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YouTube Gaming – Not with a German IP Address

Youtube launched their new gaming platform yesterday both on the web and for Android and iOS, but at the moment they are not accessible for everyone.  The applications are at the moment limited to those with a UK or US IP address and the web version accessible to most users with a few surprising omissions.

The Youtube Gaming platform is the search engine’s response to the very popular game streaming platform Twitch which Amazon invested in late last year.  Google was in the running to buy Twitch but lost out and it made the decision to launch a rival directly on the video platform.   The idea is that it will have a huge head start as Youtube is already massively popular particular for the game playing demographics.

YouTube gaming combines real games with videos and streams of popular games, it’s worth checking out but be warned it can be a little confusing initially.

yotuubegaming

 

It’s all customised for gamers, even the search will look specifically at gaming resources nothing else.   That is if you search for something like Doom – you’ll only get game related content not normal web results.

Unfortunately if you’re in Germany you won’t be able to access any of the site.   Try to connect with a German IP address and you’ll receive the message that the content is not available in your location, currently there is no explanation of why this is.  It’s very probable that it’s something to do with Google’s legal battles with GEMA the state run collecting society which is in charge of collecting royalties for music in Germany.

There is no indication of if and when this might change but German gamers would be best to invest in a proxy or VPN connection in order to access the site, something like this would work perfectly although if you need to access via a tablet then this post explaining how to watch the BBC abroad on an iPad should help – read this.  Using this method would also allow people from outside the UK and US to install the official application too, although it is expected that this will be rolled out to the rest of the world soon if you can wait.

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Being a Bit British Again (By Proxy)

Turkey is one of my favorite countries to live in, and has been for years.  It’s got a wonderful climate, the people are friendly, the crime rate very low in comparison to many countries, you can have a comfortable life there without having to spend a fortune.  However it’s definitely not perfect, the Government is a bit dodgy, it can get very hot and humid at times and the TV an internet leave something to be desired.  Turkey is one of the countries who actively block access to internet sites often based on religious reasons but also political.  Youtube, Twitter and Facebook have all been blocked at some point although thankfully not for any extended period of time.

Turkish TV is obviously better enjoyed by being able to speak the language but I have to say nothing I’ve seen has encouraged this.  This is one thing I really do miss, being a British Ex-Pat who spent years moaning about the quality of UK television, I have to admit I got it very wrong.  British TV is much better than any other broadcasting I’ve come across in my travels.  You’d think in these days of online broadcasting this wouldn’t be a problem but alas it is, you see despite all the UK stations broadcasting online – BBC iPlayer, ITV, Channels 4 and 5 – you can’t see any of them from outside the UK.

The issue is due to the restrictions placed by the channels themselves presumably for copyright or commercial reasons.  When you connect to any of these stations, the web site checks your IP address and looks up it’s location.  If you’re based outside the United Kingdom then you’ll get a message like this –

bbc-iplayer-blocked

I won’t repeat the language I used when I first discovered this especially after spending hours trying to find the right cables to connect my laptop to my TV ( I couldn’t find a Turkish Maplins!).  It’s the same with all the other channels and if you look carefully you’ll find all the websites are slightly different when viewed from outside Britain – the BBC for example doesn’t have the links to live TV or the BBC iPlayer links.

Fortunately there is an option and it’s quite a simple one too – you just need to hide your real location.  There are several ways to do this but ultimately the easiest is to use a British proxy like this, which will make it look like your in the UK whenever you connect to these sites.  Here’s a demonstration –

All that is happening is your connection is routed through a server based in the UK. Then when you connect to something like the BBC website, the IP address recorded will be the UK one from the server and so you’ll be allowed access to the UK Services. The website never sees your real address or location because the server sits in between your connection. Using the application in the video you can also connect to different countries too,  mainly used it to access US media sites like Hulu and NBC plus my favorite online music resource Pandora which is free if you’re in the US (or are using an American proxy server)

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The Decline of Privacy

When the internet first appeared in our homes, few were concerned about what personal information we were revealing. It was exciting, like a huge global chat room were you could reach out to anyone and everyone all over the planet. Nobody really thought twice about revealing their names, addresses and location. Although it was common for people to use pseudonyms, this wasn’t really to do with privacy concerns and more about image.

I remember quite clearly running a night class on basic internet tools and watching people take their first steps with the very basic messaging services of the time. Most were using IRC chat variants and completely blown away by speaking to people from the US in real time from their keyboard. It doesn’t sound very impressive now, but at the time it was incredible.

Nowadays of course it’s all changed, we are constantly besieged about stories of our personal details being lost, stolen or abused. We enter details into our computers and smart phones, send them over the ether using wifi points in our local libraries, airports and coffee shop not realising that anyone with access to the devices in these establishments could quite easily siphon off our data for their own uses. Next time you use a free wifi spot somewhere, try and imagine who is responsible for configuring and supporting that access point – then assess how much of your personal data you would trust that person with.

The reality is that there are now a huge number of criminals who operate solely online. Think about it, imagine the risks of stealing someones details and emptying their bank accounts compared with physically stealing from a shop or individual. It’s much safer particularly when you consider that it can all be done virtually, the cyber criminal can steal from you whilst actually being in a different country or even continent. Imagine how far you’d get trying to recover your money from a cyber criminal living in Brazil or Nigeria.

It’s one of the reasons that VPNs and security products have become so popular, in order to protect these valuable details when you use them online. Of course there is another reason which is also related to your privacy and that’s the rise of geo-targeting. This is the process where a website determines what you can (or more usually can’t) see depending on your location, the VPN helps you control this such as this web page demonstrates on watching the BBC iPlayer from the USA. It’s all about hiding your real IP address from websites you visit so that you can control what you see, not them.

There’s no doubt it’s turning into something of a war. On one side you have criminals and identity thieves actively trying to steal your details in order to make money from them. On the other hand you have websites, corporations and marketing firms tracking, logging and monitoring your online activities in order to control what you see and deliver advertising to your web surfing.

The status quo is not acceptable to many people which is why so many people are using these security products and VPNS. Not only do they add a layer of privacy to your web browsing but they do allow you to bypass blocks and filters across the world. In fact it’s quite incredible how much of the web is filtered in this way due to one reason or another. Obviously you’ve got the country/state level filters in places like China, Iran and Turkey based on religious or ideological views. However there’s even more due to licencing and copyright restrictions, you can watch Hulu from the US and nowhere else, you need to be in Ireland to watch RTE – unless you use an Irish proxy like this and so on.

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Are VPNs Really That Secure

They’re often cited as the ultimate security device, for those who really want to protect their connections.  However a team of London and Italian based researchers have suggested that some of the top commercial VPNs are not quite as secure as they suggest.  In fact in the study 14 of the top commercial VPN providers, all of them have displayed significant security problems

The study between the Sapienza University of Rome and Queen Mary University, London suggest that the promises of security are often not quite as valid as they suggest and user’s data is not adequately protected when using these particular VPN services.

The study focussed on the known vulnerability  of IPV6 traffic leakage, which was explained in the report – A Glance through the VPN Looking Glass.  They checked these commercial providers to see if they suffered from the same vulnerability. The study focussed on the client software versions including all the biggest companies like HMA and IP Vanish.

vpnreport

 

Of course for many people, the VPN is not so much a security tool but a method for bypassing geo-blocks which restrict access based on their locations.  In fact it’s arguably the most popular use of these tools, you can see the relative benefits of buying a US IP address through a USA proxy on this site – http://www.proxyusa.com/usvpn.   It is fair to say that although security is a concern to many of these people, the ability to hide location from a web site is the primary goal.

The study was initially focussed on general exploration however it soon became apparent that  there was a serious vulnerability to which all the major providers were subject to.  The problem was IPV6 traffic leakage which allowed data from IPV6 traffic to be leaked through  the native interface.  The more extended attack based on two IPV6 DNS hijacking attacks which allowed an attacker to gain access to all of the users traffic.

One of the big problems was that all these services despite their ‘secure’ credentials relied on outdated technologies like PPTP and MS-CHAPV2 which both can be attacked using simple brute force methods. Although the vulnerabilities look like they’re only concerned with IPV6 the problem actually can expose all the users traffic and browsing history, even in  the case of web sites which only accepted IPV4 traffic.

The report suggested some counter measures which included some simple changes based on modifying IPv6 routing tables to capture all the traffic and ensuring that the DNS services can only be accessed through  the VPN tunnel and nowhere else.

James Ireland

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Is a VPN an Essential Tool?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, essentially a tunnel like a proxy between two distinct points which is normally encrypted to each end device.  It’s a technology that has been around for decades, however for most of that time unless you worked in the IT department you’d not normally hear the expression.  As the internet developed and companies started to utilise the net to allow employees to access their corporate network while travelling they began to become more common.  Nowadays anyone who travels and works for a reasonable sized company will have a VPN client on their computer,  it’s a safe and secure way to tunnel through the very insecure internet to access documents and emails without the need for dedicated links.

Over the years, the definition of VPN has changed slightly but now the internet version is pretty much mainstream.  Everyone from gamers, ex-pats to people who travel all use VPNs for a variety of different reasons.

The first and important characteristic of a VPN is that the connection between the two devices is secure and encrypted.  This means that although you might be trying to check your online bank account via a dodgy, free wireless connection in a coffee shop – all your data is protected.  The VPN will encrypt all data being transferred including your username, password and all other details. This is really essential as the limitations and vulnerabilities of the only real protection you have online – SSL have been demonstrated many times online, basically that little key that we used to think delivers protection simply doesn’t.

Although security was the primary purpose for the creation of VPN technology, arguably there is a much greater demand for another reason – geo-blocking.  Most of the world’s biggest websites filter what you can see depending on your physical location.  For example when you connect to the BBC, there are two versions of the site – a UK version and an International version. The UK version has live tv and you get access to all the BBC iPlayer content, the international version has none of these and is also covered in adverts.  Using a VPN which terminates in the UK, can bypass these blocks and give access to the full version. If you have a fast VPN enabled it’s a pretty seamless experience.

What is more as demand has increased a second generation of VPN clients have been created to service these requirements. Now a generation of software which gives access not just to a single, secure VPN server but a network distributed across the world. These clients mean that a user can unlock content in websites all over the world, using a VPN for Computer which can be switched from country to country. So a user picks a UK server for the BBC, then switched to a US server for sites like HBO and Hulu – potentially bypassing thousands of filters and blocks to the world’s most popular media sites.

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Netflix Latest Addition to the BT YouView Box

Not sure about you, but my house is becoming swamped by devices that span a technological ice age. It was only a few weeks ago, that I finally persuaded my hoarder of a wife that we actually had little use for a VCR any more. It wasn’t easy, she still maintained that the fact we had several video tapes meant we needed to keep the VCR just in case. The fact that nobody had turned the thing on for over three years seemed irrelevant.

My masterstroke was to pick up copies of the aforementioned cassettes on DVD and then she finally relented – one more useless metal box consigned to the trash! My very next target is ironically the DVD player which also gets very little use, the occasional fitness DVD but not much else.

YouView

The reality is that the majority of our media is better stored on hard disks on devices at home or better still remotely. Most of us now have internet speeds capable of downloading and streaming media as we watch, so it makes sense to simply select and play rather than fill up our homes with disks of some format. There are still complications of course, media streaming is available on lots of devices but many have their drawbacks. My Sky box only worked for Sky, I used a Roku to access Netflix and the UK on demand services and a YouView box from BT to access my internet TV channels.

Lots of these devices could do other things, but none was capable of being the complete solution to my media streaming needs. The main annoyance of the YouView box was that it had most services except my favorite one – Netflix. Thankfully this has now changed from November 2014, most of the BT YouView boxes now can stream Netflix directly to your TV. This has meant I can now move one step closer to removing another media streamer from my lounge and watch BBC News Live on a streaming service.

There are still issues, the main one now is that I use different versions of Netflix quite frequently. The US version is far superior so I use this technique – How to Change Netflix to US Version, to access the American site. However I also watch some shows which are only on the UK version so need either to switch around often (which is a pain) or have something else linked to the UK version of Netflix. In my case luckily our games console (WII U Plus) is capable of streaming Netflix as well albeit by using a wireless connection.

It’s now becoming a matter of application and network connectivity rather than which physical media is supported. Smart TVs aren’t quite there in my experience and so other devices like the Roku and Chromecast are filling the gap. Inevitably you need to use software or workarounds to change your IP address, such as demonstrated here – http://www.changeipaddress.net/ although I’m hoping these stupid restrictions will change soon.