Many people discover when they go on holiday or start travelling that the internet changes depending on where you happen to be. Of course some of it is expected, fire up Google using an access point in a Spanish cafe and you’ll not be surprised to find the Spanish version. What happens is that Google looks up your location and redirects you to the most appropriate version of the search engine interface – in this case Google.es.
This makes sense and is actually quite useful but unfortunately the same technology is used in other ways. It called geotargetting and basically when you visit a web site it takes your IP address and looks up what location it’s registered to, this is then used to either tailor, block or filter what you can see on that site. This is where the problem lies when a US citizen tries to access a US only site from a foreign country they’ll get blocked. Someone from the UK on holiday who logs on to the BBC iPlayer site expecting to watch the news online will also get blocked.
The list is endless, more and more sites are operating in this way meaning what you access from your home country will vary widely when you travel. However there is a way of bypassing these filters and accessing any site, you can watch the BBC from Greece using a UK proxy site to hide your location.
Here’s a simple explanation of how it’s done:
However we should clarify something, in the video above the program was not actually connecting to a UK proxy online, the server actually was something called a VPN server. It works in a similar way to a proxy but is much more difficult to detect. As of this year, most of the biggest media sites block access is you attempt to use a proxy server in order to bypass their blocks. VPN (virtual private network) servers are much more difficult to detect and block than proxies.
It’s probably too early to guess where this battle is going to head. Many of us hope that these companies block this practice of segregating web users by their location, although as it helps maximize profits this may never happen.
Well that’s sounds a mouthful but using something to hide and route your IP address is one of the most useful tools you’ll find online. An IP proxy is simply a server which routes all your internet requests and forwards them on, it’s a little like using a separate mailing address – everything works the same but nobody finds out your real address. The server just receives your request for a web page and forwards it, then when the reply is received that’s passed on to you. No information is changed or modified, yet your privacy is maintained.
There are numerous advantages to this, but certainly privacy is one of the important one. Most websites now record and analyse all their visitors, plus your web traffic is also logged at your ISP. How many logs and who can access them is usually reliant on the location of your ISP and the target server, but let’s face it the US and American Intelligence agencies don’t really bother with things like that. As long as you trust the owner of the IP proxy then it adds a significant layer of privacy to your connection.
Here’s a quick video which demonstrates a US IP proxy in action:
You can see that there is another important function available to routing your address through another server, basically the ability to access content which is normally blocked. For instance in our example the user is based in the UK, and so everything he does online is based on that location. This is fine for accessing UK based resources but when trying to access US web sites it becomes a bit more problematic. So you’ll see one minute you can happily be watching Test Match Special or Dr Who on the BBC iPlayer, but try and switch to catch an episode of the Walking Dead on HBO and you’ll be blocked. Same goes for Pandora, Hulu, NBC and virtually any US media site worth watching.
So this is where routing your address through an IP proxy comes in handy. If you switch to one based in the USA you’ll effectively have a US IP address irrespective of where you happen to be physically located. Suddenly all the US based web sites, any American only videos become accessible – you’ve effectively changed your internet nationality with a click of a button. Of course, it’s fairly ridiculous that this is even necessary using a global medium like the internet, but sadly it’s becoming more and more segregated as the big multi-nationals try and split up their markets to maximise profits.
On a final note, there are many different technologies that support IP routing however almost all of these now are detectable (and blocked) by the big websites. Make sure whatever service you choose is a VPN that encrypts your initial connection. These cannot currently be detected as long as they’re configured correctly although the biggest media companies like Netflix actively block these service manually.
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.
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.
For Other Best Netflix VPN Options – http://thenewproxies.com/choosing-the-best-vpn-for-netflix/
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.
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.
It’s only a few miles across the Channel, but for thousands of UK Expats – it means the difference between watching UK TV and getting blocked. All the British TV Stations have invested heavily in their websites and they rebroadcast most of their programmes on these sites for several weeks. There are some slight restrictions, often films and US shows are subject to strict licensing agreements so they will normally be excluded.
The reason that you will get blocked from the BBC and all the UK Television channels in France is down to something called geo-blocking. This is the practice of checking the IP address of any visitor to the site and then using that to determine what access they are allowed. The BBC is funded by the UK TV License so, it assumes that anyone outside the UK hasn’t actually bought one, which is of course often not true.
This is what happens if you try and access a show from France or anywhere outside the United Kingdom. The BBC looks up your location, detects the French IP address and then blocks access to the media streamer. The site has no way of determining whether the visitor does actually pay for a UK TV license, so UK holidaymakers and travellers are similarly blocked. These restrictions are expected to change in the long term though as the European Union is trying to create a single European digital market which allows products to be transferred across boundaries within the EU.
Fortunately this is the internet and of course, there are a few simple workarounds to allow anyone to access the BBC from France, Germany or anywhere else for that matter. This video demonstrates how you can access using something called a proxy server to hide your location –
So What’s Happening?
Well this method simply involves hiding your real location by routing your internet connection through something called a proxy server. All this server does is forward and receive internet requests, but effectively hides your real location from the website you are using. This means that as long as the proxy server is based in the United Kingdom, then the website will think you are in the UK too so it will all word. If you have a selection of servers strategically placed in various different locations then you can effectively bypass all these various blocks and access whatever you like irrespective of your location.
Needless to say many of these sites are not very happy about this practice and over the years lots of them have implemented systems to detect and block the use of proxy servers. They still work on a few sites but that number is slowly dwindling, fortunately there is another very similar option which is much harder to detect called a Virtual Private Network.
A VPN operates in much the same way as a proxy server except there the communication takes place over a secure, encrypted channel – most web sites are currently unable to detect the use of a VPN. So if you want to watch the UK TV channels such as the BBC from France then investing in a British VPN like this one is probably your best option.
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.
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.
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.