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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.
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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 bigger countries usually have lots of servers and options available but if you’re looking for something like a Polish proxy that can sometimes be a little more challenging.

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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Netflix Blocking Proxies and VPNs

For years people have been using proxies and VPNs not only for security but to bypass the increasing number of filters and blocks that exist online.   In the internet’s early days, these didn’t really exist – if you put up a web page you allowed everyone to access it.   Obviously there were some exceptions but on the whole most sites were accessible to all, irrespective of your location.   Those days have long gone now, with Government’s increasingly operating their own filters and censorship ranging from the ridiculous total block of North Korea to the lighter touch of Western democracies.

In fact, most filtering is now done by the websites themselves usually in the cause of profit maximisation.  Most of the world’s biggest media sites for example will analyse your physical location before deciding what you can access, the internet is pretty much multi-tiered.   Which is why being able to bypass these artificial restrictions is so important to many people – and why Netflix blocking proxies and VPNs is upsetting so many people.

You see, for years people have been paying for a Netflix subscription in countries where it’s technically not available.   There were an estimated quarter of a million Netflix subscribers in Australia years before it was even launched there, people just fired up an American based VPN and access the US site instead.  They all paid, they all had valid subscriptions except without a VPN they’d have had to fly to the US to use them.   Now Netflix has launched in many more countries, except there’s still a problem – the quality and quantity of movies available varies widely.   For example none of the regional versions of Netflix are anywhere near as good as the US one despite the costs being pretty much identical.   So the VPN was still used to access the preferred version of Netflix not the one foisted upon you due to your location.

Unfortunately in the last few weeks this has changed and the vast majority of VPNs and proxies no longer work with Netflix – they are blocked almost completely.   Netflix have adopted a different approach to most media companies who try and individually block VPNs, they have blocked all commercial IP addresses – just watch this quick video.

As you can see to bypass Netflix’s blocks you must not only use a VPN service but it must also originate from residential classified IP addresses – the one’s that are normally assigned from your ISP. These are unfortunately much more difficult to acquire than commercial addresses which is why most VPNs topped working as they were all based in commercial datacentres. Everyone using a VPN or a proxy would receive a warning message instead of being able to access the Netflix site.

It is quite an aggressive move though and many more people use commercial IP addresses without intending to bypass any blocks. Lots of corporate laptops for example use a VPN as standard simply because of the added security, anyone trying to watch Netflix from their work PC will also be blocked. IN fact Netflix is in some ways stopping the use of what is actually a sensible and secure way of accessing the internet. Using a VPN is pretty much essential for people who want to access secure sites while travelling for example.

How many of these companies are able to adapt to using residential IP addresses is unclear at the moment. Overall Netflix has currently succeeded in stopping access from the vast majority of services, there are a few like Identity Cloaker which have updated their infrastructure but it is a costly experience.

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Netflix Launches Polish Service

Netflix one of the world’s largest online media services has announced a new phase in it’s expansion plans.  It comes at a time when for the first time in it’s history, Netflix is seeing a slowdown in subscriber growth.   One of the reasons, although there are several, is the fact that currently Netflix mainly provides English language content.  Although this is the biggest worldwide market it does limit it’s appeal in many countries.

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Poland is one of those places, although it represents one of the biggest TV markets in Europe – English language programmes are a relatively niche market without widespread appeal.   This situation is repeated in many countries across the world where Netflix has provided the service but has yet to see any real expansion.   The media giant has decided to ‘go local’ and is using Poland as a pilot for it’s new phase of expansion.

The media giant aims to provide 80% of the content on it’s Polish version of Netflix in the Polish language.  That is either the audio dubbed into Polish or Polish subtitles provided on all English films, movies and shows.  It is hoped that this will greatly improve the appeal of the service and indeed maybe even lead to a surge in subscribers from the UK who already use a Polish proxy to access domestic TV stations like TV which are also region locked.

If successful we can see this being expanded into other regions where the take up on English language versions of Netflix is poor.  Expansion into places like China would obviously be a likely step but also boosting already available regions in South America and Japan who have some local content but it is largely English language content.

Netflix have also commissioned several shows from local talent including a few stand up comics and entertainers from Poland in a further effort to produce a more local version.   It also hopes that this will help to stop current subscribers from switching versions by changing their IP address, although Netflix has already been blocking access to with it’s well publicized Netflix VPN ban, there are still millions of subscribers who don’t stick to their region locked version of the service.

This however is likely to continue until Netflix is able to finally produce a standard global service which is accessible to all irrespective of the location they are in.   For example it’s obviously unfair for Canadian subscribers to pay the same price for a small percentage of the content available across the US border.

 

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New Proxy Sites 2016

In days gone by, the search for proxies was a legitimate one – there were lots around although once found most soon became overloaded.  It’s a similar situation today, you can still search for new proxy sites 2016 but in reality if they’re free they’ll be fairly useless and utterly slow.

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So why do people still search for new proxies online? Well to some extent it’s misinformation – thinking that proxies can bypass firewalls, content filters and the ubiquitous region locks that most internet media sites enforce.   You think you can access the US version of Netflix using a proxy or download BBC shows to your hard drive – think again, those days are long gone.

Proxies are now fairly useless in all these instances, virtually every media site can detect and block them automatically and even the most antiquated content filter will detect and restrict them and they offer more security risks than benefits too.   On the client side, there’s very little point in using a proxy in 2016 although they still have value on the server side.   To take control of your surfing you really need something a little more advanced such as a SSH tunnel or VPN.

The problem is that although proxies were freely available, mostly left open by accident, VPNs take time and effort to configure and support.  They also cost a significant amount of money – so there are no free VPNs available (beware some pretend they are, but reuse your connection to fee paying customers like Hola).   Unfortunately those days of grabbing a bunch of free proxies to access Facebook at work or streaming the BBC Olympics to your PC while lazing next to a Spanish swimming pool.

In fact you even need to take care on choosing which VPN you use, because even when paying many won’t even work for bypassing even the most simplistic region locks.  If correctly configured they are still difficult to detect however many of the basic VPN providers don’t do this correctly – failing in the basic configuration steps required to maintain the anonymity of a VPN.

So it’s probably not worth anyone’s time searching for proxies any more, if you need to bypass a block or access a site – start checking out VPNs and SSH tunnels as these are what’s required.  Remember they cost a lot of money to run and must be configured properly, so there are no free ones available.  Any that look free are either subsidized by advertising which is fine, or some re-use your connection while you are connected which is a very, very bad idea.

 

 

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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.

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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.