Have a Banned IP Address?

Well if it is banned then it could be time for a change.  The simple truth is that your IP address is increasingly being used to control what you are allowed to access to on the web.    Every time you visit a web site, a forum or social networking site your IP is registered, recorded and sometimes even blocked.

Have you ever clicked on a video on YouTube and been told – “I’m sorry that video is not available in your area” – it will be due to your location, or more specifically the location of your IP address.  It might be that a video that is accessible in one country and blocked in others – the decision is made automatically , you may have a banned IP address for that video.

There are many other circumstances where your IP address may stop you accessing or viewing a web site.  I have a friend who has an obsession with several computer games (mainly WOW and COD), when not playing the game he spends lots of times on various forums related to the games.

Unfortunately he has rather a big mouth, and also a tendency to logon to these forums late at night when he’s had a couple of drinks. This combination has led him to being banned from multiple forums due to a particular outburst and he gets quite upset about this.

keepout-ip address

Anyway after trying to create a few new accounts and failing,  he realised that the ban was based on his IP address and asked me to help him change it.  He knew I was very interested in security and online privacy and thought I could help him.

You may be able to change it simply by resetting your modem, some ISPs will assign you a new address each time you logon.  Just check your IP address on your modem or router before resetting your connection, leave it off for a few minutes then reconnect.  You might find you’ve been assigned a brand new address, it should be enough to get you passed a forum IP ban.  However it won’t help with country address blocks like YouTube, Hulu or the BBC iPlayer I’m afraid, for those you’ll need an address in the specific country i.e. a British IP address for BBC, and American one for Hulu etc.  The other option which may help is to use a method like this just using DNS – http://dnsproxy.co.uk/

If you need to reliably switch between different Ip addresses at will, the reality is that it’s very easy to do.   In my friends case I merely pointed him at the security product I use called – Identity Cloaker.  All he had to do was select a server to use and he connected through a private proxy/vpn server – the forum was unable to detect his real IP address and he was able to register a brand new account.  Here’s an example screenshot – there are about hundreds of IP addresses to choose from spread across about a dozen countries.

Claoking IP address

Of course there are other methods of achieving this.  You could ask your ISP for a new IP address, or perhaps swap ISPs altogether.  If you’re getting lots of problems it might be worth doing this as sometimes IP addresses just get a bad name and get blocked in lots of situations.

It’s a pretty basic method but millions of people now use security products – the best proxy program I’ve used is Identity Cloaker to have complete control over their privacy and to enable them to switch IP addresses when they need to.

How to Get a British IP Address

Lot’s of people arrive at this site asking this question, how can they change their IP address to a British one.   Mostly it’s Ex-Pats or people who just have some connection with the UK, or simply want to do something like watching the BBC Iplayer abroad.

The reason is that although the internet used to be pretty much open and standard for everyone, that is changing all the time.  Wherever you are based I am sure you’ve been presented somewhere with a message saying ‘sorry you can’t watch’  or ‘not available in your country’  – it happens to all of us wherever we are based.  Of course it happens a lot more if you’re in a country like China or Thailand who heavily censor the internet, but you’ll still get blocked by companies even if you’re based in Britain, France or the USA.

Anyway  this post is specifically about how people can  get a British IP address so I’ll focus on that.  The IP address is the number assigned to you when you connect to the internet,  it’s unique to you and can be used to identify you and your location.  This is what a site like Hulu, or the BBC do when you first connect to their sites – check the location of your IP address.

Here’s what happens if I try and watch the new Stargazing programme on BBC Iplayer –

 You’ll just get this message, whether you’re in the US, Spain, Japan or Canada it doesn’t matter.  If you’re not in the UK you won’t have been assigned a British address when you connected.  This is the same thing that happens when you get a message from YouTube about the content not being available in your country – it’s checking your location and deciding what you can see.

But now a small confession, at the moment I am actually in the UK and I’ve tricked the BBC Iplayer application to believing I’m in France.  It’s just for demonstration to show that it is perfectly possible to control your IP address and surf completely unrestricted.

Here’s how – fortunately it’s perfectly possible to cloak your real IP address and show the site your visiting a completely different one.  You basically connect to the web through an intermediary, or specifically a proxy server – when you connect to a site, the IP address presented is that of the server.  So if you use a French proxy you’ll have a French IP address, a US proxy will give you an American address, a German proxy a German address  and of course a British proxies will give you a British IP address.

Because this opens up so many different web sites a mini-industry has been created with applications that allow you to connect to a network of private proxies which allow you to control your IP address.  Here’s the very best of them – a program called Identity Cloaker.

Hopefully you can see from this screen shot, that the software allows you to connect to any number of proxy servers based all over the world – From Australia, USA, Canada, France and of course the United Kingdom and many, many more.

You simply click and select the country you wish to appear from, a huge list of fake identities to hide your real location.  It’s all perfectly safe and legal you’re merely hiding details of your connection from the website you are visiting.  In the screenshot here – I’ve got a German IP address to watch a site that streams some great films but is only available in Germany.

To watch  the BBC Iplayer, if you’re not in the UK then you’d simply select one of the British proxies, it’s actually one of the most popular uses of Identity Cloaker and why they have a huge number of British servers !  Even crossing the border makes a difference, which is why lots of people use it to watch BBC iPlayer In Ireland too.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by some online blocks then this is your solution.  It’s the most sophisticated  yet utterly simple to use and has by far the fastest proxies available.

The trial version lasts ten days and doesn’t automatically rebill like many such applications.   Best to test it out first  – believe me it opens up a huge number of websites that you may have been blocked from previously and doesn’t just include a British IP address there’s lots more countries watch US Netflix, Hulu and ABC for instance  – here’s the link for the  10 day trial of Identity Cloaker.

Additional Reading
http://www.uktv-online.com/

Internet and Web Filtering – Using DNS

All across the world – most countries, government and organisations are  blocking access to bits of the internet they don’t want you to see.  Of course sometimes this censorship seems sensible but it’s interesting to know the actual methods that are used.

There’s three main methods

  • IP Address Filters
  • URL (Content) Filters
  • DNS Filtering

Most of these can be fairly easily bypassed though which is an important point in itself.  Because  there are numerous ways to avoid these filters then by definition they are only censoring those who don’t have access to any of these methods.  In effect you have two distinct groups – one group who are censored and those who aren’t.

Anyway this post is intended to briefly explain one of these methods and that’s DNS filtering.

Filtering the Internet Using DNS

This method is also known as DNS tampering and is quite a clumsy method of blocking access to sites.  There are some slight variations in the way it is implemented.  However normally it starts with the ISPs in a particular country receiving a list of domain names that they want blocked.

Now normally when you type in a web address into your browser, DNS is responsible for mapping that name to a specific IP address.  Your computer will make a request to the ISP DNS server asking for the correct address and then your browser will be able to locate the correct web page.

However using DNS filtering the DNS server is instructed to deliver an incorrect address and instead routes you through to a different page.   So for instance if you just wanted to check out a porn site in Qatar, instead of being routed through to  the Playboy server you’d receive this screen instead.

In this example you’ve been redirected to a rather stern web page, but sometimes it will just be routed to an error page or to an non-existent address to look like it simply failed.   One of the many problems with this method is that it only operates with a full domain name – so for example if a country wanted to block access to a YouTube video by this method, it would have to block access to all of YouTube.

It’s a very simple and blunt filtering system and is in fact incredibly easy to bypass.  All you have to do is replace the ISP DNS server with another one that distributes the correct addresses.   There are thousands available from all over the world, you can even run your own.    A reliable one that may people use is the Google DNS server.

If you are not sure where to change the DNS server have a look at this next screenshot.

Here is where you add them in Vista in the properties tab of your network connection.  If you specify a DNS server here then that connection will use that one to resolve addresses.  If you don’t specify a DNS server you will end up using the one auto assigned by your ISP when you connect.  If you have any problems there are configuration screens for all versions of Windows on the Google DNS Link above. Here’s an update to include a variation on using DNS to bypass/filter web sites it’s called Smart DNS – you can see a video about it here.

This is becoming a part of everyone’s life online, where companies and countries try to restrict access to content.  The technology available to open it up again is also developing – whether it’s blocks from countries like China or people using American DNS for Netflix viewing,

It’s a very easy type of filtering to bypass when  you know how.  It’s not really worth the bother especially as it’s really messing around with a fundamental component of the World Wide Web.   If everyone started putting false entries in their DNS servers we’d end up with an extremely unreliable internet infrastructure.

 

Proxies and Protocols

Many people use proxies for a variety of different reasons.  Some use them for security, basically using the proxy server to hide their identity(and IP address) from the web site they are visiting.   Others use them to bypass blocks which are based on IP addresses.  these could include if your IP address is banned from a forum or site for some reason or when it’s blocked because of it’s location .  This is surprisingly common and major sites like the BBC, Hulu, ABC and YouTube block access to millions based on their location.

So it’s not surprising that so many people use proxies for these reasons, but most people don’t have much of an idea of how they actually work.   For instance if you start filtering all your traffic through  a proxy then you are effectively expecting it to handle all sorts of different protocols.  If you filter through a foreign country perhaps through a German or Turkish proxy or maybe a UK TV VPN  then you’ll also appear to be located here.

So How Does A Proxy Handle all These Protocols?

Well to be honest some don’t, if you use any of the free ad financed web proxies you see online they’ll frequently fall over or fail to connect.  But a well configured proxy should be able to handle most of the protocols you send through it.  This is because the proxy operates at the Application Layer of the OSI Model.

This means that to some extent a proxy server can actually understand what is happening.  The proxy has two basic ways of dealing with the traffic – it can either proxy or tunnel the protocol.   If it understand the protocol you can do neat things like filter it, perform advanced logging and even operate access control to deny or allow access.

If the proxy doesn’t understand a protocol then it will just act as a dumb tunnel and forward and receive the data between the client and server.  For instance you’ll find that the vast majority of web based proxies have no support for SSL as they don’t understand it.

Proxies will normally be able to handle protocols that also operate at the application level like HTTP, Gophur and FTP for instance.  When using a proxy server though remember you are entrusting it with all your personal data that you are sending through your browser – take care using proxies that you know nothing about.  The reality is that setting up a free proxy server is a great way of stealing peoples usernames, passwords and other identity related information.

 

Looking for a List of Free Secure Proxies?

Well don’t.  Seriously think about it, do you honestly expect to find a nice up to date list complete with loads of totally free secure and high anonymity proxy servers?   Is this the way the world works?  Thousands of benefactors paying huge bandwidth charges for these proxies, whilst teams of highly skilled IT administrators work for free making sure they’re safe to use and all the data and logs are secure.

Of course you won’t, you will find lists with new proxies of course – some nicely formatted classifying open proxies as secure, highly anonymous and rubbish like that.    These lists are all over the place,  all they do is list open proxies – none of them are secure, not even close and I’ll tell you why.

So What Are all These Proxies – Do They Exist?

They do exist,  but the vast majority are not left open intentionally.  Many free proxies are badly configured servers which have accidentally been left open and accessible from the internet.  They might be webs servers in colleges or Universities, PCs in companies or businesses that simply have been set up badly.

Many applications install web components like proxies automatically,  administrators often have no idea that they are running proxies on their servers until they start to notice the bandwidth costs or see their application server running like a three legged dog.

Of course you might have no problem using a proxy server that some dozy administrator has left open accidentally (although I can assure you it is illegal in the UK at least – Computer Misuse Act 1990).  But if it’s not been configured properly all your data and web traffic will be at risk.

Risk from anyone using the server and setting up a simple packet sniffer like the one below.

This could be run by anyone who gains or possesses access to the server.  Remember in many cases the proxy has been left open accidentally – so it’s highly unlikely to be configured in a secure manner.   One of the most insecure configurations you can run a proxy server in is by allowing the service itself to run in the context of  the ”root” account.  One little bug, vulnerability or configuration error then effectively puts the whole server and all data stored on it at risk.

Before you think there might not be much to see in your data logged on a proxy, think again – account names, passwords, email addresses and messages could all be visible.  Even those encrypted with SSL can be intercepted if you have admin access to the server.

It’s quite simple if you need a safe, secure, highly anonymous proxy server then you have a few choices.   Pay someone you trust to run it properly or  set one up yourself and ensure it’s configured properly.  There are some highly secure proxy and VPN services available for minimal cost, just search online.  Whatever you do thought don’t risk the free proxies they’re just not worth it.

 

Identity Thieves – So Many Opportunities

I’ve just finished installing a monitor and a few cameras in a friend’s takeway.  He’s convinced that one of his staff have their hands in the till but it not sure who it is, so he rushed out and bought a few cameras and a monitor then had no idea how to set them up. So he called me….

I’m no expert on these things, but it wasn’t very difficult to set up and I even got the internet enabled  bit working.  Yep the camera’s he chose were also accessible from the internet.  So the upshot is he spend half his time fueling his paranoia and watching these cameras looking for foul play.  Seems to spoil most of his holidays looking at his shop and staff on his phone and laptop as well, so far no evidence of criminal behaviour detected!

Anyway it’s interesting, these are not expensive cameras but offer a very detailed video feed and you can even move them remotely over the net using the admin interface.  It’s just another opportunity to be spied on….

The internet is becoming a digital heaven for all the stalkers, snoopers  and more worryingly the identity thieves.

Here’s an example –

Fire up a Google session and type the following in the search bar

index.of.dcim

 You’ll get returned a huge list of directories containing digital photographs.  These have been dumped onto computers, servers, web space  all which are accessible from the internet with no restrictions or security on the vast majority.

So it’s just a Duck !

So here’s one I picked from a directory entitled ‘personal pictures of family – ok it’s just a duck with a weird hair do,  I didn’t want to post their actual pictures even if they are easily accessible.  The vast majority of the photos are just normal everyday stuff  of a family based in France, but contained in their directories are lots of photos of the family, especially the kids.  If you look through the other directories on this web site – just by clicking around (not hacking) then you can find out their address, occupation and all their names.  This took five minutes – imagine what a professional identity thief could achieve in an hour with specialist tools.

But don’t take my word for it, try it out – click through the directories and the thousands of photos and ask yourself this question –

Did the owners intend for all these photos to be accessible to everyone on the internet?

I’m pretty sure they didn’t, just like my friend was altogether impressed when he found out that not only him but anyone could access his shop cameras online as well (the reason the admin password was blank by default).

Here’s some other searches which will show you online video cameras accessible on the internet.

camera – user login”

inurl:”Viewerframe?Mode=”

SNC-RZ30 Home

These are popular online cameras from Toshiba, Panasonic  and Sony – have a click through the results and see what you think.  Many of these cameras are intended to be public as a service or just promotional but do you think all of them?  Many of them inside offices or back entrances of secure properties or residential houses.

People are simply unaware of how much of their lives ends up online – which is pretty scary.  Often an online theft will start off from one of these little trails of information – combine this with all the other information sources the bad guys are using – yes I include the thousands of new proxies that arrive on the internet every day which are nothing more than hackers honey pots !

Using a Proxy to Watch Hulu

Have you ever watched Hulu – it’s wonderful, apparently it’s one of the most popular sites on the entire internet.   However very soon after the site was released they restricted access  based on location, you can’t even access Hulu in Canada!

Anyway at first it wasn’t too much of a problem using a proxy server you could change the IP address you connected to. So you just had to use an American one, a Hulu proxy if you like and you were allowed to access the service.   But then Hulu got wise to this and was able to detect the use of them, so free proxies and methods like HotSpot Shield stopped working altogether.  People are still using proxies for some media channels – for instance a German proxy server will still unlock most sites in Germany but in most instances VPNs are needed now.

Currently the only way to watch Hulu from outside the US is to use some sort of VPN (Virtual Private Network) which creates a tunnel from your client to a VPN enabled server.

There’s a few of these around commercially or if you work for a multinational company you may find you have access to a US based server that you can connect to.

Remember the idea is simple – your browser or computer is irrelevant, what’s important is that  your connection and IP address needs to appear to be from the USA.  Here’s the software I use – it’s called Identity Cloaker.

 

There’s a few hundred servers in all different countries but for Hulu we obviously need one based in the US.  When I click on an American server it sets up a SSH connection to the US which all my internet activities will be tunneled down – more info here.  This means that when I connect to Hulu it will see the IP address of the server (which is American) and allow me to access Hulu wherever I happen to be.

Works like a dream and comes recommended – test with the trial account first  at Identity Cloaker.  There are quite a few others that work well too – but remember you need more that just a proxy server for Hulu (although a proxy still works for BBC Iplayer from outside the UK).   You’ll have a selection of different countries available, they concentrate on the US and major European countries though – if you want something a little less usual like a Japanese or Turkish proxy – check out the rest of this site for alternatives.

Good luck

Further Reading – http://www.proxyusa.com/

 

Why Do People Search for a New Proxy Site?

So why do people waste so much time looking for a new proxy site 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.
new proxy sites
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.

So a New Proxy Site is Safer?

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 bigger countries usually have lots of servers and options available but if you’re looking for something like a Polish proxy that can sometimes be a little more challenging.

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.