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IP Geolocation Databases: Unreliable?
Citation key PKDGU-IGDU-tr-11
Author Poese, Ingmar and Kaafar, Mohamed Ali and Donnet, Benoit and Gueye, Bamba and Uhlig, Steve
Year 2011
ISSN 1436-9915
Month February
Note No. 2011-03
Institution Technische Universität Berlin, Fakultät Elektrotechnik und Informatik
Abstract The most widely used technique for IP geolocation consists in building a database to keep the mapping between IP blocks and a geographic location. Several databases are available and are frequently used by many services and web sites in the Internet. Contrary to widespread belief, geolocation databases are far from being as reliable as they claim. In this paper, we conduct a comparison of several current geolocation databases – both commercial and free – to understand the limitations in their usability. First, the vast majority of entries in the databases refer only to a few popular countries (e.g., U.S.). This creates an imbalance in the representation of countries across the IP blocks of the databases. Second, these entries do not reflect the original allocation of IP blocks, nor BGP announcements. In addition, we quantify the accuracy of geolocation databases on a large European ISP based on ground truth information, as well as on two tier-1 ISPs based on DNS names containing geographic clues. This is the first study using a ground truth showing that the overly fine granularity of database entries makes their accuracy worse, not better. Their blocks, often as fine as /29 prefixes, have geolocations inaccurate by hundreds of kilometers in a significant fraction of the cases. All in all, geolocation databases can claim country-level accuracy, but certainly not city-level.
Bibtex Type of Publication Technical Report
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