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 so do you need anonymity? 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.
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.
For many years, you’d never find a proxy being used outside a corporate or educational network. The proxy was mainly used as a buffer server to route network requests and to route, log and control internet access for computers on the network. The idea was that if you used a Windows or Linux based proxy like ISA then all the web requests came from a single computer, which meant you could scan for viruses, filter for adult sites and basically control internet access both in and out of the network. Combined with a firewall, which could be configured to block any other internet access – the proxy gave you control. Additionally a proxy was able to cache popular sites so that they could be delivered quickly to the internal clients.
Proxies like Windows ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration server) are still used extensively in large network across the world and have become an awful lot more sophisticated over the years. However this post will focus on the use of proxies for private individuals who use these servers for other purposes primarily privacy and to bypass geo-restrictions. So instead of using the proxy to control multiple clients, many internet surfers are using proxies to control their outbound connection. By using proxies in different countries they can maintain their privacy and bypass these country blocks. Just have a look at this proxy program in action –
The software means that you can switch countries easily simply by selecting a different server, the connection is broken and re-established with a different proxy. So if you were based in France and selected a UK proxy server, you would actually be able to use UK only web sites like BBC iPlayer and Sky. Then selecting a US server would allow access to American only sites like ABC, HBO and Hulu.
These software programs replace any manual configuration which was initially required to configure a web browser to use a proxy server. In fact the software illustrated will actually allow you to configure different proxy settings individually for multiple browsers. So for instance you could allow Firefox to operate without the proxy and IE to redirect through a UK based proxy and perhaps Opera to use a highly encrypted connection in Russia.
There’s nothing better for curing a bit of homesickness than watching your home TV station broadcasting the news or a sporting event. Wherever you are it can transport you back to your home if only for a few hours. Which is why the internet is so wonderful for curing the blues when you just miss the your home town.
Of course we have a solution for this, and the internet has enabled it although there are still a few obstacles in the way. This is a quick post for all those Irish people who are a long way from home and just want to hear a familiar accent and home related stories. One of the best ways to stay in contact with the Irish news and stories is by simply watching the news on RTE or TV3. These are arguably the biggest broadcasters in the Republic of Ireland and both of the have fantastic websites which stream most of their programmes live and ‘on demand’.
So in theory you can sit in an internet cafe in Cairo and watch the Irish news on your laptop. Unfortunately in reality this isn’t so simple and what will actually happen is that you’ll get blocked when you try and access either RTE or TV3. Although for RTE you’ll actually get redirected to an international version of their site which contains very little of their programmes. What happens is that when you connect to any of these sites, they check your IP address and perform a lookup to see where that IP is registered from, if you’re not on an Irish IP address then you’ll be blocked due to copyright restrictions.
However all you need to do is hide your real IP address and present an Irish one instead. Here’s how it’s done by using an Irish proxy server like this.
Although you’re not actually changing your IP address if you relay your connection through an intermediate server you can hide your real location. If that server is in Ireland that is an Irish proxy , the web sites will see an Irish IP address, if it’s in France then they’ll see a French IP address and so on. The beauty of this program is that it has servers in all sorts of countries, you can even use it from back in Ireland – to watch the BBC iPlayer like this post.
Every one of the UK TV stations has a fabulous online presence that can be accessed by anyone fairly simply. From the ground breaking BBC iPlayer to the ITV hub and Channels 4 and 5, most of them put a huge percentage of their normal programmes online for a certain amount of time after airing. Channel 4 even has boxed sets available on their web site too – so you can watch entire series of shows at your leisure.
There is the one restriction though, that will affect you if you happen to be based outside the UK – you need a British IP address to use otherwise you won’t be able to access much. Each of the British media channels just like all the US sites, will check your location when you login – if you’re outside the UK you’ll get a cut down international version.
So you need to hide your IP when you’re online – just like this.
This is the simplest, fastest and easiest solution if you’re using a laptop or PC, and using the software illustrated you can switch locations with a click of a button. However nowadays many of us surf the web or watch media on all sorts of other devices like phones, tablets and smart TVs instead.
The difficulty in these instances is that everything has an IP address if it’s connected to the internet and it’s not easy to install software on your media streamer or Smart TV. The intelligent devices like Phones and tablets can still use the same systems – for example you can use Identity Cloaker on all these devices using the software or setting up a VPN connection to their servers using the same account.
Of course a Smart TV or Games console won’t generally have these settings so you’ll have to forget about manual VPN connections or authenticated proxies. In these circumstances, i.e any device which has limited configuration then you would be better looking at another options called a Smart DNS service.
Although not as sophisticated as a VPN and without any encryption layer, Smart DNS does have the advantage of being easily implemented on devices with limited configuration options. In fact all you need to be able to do to use this service is modify your DNS settings which are normally accessible on any internet enabled device. Every Smart TV and console which has internet functionality should let you configure your own DNS server. Effectively this is all you need to do block your IP address from being visible.