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.
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 184.108.40.206 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.
A few years ago, nobody outside the IT department knew what a VPN was and in reality that didn’t really matter. A Virtual Private Network was of little use to most people and those who did use them, mainly for dialling back into a work email system or document store simply clicked a little button on their taskbar to connect to ‘something’. Of course over the years this situation has changed completely and now a VPN is an essential internet tool for many people.
So Why is a Fast VPN Important?
Well for those travelling and using the internet, it’s pretty much a necessity unless you’re very careful. The issue is of course the fact that communication over the internet is basically very secure, even the supposed secure web pages (SSL) can easily be intercepted by someone with the right knowledge. If you travel the world and spend your time just watching Cat videos on Youtube of course that’s not a big issue. However the moment you start accessing email, paying bills or logging on to home banking sites or Paypal the whole game changes. Any time you transmit personal details or login credentials there’s a risk that they can be intercepted. Although that risk exists on your home network or company, it significantly increases when you use a third party’s wifi connection.
Ask yourself how often you’ve used a Wifi connection in a pub, hotel or cafe to do some transactions like this? Did you realise that the owner of that wifi access point could easily intercept and steal your logon credentials very easy. The simple fact is that you are trusting the owner and any administrators of that access point with all your browsing details. Ultimately those credentials can be used to make money, your accounts can be accessed, money transferred, goods ordered in your name and a thousand other crimes committed without you knowing anything about it. Even the owner of the access point might be unaware, if the technology is not locked down and configured correctly any one nearby could login as admin and do the same.
A VPN doesn’t protect you completely but it makes it much, much safer to transmit data over the internet. Simply because it creates a secure, encrypted tunnel to protect your data while it’s being transmitted. That means it’s virtually impossible to intercept your data and steal credentials without breaking the encryption (which is not going to happen if the encryption is military grade).
This of course assumes your using a secure VPN server configured correctly run by security trained administrators of course, otherwise it’s just yet another risk. Here’s a quick video of the VPN I use – it’s called Best VPN USA and it demonstrates my favorite VPN service.
There are a few ‘serious’ VPN services but unfortunately many are just TV watching packages which have no real interest in the security or protecting your credentials. Even where the company is based does have an impact on how secure and confidential the VPN service will be. For instance in Europe there are very strict privacy laws, so not only must your communication be highly secure – the logs and data passing through the VPN are covered too.
In Europe, currently none of the transferred data (including which URLs are visited) must be recorded or stored. Which is good because otherwise your data can sit on a third party server that you have no control over. In Europe the only data that can be recorded is the amount of data that is transferred over the VPN, this can be stored for six months but no longer than 12 months. For example Identity Cloaker store this for only 6 months in order to comply with the laws and then delete it. These details are always under revision though.
None of the free VPN services will delete logs though and your data (and possibly logon credentials will sit on these servers until someone decides to get rid of them). The free VPN pay for the services by inserting ads into your browsing and simply don’t have either the staff or incentive to worry about security.
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.