Measuring Irregular Geographic Exposure on the Internet

Jordan Holland, Jared M. Smith, and Max Schuchard

In this work, we examine to what extent the Internet’s routing infrastructure needlessly exposes network traffic to nations geographically irrelevant to packet transmission. We quantify what countries are geographically logical to see on a network path traveling between two nations through the use of convex hulls circumscribing major population centers, and then compare that to the nation states observed in over 2.5 billion measured paths. We examine both the entire geographic topology of the Internet and a subset of the topology as a user would typically interact with the topology. Our results show that 44% of paths concerning the entire geographic topology of the Internet unnecessarily expose traffic to at least one nation. Furthermore, 33% of the user experience paths we have examined expose traffic to at least one nation. As an example, when considering the entire geographic topology of the Internet, we see that Great Britain transits 20% of the paths examined when they are not the source or destination of the path, and only 6.5% of that traffic is geographically normal. Finally, we examine what happens when countries exercise both legal and physical control over ASes transiting traffic, gaining access to traffic outside of their geographic borders, but carried by organizations that fall under a particular country’s legal jurisdiction. When considering both the physical and legal countries that a path traverses, our results show that at least 49% of paths in both measurements expose traffic to a geographically irrelevant country.