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Incognia's advanced geolocation solution

Dive deep into the fascinating world of geolocation technology, tracing its evolution from the advent of GPS to the advanced array of geolocation solutions in use today. Learn how these solutions are used for real-time fraud detection, account takeover prevention, and improved transaction verification.

Geolocation technology has been a game-changer across various industries, revolutionizing the way businesses operate and interact with their customers. While it is widely recognized for its contributions to personalized marketing and improved logistics, one application that often goes unnoticed is its role in fraud prevention.

As online transactions have become commonplace, digital fraud has become a severe concern for businesses and consumers alike, necessitating robust security measures. This blog post will delve into the intricacies of geolocation technology and discuss how it improves fraud detection and prevention, leading to a greater sense of security in the digital landscape.

A brief history of location-based technologies 

Geolocation technology, as we know it today, has come a long way since its origins. To help us understand it, let’s start with a definition: Geolocation technology is any technology used to determine the physical location of people or objects. The concept of identifying a person's location dates back centuries, with the ancient Greeks and Romans using celestial navigation for mapping and exploration. 

Fast forward to the 20th century: The advent of the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) in 1973 heralded a new age in location-based technology. However, the GPS we're familiar with today wasn't readily available until the 1990s, when it stopped being a strictly military or logistical tool and opened up for civilian use. 

The turn of the millennium saw the integration of GPS with mobile phones, marking a significant milestone in the convergence of location technology and personal devices. This paved the way for the rise of location-based services and applications, transforming how we interact with our surroundings. 

The introduction of smartphones equipped with built-in GPS and internet connectivity around 2007 was the next big leap. This revolutionized the way we navigate the world, bringing precise, real-time location data to our fingertips

Today, geolocation technology is more advanced and accessible than ever, used in everything from navigation and social networking to fraud prevention and beyond. 

What kinds of geolocation solutions exist today?

There is a wide array of geolocation solutions in use today, each using different technologies to determine location. Perhaps the most familiar is GPS, which triangulates position based on signals received from multiple satellites. However, GPS isn't the only game in town. There's also IP geolocation, which determines a device's location based on its internet protocol address. While not as precise as GPS, it can be useful for identifying general areas, such as a city or country.

Another technology that’s used for geolocation is Wi-Fi positioning, which uses the signal strength of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots to deduce a device's location. This can be particularly effective in urban environments, where hotspots are plentiful. Cell tower triangulation is another method, using the signal strength from multiple cell towers to pinpoint a device's position.

Last but not least, there are Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons, small devices that broadcast a Bluetooth signal that can be detected by smartphones or other Bluetooth-enabled devices. When a device comes within range of a beacon, the beacon can determine that device’s approximate location.

Each of these technologies has its strengths and weaknesses, and the best solution often involves a combination of these technologies. The right blend of geolocation solutions will depend on the specific use case, whether it's locating a lost device, providing targeted advertising, or enhancing security through fraud prevention.

What are the benefits of geolocation for fraud prevention? 

Location technology that got its start helping guide ships in the darkness is just as useful for guiding fraud prevention experts in their mission to secure customer accounts and prevent fraud losses for their employers. It turns out that where we are is a strong signal for identifying who we are—and that we are who we should be (like an authorized account holder, for instance). Location for fraud prevention has numerous benefits that apply across different industries. 

  • Improved transaction verification: Geolocation solutions can help verify the legitimacy of a transaction by matching the location of the purchase with the known location of the customer. For instance, if a credit card transaction occurs in a different country from where the card owner resides, it could signal potential fraud.

  • Location-based authentication: Geolocation can be used for secondary authentication. In addition to password entry, the user's location can be checked to ensure it aligns with their usual login locations. Any significant deviation could trigger additional security checks.

  • Prevention of account takeovers: By keeping track of where users typically log in from, geolocation technology can help detect unusual login patterns. If an account is accessed from a location not usually associated with the user, this can be a red flag for potential account takeover.

  • Real-time fraud detection: With the ability to track the location of a device in real time, geolocation solutions can quickly detect and prevent fraudulent activities, such as suspicious logins or transactions. Immediate alerts can be sent to users when abnormal location behavior is detected on the account, allowing users and administrators to quickly step in and secure the affected account. 

  • Risk assessment: Geolocation can help in assessing the risk of a transaction based on the location. Certain areas may be known for high fraud rates, and transactions originating from these areas can be subjected to additional scrutiny.

In essence, geolocation solutions can add an extra layer of security that goes beyond traditional username and password protection. By incorporating location information into their security protocols, businesses can significantly enhance their fraud prevention efforts.

What to look for in a geolocation solution

Used correctly, geolocation can be a powerful upgrade to a fraud team’s toolkit. With that said, fraudsters also know about geolocation technology, and they’ll do all they can to outfox it and continue committing abuse against their targets. That’s why, for geolocation to be at its most effective, it needs to have tamper-resistance

For instance, when platforms use GPS or IP addresses alone for geolocation, bad actors know how to circumvent them. GPS can be spoofed as easily as downloading an app and putting in the fake location they’d like transmitted from their device. IP addresses can be masked or changed using proxy servers or VPNs. 

In order for geolocation to be persistent even despite spoofing attempts, multiple signals should be used. Incognia’s solution uses a combination of location signals, including GPS, cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, and others. Incognia also pairs geolocation with device intelligence for an extra layer of security and context. Using a multitude of signals gives us a tamper-resistant solution that sticks even when fraudsters try to disguise their device and avoid detection.

Geolocation technology plays a pivotal role in our modern digital landscape, contributing significantly to various sectors, including navigation, social networking, advertising, logistics, and, importantly, digital security. 

By providing an additional layer of authentication and enabling real-time fraud detection, geolocation solutions are an integral part of robust security measures against online fraud. As these technologies continue to evolve and become even more precise and reliable, we can anticipate a future where digital transactions are safer, more secure, and more efficient than ever before.