It’s not uncommon, internet censorship at state level is usually implemented in a fairly farcical way. It normally follows some sort of pattern like this – first offensive article/blog post/video is posted on some huge social networking site, the government then expresses outrage and forces all the ISPs to block that site. Next comes public outrage and a growing realisation that the offending content has been copied to thousands of other mirror sites and is in fact more accessible than it was initially. Users are driven towards using technologies like VPNs and proxies, and thousands bounce their connections through UK IPs and US based VPN servers and proxies. Net effect is that loads more people see the content than if it was simply ignored.
There are many countries who seem to go through this cycle over and over again without ever learning a lesson. Even without the mirror sites, a web site is not easily blocked without a huge investment in advanced content filters and firewalls like the Chinese have built, even then it’s pretty difficult to block all access. Most countries do something pretty low tech like block IP addresses or maintain a URL blacklist – all can be bypassed using a VPN or proxy service.
India earlier this week announced a huge censorship program designed to block access to internet based pornography, a ludicrous thing to attempt. They drafted an extensive list of porn laden urls and then passed a vague directive to the ISPS to block access. Remember India is meant to be a democracy and the censorship was very badly received by the Indian public.
Outrage and condemnation followed and it took barely two days for the Communication and Technology ministry to backtrack issuing yet another confusing directive allowing the ISPs to ‘not disable any of the 857 URLs’ as long as they don’t contain child pornography. Another pointless exercise as the ISPs (just like the Indian Government) have no resources to be able to filter web sites for child pornography anyway.
It’s the usual half thought out, hopeless legislation that normally accompanies these filtering implementations. The Indian Government has made itself look incredibly inept and incompetent just like most state sponsored web censorship attempts.
Smart TVs are getting smarter, that’s for certain, the days when your TV would simply display a few channels received from a television aerial are long gone. Today’s Smart TV are multimedia powerhouses which can access and display all sorts of content from a variety of different sources.
For example a standard Smart TV will be able to use applications to access internet based sites like Hulu, BBC iPlayer, ITV player, Netflix, Youtube and a host of others. Just plug your TV into your network and you can access all sorts of resources that previously were only accessible from your home computers.
However with this new power comes the annoying restrictions too, geo-locking technology that blocks access to different sites on computers has the same effect on our TV sets too. Our Netflix is locked to the crappy version we normally get and millions won’t be able to access things like BBC iPlayer or HBO online unless we start shipping or TV with us internationally. The blocks work in the same way as they do on computers, your IP address is checked and location noted then you’re allowed access or blocked depending on where you are.
BUT WAIT – IP Address on my TV, it’s not a computer?
Well a Smart TV is pretty much the same as a computer at least if it wants to access the internet, any network enabled device needs an IP address to function online. Which also means it needs a host of network settings to allow it to talk to your router or access point and ultimately use internet based resources.
So does that mean you can also use USA proxies and VPNs (see here) to bypass these blocks like millions already use on their computers? Well it’s possible but usually a little tricky simply because you’ll only have access to basic functionality on a Smart TV – it’s much easier to use a system called Smart DNS.
Here’s the one I use, after testing about 10 of them earlier last year.
They are called Overplay and to use on your Smart TV is actually quite simple, all you need is the cheapest service – Smart DNS. Once you’ve enabled your account, by visiting their registration page from any computer, phone or tablet on your network then you just need to enable it on your Smart TV. This process will vary depending on your TV but you’re basically looking for the Network Settings page.
Which is where, all you need to do is to input your new Smart DNS server in the DNS server settings. This turns your Smart TV into an international traveller able to adopt a disguise whenever needed. When you click through to the Netflix Application you’ll be able to access the US version, play BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world or in fact any UK Television stations. The Smart DNS server will apply a little disguise to your connection wherever you need it to. No software, no VPN, the SMart DNS server will do it all for you without rerouting your connection.
There are quite a few very good media channels in France but unfortunately for many you’ll need to get a French IP address to watch them. One of my favorites is called M6 Replay and I used to watch it with my son to help with his (and my French), simply because they’d dub a lot of popular US shows into French – so you could change IP to France and watch the Simpsons and pick up some new vocabulary. However first we had to figure out how to access the programmes because if you tried to watch any of the shows from outside France then you’d get blocked just after the adverts.
The reason is that like all the internet’s big media sites, the content is normally restricted to the country of broadcast. So M6 Replay was not available unless you connected through a French ISP and had an IP address originating from France. However fortunately you can change IP to France by by connecting first through a French proxy or VPN server.
How to Get a French IP Address
It sounds complicated but it really isn’t and if you use some simple software it’s just a matter of clicking a button or two. Here’s how to use a French proxy do it –
It’s relatively easy to do and if you use the product demonstrated you can even disconnect after the show has started streaming because the check is only at the beginning. However if you restart or switch to another broadcast then the web site will check for that French IP address again, so often it’s easier to keep the connection on.
The practice is known as geo-targeting or geo-locking and it’s growing extensively. There aren’t many major sites which don’t check your location now and then customise what you can see (or more often not see) depending on your location. Sometimes it’s quite useful as the search engines check your location too before listing results – which is obviously needed so that your search results are localised.
Usually it’s done to block access though, and big media sites like Netflix use it to lock you into a region specific version (usually with different prices). So if you start Netflix from the UK you’ll get a UK version, use a US IP address and you’ll see a USA version and so on. Using a tool like Identity Cloaker you can actually get access to all versions just by switching your location. So if you want to access French Netflix simply route your connection through one of the French servers and your French IP address will allow you access.
My server (it’s not the one this site is stored on by the way!) has been very, very busy this week being attacked by bots and crazed hackers from all over the world. One of the most persistent was from a Thailand IP address, the address was allocated from a Thai ISP and the reverse DNS is node-or5.pool-1-10.dynamic.totbb.net. The ISP responsible for this naughty Thai attacker is TOT Public Company Limited who are based in Bangkok.
It’s target was the EXIM service which is a message transfer agent, so our friend was looking for ways for relaying his Spam messages I would guess. I have the latest version of Exim which I think is 4.85, there were some security problems with earlier versions so make sure you’re up to date. At the very least make sure you’re running version 4.
The attack was automated and pretty dumb – consistently attacking the same service with the same username. Obviously this triggered an automatic IP address ban and it’s been added to CPhulk brute force protection. This is a service (available and configurable through WHM) which is designed to block Brute force attacks from troublesome IP addresses. This basically maintains two lists regarding logins to the server – a black list and a whitelist. When you add an IP address to the blacklist it won’t be able to ever logon to that server at all. This covers every service so it’s useful to automated penetration or hacking tools which try to brute force every service in turn. You have to be careful using it though as it’s perfectly possible to blacklist your own address, which I nearly did when I had a British IP address enabled through a VON which I didn;t recognise.