Tracing IP Addresses

Question: How do you trace an IP address?

The IT Guy says:
To trace the originating IP address of an Email message, first you need to examine the Internet header of the mail message. This information is generally not visible by default when an Email message is printed: see the preceding tip for suggestions on viewing Internet Headers in Email messages.

After you identify the originating IP address, the next question is: to whom does this IP address belong, and what user was assigned to use it at the time the mail message was sent? The first question can be answered using free Internet search tools. One free option is SmartWhoIs . This Web tool is nice because in addition to identifying the company or organization that owns the originating IP address, it also provides contact address info and the Email address of a network administrator.

After identifying the organization that owns an IP address, don’t jump to conclusions: this information may actually tell you very little. This is because IP addresses are owned by companies that may lease them to users in many different locations across the United States. The owning ISP will have records showing what user was assigned that IP address at the time the Email in question was sent, but this information is protected by law and may not be releasable unless law enforcement agents are requesting it, with necessary warrants or court orders. The recording industry’s efforts to sue peer-to-peer file sharers has demonstrated this recently: the RCAA has petitioned the courts (successfully in some cases, unsuccessfully in others) to force ISPs to release identity information for people who used specific IP addresses to illegally share copyrighted files.

If something illegal or potentially illegal has happened on school computers or to one of your students at school or home, the best bet (rather than playing detective and trying to trace an IP address yourself) is likely to get law enforcement officials involved. Depending on the type of alleged offenses committed, these officials may be local, state, or federal law enforcement representatives. GetNetWise has good guidelines, suggestions, and contact info for different circumstances available on "Reporting Trouble". It is a good idea to get your local school district administration and IT department involved as well, before making a report to outside authorities, so everyone is in the loop about what alleged actions took place and what steps are being taken to address them.

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