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Using a VPN to Watch the BBC Abroad

If you spend any amount of time online, then investing in a VPN program is a very worthwhile investment for a variety of reasons. Firstly security, the internet is inherently insecure partly because it’s built up on a huge interconnected network of other peoples hardware. When you visit a web site your connection travels through routers, switches and hubs owned and controlled by all sorts of people and organisations of which you’ll have little knowledge and no control.

Just to illustrate, simply start a command prompt in windows (run – command.com) and type in tracert www.facebook.com, this will show you the route your internet request will make when you use Facebook.

tracertlist

All those steps are other people’s hardware and everything you do online follows a similar pattern hopping from one piece of hardware to another until it reaches it destination.   Of course, this would be perfectly fine and is the way the internet has always worked, except the majority of this communication is not protected at all all, in fact it’s often in clear text.    Which means anyone can read, divert or copy information from your internet transactions.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network)  protects against this by encrypting all the data in your connection, every username, every password and email protected against anybody who is listening in on your data.

But there’s another cool use which you can see in this video – How to access BBC iPlayer Outside UK on YouTube.

Not only is your connection encrypted but your identity/location is protected too. This means that you pretend to be in a different location, which is useful when you are trying to access media sites which restrict access to a specific country. In the above example the VPN server is located in the UK so it allows people all over the world to access the BBC iPlayer application at will. Normally they would get blocked when they tried to access the site because their IP address wasn’t registered to a UK address.

Of course it’s not just simple web based geo-blocks that a VPN helps sidestep, many countries block access to parts of the web too. China is probably the most famous example where the State heavily censors the internet using the infamous ‘Great Firewall of China’ and many popular social media sites are blocked by default. The Chinese people however have discovered that you can bypass these blocks simply by subscribing to a VPN service based in another country.

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