It’s been a few months now since Netflix instigated it’s comprehensive and extremely effective VPN and Smart DNS block. Overnight literally millions of people found that they were blocked from accessing their Netflix version of choice as suddenly their DNS or VPN solutions simply stopped working. When they connected to Netflix by using one of these methods instead of being redirected to their selected version as soon as a movie or video was played – this was the message most users received:
Most people used these solutions to access different versions of Netflix, generally the US, UK or Canadian versions simply because they are much bigger and better. The US version of Netflix for example has thousands more movies and TV shows than some of the smaller countries have access to, despite the subscription cost being fairly standard across the world. For expats or travellers this was even more inconvenient as their US Netflix subscription suddenly was inaccessible and they were redirected to whatever the local version happened to be.
It looked like the media giant had won and the internet got a little bit smaller again. However there is hope, we’ve already written on these pages about one residential VPN system which now works after some serious upgrade work. Now there is a Smart DNS solution too, implemented by the company . . I believe it is the only US DNS Netflix based system which currently works with Netflix and it works very well indeed.
Smart DNS systems are actually preferred by many users because they don’t require any software and you can install them on all sorts of devices. They work by only redirecting part of your internet connection and only when you’re using a region blocking media site like Netflix. All you need to do is to use the Unblock-US DNS servers instead of your normal ones. They’ll work normally until you visit a website like Netflix at which point you’ll be redirected through a server in the country you have specified.
Here’s the screen where you specify which country to be routed through. In this example I’ve chosen Canada as Canadian Netflix has some great shows not available on any other Netflix regions, although I usually leave this set to US Netflix. If you’ve changed your DNS settings, that’s all you need to do – simply specify which region you wish to use. You can use this on virtually any device as long as you are able to access the DNS server settings – including phones, smart TVs, media streamers and games consoles.
You still need a valid Netflix subscription of course, but it effectively gives you access to any version of Netflix instantly from anywhere in the world.
However don’t take my word for it, simply click here – . and try it for yourself. Remember all you need to do is to change your DNS server address and select your Netflix Region and that’s it.
When you join a swarm of people happily downloading the latest blockbuster or best selling album, it’s kind of easy to feel pretty safe. After all you’re hiding behind a piece of software built for anonymous torrenting, right? Well no that’s wrong and for the clue you only have to take a little look in the menu of most torrenting software – here’s a useful screenshot to illustrate the point.
See those details? Those are the IP addresses of your fellow down-loaders, their location and which client they’re using. So if you’re downloading a pirated version of some movie – you can see everyone else who is downloading that movie too. Is it a big deal? After all you’re not likely to use that information as you’re doing the same thing. Well imagine that information is available to any legal or copyright holder simply by attaching themselves to the download.
What they can produce in seconds without any skill or knowledge is a huge list of IP addresses who are infringing the copyright on a particular download. Worse, those addresses can easily be turned into real names, addresses and phone numbers with a letter or legal notice to your ISP. It’s worth thinking about that sitting in your ISP is a log with full details of everything you’ve downloaded via torrents for anyone to see, the logs are usually kept for up to two years although that varies on local laws. The name that will be associated with the download will be whoever pays the bill for the ISP – makes you think doesn’t it.
So what’s the risk, well there is a financial cost if you get caught often set at a low cost per infringement – but $20 per download can get expensive if you get caught for 20 songs or movies. What’s worse it can rise to thousands if they decide to make an example by taking legal action. It can also be kind of embarrassing to being prosecuted if your downloads are of the adult entertainment variety, especially worrying if your parents or wife pays the bill!
The risks are so extensive and the likelihood of getting caught so significant that maintaining your anonymity whilst downloading torrents is not just advisable but arguably essential.
Methods of Anonymous Torrenting
There are a few options, some much more technical than others. The free methods using online anonymous proxies or things like Tor are covered online but involve some technical skill and lots of patience as your download speeds will plummet. They’re covered extensively online but make sure you check you have implemented them correctly, it’s very simple to think you’re using an anonymous proxy but you’re really not!
Safety and speed really relies on using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider to both encrypt your download and shield your IP address from any prying eyes. The best VPN for torrenting depends on a variety of reasons including speed and security. Most of these are pretty easy to use, simply click a button to connect then start your torrent client and everything should be protected.
There are some important caveats though:
- The IP address of the VPN provider will appear associated with the torrent so any DCMA notice could be forwarded to them (with a request for your identity) – make sure that your VPN provider doesn’t comply with these or better still doesn’t log any data which means they can’t identify you. There are a few providers who do this.
- Use only a professional service. A badly set up VPN connection simply won’t hide your identity and worse will make you look more guilty, choose an established provider who knows what they’re doing.
- Torrents devour bandwidth – make sure your VPN provider allows this, many don’t.
It’s not complicated to keep your torrenting anonymous but it doesn’t happen without action. Sitting and downloading torrents in the clear has a real chance of getting you into real legal problems. Even if it’s just a $150 DCMA infraction notice, is it worth the hassle. If you do want to take the risk use an random, anonymous internet connection from a cafe or hotel. Also it’s well worth avoiding downloading the latest blockbuster as these high profile films are often monitored and people downloading aggressively prosecuted.
Try IPVanish for the best VPN for torrenting, they don’t log, allow torrent services and you can even pay in bitcoins if you’re really cautious.
For many years there has been a sort of techno battle going on between the big multimedia giants like HBO, HULU, BBC and Netflix and the proxy/VPN providers. Why? Well the answer is simple, most of these media companies deliver their content over the internet but need to control where it can be accessed – sometimes due to copyright issues or simply as a profit maximisation technique. Using a VPN service bypasses these blocks and allows access to any content irrespective of your location
Hence the battle with the media companies trying to block access from these services whenever they can mostly with limited success. The problem is simply the scale, there are so many of these services being used any attempt to manually block IP ranges simply results in a temporary block as new addresses are reassigned. The previous tactics were too simply manually identify IP address ranges being used by these services either through firewall and server logs, plus simply using them – which is why the bigger, more high profile VPN services got hit hardest at least initially. It was fairly simple to switch addresses through the VPN servers though and it became a never ending game of catch up.
Until Netflix decided on another tactic, which although fairly simple has proved devastatingly effective. What they’ve done is to block based on another classification of the IP addresses we all use – commercial or residential. They have blocked any commercial IP address from accessing the service so blocking out virtually every VPN service. Unfortunately for the VPN providers it’s not easy to switch to residential IP addresses as they are hard to source outside standard ISPs. Although in this video – Netflix Blocks VPN you can see that some have found a way.
The program in this video is called Identity Cloaker and it has updated it’s infrastructure to cope with these issues. What happens is that when the software detects a request for the Netflix website it then redirects to a server with a residential IP address. This means that these servers can be limited and the company can provide a residential VPN service but only when specifically required. Most companies won’t be able to do this though, because these addresses are very difficult to obtain, one things for sure the days of using a proxy for Netflix are long gone!
It’s unclear whether other of the media giants will adopt hit approach, although it seems an effective way of enforcing region locking quite cheaply. There are some problems in that many people have to use VPNs for security reasons, and also it will make accessing Netflix at work difficult as corporate networks will mostly be classified as commercial IP ranges.
The war waged on VPN service by the media companies has been going on for many years but it’s lately developed a new twist. Virtual Private Networks are used by millions of people to bypass internet filters, censorship and region locking. The latter term refers to the practice of restricting access based on your location, usually to due with some sort of licensing restrictions. It’s very common and for anyone who travels a lot or lives abroad can be a real problem.
For example a US citizen spending some time in Europe will get barred from accessing all their home media services – their Hulu and HBO accounts for example will not be accessible. This is because they won’t have a US IP address and will ultimately only have access to media resources in the country they are located in. Even more global service like Netflix will redirect you to a localized version which can be a problem if you don’t speak that language well. So VPN services have been extremely popular as they stop this sort of filtering, you simply connect to a VPN in the country you wish to access and everything should work fine, so you can choose which is the best VPN for Netflix for instance.
Blocking these services is actually very difficult, simply because the actual VPN connection is very difficult to identify. The method usually applied is to try and monitor simultaneous connections from the same IP address or manually locate the addresses of these service providers and add them to a black list. Both work but are extremely time intensive to operate and the reality is that the IP addresses can be rotated very quickly anyway.
However Netflix has moved the battle significantly with it’s latest blocking move, by restricting access to specific categories of IP address. The media giant has blocked access to it’s servers from any commercial based IP address, and given that 99% of VPN servers sit in data centers with commercial addresses this move has wiped out the majority of VPN access to Netflix.
The fight has moved on however and other companies are now expanding to offer different VPN services which are assigned residential classified IP addresses rather than commercial ones. These can be more expensive but are currently the only way you can access Netflix servers by using a VPN to hide your real IP address. It’s too soon to be certain whether this will become more widespread, although it does seem to be the simplest way to enforce region locks.
Whether all companies are going to be able to provide the sort of residential VPN that is needed to bypass these blocks remains to be seen. At the moment these domestic classified addresses are hard to get hold of for anyone who isn’t an ISP – some companies like Identity Cloaker have incorporated them but they are the exception at the moment.
Over the last few years there has been somewhat of a battle developing online. It’s about how the very fundamentals of the internet work and for many it’s fundamentally changed the whole concept of the distribution of information. When the internet was first developing, there were very few barriers – any web site, resource or page was accessible to anyone – anywhere on the planet. If you were blocked or couldn’t access a site then it was more likely a technical or configuration issue rather then a restriction or filter – this is no longer the case.
Over the last decade, slowly but surely this position is beginning to change. Now blocks and filters and restrictions exist all over the internet installed by all sorts of people. No longer do web sites publish for the world, they control access specifically for certain markets or locations. It’s like some huge segmented wide area network, where access policies are being applied based on your physical location.
Why Would I Use a British Proxy?
The reasons vary greatly, from governments who wish to restrict what is accessed online like the Turkish and Chinese governments but more commonly it’s commercial organisations who want more control over their content. The primary driver is usually profit of course, years ago you could stream movies from Hulu free of charge wherever you happened to be – now it involves a subscription which is only available in specific countries. The same has happened with the UK TV channels, BBC ITV and Channel 4 are now only accessible from within the UK – otherwise you’ll get blocked.
The majority of the ‘commercial’ filters are enforced based on IP addresses, which can be used to identify your location. The websites look up where your address is assigned to which then determines whether you can access or not. The BBC iPlayer for example will only work if it detects that you are connected from a UK registered IP address. Which is why the exponential growth of the use of proxies which people used to hide their real IP address and use one in a different country instead. So using a UK proxy online would allow you to watch the BBC wherever you happen to be in the world – here’s how it works – How to Hide IP Address online.
This technical subterfuge made proxies an almost essential tool, certainly if you were based in a location where the government filtered your internet connection in addition to the commercial companies. Turkey for instance is adding to it’s blocked sites list at an alarming rate and combined with normal internet filters it means that many parts of the internet are simply inaccessible without using such technology.
Unfortunately proxies which were commonly available often for no cost are becoming increasingly ineffective. The problem is that they are very easily to detect even when configured by experts, which means that most commercial sites now detect and block access from British proxy servers. The BBC blocked them for the first time earlier in the year, a move which upset millions of global BBC viewers.
Fortunately a very similar technology still works and is virtually undetectable and that’s virtual private networks (VPNs). These operate in a similar way to British proxies but they are much more sophisticated and allow the communication channel to be encrypted. Many of the commercial companies try and detect the use of VPNs without fail but now rely on spotting their use by the number of physical connections tied to a single IP.
You can find a discount here for one of the most advanced – Identity Cloaker Coupon
For years now, people have been using free proxies that you can find online – it’s not always the smartest move as many of these are simply hacked or mis-configured and using them without permission leaves anyone open to legal action. Even then, some of them are used to actively sniff your traffic with the intention of stealing usernames, account names and passwords for identity theft or plundering your accounts.
However despite these huge security risks, people still use them in their millions every day for accessing content that is restricted to specific countries. Just for example say you a German national who happens to be living or working say just over the border in France, you might get annoyed to find that many of the web sites you normally visited are blocked because of your location. Yes, at the moment the European dream of unrestricted movement doesn’t really extend to the digital realm. Your location determines a huge amount of what you can access online, including often important stuff like online banking.
The solution is relatively well know, simply route your connection through a proxy server located in the correct country. So our friend would need to bounce his connection through a German proxy in order access German only web sites and services. A crazy situation which is compounded when you have to find the proxy in a specific country, for example look what I (a UK TV license fee payer) need to do in order to watch BBC News live online when I’m travelling or on holiday.
Isn’t it crazy? Yet it happens to people all over the world in thousands of different situations being discriminated and filtered simply based on their physical location when they connect.
Unfortunately now, free proxies will be pretty much pointless as there’s a growing trend to block access whilst connected to a proxy server. Proxies, even the well configured secure ones can usually be detected by the website you visit. Many sites usually turned a blind eye, for example you could get access to BBC iPlayer with any old crappy proxy for many years. This is beginning to change and now they rarely work as sites actively block the use of proxies to connect to their sites, yep including the BBC.
What you now need is a VPN and a well configured one too, at the moment for example this is the only way to access something like Netflix when you’re outside one of the countries they broadcast too. Even this can be difficult with some companies who are trying to block even VPN access. This is quite difficult and takes quite a lot of resources, but Netflix seems to be doing this. Although they can’t determine the actual presence of a VPN connection they can make an educated guess based on the number of connections being established on specific IP address ranges. These can then be put into a static blocked list which can be banned from accessing the websites – it’s probably very expensive to do especially as the VPN service providers will usually then change their addresses in response.