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When I search the geographic location of my IP address why does it show multiple cities and states that are not my own? Does this indicate someone else is sharing my IP address?

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    Where are you looking for that? What are you doing?
    – peterh
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 16:03
  • On a where is my IP address website.
    – user63546
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 16:07
  • @user63546 Please provide more information. What website are you using? Are you putting the IP in or is detecting it?
    – RoraΖ
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 16:41

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Unless you have been directly assigned a range of IP address from the regional internet registry (faka RIR), then you are using someone else's IP address.

The vast majority of the users on the internet are in this same situation. Typically, you are using an IP address (or range of addresses) that has been assigned to their ISP and they are in turn allowing the customer to use.

Whether your IP address is shared with other users, whether it changes, or if you have a dedicated static IP are all details that are based on your ISP and the type of service for which you are paying them.

The most basic of IP geolocation services use the information of the registered entity to which the IP range has been assigned. If you run a whois search at a RIR for a certain IP address or network, it should either return information on the entity or which other RIR you may need to check with to find the information. As an example, if you did a whois for 8.8.8.8 (a widely known Google administered DNS server), you will find details about Google (address, contact info, etc). In this basic type of geolocation service, this IP would be shown to be located in Mountain View, CA.

However geolocation often gets much more involved and the exact nature of the service will be dependent on the provider. There a numerous entities that maintain databases of geolocation information based on many other pieces of information. This may involve information from routing tables, information gathered from devices/apps with access to GPS information, etc. It can also tie into more than just IP address such as wireless network names, wireless BSSIDs, cellular information, etc.

Just like with search engines, the way this data is gathered and used can vary the results depending on the service. Some may be more accurate, or some may contain old or invalid data.

So, getting back to your questions:

When I search the geographic location of my IP address why does it show multiple cities and states that are not my own? Does this indicate someone else is sharing my IP address?

The reason you may be getting multiple cities/states may be as you indicate that this IP address may be used by more than one customer at different points in time (or possibly the same time if the ISP is using NAT). Or it could be that the website you are referencing is pulling data from multiple geolocation databases that may be providing different results with varying degrees of accuracy.

Ultimately, you need to understand that unlike TV/movies seem to often indicate, IP address are not fixed to geographic locations. They are fixed to entities that decide how/where to use them and may change that usage over time as they need. Unless you can tie into an ISP's systems to know to which customer is using a given IP at the moment, you won't have a high degree of certainty of the exact location in use.

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  • This is one reason private citizens can't normally track an IP back to the customer using it -- even if the ISPs have a log of what customer was assigned what IP at what time, they generally only release it in response to a court order.
    – cpast
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 21:31
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The typical example scenario is, that a Network Provider in Munich have a subsidiary in Nuremberg, too. (These cities are around 180 km from eachother.)

When they got and registered their IP subnet, it was registered by their official addresse, which is Nuremberg. If you are in Nuremberg, it is possible that the whois database signs you from Munich, but not.

It is also possible, but the provider registers later a new ip subnet, but this time already in Nuremberg.

From this point, nothing makes them obligatory to really give a nuremberg IP-address to a Munich Customer and vice versa.

This is the cause, if you are using the whois database. But there alternate registrys too, some is public, some isn't. For example, google collects data about the wifi addresses anywhere you are going, this data is not public as a whole (although if you ask google: "I see the wifi hotspot these and these here", then google will say you, what does he think, where are you).

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  • Are you saying the multiple cities and states linked to my IP address has to do with the network provider rather than unauthorized random people sharing my IP address?
    – user63546
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 16:58
  • It has nothing to do with your IP address, it depends on your IP subnet. The IP subnets are registered to a network provider, this provider has a physical address (with city, street, etc), but sometimes it have networks in multiple cities, too. Other people can get your IP address only if your IP is not a fixed IP, but a dynamically allocated IP. It is a standard thing and it has normally only minimal security risk. But it is a totally different thing as the ip subnet registration.
    – peterh
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 17:01
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see http://xkcd.com/195/ for of map of the internet.

First of all, the IP address that is guessed on the internet may not be yours at all. E.g. unless you own some public infrastructure and have machines out there, you are using Network Address Translation (NAT).

If there are several machines at your company and one of them is connected to an uplink (= the internet) then it is unlikely that all the machines have public IPs. It is very likely instead that your company has a handful of gateway whose IP addresses are public and whose IP addresses will be used for NAT; and machines in the corporate network to use private blocks.

see http://xkcd.com/742/ after you get that part :)

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