General Question

iRemy_y's avatar

Is it possible to locate where someone's computer is?

Asked by iRemy_y (550points) January 3rd, 2010

Is it possible to locate someones computer either by email, msn, skype, aim, or just an online chat without any other information? Like the FBI and CIA do in movies.

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16 Answers

poisonedantidote's avatar

as long as you have a way of seeing their IP number you can, assuming its not a dynamic IP and they are not using a proxy. but there is no guarantee how precise and reliable the trace is.

i imagine law enforcement just go to the ISP with a warrant or something and get the information like that.

you can probably find out someones IP by just knowing their email or msn, maybe with some 3rd party software. but its not something i really know that much about so im not that 100% sure.

Spinel's avatar

Every computer has an IP address. If you want, you can see yours here. That IP address is like a street address of a house. It reveals location, but is in no way nearly as specific Often the state (or province) is right, but the city is not.

And yes, its not to hard to find someone else’s IP. Every time a person comments or even visits a website, his or her IP address will often by picked up by a web visitors statics code within the webpage.

I’m not sure how the FBI gets their information. I would assume they are able to track a suspect’s activity and extract hints from that.

jrpowell's avatar

You could send them a link to a image that you host and check the logs for an IP. I have done it.

iRemy_y's avatar

so does that mean, if lets say i meet someone on AIM or MSN, they could track me?

dutchbrossis's avatar

Yes if you can see their IP address.

Snarp's avatar

I don’t know what security is like on AIM or MSN, but honestly, if they are allowing the party on the receiving end of the chat to access your IP, then their security sucks and they are being completely unethical. Basically any website you access knows your IP address, otherwise it can’t send the website back to your computer. But what that website does with your IP address is up to the website. They shouldn’t let third parties (whoever you are chatting or IMing with) see your IP address, but that doesn’t mean they don’t.

iRemy_y's avatar

ok so the IP of a computer is the adress, but what about laptops? can u find the internet connection a person is using from their laptop to find wat continent they’re in?

eeveegurl's avatar

@iRemy_y – Yes. Everything that’s connected to the internet, whether it be a desktop, a laptop, or even an iPhone, is given an IP address.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

If you use a satellite hookup your IP address could be anywhere in the world.

Snarp's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Not exactly. Each satellite can only cover so much territory, so you can get some idea of the location. Each satellite probably has a batch of IP addresses, so at least the police could figure out which satellite you were on, even if that information can’t be obtained by a standard IP check. I imagine that they could get even more accurate than that based on signal strength and whether other satellites are receiving the signal as well, but I don’t imagine the necessary hardware and software are in place to track that.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

So tracking somebody like bin Laden is a bit simpler, but not close enough to pinpoint?

casheroo's avatar

@johnpowell That doesn’t go for like, Photobucket, though right?

iRemy_y's avatar

@casheroo i think it has to be set up to track it. so i doubt popular sites like photobucket do that.

rottenit's avatar

Usualy, with some person to person communicaiton because there is no direct communication between the source pc and the destination pc, it is not that easy to get the IP address as someone else said most commercial services, but when you use ceritan IM services (video, audio, file transfer etc.) you are making a point to point connection and you could see the other users IP address with some tools.

With an IP address you can track down a general person’s area:

After you know what ISP the person is using they either have to have a warrant or the ISP needs to be participating in one of the few federal backdoor programs ( federal law enforcement/intelligence) have access to logs & customer data to make the connections (presumably with a warrant but sometimes not) see:

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