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Community College in Los Angeles Pays Ransom

There’s little doubt that ransomware is becoming the hottest cyber crime at the moment.  The concept is quite old, yet the increasing reports of ransom payments being made suggests that the tactic is becoming much more effective.

The latest report comes from the US, where the Los Angeles Community College District has reportedly paid a ransom demand of $28000 to some crooks who had infected their network with ransomware.   The attack took place at the end of December, seemingly timed to coincide with the start of the new term.  We’ve not been told the type of ransomware but the attack followed a familiar pattern – an initial infection then spread using the internal network encrypting key files as it went.

They then received the demand, they were given one week to pay the ransom in order to access their files.  The college decided to pay for a variety of reasons.  Obviously the driving force was recovering their files, however the college also had invested in an insurance policy which covered these situations.  Cyber security experts and law enforcement agents advised that paying the ransom offered a good chance of recovering their data.  So the ransom was paid anroney but it is not an exorbitant amount.  The cost compared to the value of the data to the organisation is worth paying.  The cyber criminals have also learned that it is important to actually provide the decryption key when they are paid.  Earlier extortion attempts would simply disappear, which made paying the ransom of little benefit to organisations, by keeping their word more victims are taking the risk.

Of course, the crazy situation is that if organisations simply invested in a decent back up system and some sort of disaster recovery plan then this sort of attack would be ineffective.  It’s not hard to infect a poorly protected network, it only needs one avenue of attack – a clicked spear phishing email or infected memory stick left around and the ransomware can spread across the network.

The vast majority of organisations which are being targeted seem to be those who are potentially more vulnerable.   Hospitals and educational establishments often have large networks with many users.  They also often have under-resourced IT departments who don’t always follow security best practices.  It is easy to defeat this particular form of attack but it involves investing in IT infrastructure and the relevant staff until organisations start doing this instead of paying ransoms expect these attacks to escalate.

 

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The Return of US DNS Netflix

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 VPN or US DNS Netflix 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:

US DNS Netflix

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 had 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.  Remember though they provide no real anonymity, so if that’s a requirement you’ll need a VPN.  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.

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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 can even assign these settings on devices which restrict access to the network settings like the Roku. However it can be a little trickier as you have to assign the DNS settings via a DHCP allocation if your router or access point supports that facility.

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.

 

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Anonymous Torrenting – What’s the Best VPN in 2017

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?  You don’t need to know how to hide ip address when downloading, do you? 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.

anonymous torrenting

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?  Should you hide IP address utorrent or any other software.  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.  Which will include you unless you have some ip address protection.  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.   Sure some will be false addresses perhaps one or two from a public anonymous proxy, but the vast majority will be real addresses and names.   The name that will be associated with the download will be whoever pays the bill for the ISP – makes you think doesn’t it, is an anonymous bittorrent solution only for the paranoid – definitely not.

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.  The costs of even the best ip blocker quickly becomes fairly irrelevant compared with these sort of numbers. It’s a false economy to search for the best free IP hider because there really isn’t one that is reliable and safe. 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!  Just selecting an Proxy EU service doesn’t guarantee privacy although using a paid service is usually a good sign as companies will normally delete all their logs.

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  anonymous 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 anonymous torrenting,  they don’t log, allow torrent services and you can even pay in bitcoins if you’re really cautious.

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Netflix Unblocker – Battle of the VPNs

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.

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Residential VPN – A New Era of IP Addresses

In this article we will introduce the concept of using a VPN and their updated counterpart the residential VPN for bypassing the various blocks and filters you’ll encounter online.

The war waged on VPN services by the media companies has been going on for many years but it’s lately developed a new twist.  Virtual Private Networks are now 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.

Years ago you could use things like a netflix proxy free version or even some simple dns-trick software to bypass these blocks, alas no longer.  They are all blocked apart from the new generation of virtual private networks.   Some companies are more aggressive than others, for example I tried viperdns solution with ITV hub and it works but not for most of the larger US media firms like Netflix.  In fact they are the most aggressive and the the days of using a Netflix proxy chrome extension are consigned to history.

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.

residential vpn

Blocking these services for the media company is actually very difficult to do, 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.

Introducing the Residential VPN

However Netflix has moved the battle significantly with it’s latest blocking move, by actually 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.

Here’s a residential VPN solution that still works however –

This is a big step and arguably will signal the end of many of the simple VPN companies especially if other media firms follow suit.   The companies who merely rent a few dedicated servers and install some proprietary software simply weren’t prepared for this move.   The simple fact is that it’s extremely easy to obtain commercial IP addresses but much more difficult to obtain residential addresses.

The fight has moved on however and some of the VPN companies like Identity Cloaker 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.

It was first attempted about six years ago when a few TV streaming services blocked access from non-residential addresses.  It was just as successful then and in some ways surprising that the practice didn’t become more widespread.  There are problems of course, when you block access from commercial IP addresses you potentially block many legitimate users too.

For example anyone connected from the workplace through a corporate proxy or using a VPN for security would be blocked too.  Imagine how many people use the BBC in their office and you can see the potential dilemma for these companies.  Perhaps for a pure media streaming company like Netflix it’s more straightforward, after all many employers will already block sites like these purely because of the bandwidth they use.

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.

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Turkish Internet Censorship Laws

This informative article attempts to provide an account of online censorship in Turkey. The government is deciding what’s suitable for everybody to see online. In spite of this, there continue to be guarantors of Internet freedom. The web hasn’t been more threatened. For many in Turkey, needing to select a filtering option is only another type of censorship. These regulations usually do not impose any censorship in any respect on the Internet.

The online providers in Turkey are in a hard position. Internet providers within the country now are actually blocking the addresses used by the website, which makes it significantly harder to get round the restrictions, analysts have said. Very often in the usa, if a person violates censorship laws, they may be fined or thrown in prison. In lots of ways, the censorship laws of both of these countries are rather similar. The feasible consequences of the law are extremely disturbing. The present law needs to be abolished and also the government should begin from scratch in regards to controlling the net,’ he says.

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In the online world there is just one way which people can figure your identity and that’s through your IP Address. Scattered reports indicate that internet access is, in addition, limited. Additionally, there isn’t any technical tool which guarantees hundred percent control online. As Egypt probably learned in 2011, tampering with the world wide web really isn’t the best method to create an economy within a Internet-dependent world. Unfortunately, we’re again faced with censorship within our nation.” The web has got the potential to be the maximum enabler of human expression, in addition, it has got the potential to be the maximum tool of the latest social control.”

Laws governing acceptable online use are rather new and not well refined. Regulation of internet content is essential in this sense. After a trial procedure, courts can choose to take out the content or block websites. This is not only about blocking access to specific varieties of content. Internet providers will then be required to utilize URL-based blocking of sites and also the users will never be able to access these by changing their DNS settings as has previously become the case. I’ve found users searching for on ways to get pass through such web censorship in Turkey.

In the modern world, censorship is among the most frequently used concepts in political and social science. Internet censorship is mainly practiced to defend the social order. The range of censorship is tough to appreciate for a number of reasons. It’s part of an even more general dilemma of creeping censorship. Well since I have discussed inside my prior articles about internet censorship. We’ll also acquire info about the ways some folks are working to fight censorship.

We are not able to deny the significance of the net for a tool for freedom of speech. This modus operandi is among the characteristics of net neutrality, among the key tenets of the Net. This sort of censorship isn’t as simple as blocking individual websites wth tiny audiences. Third, whilst the web is viewed as an international phenomenon, acts of censorship may appear parochial or nationalin a word, isolated. There’s also another implication for the social system that has personal overtones within the context of censorship. This then leads to a greater degree of struggle against the present trend and so, an elevated degree of internet censorship.