but: GeoSNT? or perhaps GeoIP-SNT? or Geo-ANT?) become concerns for any beyond the audience of Internet users concerned with security issues.

** GeoIP correlations are derived by taking what you have (the IP addresses that your computer has network exchanges with) and a data set that provides geographic relationships with the IP addresses.  In this case I have been using the well documented (public) data set and APIs from Maxmind.Com.   In a future post I will provide examples of using a GeoIP analysis for local network traffic – a simple method to track web traffic might be to use a proxy like Squid for HTTP (web) connections;  Squid can be configured to log all traffic (including IP addresses) which you can then review to create a GeoIP traffic map for HTTP traffic on  your network.

**CDN – Content Delivery Network providers – a service where a web site owner, for various reason, pays to have their content readily available for visitors around the globe.   I will guess that CDNs strategically place their servers around  the globe and then aggregate client data in whatever manner is needed to meet the requirements of their clients.  My expectation is that this aggregated data would be Geo-Sensitive, but, as discussed above, this does not appear to be the case.

** GIGO – garbage in/garbage out; if the analysis is based on faulty input data then the entire analysis is possibly faulty.   In this instance I did review DNS information for the IP addresses that were identified as foreign – the DNS results supported the GeoIP results…

Topics: Media and Communications, News/Events, System and Network Security, Unix-Linux-Os, Virtual-Cloud Computing, Web Technologies | Comments Off on Where has your computer been today? Out for a bit of International travel?

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YOUR GeoIP Data | Ip:
Continent: NA | Country Code: US | Country Name: United States
Region: | State/Region Name: | City:
(US only) Area Code: 0 | Postal code/Zip:
Latitude: 38.000000 | Longitude: -97.000000
Note - if using a mobile device your physical location may NOT be accurate...

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