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IP Address Lookup

An IP address lookup involves the use of dedicated search tools to find metadata associated with an IP address. This includes the device information, estimated geographical location, internet service provider (ISP), and any other publicly available data. Like other public record information, this data is considered legal to access unless otherwise specified by law or judicial order.

A reverse IP lookup is typically performed to find the location of a computer or its user, but corporate administrators may use IP address details to ensure that only authorized persons access company resources, and ISPs use this information to serve digital content. An IP address search can also help law enforcement investigate cyber crime or search for malicious cyber-actors.

Is IP Lookup Legal?

Yes, per US statutes, IP tracking is legal. However, an internet user who uses an IP lookup tool may not utilize the information obtained from these IP location databases for malicious purposes; such as, cyberstalking, intimidating, hacking, compromising access to digital services, or infringing on the subject's privacy rights. Pursuant to the provisions of the US Code on Stalking, 18 US Code § 2261A, persons on the erring side of this code are in violation of federal law. As a result, they will incur criminal and civil liabilities and punishments specified under state and federal laws.

The following are some common offenses pertaining to IP addresses and their consequent penalties. Take note that the charge and penalty prescribed may vary by jurisdiction and the offender’s criminal history:

  • Hacking or unauthorized access to computer systems
    Charge: Felony according to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
    Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment and/or fines
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks:
    Charge: Depending on the severity of the attack and consequent loss of property, this may be deemed a misdemeanor violation or felony
    Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment and/or fines
  • Cyberstalking and harassment:
    Charge: May be deemed a class B misdemeanor or class E felony per 18 U.S.C. § 2261A (Federal Stalking Statute)
    Penalty: Up to 5 years imprisonment and/or fines
  • Trafficking in stolen passwords or access devices (Access Device Fraud):
    Charge: Misdemeanor/felony according to 18 U.S.C. § 1029 (Access Device Fraud)
    Penalty: First conviction may be up to 1-year imprisonment, and second conviction, up to 10 years imprisonment and/or fines
  • Identity theft:
    Charge: Class 4 felony to Class X felony depending on the total cost of the goods/services involved 18 U.S.C. § 1028
    Penalty: Up to 15 years imprisonment
  • Phishing and spoofing:
    Charge: A determined by the Wire Fraud Statute in 18 U.S.C. § 1343
    Penalty: Up to 20 years imprisonment
  • Malware distribution:
    Charge: As specified by the CFAA
    Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment and/or fines
  • Unauthorized interception of communications:
    Charge: 18 U.S.C. § 2511 (Wiretap Act)
    Penalty: Up to 5 years imprisonment and/or fines
  • Cyber espionage (state-sponsored hacking):
    Charge: 18 U.S.C. § 1831 (Economic Espionage Act)
    Penalty: Up to 15 years imprisonment and/or fines
  • Ransomware attacks:
    Charge: As indicated in the CFAA
    Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment as well as fines
  • Theft of trade secrets:
    Charge: 18 U.S.C. § 1832 (Economic Espionage Act)
    Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment

What is My IP Address?

An IP address, short for internet protocol address, is a string of numbers assigned to every internet-enabled device. This address is akin to a hardware fingerprint since it is unique, and no two devices share the same IP address simultaneously - unless there is an assignment conflict, which is rare.

The number string that makes up most IP addresses is usually in four sets, each comprising one to three numbers ranging from 0 to 255 and separated by a period. For example, a typical IP address would look thus: The first three sets of numbers identify the network class, while the remaining part of the string denotes the IP address's node or host ID.

However, the quartet method of assigning IP addresses, IPv4, is limiting because the number of possible IP addresses is limited and could be exhausted. A new method, IPv6, replaced this protocol to address this limitation and also improve security and internet traffic. In IPv6, IP addresses comprise eight groups of four numbers separated by a colon

What Does an IP Address Lookup Reveal?

The information revealed during an IP address lookup typically includes details about the device with that IP address and its location and network metadata. So, persons who perform an IP address lookup can expect to see the following information:

  • The device's general location (city or postal code level)
  • Details about the internet service provider (ISP)
  • Browser metadata (name, version, VPN, proxy, etc.)
  • Device metadata (operating system, screen size, etc.)

How to Find My IP Address Location

The first option for a device owner interested in finding their IP address location is to search an IP-location database. These databases are specialized search engines that work solely to log IP addresses and their estimated geolocation. Several online tools perform the same purpose.

Alternatively, entering the query "my IP address" into a search engine can also provide a searcher with information about their IP address and estimated location. However, virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy servers can distort the accuracy of the information obtained through these databases and search tools. In such cases, a search for the IP address location will show the location set by the VPN instead. So, consider turning off the VPN, if any, before performing the search to get accurate results.

How are IP Addresses Assigned?

The assignment of IP addresses starts with organizations responsible for allocating IP addresses to internet service providers (ISPs) within a region. These organizations include the Internet Corporation for Names & Numbers (ICANN), the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and the Regional Internet Registry (RIR). The former organizations handle the assignment and maintenance of IP addresses in North America as well as the Caribbean and North Atlantic islands, while the RIR oversees this process in the rest of the world.

Ultimately, ISPs get allocated IP addresses from the aforementioned organizations. In turn, devices get assigned IP addresses the first time users connect to the ISP's network. ISPs use the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) built into routers to assign these addresses automatically.

The need to assign unique IP addresses to devices on the internet arose as the number of internet-enabled devices and network traffic drastically increased. Like a house address, IP addresses are especially important, so computers on the world wide web know what device requested data and where and how to reach it.

How to Find Someone's Exact Location with IP Address

Publicly available IP address lookup services can provide someone's general location using their IP address. However, finding an exact IP location, like a house address, is more complicated as service providers generally do not make this information available to the public.

Mostly, the information obtained from an IP search will be enough to narrow down a person's exact location if they live in a small town. However, in larger cities, using the information from an IP address lookup to find a person's exact location can be challenging, especially without additional information from the subject's service provider.

IP Address Tracker

The only information required to use an IP address tracker is the quarter of numbers that make up the subject's IP address. Finding this information as a third party can be challenging since most devices use a public IP address that changes frequently. Despite this change, the location of an IP address will remain the same unless the subject uses a proxy server or VPN. That said, interested persons may find someone's location with an IP address lookup by following these steps:

  • Find the IP address of interest
  • Visit the IP address tracker website or online tool
  • Input the IP address into the search bar
  • Click search and wait for the result
  • Look for the geolocation metadata

IP address trackers are available online, and a search engine query with the words "IP address tracker" or "IP location" will furnish the searcher with a deluge of options.

Where Do I Conduct a Free IP Address Lookup?

Some organizations and third parties provide free IP address lookup services. Finding third parties that provide this service requires performing a search engine query with the entry "free IP address lookup".

However, searchers are advised to avoid dubious service providers and malicious websites. Instead, consider using the databases, search tools, or free IP address lookup services provided by reputable companies and organizations in charge of managing IP address allocation in the first place. These include:

  • Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA)
  • AFRINIC for searching IP addresses originating in Africa
  • ARIN for searching IP addresses in the United States, Antarctica, Canada, and parts of the Caribbean
  • LACNIC for searching IP addresses assigned to persons in the Caribbean and Latin America
  • APNIC for searching IP addresses in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania
  • RIPE NCC for searching IPs in Europe, West Asia, Central Asia, and Russia.

Can Police Track an IP Address?

Not directly. While law enforcement may document IP addresses associated with illegal online activities, the agencies do not have the necessary tools or database to uncover the owner's real identity. Thus, the information available to the police with an IP address tracker will be the same as that available to the public.

However, in criminal investigation cases where law enforcement must uncover an IP address's owner, law enforcement can contact the internet service provider that assigned that address. In such cases, the ISP will only comply if the police provide strong, factual evidence and a court order to that effect. Such situations typically arise in cases of cyberstalking that resulted in serious bodily harm or death, where the subject created, accessed, or distributed pornography involving minors, human trafficking, or similar cases involving the exploitation of adults or minors. Cases such as cyberattacks that resulted in the loss of money or intellectual property may also qualify for the ISP to disclose the identity or contact information of an IP address owner. Internet piracy and bypassing content restrictions seldom qualify.

How Many IP Addresses are There in the US?

Public data shows over 1.5 billion IPv4 and 9.69 x 10^34 IPv6 addresses are assigned to internet-enabled devices and websites across the United States. The scale of these addresses is possible because of the possible combinations to make a quartet with numbers from 0 to 255. This is also necessary because IP addresses are dynamic - they change every time a device connects to the internet. Dynamic IP addresses are also more secure and improve online privacy.

How Many Websites are Hosted in the US?

Data aggregated from the web hosting industry show that over 100 million websites (more specifically, domain names) are registered in the United States. This figure represents less than 5% of the 2 billion domain names registered globally. Despite the number of registered domain names, only a fraction are active, and even a smaller fraction are popular with internet visitors.

Notable IP Address Cases in the US

IP addresses have been the subject of debates on internet privacy and digital safety in the United States, with several states enacting laws to protect residents reasonably. However, the consensus and court opinions from cases involving IP addresses is that these numbers alone are not admissible as determinate identifiers.

A notable case where US courts have maintained this opinion was Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (2014).

Still, courts maintain that privacy laws do not protect internet activity and information like IP addresses, which users voluntarily disclose to service providers or fail to protect from disclosure. Notable cases where this stance was called into question include United States v. Petraeus (2011), United States v. Broadhurst (2012), United States v. Johnson (2016), and United States v. Christie (2010).

Web Hosting Companies in the US

Web hosting companies operate servers where websites can host their content and where devices on the web can find them when users go online. In addition to hosting, web hosting companies also provide other services, including domain name registration and cybersecurity.

There are hundreds of web hosting companies in the US, each offering different types of hosting depending on their clients' needs. The most common kinds of hosting are shared hosting, WordPress hosting, and cloud hosting. Some prominent companies that offer hosting services in the US are Hostinger, BlueHost, WordPress, Google, GoDaddy, Ionos, and DreamHost.

Web hosting companies often, but not always, serve as IP providers. Most popular IP providers serve the public, although some only cater to enterprise, business, or private needs. Some prominent IP providers in the US are AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Starlink, Google Fiber, Cox, CenturyLink, EarthLink, Charter Communications, and Windstream Communications. In addition, interested persons may use the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics database to lookup ISPs.

What is IP Geolocation?

IP geolocation involves using an IP lookup tool to obtain geographical information about a domain name or IP address, including the specific country, region (city), latitude/longitude, and timezone of the search subject. While the information obtained from a typical IP address lookup tool is broader, IP geolocation filters the data to retrieve only relevant geographical information. IP geolocation can be useful when tracking down an email sender or researching the content delivery networks for large, global websites like Amazon, the BBC, or Twitter.

How to Find My IP Geolocation

Persons who wish to find their IP geolocation may use online search engines or command-line tools. The former option is recommended for persons without technical knowledge and who prefer simple, graphical presentations of the search results. The latter option is recommended for advanced searchers who can install special software or operating systems to carry out their search. Either way, both methods of finding IP geolocation require that the search turn off their proxy servers or VPNs if any. Otherwise, the search result will be inaccurate.

How to Conduct an IP Geolocation Lookup

The process for conducting an IP geolocation lookup is similar to an IP address check using an IP location lookup tool. The searcher needs to obtain the specific IP address of interest and input it into the geolocation database. The search tool will return the geographical data associated with the IP address searched.

Where to Perform a Free IP Geolocation Lookup

Most IP address lookup service providers facilitate free IP geolocation searches. Interested persons may do a free IP geolocation lookup by using the aforementioned service providers or searching online for more tools.