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.
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.
It’s a tool that a few years ago, nobody had any use for – after all why would anyone want an online IP changer? The reality is that the internet of a decade ago was a very different place, and although the internet has expanded over the last few years, so to has the filtering and restrictions that are placed upon it. Most of us probably realise that internet access in places like Iran and Turkey are not quite as open as in most of the European and North American democracies. However consider also that German internet surfers for example are blocked from lots of Youtube music sites due to ongoing copyright discussions, or the fact that nobody can watch the wonderful Hulu website from outside the USA.
Everything we do online is increasingly being controlled based on this unique address, before you rush off onto the command prompt or the control panel to modify your address don’t waste your time – it won’t work. Unfortunately the local IP address that we can change is pretty much irrelevant and has zero impact on your internet experience. This is because it’s not visible to anyone else anyway so can’t be used to determine your location. In reality millions of us share identical local addresses – the range of 192.168.1.xx is extrmely common being the general default for most network devices to assign to connected devices.
So if you can’t change your address, how do people bypass these blocks all the time. We’ve all seen the laptop streaming the BBC in Spanish airports, or watching a film on Hulu in a cafe in London – of course it’s possible. Here’s a little demonstration –
So as you can see it’s perfectly possible to control your web browsing, not by changing your IP address but hiding the real one. Which is why you need proxies, vpns and secure servers to act as an intermediary, to buffer your real location and identity from the websites that you visit. If set up correctly and using very fast servers the process is almost seamless, the server receives your request and forwards it to the web site which replies based on the location of the server’s ip address not yours. Expand this network to contain servers all across the world and theoretically you’ll never got blocked anywhere again.
It works well for 99% of websites out there, everything from Hulu to BBC can be access from anywhere using a well configured VPN server based in the relevant country. There are as always exceptions though, tvcatchup in the UK will block any IP ranges from ISPs and data warehouses. One big Canadian TV site online – CTV, requires you input your Cable account number before accessing so just hiding your location isn’t enough. These solutions currently work extremely well, however we’ll have to see how the filtering and blocking technology adapts over the years to come.
One of the many wonderful things about the internet, is that it gives you the chance to really learn about what’s going on across the world. Of course, in most democratic nations there are international stories and reports all the time, however these are always in the form of foreign reports and are often sporadic. After all what’s a huge news story in North America may not even register in Europe and vice-versa, every time you watch a news story unfold on your domestic news service then you see but a single viewpoint.
Of course in some countries that’s better than others – many countries even supposedly democratic ones have a very biased and political news service. It’s still a very important way of controlling information and political opinion, only the very strongest democracies have a very open news service. Places like Russia and Turkey will pretend that there news reporting is completely impartial but there’s always Government pressure and control. In my experience the European and US News services are generally pretty good although you have to be careful with which channel you’re watching there’s plenty of religious and political bias even in these countries. In fact probably one of the most independent News services in the world is often accused of both ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ bias by viewers, although in my opinion it genuinely does try and stay away from any political leanings.
If you’re keen on watching the news from around the world, the BBC is certainly one that should be on your list – this video shows you how to watch the BBC News live.
The reason that you can’t just watch the BBC from anywhere normally is because like most media services it’s restricted to the domestic market normally. This is presumably due to restrictions based on the license fee which everyone in the UK has to pay to own a TV set, which funds the BBC. However all commercial stations practice the same way with broadcasts only being allowed online for people in the home market. This is usually achieved by a process called geo-location which checks the location of your IP address when you access the site, so a UK IP address is needed for the BBC News and US one for Fox News and so on.
Which is why having some method of switching your IP address is so useful especially for those of us who like to watch the news and to be able to watch it reported from a different perspective. The program I use is called Identity Cloaker and it is the one used in the video above, it allows you to switch between proxies and is effectively a quick IP address changer. This means that from one console I have access to news channels from anywhere in the world, switching from European to North American or even Australian News stations with a simple click of the button.
It sounds a reasonable question at first – a fast free vpn, after all this is the internet and there’s always loads of free stuff around. However there is a problem and if you think about it, then it’s quite obvious. First of all a quick definition, VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network and although it has rather a wide meaning – basically in the context of this article it’s an encrypted tunnel between two computers across the internet.
One of those computers will be your PC, laptop or tablet – the other will be a specially configured server that manages that connection. It’s commonly used for secure access, most companies use VPNs to allow remote workers access to their corporate network safely. This is because it allows them to control access to outside computers and ensures that all data is protected and encrypted. It’s important the VPN server is securely configured as it is used to relay all the data from a connection. The speed, security and safety of a VPN is heavily dependent on the VPN server itself – in fact a badly configured server is actually worse than using nothing at all.
However most individuals use VPNs on their personal computers for different reasons, most commonly to access popular media sites. Most of the web’s best media sites like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, ITV, HBO and Netflix operate restrictions based on your location. So to access the BBC online from outside the United Kingdom you’ll need to route your internet connection through a UK based VPN server. The same principle applies for Hulu, US Netflix or HBO but here you must use a USA based VPN, for German TV a German proxy and so on – which is why so many people are desperate to find them.
So Where Can I find a Fast Free VPN Server
Well the simple answer is you can’t, simply because a fast VPN server costs an awful lot of money to run. First they need dedicated support staff, high specification hardware and lots of fast bandwidth all of which is very expensive. SO any ‘free VPN’ you do find will need to make money some way in order to meet these costs.
How do they make money? Well traditionally most insert adverts into your browsing, which earn them money. Some insert affiliate links too, typically to places like Amazon where they can earn commission if you click through and buy something. However there are more sinister ways to make money too, and a perfect but disturbing example has come from Hola – a free VPN/proxy service with something like 45 million users.
What they have done is to basically use the connections of all ‘free’ users of their software in a private ‘botnet’. Any user is essentially a node on their own private network, where internet traffic can be relayed through their internet connections. These connections are resold on a private security network called Illuminati where users can pay to hide their real location. Which effectively means Hola users could be relaying all sort of illegal activity through their home computers, which can be tracked back to them.
Using Hola is like installing a virus or malware on your own computer. Not only are they stealing your bandwidth but you could very well be relaying all sorts of illegal traffic through your home PC.
There is no such thing as a Free VPN server and if you’re using Hola you should remove it now !!
UK TV Reference: http://uktv-online.com/
For utmost security, simply connecting to a single proxy or VPN just isn’t enough. For a start it will be completely evident from your ISP logs that you’re using a proxy server and where it is located. Imagine instead of the logs containing lots of different locations and remote IP addresses, you’ll just have one in use all the time. Of course it’s better than using nothing at all particularly if the connection is encrypted, but it’s no where near as secure as using an elite proxy switcher program.
So what exactly is a proxy switcher and how does it work? Well the idea is to distribute your internet connection through a variety of servers all across the world. This minimizes the ‘proxy fingerprint’, meaning it’s not obvious from your logs that a proxy is being used. Also it’s much more difficult to track (in fact virtually impossible) if your connection is switching every few minutes. Here’s a quick introduction into using secure proxies, using my favorite security program Identity Cloaker.
As you can see, all proxies are not created equally in fact many you may stumble across online are inherently unsafe simply because they are so badly configured. However when the proxies are configured correctly, rotating your connection through multiple servers and hence switching your IP address every few minutes makes you connection extremely secure.
Here’s the settings for rotating in Identity Cloaker:
You have the the following options of proxy switching:
- Particular country – if you are searching or using a geo-restricted site, then you have the option of only switching between proxies in a specific country.
- Nearest Place – this is the best option if you’re concerned primarily about speed, servers will be selected based on their proximity to your current location.
- Any country – the most secure option, means that your connection can be routed through any of the servers distributed across the world.
All the above options add an extra layer of privacy, however using ‘any country’ option is probably the best for ultra security. It’s also worth considering the countries that the various proxies are located in, for instance german proxies would offer the protection of the strong EU and German privacy regulations.
Anyone who’s spent any time in Ireland and come to love some of the domestic TV channels there will be very impressed with the updated 3 Player application. 3 Player is the on demand video service which is provided by Ireland’s TV3 broadcaster. It provides access to the vast majority of programmes broadcast on both TV3 and 3E, both within the Republic of Ireland. There are a few limitations, many films and licensed shows from other broadcasters are not usually available but it is always worth checking.
The service is a few years old now, and was launched in October 2011, which replaced the original TV3 Catch up Service. I must admit I never had much luck with the TV3 Catch up player which always seemed to crash or stutter when watching any programmes irrespective of how fast my internet connection was.
3 Player is much better and well worth checking out, it is basically a catch up service which usually holds shows for 28 days after they’re broadcast. Don’t rely on this though as sometimes they can be slightly less than this, lots of shows from ITV the UK commercial broadcaster are only one for seven days for example. 3 Player is unusual though that it includes pretty much everything broadcast for free although there are quite lengthy commercials.
The main issue for anyone outside the Republic is that you’ll get blocked when you try and access anything because of your location. What you need to do is hide your real location by using an Irish proxy server like this video demonstrates –
This method simply bounces your connection through a server located in Ireland which hides your real IP address and allows you to watch the shows as if you has an Irish IP address. It does require a subscription to Identity Cloaker, although this does give access to lots more servers across the globe and it will allow you access to other Irish restricted services like RTE player.
It is worth mentioning that a simple web based Irish proxy won’t work with these services anymore as they are normally blocked. You’ll need to ensure the server is secure and ideally the connection encrypted otherwise your location will be detected especially if the proxy/vpn server is not configured correctly.
If there’s one thing I love about national broadcasters, it’s that normally they have little or no advertising on their sites. The joy of watching a one hour detective drama without four or five ad breaks is something that many of us miss when we travel abroad. It’s one reason why these companies are worth bookmarking when you come across them, particularly when so many shows are networked across all these different companies.
I first started using RTE player a few years ago after watching some news stories about the Dublin property boom. I wanted to try and dissuade a good friend for spending a huge amount of money on a tiny little house on the outskirts of Dublin. That’s a different story, however I noticed that RTE had lots of my favorite shows which I watched from my then location of Raleigh in North Carolina.
Unfortunately as is normal with most online media companies and broadcasters, the vast majority of their content is only accessible from their home country. In the US it means that we can access some of the biggest sites of course like Hulu, HBO and ABC etc but we do get blocked from some great sites like the BBC and RTE.
The restriction is based on your IP address, the network ID that is assigned to you when you connect to the internet. They are all grouped by physical location and your location can therefore be determined from this address. There are two versions of RTE Player – a domestic one and an international one, you can only access the domestic one from Ireland and the international version has very little stuff available on it. If you try and get to the domestic site of RTE player from outside Ireland you’ll get this message.
Basically saying you can’t access RTE Player unless you’re based somewhere in Ireland. All that’s happening is that when you visit the site it checks your IP address and where it’s located. Fortunately it’s fairly simple to fool this procedure and gain access to the full RTE site by simply hiding your real IP address and using one based in Ireland.
This can be done by routing through an intermediary server which is based in Ireland. You used to be able to use what’s called a proxy server but these are now detected and blocked, so you’ll need something a little bit more secure like a VPN service such as this Irish one here called Identity Cloaker – watch this video.
So using this service, when you visit the RTE player website – the only IP address visible is that of the Identity Cloaker one which as long as you select one of those based in Ireland (think they’re all in Dublin) will allow you access to the complete RTE player website and all the shows to download or stream.
Try it out, it’s very easy to use and you can also use it on smart TVs, phones, tablets and other devices too. It means you can access any site wherever you are, I also use it to watch Game of Thrones on HBO when I’m travelling with my work.
Do you need to access a Polish only TV site? Where I live in the UK there’s a large Polish community, which was established in the second world war. Consequently I have lots of Polish friends and acquaintances, who live nearby. Wherever you go you’ll see specialized satellite dishes on houses which people use to access TV stations in Poland. However most of these stations are also available online also. Unfortunately there is a problem, just like the majority of media sites – most stations are only accessible online when you’re in the same country. So if you try and access TVN Player, a popular Polish TV station over the internet you’ll get blocked.
Anyway it’s quite simple to circumvent this problem if you have the right tools! Here’s a video showing the process of bypassing TVN Player’s blocks by using a Polish proxy server.
As you can see it only takes seconds to switch your location using Identity Cloaker, which effectively frees up the internet from filters, blocks and restrictions. If you do use it, remember to turn on the encryption when using any unknown connection such as a hotel, airport or cafe wireless connection. It’s especially important when connecting to important sites like banking,paypal and webmail for example.
For me it happened when I was on a short holiday in the USA, and I started up my Netflix account and it was a revelation. Although I used my own UK based account, because of my location I was redirected to the US version of Netflix which is so much better. Thousands more films and TV shows, movies which had only just left UK cinemas and a whole host more where available, isn’t something I wanted to lose when I went back home.
If you investigate, it’s incredibly common and not just restricted to Netflix. The majority of the big media sites all have some sort of restrictions or blocks based on your location – in fact try and access Netflix from some countries and it’s not even available even if you have an account. BBC iPlayer only works in the UK, Pandora the online radio station will now not work outside the US, every TV channel is normally restricted to it’s country of origin.
But if you keep investigating , you’ll discover there is a way to take back control and watch whatever you want, irrespective of your location. The technology you need is called a VPN (Virtual Private Network), forget the other solutions that you see mentioned like Smart DNS and proxies. Although they work both are intermittent and easily blocked – setting up a VPN to the country of broadcast is what you need to do.
It works like a dream, install a VPN client on your PC or tablet and you can access whatever you need. I use a service called Identity Cloaker primarily because it’s fast and inexpensive, however there is a problem using all these services – How Can you Use a VPN on a Smart TV?
Or really any non-computer type device, for example I watch online stuff through my Smart TV, phone, Roku, Wii U and a load of other devices. However I simply can’t install any client VPN software on my TV even if it would let me, in fact many of these devices are increasingly restricting access to the network configuration screen to stop people bypassing these blocks. Well what you have to do is look one step away from these devices, in my case my router which connects all these devices to the internet – How to Set up a Smart TV VPN
So instead of messing around with lots of different versions, installing client software on numerous devices and tweaking settings – just set up the vPN on your router, access point or modem – basically the device that connects
you to the internet. This ensures that everything connected to this router uses the VPN by default and you can turn it on and off at will. Of course, it’s not perfect and it does mean that if my US VPN is turned on – another device cannot watch the BBC iPlayer at the same time (the BBC will see the US IP address of the VPN server and block it). However you can switch these on and off very easily when you need to.
Not all VPN providers allow this manual access though, so it’s worth checking before hand – Identity Cloaker does on all it’s servers and I would imagine most of the ‘reputable’ VPN services do too.
It’s of course a recurring them on the internet, many people are concerned with security, privacy and internet filtering so spend a lot of time searching for solutions. However inexplicably people seem to think they can find these for free. Just think about it – you need the following:
- A high powered server connected to the internet.
- Support people to keep it both secure and online.
- Someone to pay all the bandwidth costs (a lot!) of the server
- Allow everyone to use it for nothing.
Why would anyone would do this? Why would they pay huge amounts of money, spend their own time – simply for thousands of strangers to bypass internet blocks, surf porn at school or simply mess around on Facebook at work. Of course there is no logical reason that they would, and in fact even the free proxy servers are not in fact free? Just watch this video for a quick intro.
The price you pay for using free proxies or VPNs is one of the following:
- Some form of adware or advertisements injected into your browsing.
- Risk of Nastier stuff like spyware or trojans or the proxy itself stealing your personal information.
People don’t like to believe it, because obviously they want to use something for free. Ultimately it’s for every one to decide for themselves, but you should certainly be very careful using any free resources which take control of all the information you transmit online (which is what a proxy does).
For anyone with an interest in UK Television, be it ex-pats, Anglophiles or just lovers of great TV programmes – Christmas can bring some great online treats. The BBC iPlayer website for instance reruns loads of fantastic shows, documentaries, comedies and biographies over the festive season. There are also some wonderful shows broadcast for the first time which you can either pick up live or from the iPlayer site for a couple of weeks later.
I’m in the bracket of ex-pat abroad, although I do still live in the UK for most of the year. I have tried English language TV in many other countries and to be honest I haven’t found anything quite as good as the BBC. There’s some wonderful stuff on US TV, Canadian and Australian TV of course but usually accompanied with adverts every few minutes – incredibly annoying unless you’ve been brought up with this. For me I’ve been brought up with mainly non-commercial TV, namely the BBC and my favorite programmes are still there. For me, I’ve never seen a better sports show than Match of the Day, a better nature documentary than those by David Attenborough and of course the best Science Fiction drama ever made – Dr Who.
Which kind of brings me to the purpose of my post – how do you – watch Dr Who Christmas Special abroad? Or perhaps you’re stuck somewhere where the TV sucks or you can’t understand the language. Then having access to unlimited BBC can be a real boon, especially if you’re away from home and a little homesick. But of course, the BBC online content is not actually accessible if you’re outside the UK – the web site checks your location and if it’s not the UK then you get blocked.
But as you may have discovered there are solutions and one of the most popular are proxies. The secret is not changing your IP address like many would imagine, but hiding it from those who seek to restrict your access. A proxy is basically a server that sits between you and the site you want to visit, so the location of that computer actually affects what you can see. A UK proxy can allow you access to all UK media sites, a USA proxy will unlock the US sites like Hulu, Pandora and HBO for instance. Check this video out for an example –
As you can see it’s very simple, and although the example is on a computer there’s similar techniques that work on tablets, smart phones and TVs and most media streamers.