Choosing the Best VPN for Netflix

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

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

What About VPN BLocks?

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

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

bestnetflixvpn

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

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

Further Reading:

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

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.

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.

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.

Geolocation Costs you Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Alternative to a UK IP Proxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BBC Fights Back – Blocking VPNs

Have you ever noticed that all the free stuff on the internet is becoming harder to find? The web used to be awash with all sorts of wonderful content available to everyone, no restrictions and costing absolutely nothing. It epitomised the free sharing ethos of the internet and there were some incredible resources made available to anyone in the world. Perhaps it’s my older, cynical side but that really doesn’t seem to be the case any more. Sure there are still some great, uncensored and filtered sites available but they seem to be coming rarer by the day.

Even for those sites which weren’t always accessible for whatever reason, there was usually a quick and simple alternative or workaround. Take the following situation, I had to spend a few months in Australia last year and after a few weeks watching Aussie TV began to miss the BBC and the other UK TV stations. Now although the BBC iPlayer is normally blocked outside the UK there were usually methods to access BBC iPlayer in Australia. Ok, so some of these were a little underhand but there were even legitimate, official options.

For instance you could hop over to the official BBC iPlayer Global channel on YouTube which had lots of great content, although now you’ll just find the following message –

BBC Global iPlayer is is now closed. We would like to thank all of our subscribers for using the service.

Yep the miserable so and so’s have closed that YouTube channel and stopped posting programmes there. You could also find lots of ahem ‘unofficial’ copies of shows posted on YouTube as well, these have all mysteriously disappeared in a swarm of copyright infringement notices. No worry there’s still options, you can fire up a proxy server or buy a VPN online for a few bucks and your problem was solved, again that’s now not nearly as simple.

The reality is that in common with most of the big media sites online, free unfettered access to content is a thing of the past. The BBC iPlayer is following the trend and spending a lot of time and effort in restricting access to their site from anywhere outside the UK at least without paying lots of money first. There are commercial versions of the site being launched of course but usually cut down versions with high subscription costs. The BBC are now even actively blocking commercial VPN services something that they have always turned a blind eye to previously. Now many of the more high profile commercial ‘watch TV’ VPN services are locked in a seemingly never ending battle with the people who run the Beeb’s IT infrastructure. They block the IP address of the VPN services, and then the VPN companies desperately switch servers to try and avoid the restrictions for their customers.

In reality this battle is one that you can probably avoid by making sure you pick a more low-key VPN service which doesn’t advertise BBC and TV watching as their primary use. All the VPN services will allow access to the BBC if they’re not blocked so just find a ‘security’ focussed one and you should be good to go. Who knows where it will end though, the reality is that these services can still be blocked quite easily if the techies start looking at numbers and figures of users connecting on specific IP addresses.

He’s Using a Proxy Server

Although people who use Programs like Identity Cloaker obviously have a much higher level of privacy and security than anyone else, there are still certain limitations that the truly paranoid should be aware of. If for example you use a proxy or VPN from the confines of another network (perhaps corporate or academic) there are still logs created just like when using an ISP.

The logs are generally created to monitor access to the internet and would normally consist of client address (your computer or device) and the server address (the web site or resource you are visiting). In addition there would normally be more specific information regarding specific files, web pages or resources accessed. If you use a proxy or VPN server however this changes slightly as we can read below.

Instead of listing all the web sites and the addresses of those servers, when you are using a proxy or VPN the only remote address that will be listed is that of the proxy itself. No other information will be available if using a VPN (a necessity for encryption) just the single address. This in itself causes a little problem in that if the logs files are analysed it is possible to deduce that the connection consists of a proxy or VPN server simply because of the existence of a single address.

IN order to mitigate this, then this address should be rotated so that the connection simulates a normal web connection. The following video demonstrates how to achieve this with an IP Rotator.

When this function is enabled in Identity Cloaker, the address of the remote connection would change periodically simulating the function of a normal web browser and making the use of a VPN much less visible. Remember though although people with the right skills carefully analysing the logs could determine that a VPN might be being used, they would be unable to determine any more information than that especially is an IP address rotator program or script is being used.

Netflix and the Smart DNS Fight

SMart DNS is the innovative new technology designed to stop ordinary people getting blocked from their favorite web sites. Many of us discover these blocks when travelling or on holiday, for me it happened years ago when I tried to log onto the BBC website to watch the news and was told because I was not in the UK I couldn’t watch it. I was annoyed, I paid my license fee at home so why should it matter where I happened to be.

Nowadays it’s even more common and in fact most of the larger web sites use geo targeting or blocking to some extent. I certainly don’t think there is a big media site that allows unfettered access to their content to the whole world. Smart DNS changed this and offered an alternative to the usual fix of connecting through a VPN server. Smart DNS doesn’t route your whole connection it just filters the location specific requests and therefore has little impact on your own connection.

If you want to see how Smart DNS works – then this video illustrates how it can be used to bypass these blocks.

As you can see the only modification required is to the DNS settings on your device which is why Smart DNS is so much easier to implement on different devices like Smart Phones, media streamers and even Smart TVs. Unfortunately there does seem to be a downside which has been illustrated by the efforts of Netflix to block use of Smart DNS servers and codes.

The first efforts were successful although not completely, Netflix started to roll out updates to the various Netflix interfaces on device like the Roku. These updates hard codes the addresses of public DNS servers like Google DNS, which meant that any DNS settings you configured would be ignored as the servers were already hardcoded in the the device. This stopped SMart DNS working with Netflix and people were unable to change regions or access Netflix in a country where the media giant hadn’t established a presence. It also was rather unpopular with the owners of these public DNS servers as their servers became flooded with so many DNS requests from millions of devices.

It appeared that they backtracked and removed the static DNS entry requirements. Whether this remains the case, we’ll have to see – Many of the media giants seem more concerned with SMart DNS than they were with VPNs probably because it has the potential to be used on a much wider base of devices and even pre-installed on new hardware without the owners knowledge. Cretainly if the Smart DNS settings are set up a router like this, they’ll effect every device on that network.

Bye, Bye Proxies – Streaming Television Online

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.