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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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