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Why Do People Search for Proxy Sites?

So why do people search for new proxy sites constantly?  Often the reason is that they’ve heard that free proxies will make them surf like a web ninja and be able to bypass all the blocks and filters that currently exist online.  Alas both of these are  very far from the truth.
proxy sites
The problem with these proxies is that firstly many of them are extremely insecure (lots are actually run by criminals who want to steal usernames and passwords),  the other is that they are  slow and unreliable simply because they’re overloaded and not configured correctly.  Free proxies sound good, but nobody who know anything about the risks would ever use them.

But first of all it’s best to define what exactly is a proxy server. Often people have a completely false idea of what it entails.

In a practical context a proxy server is a computer that acts as an intermediary between a workstation and the internet.  So instead of a request for a web page going directly to the site, the request first goes to the proxy server which downloads the web page and forwards it back to the client.

This has two main implications –

  • The Web server has no record of the workstation’s IP address.
  • The proxy server handles all web requests for the client.

These are the main reasons, proxies are used to enhance your online privacy.  They effectively add a layer of anonymity to your web browsing ensuring the web site you visit has no record of your location.

Unfortunately it’s not that clear cut and the main issue that many people forget is that in some senses you are actually adding a layer of risk to your browsing.  The reason is that although your IP address is not logged on the web site you visit (which should only see the proxy)  it is logged on the proxy server itself.  In fact the proxy server potentially holds a complete and total list of your entire browsing history.

This is the reason that hackers and cyber criminals set up free proxies online and let anyone use them.  It’s not some sense of free spirit or egalitarian ideals, it’s because the owner of a proxy is potentially able to intercept all the user’s web transactions.  So they become a handy source of usernames, account details and passwords from the unsuspecting users of the proxy.

Of course not all the free proxies available online are run by hackers and thieves, some are just accidentally left open or occasionally even set up for no gain.  These however soon get flooded with users and hence people find themselves locked into this constant search for the latest free proxies which have not yet been overloaded.

When a new proxy server initially  appears online, it is pretty quickly well known and very well used – within hours it will be overloaded and too slow to use. Hence the search, if you find a proxy quickly you can get a few hours use of it.  What’s worse the scourge of geo-targeting means that people will often need a server in a specific location, perhaps a US one or a German proxy site dependent on what they want to access and their current location.

The reality is now that basic proxies aren’t enough any more, even commercial ones.  Many of the big media sites can detect the use of simple proxy sites.  To stay secure and to bypass geotargeting on the BBC Iplayer, Hulu, Netflix and Youtube you need to include a level of encryption too.  So you’d be best moving on from simple proxies with all their inherent risks and look at security products like Identity Cloaker which offer a secure VPN solution which keeps all your browsing private and encrypted whilst allowing access to all the world’s top media channels.

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UK Proxy Sites

Many people discover when  they go on holiday or start travelling that the internet changes depending on where you happen to be.  Of course some of it is expected, fire up Google using an access point in a  Spanish cafe and you’ll not be surprised to find the Spanish version.  What happens is that Google looks up your location and redirects you to the most appropriate version of the search engine interface – in this case Google.es.

This makes sense and is actually quite useful but unfortunately the same technology is used in other ways.   It called geotargetting and basically when you visit a web site it takes your IP address and looks up what location it’s registered to, this is then used to either tailor, block or filter what you can see on that site.      This is where the problem lies when a US citizen tries to access a US only site from a foreign country they’ll get blocked.   Someone from the UK on holiday who logs on to the BBC iPlayer site expecting to watch the news online will also get blocked.

The list is endless, more and more sites are operating in this way meaning what you access from your home country will vary widely when you travel.   However there is a way of bypassing these filters and accessing any site, you can watch the BBC from Greece using a UK proxy site to hide  your location.

Here’s a simple explanation of how it’s done:

However we should clarify something, in the video above the program was not actually connecting to a UK proxy online, the server actually was something called a VPN server. It works in a similar way to a proxy but is much more difficult to detect. As of this year, most of the biggest media sites block access is you attempt to use a proxy server in order to bypass their blocks. VPN (virtual private network) servers are much more difficult to detect and block than proxies.

It’s probably too early to guess where this battle is going to head. Many of us hope that these companies block this practice of segregating web users by their location, although as it helps maximize profits this may never happen.

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Using an Internet Protocol Proxy – US IP Proxies

Well that’s sounds a mouthful but using something to hide and route your IP address is one of the most useful tools you’ll find online.  An IP proxy is simply a server which routes all your internet requests and forwards them on, it’s a little like using a separate mailing address – everything works the same but nobody finds out your real address.  The server just receives your request for a web page and forwards it, then when the reply is received that’s passed on to you.  No information is changed or modified, yet your privacy is maintained.

There are numerous advantages to this, but certainly privacy is one of the important one.  Most websites now record and analyse all their visitors, plus your web traffic is also logged at your ISP.  How many logs and who can access them is usually reliant on the location of your ISP and the target server, but let’s face it the US and American Intelligence agencies don’t really bother with things like that.  As long as you trust the owner of the IP proxy then it adds a significant layer of privacy to your connection.

Here’s a quick video which demonstrates a US IP proxy in action:

You can see that there is another important function available to routing your address through another server, basically the ability to access content which is normally blocked. For instance in our example the user is based in the UK, and so everything he does online is based on that location. This is fine for accessing UK based resources but when trying to access US web sites it becomes a bit more problematic. So you’ll see one minute you can happily be watching Test Match Special or Dr Who on the BBC iPlayer, but try and switch to catch an episode of the Walking Dead on HBO and you’ll be blocked. Same goes for Pandora, Hulu, NBC and virtually any US media site worth watching.

So this is where routing your address through an IP proxy comes in handy. If you switch to one based in the USA you’ll effectively have a US IP address irrespective of where you happen to be physically located. Suddenly all the US based web sites, any American only videos become accessible – you’ve effectively changed your internet nationality with a click of a button. Of course, it’s fairly ridiculous that this is even necessary using a global medium like the internet, but sadly it’s becoming more and more segregated as the big multi-nationals try and split up their markets to maximise profits.

On a final note, there are many different technologies that support IP routing however almost all of these now are detectable (and blocked) by the big websites.  Make sure whatever service you choose is a VPN that encrypts your initial connection.  These cannot currently be detected as long as they’re configured correctly although the biggest media companies like Netflix actively block these service manually.

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Choosing the Best VPN for Netflix

It seems that the days of proxies are numbered at least as far as bypassing geo-blocks from the big media sites are concerned. Slowly but surely they have introduced proxy detecting technology which blocks the use of straight forward proxies from accessing their sites. This is of course, very annoying for owners of blogs called newproxies.com and for the many people who access these sites from a corporate or educational network which normally use proxies to reduce load on their networks (proxies are great for caching).

Try and access a site like Hulu, Netflix or even the BBC iPlayer using a proxy to hide your real location and you’ll be found out. However fear not, there is hope in a very familiar format the VPN (Virtual Private Network) service of which you’ll find many. These are more advanced versions of the simple proxy server which both encrypt and hide your location much more securely, more importantly the big media sites are unable to determine whether a VPN is being used.

What About VPN BLocks?

SO if they can’t detect a VPN in use, why is there so much chatter about sites like Netflix and BBC declaring war on VPNs and blocking them from accessing? Well the simple fact is that although Netflix and others can’t actually detect a specific VPN connection being used, they can create blacklists of suspected VPN IP addresses. It’s not that hard to do, look for some simple patterns and multiple connections (sometimes many thousands) occurring from a single IP address and you’ve likely got a proxy or VPN server.

On the other side of the battle, the VPN providers simply need to swap out their IP addresses to new ones that aren’t blacklisted. This is the situation we are in now, with VPN services being blocked then working again as the addresses are switched.   Much depends on how many resources are put into detecting and blocking VPN addresses, at the moment Netflix are being extremely aggressive with many large providers being blocked en mass.

bestnetflixvpn

So how do you go about finding the best VPN for Netflix, well for a start it’s best to look for a low key security service rather than a VPN service which advertises the TV watching potential openly.   These are the ones that legal departments will target, companies who openly promote the facility to watch things like Netflix and BBC iPlayer – they are the most likely to permanently put out of business.   What you need is those who market themselves as security providers, remember there’s nothing particularly different between a security VPN than one marketed as a TV watching service.  The fact is that the security companies will not be targets, although there IP addresses will still be registered when they connect.

The next bit of advice is to contact the company, are they committed to switching IP addresses out if they get blocked from services.  Alternatively just try a trial or short subscription first and see how it works out, if your access is being maintained under the current barrage they should be a safer bet for a longer subscription.  Feel free to add a comment on any service that is still working ok with Netflix.

Further Reading:

For Other Best Netflix VPN Options – http://thenewproxies.com/choosing-the-best-vpn-for-netflix/

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Is it Safe to Use a VPN?

From something that’s basically designed to improve security, privacy and confidentiality – it’s often surprising that this question is asked so often. The problem I suspect is not so much suspicion about the technology but merely that often people have no idea how a Virtual Private Network actually works. Currently the numbers of people using this technology is rising at an exponential rate for a variety of reasons which include the following:

  • National/Political/Government Filtering – increasingly even moderate governments and security services are seeking to control access to internet sites to their populations. All across the world governments are using advanced controls to filter or block access to specific sites. From the extreme examples of North Korea and China to less obvious examples like Turkey and Australia, millions of web sites are blocked from various countries across the world. In most situations a secure VPN bypasses these filters.
  • Corporate/profit Maximization – companies seek to maximize profits online by operating something called price discrimination. This involves trying to sell the same product or service at the maximum price possible to different markets. This means that the same product will be offered at vastly different prices depending on your physical location. Users obviously don’t like this and using a VPN located in a different country will often allow access to the cheaper prices.
  • Licensing/Copyright Issues -similar to the above example thousands of websites restrict access based on your location due to copyright restrictions. Unfortunately this is due to a licensing model spread across the world which is simply not compatible with the global, internet enabled world. Pay for your Netflix subscription and then see it blocked or cut when you travel to another country, try and watch the BBC as a license fee payer and watch your access being restricted online because you happen to be on holiday abroad. Again a VPN bypasses these restrictions by hiding your true location.

This list is not complete, in fact there are many other reasons why people use VPNs including the desire for some basic privacy from the huge surveillance efforts of the world’s security efforts plus the risk from cyber thieves using similar techniques to steal your personal information.   It is not surprising that the demand is rising, but is a VPN safe – here’s a video.

So what are the risks? Well most of the issues with using a VPN lie with the supplier in both technical and legal competence. Unfortunately it is relatively easy to set up a VPN service and to sell that service onto to other users. However setting up a secure and safe VPN requires a high investment in infrastructure particularly in the servers that operate the network and technical knowledge to both set up the services securely and support them.

Remember when a VPN is enabled you are routing all your network traffic through those specific servers, potentially trusting your entire connection through the company who runs the VPN. Mostly this is not a problem but you should do your due diligence and ensure you’re dealing with a proper business rather than a group of college kids messing around with their University data centres.

A fast, secure VPN service provides a high level of both privacy and security online as long as it is configured and run correctly. It ensures that all your data is encrypted and also hands you to the ability to hide and control your digital location. Whether you just want to watch a different version of Netflix or watch your home News station online while travelling then a VPN is for you. A VPN is not insecure to use, in fact it’s exactly the opposite as long as it’s run correctly.

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How to Access RTE and TV3 From Anywhere

When travelling abroad, you’ll often find people going to extraordinary lengths to catch up with news from their home. Years ago it involved buying three day old copies of crap newspapers at ten times their face value just to find out the football results. The internet has of course changed all this, meaning that you can find out this information anywhere which has a wireless or phone signal.

However the global information network of the web has not solved all these issues, although it has undoubtedly changed the way we can access information like this. The problem is not now that the information is not there, it’s just sometimes you get blocked from accessing it depending on your location.

Take for example my friend, who hales from the beautiful city of Cork in Southern Ireland – who works in several European countries in a shift rotation. He is a huge Gaelic football fan and will happily watch any match between any team whenever he gets the chance. Unfortunately this particular form of football is not widely followed outside Ireland and the only real coverage is available from the Irish broadcasters like RTE and TV3. No problem, you’d think as both these broadcast companies operate extensive web sites and rebroadcast most of their shows online. Except, the moment you leave the Republic of Ireland, then these shows mostly become inaccessible.

Again it’s our old friend, geo-targeting where web sites determine your location before deciding what you can see. Like most large broadcasters this means, that RTE and TV3 block most of their content outside Ireland – unless you use the very same technique most of us use to watch BBC iPlayer in Ireland .

So suddenly, location becomes immaterial again – simply fire up a proxy in the correct country and you can access whatever you like online. So my friend would simply start the subscription service he uses, connect to an Irish based server and then visit the RT3 site for instance.

Because the website would not see the real location, only that of the proxy server then nothing would be blocked at all. My friend could sit in a hotel room in Sweden and happily watch the latest Gaelic football thriller as if he was at home in County Cork.

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US Media Needs Quick American Proxies

I’m forever being asked about free proxies or VPNs, because it’s the internet and you can find everything for free somewhere – right?  Well although that’s true that you can download pirated games and films, stream pirated copies of music and cracked versions of computer software.  However there’s a fundamental difference with proxies and VPN servers and such material – that is they cost money to supply and keep running.  Every single byte of data passing through these servers incurs a cost, plus if they are going to be safe and not siphon off your personal details or riddle your PC with viruses, they need ongoing support from technical staff.

It all costs money and without a subscription charge it’s simply doesn’t make sense.   So that free proxy server you found online is either hacked or being used to install malware or steal your login credentials.  Want to swap the use of a proxy for free access to your Paypal and email account ?  Well that’s effectively what you’re doing using these proxies and VPNs that you can find online for free.

There is another reason, not to use free servers apart from the security risk and that’s speed.  Even ignoring the privacy concerns anything available for free is going to run like it’s connected to an dial up 28.8k modem, if you remember these you ain’t going to want to relive the experience.   Without speed connecting your entire online experience through an intermediate server is going to be very, very painful and streaming video is just not going to work.  To access the wonderful world of American based media sites for example you’ll need a fast USA proxy to maintain sanity.

This video demonstrates how to access the AMC site which has some of my favorite shows – including the Walking Dead. This streams perfectly across private proxy services that had enough bandwidth and throughput without endless buffering. There’s nothing to stop you trying to find a fast, free proxy service of course, and you might argue that if you only stream videos and don’t access anything confidential you’ll be ok. The reality is that the risks will still exist but you won’t actually find a fast one anyway.

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Does Internet Crime Pay?

Too right it does!  For anyone who thinks cyber crime is just a tabloid headline or a story spread by scaremongering geeks is I’m afraid very much mistaken – cyber crime is rife and pays extremely well.   Forget about the big million dollar stuff, it’s small to moderate stuff that the smarter crooks are targeting – in many cases it doesn’t even get reported as companies are reluctant to admin security breaches.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Centre

Here’s a very recent example that happened to a private medical centre in Hollywood, USA.  The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Centre has just paid a $17,000 ransom to a hacking group who installed malware on their computer systems which then encrypted key files.  There are limited details of the exact nature of the attack, but it is believed that it was  simply a classic ransomware exploit.

Ransomware is  simple but very effective malicious software which usually operates in a couple of main ways – it’s focus is denying access rather than actually stealing data.

  • Screen Locking – the malware will lock your computer screen or prevent you logging in, effectively stopping all access to the computer.  It’s often accompanied with a request for a ‘fine or donation’ payment to remove the screen lock.
  • Encryption – this won’t touch your computer system or applications but will encrypt data files effectively blocking your access to them.  The ransomware will usually offer to sell you the decryption key

The screen lock type is usually fairly simple to bypass if you have some knowledge and the right tools. However to decrypt the files you’ll need the private key which was used to encrypt them in the first place.

Which is why the hospital was forced to pay the ransom, despite the obvious problems with that tactic. Happily the decryption key was supplied and the hospital was able to recover it’s system and data with the help of some IT experts. Generally the criminals who use ransomware do honour the deal as it encourage future victims to pay.

It’s a good payday though for the hackers for what is likely to be little more than a few hours work. Attackers will generally pick soft targets with poor security to attack, so it’s unlikely it was that difficult to install the malware on their network.

For the attackers though. it’s the forensic investigation that is the most dangerous part of the crime.   Covering your tracks after committing a network based attack and ransom is extremely difficult to do properly, sure you can install the malware over a Tor Connection or use a safe VPN in a remote country. However you have to maintain this level of obscurement throughout the attack, specialist investigators can glean lots of information from a variety of advanced forensic tools. The FBI and US security services are notoriously aggressive in pursuing computer criminals across international borders too.

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How to Access the BBC from France

It’s only a few miles across the Channel, but for thousands of UK Expats – it means the difference between watching UK TV and getting blocked. All the British TV Stations have invested heavily in their websites and they rebroadcast most of their programmes on these sites for several weeks. There are some slight restrictions, often films and US shows are subject to strict licensing agreements so they will normally be excluded.

The reason that you will get blocked from the BBC and all the UK Television channels in France is down to something called geo-blocking. This is the practice of checking the IP address of any visitor to the site and then using that to determine what access they are allowed. The BBC is funded by the UK TV License so, it assumes that anyone outside the UK hasn’t actually bought one, which is of course often not true.

BBC IPlayer with French IP Address

This is what happens if you try and access a show from France or anywhere outside the United Kingdom. The BBC looks up your location, detects the French IP address and then blocks access to the media streamer. The site has no way of determining whether the visitor does actually pay for a UK TV license, so UK holidaymakers and travellers are similarly blocked. These restrictions are expected to change in the long term though as the European Union is trying to create a single European digital market which allows products to be transferred across boundaries within the EU.

Fortunately this is the internet and of course, there are a few simple workarounds to allow anyone to access the BBC from France, Germany or anywhere else for that matter. This video demonstrates how you can access using something called a proxy server to hide your location –

So What’s Happening?

Well this method simply involves hiding your real location by routing your internet connection through something called a proxy server. All this server does is forward and receive internet requests, but effectively hides your real location from the website you are using. This means that as long as the proxy server is based in the United Kingdom, then the website will think you are in the UK too so it will all word. If you have a selection of servers strategically placed in various different locations then you can effectively bypass all these various blocks and access whatever you like irrespective of your location.

Needless to say many of these sites are not very happy about this practice and over the years lots of them have implemented systems to detect and block the use of proxy servers. They still work on a few sites but that number is slowly dwindling, fortunately there is another very similar option which is much harder to detect called a Virtual Private Network.

A VPN operates in much the same way as a proxy server except there the communication takes place over a secure, encrypted channel – most web sites are currently unable to detect the use of a VPN. So if you want to watch the UK TV channels such as the BBC from France then investing in a British VPN like this one is probably your best option.

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Geolocation Costs you Money

THe internet is by far the biggest global market place that the world has ever seen, but it’s far from the fairest. Across the world one of the goals of economic development has been the operation of free trade, opening up markets across geographical and social divides. Of course, it doesn’t always work like this but to be fair in the infancy of the internet it came pretty close.

When sites like Amazon where in their infancy, it was quite simple to order from a different country with relatively few restrictions. I routinely used to order computer software and hardware from Amazon in France simply because it was often 20-30% cheaper than Amazon prices on their UK site. After a few years most of the sites blocked this behaviour and it became much more difficult to access regional versions of different web sites.

The reason that the internet has become so segmented is primary due to an economic concept called price discrimination.
Here’s how it’s defined on Wikipedia –
Price discrimination is a pricing strategy where identical or largely similar goods or services are transacted at different prices by the same provider in different markets

Basically to maximise profits, a company seeks to try and sell it’s product or service at different prices to different markets. Often this is difficult to do, simply because you have to keep these markets completely separate. Initially the internet made markets more accessible, and consumers used the technology to cross the geographical barriers – however now using a technology called geo-location the barriers are rising again.

Most commercial websites determine your location when you try and access their pages, they look up your IP address and then redirect you based on your location. So if you visit the BBC from outside the UK you’ll be redirected to the international version which doesn’t have any of the iPlayer functionality. So it continues – videos, films, goods and services blocked, filtered or offered at different prices according to where you logon to the web.

Unsurprisingly, this behaviour is not entirely popular and there are a myriad of technologies designed to circumvent these blocks with one of the simplest is by using proxies. Take for example if you want to access UK content but happen to be based somewhere outside the UK – by using an English proxy like the one in this video you can fool the website.

The basic idea is that if you route your internet connection through a proxy server based in a different location, then the web site thinks you are in that country too. Hence you can use an English based proxy to access UK content or sites, a French proxy to use French sites and so on. There are now even services which offer multiple proxies in a variety of countries which you can buy – like this.

The companies obviously are not happy with these services and indeed a ‘cat and mouse’ game of them blocking various proxies and VPNs addresses, then the providers switching IP address and data centres.

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An Alternative to a UK IP Proxy

Proxies have been the ‘must have’ tool for anyone who wants unrestricted and unfettered access to the internet for years.  In July 2007, the BBC launched the iPlayer application on to the internet as a ‘free catch up service’ for UK TV license payers.  A few days later thousands were already accessing the service from all over the planet, many who had never even heard of a TV license fee never mind paid it.

To be fair, the BBC has always been fairly laid back about blocking access to it’s TV services.  The official line has been that you can’t access without a) a TV license and b) being located in the UK, however this is rarely the case with no millions watching from all over the world – making the BBC a hugely important global media giant.  A very simple proxy is all you ever needed until recently to access the BBC iPlayer service.   In fact you only ever needed it until the programme started streaming to your computer, switching off the proxy was perfectly possible after the initial location checks had taken place.

Advancements have led to more sophisticated VPN based services like this one, which open up global media even more allowing you to switch your connection through a long list of different locations as you require.  However there has always been one issue, the fact that all these services have been much easier to use on a computer. The fact is that we no longer all sit at a powerful PC to access the online world, now we use all sorts of different devices like phones, games consoles and a myriad of other gadgets.  These devices can be difficult to use a VPN or proxy on, indeed some are deliberately locked down to prevent their use.

So there are now newer technologies which you can use to access blocked content.  If you want to watch the BBC iPLayer from your Spanish residence then you no longer need to try ad configure a UK IP proxy on your Smart TV you can use this –

As you can see from this video, there is no requirement here for a proxy or connection to a VPn server based somewhere. This technology is called Smart DNS and is explained on this site, but it basically works by only routing the location based queries through an intermediary proxy server everything else just streams directly.

There are numerous advantages to this method, for one it’s cheaper as the bandwidth costs are significantly reduced. However the major advantage in this world of internet connected devices is that it’s much easier to configure on things like media streamers, smart TVs and games consoles. The reason is that it doesn’t require any client based software like a VPN, and configuration needs only a change of DNS servers. At the moment this network configuration is openly accessible on most devices and modification requires no technical knowledge at all.

It’s too early to say that Smart DNS will see the demise of proxies and VPNs certainly in the media blocking world. Certainly there are restrictions, Smart DNS provides no layer of security and it could be that it is ultimately much easier to block from the media companies themselves. We’ll have updates on the developments at thenewproxies.com though so watch this space.