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.
For years, the BBC has been one of the few companies that didn’t seem that bothered about blocking non-UK access to it’s online content. All the big media sites of course restrict access based on your IP address, but some seem to enforce these restrictions more than others. Hulu for instance has always had quite an aggressive stance towards people hiding their IP address to watch from outside the US. This has attitude has slowly seen the simple proxy become less and less useful for bypassing geo-blocks. Most systems now can automatically detect the use of a proxy server and will block this directly.
The BBC has now changed it’s stance completely and now is actively blocking these tactics and a simple proxy server will no longer suffice. This is presumably linked with the BBC having to become rather more aggressive with it’s commercial efforts due to a cut back in public funding. THe BBC has opened a new ‘online store’ where you can buy much of it’s content and downloads individually so allowing millions to watch for free is clearly not in that interest.
But fear not, there are still options and in some cases it’s probably for the best. The problem with proxies were that they were extremely easy to set up but very difficult to secure properly, which meant that the internet was awash with badly configured proxies often installed on hacked servers. To use the hacked servers particularly was extremely risky as they were often used to steal users credentials and data. A VPN is a different story and there are now a whole range of inexpensive, fast VPN services which offer the chance to both secure your connection and bypass geo-blocks. Here’s a simple introduction into one of them on this video – Streaming UK TV from Anywhere.
The program demonstrated is a secure VPN (although can run in different modes) which means that it cannot be detected by all these media sites. You should remember though that nothing is completely undetectable, even when the VPN cannot be detected – they can detect when multiple connections are streaming to specific IP addresses. Most of these VPN services share IP addresses with users because the costs would be much more to provide exclusive addresses to each user.
Like everything in life, with computer security you get what you pay for. Unfortunately most people don’t look at things like this and usually pick based on the nearest to free that they can get. Take for example Anti Virus programs, there are literally millions of people who use free or very cheap services who have about as much chance of stopping your computer being infected with malware as my grandmother does of setting up a wireless access point (i.e none whatsoever). This attitude will only really change if they suffer the extreme hassle both in time and money of having their computer infected and possibly their personal accounts raided too.
It’s the same using a VPN (virtual private network), people think that they are all the same and if you are using a VPN then your internet connection is both secure and private – which is a long way from the truth. Have a look at this video for some introduction – Most Secure VPN Service
The points are important, logging (or lack of it is crucial), if you use a VPN which doesn’t deal adequately with the logs then you are safer without using them. Worst still VPN costs lots of money to run and support, some free proxies and VPNs are not run by some wealthy, benevolent technology company (surprise, surprise). They are run on hacked servers by cyber criminals who offer the service because it’s a simple way to steal all your credentials and help them selves to your bank accounts or identity.
VPNs do offer security, they do offer a level of protection that is unparalleled on the internet but only if they’re on properly configured hardware and run by technically competent staff- which of course costs money. Before you connect to that free proxy or VPN ask yourself this –
why is this company or person paying thousands of dollars a month to provide me with a completely free secure VPN service?
Hopefully if you’re over 15 then it might occur to you that there’s another agenda. Stay safe, don’t use free proxies and VPNs they could end up costing you big time.
Of course on the internet there is a temptation to look for the cheapest version of something, however when you’re talking about VPNs and proxies then this is almost certainly a huge mistake. Whatever the reason you’re looking for one, then VPN speed and security are of paramount importance.
Consider these two thoughts:
- A slow VPN/proxy will make everything you do online happen at a snail’s pace.
- An insecure VPN/proxy could put you at risk from identity theft.
The simple fact is that the moment you connect through a proxy or VPN server, anything you do online is routed through that server. That is everything, every user account, email, password – whatever you do online it will be going through that server.
Which is one the reasons there are so many free hacked proxies and VPN servers around on the internet. You may think that the cost of using one of these servers is speed, after all it’s free so it will be slow but the real cost is you are paying the price with your identity.
First of all the speed – look at the impact a normal fast VPN like this will have on your connection.
The impact that a fast, well configured and maintained VPN has on your connection is negligible – in fact often they can speed up your connection by compressing the data. Of course free services are never going to do that, it takes time and money to host and run fast servers like this and the majority of free proxies are on cheap unmanaged hosting with adverts to support them or are on hacked servers and financed in a more sinister manner.
Imagine you’re a cyber criminal who has just hacked into a network of servers at a community college in the US. How can you make money from these servers before they are discovered? Well one of the easiest options is to set them up as free proxies or VPNs and then let them loose on the internet. Wait until people start using them and then simply log all activity on the servers, sifting through the transactions looking for email addresses, usernames and passwords.
Pretty soon you’ll have a host of account names and passwords to all sorts of sites including home banking, paypal, ebay and hotmail. Any of these can be used to steal money and goods very easily, all from the comfort of the thieves desktop. It’s a pretty good model for cyber crime, relatively safe from getting caught and potentially hugely lucrative if you get access to a few bank and paypal accounts. Some people have had thousands drained from their accounts in this way simply because they are often completely unaware it’s happening until it’s too late.
So remember using free, unregulated proxies and VPNs to do anything online is a huge risk to both your privacy and wealth.
For years now, the BBC has been fairly laid back in it’s enforcement of it’s online content. However this has now changed – for the first time the BBC iPlayer has begun blocking UK based proxies and VPN servers which are used to watch it’s content.
Just to summarise, currently live streaming of the BBC and it’s catch up service the BBC iPlayer is not accessible if you’re trying to access from outside the UK. What happens is that the BBC site checks your IP address when you connect and if it’s registered outside the United Kingdom then you won’t be able to watch anything. However for years many millions of people have used a proxy or VPN service to hide their real location and watch all the BBC stuff normally. These services merely reroute your connection through the UK and so technically you’re able to access the content without any problems. It is estimated that millions of people currently use some form of these services to watch the BBC online.
It’s exactly the same as all the other big media sites – Netflix for example had quarter of a million people watching from Australia before it was even available there. VPN services like Identity Cloaker have become increasingly sophisticated allowing you to switch countries with a click of a button. This effectively sidesteps any country restrictions no matter where you happen to be based.
Of course, the media companies don’t like this and have waged an on-going war on these services. Simple proxies are now detected and blocked by most big media sites, and many of them are always adding such services to their block lists. Over the years companies like Netflix and Hulu have invested heavily in technology to restrict the use of these services whilst pursuing many legal cases against the companies who run these services, the BBC have overall seemed rather indifferent.
You will always get blocked from outside the UK if you try to stream from BBC iPlayer, but the corporation never made much of an attempt to block access to VPNs and proxies. They do have a legal department which gets some of the more obvious services closed down, but were never particularly aggressive. This seems to be changing with the IP addresses of thousands of VPN services being blocked over the last few weeks combined with pursuing many copyright infringements over YouTube too.
Fortunately it’s unlikely this tactic will be 100% effective simply because they providers are able to switch the IP addresses of their VPN servers as quickly as they are being blocked. It’s best to look for a low-key service which provides UK based VPN servers without advertising the ability to watch these channels. The only service I use which is currently unaffected is Identity Cloaker, whereas unfortunately many of the IPVanish addresses appear to be blocked whilst accessing BBC iPlayer – they are apparently working on a solution though.
This month saw the global expansion of Netflix move into potentially one of it’s biggest markets – yes Japanese Netflix has arrived. It’s often surprised people who have been watching Netflix for years when they touch down in Tokyo that the Netflix button on their phone or media device stops working. After all the Japanese love movies and TV, there’s a fast internet infrastructure across most of the country and a high disposable income.
Why has it taken so long? Well many point to the struggles of Hulu who tried to enter the Japanese market about four years ago and never really got started. The fact is that Japanese viewing habits are actually quite dated, with some reluctance to pay for online entertainment services. Japan has several high quality national broadcasting channels(similar to the BBC) run by NHK and quite a few funded by direct advertising.
Also in Japan, people still rent much of their entertainment on DVDs and BluRay unlike places like the USA and Europe. It is perhaps why Netflix has been biding their time and building up enough Japanese content to support the new service. Well it looks encouraging, and for those outside Japan the majority of Netflix is still in English, some title with subtitles but there appears to be lots of new Japanese content and of course the anime section is packed to bursting.
It’s probably going to change a lot over the next few years but looks good value for Japanese subscribers at something like $5 a month. For those of us who subscribe to Netflix in another country, there is a way to check out the Japanese Netflix if you want to see what’s there. I am hoping to discover a treasure trove of those wonderful old Japanese science fiction/monster movies which I love to watch.
But of course, Japanese Netflix as usual is geo-restricted – that is locked to those people with a Japanese IP address. So to bypass this, here’s a video demonstrating one method of watching Japan Netflix from anywhere in the world.
As you can see, it’s not even necessary to change your IP address completely to a Japanese one (which saves redirect your browsing to downtown Tokyo at the same time). Using a Smart DNS proxy server like the one offered by Overplay you can simply redirect through their control panel to whichever version of Netflix you want. I have’t investigated fully what different stuff is on the Japanese Netflix but I’ll bet there’s some hidden gems there even for English speakers.
There’s no doubt that as our use of the internet grows then so do the risks. Computer based crimes such as identity theft are growing at a staggering rate, with huge criminal gangs all over the world expanding into this area.
Anyone is a potential victim however, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the risk. This video shows you some of the very basic things you can do to help keep you safe.
If you want to go further, there are of course lots of other measures you can take, the use of VPNs or learn how Smart DNS works to hide your identity too.
The reality is that these very basic, simple steps hugely reduce your changes of becoming a victim. The reason being is that online criminals focus on the various easiest targets, simply by keeping your system up to date and never clicking on links in emails will make you much safer.
Last week Google launched what looks like is going to be a very exciting concept – YouTube Gaming, well when I say launched it’s currently only completely accessible from two locations – although this will obviously change over the next few months. It’s available from the web page and applications running under iOS and Android, although these applications are only available in UK and USA initially.
YouTube Gaming is Google’s rival to the game streaming platform Twitch which Amazon paid a small fortune for last year. Google had been in the running for Twitch so were obviously going to launch something similar. They decided to integrate live game streaming directly into their hugely popular video sharing site – YouTube. Which of course definitely makes sense!
However there is a big problem if you’re based in Germany and want to access the YouTube gaming channel, it’s effectively blocked. Due to a long standing legal dispute between Google and GEMA (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs), the organisation that pay royalties to performers – you simply can’t access this from Germany. Most German users will not be completely surprised as the dispute means that thousands of videos are also blocked from German computers and devices.
Until the dispute is concluded it’s likely that German users will be blocked from many of the Video giants content, including the Live Game Streaming platform. It’s another reason why VPN switching services have become such an essential tool, all the big media companies are restricting, blocking and filtering access based on your location with increasing frequency. Most of the time it’s down to making money of course, companies don’t like the way the internet creates a global market price – to maximise profits you need to charge different amounts based on the ability to pay.
So German users will simply need to invest in some software that allows them to buy a new ip address. here’s a video demonstration in action.
Well it’s a valid question and for many people they won’t see the point. Your IP address is your unique address on the internet, which is required to allow you access. It is completely unique and nobody else on the net will have the same IP address as you at a single point in time. Which is why if you decide to go and start posting threats, requests for illegal activities or ordering explosives online you may very well find someone at your door with a search warrant shortly afterwards.
Many people argue this is a good thing, after all if everyone could do or say anything online without the slightest risk of repercussion then it would be even more chaotic than it is now. The dark web is something nearer this position (although complete anonymity there is still difficult), and you’ll see bizarre ad listings for credit card scanners, hit men and illegal drugs all over the place. Of course what many fail to realise is that they may order twenty kilos of illicit narcotics anonymously but it still has to be delivered somewhere!
For other people, it’s more a matter of a) privacy and b) being blocked because of your address, both of which can really affect your online experience. Privacy is important, people pay bills, manage their finances and conduct all sorts of personal stuff online. Do you want everything you do online instantly accessible to those with the means to check? Well currently this is the situation as sitting in your ISP are logs of everything you do online, every web site, every video watch or movie downloaded. Combine that with the logs on all the web servers you visit and the endless harvesting of all this data by data marketers and it’s like having a crowd of people with notebooks standing behind you when you’re online.
So the second point is being blocked, filtered from TV stations, movie sites or music downloads because your IP address is from the wrong country. Your IP address is used to determine your physical location and used to determine all sorts of things, including varying the price of goods you buy. People in different countries often end up paying vastly differing amounts depending on their location – sounds unfair doesn’t it. Well here’s how to change it –
This doesn’t solve all the issues, but it makes your internet connection much more secure and if you ensure you use an encrypted VPN like the one in the video then all your ISP logs will be unreadable too. Being able to rotate your IP to a US, UK or European one will also ensure that you are rarely blocked access to the best online sites and prevents filtering conducted by certain countries who feel to dictate what is allowable online.
There are other options for avoiding blocks, for example if you just trying to circumvent the geo-filtering conducted by most media sites then s simple Smart DNS service may suffice although remember it certainly doesn’t hide your IP address from anyone if privacy is a concern.
I first came across Smart DNS about three years ago when it was relatively unknown, the concept was good to hide your real location by just masking specific parts of your connection and routing it through a specific server. The idea being that an intelligent DNS server could just hide your location without rerouting your entire connection. This had numerous benefits including price because only small portions of a connection where routed through a proxy there weren’t huge bandwidth charges to be paid.
Other benefits included speed, again due to your connection being mostly direct with the server you were trying to access. Also configuration was simpler, just change your DNS settings to point to a smart DNS server like this would then allow you to access different sites across a whole host of countries irrespective of your location. This means that suddenly you are not restricted to watching on computers but potentially on any internet device, without the need to support a UK IP proxy, just watch this video.
As you can see if you can access the network settings on a device then you can enable a Smart DNS server. Where as a VPN needs client software to enable it to work either proprietary or from within the devices operating system (such as Windows or linux). Suddenly devices like Roku’s, Smart phones and even Smart TVs can be Smart DNS enabled without a problem. The device itself is irrelevant, only the accessibility of it’s network settings – surely the VPN didn’t stand a chance?
Certainly the VPn is superior in as far as security is concerned simply because Smart DNS simply doesn’t supply any identity protection or encryption, however that’s largely by design to limit costs and improve simplicity. The ability to enable it on any device is also a huge advantage in a world where there are so many ways to access media online. So why hasn’t the Smart DNS application killed off proxies and VPNs?
Well there’s obviously the marketing aspect, the big players in the VPN market are all well established and companies like HMA have a huge internet footprint. Search online for queries on how to watch US netflix or BBC iPlayer then you’ll likely find yourself at a VPN solution provider somewhere on the web. However there is another problem in that Smart DNS is easier to block than a traditional VPN. Earlier this year Smart DNS stopped working on many devices – this article explains more – Broken Smart DNS for Netflix, and indeed explains a fix (albeit a rather technical one).
The problem was that although it’s relatively simple to change the DNS settings on most devices, it’s also very simple to code that an application or device must use a specific DNS server. What happened was anyone trying to access Netflix found that their DNS settings were ignored as the interface used public DNS servers like 220.127.116.11 from Google. This meant that the ‘location switching’ technology from the Smart DNS servers never got chance to work as the servers were ignored. The big media sites obviously started putting pressure on other companies as modifying basic DNS settings on all sorts of devices got harder and harder. The result was that for many people Smart DNS just stopped working for a couple of weeks until there seemed to be something of a pull back. It is surmised that the owners of these public DNS servers like Google were probably not impressed with this huge upsurge in requests for an effectively free service and the providers back tracked.
At the moment Smart DNS works relatively well on most platforms but this could change at any time, Netflix could easily block these through the code in their interface and most expect this to happen. Blocking a VPN is much more difficult though as it well configured service is almost impossible to detect, companies like Hulu have been trying for years. As such VPNs remain the ‘safe choice’ for watching things like BBC iPlayer abroad, as this – if Smart DNS is still working in a year or so then this might change.
TV3 is an irish broadcaster with quite a significant online presence, with much of their programmes rebroadcast over the web using it’s media player 3Player. However some people may stumble across this page looking for another channel as there are TV3 Channels in many different countries including New Zealand and across Asia, the information here though will be applicable to these other stations too.
My favorite programme at the moment is called Whiskey Business, it’s about two brothers who are trying to set up the first new Whiskey distillery in Ireland for 125 years. It’s a great programme and you cans till catch it on TV3 for a few weeks, if you can get access. Of course, with most of these online broadcasters it’s a matter of being able to watch them from outside their home country, TV3 and 3 Player is no exception – anyone outside Ireland will get the following message.
When you connect to the 3Player website, it checks your IP address and looks up where you are located. If you are in the Republic of Ireland, then you’ll be fine but anyone else will get blocked and refused access. Exactly the same thing happens on the other major broadcaster in Ireland – RTE, outside Ireland you won’t get access normally. In order to access these sites and indeed anything on the internet that blocks based on your location, you simply need to hide your IP address and present an address that is based in the location required. So in this video you can see, that connecting through an Ireland proxy server will gain you access to the 3Player content.
This video entitled Watch TV3 Online, actually runs through how you can route your connection through an Irish VPN server and watch anything in Ireland. The software demonstrated is called Identity Cloaker and works on most platforms although the software version demonstrated is running on a Windows PC. It actually allows access to a network of servers all across the world, this means that you can switch country when you need. So for example, if you were based in Spain you could connect through a British server to watch UK TV, then use an Irish server to access RTE and 3Player.