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BBC iPlayer Blocked VPNs

It’s a move that’s been greeted with shock by expats across the world, the BBC have begun to actively block access to iPlayer from outside the UK. Apparently they have been doing this for many years, but to be honest their efforts have looked a little half hearted up to now.

People generally bypass these content restrictions by hiding their IP addresses by using proxy or VPN servers based in the country they need. So for example a user in Spain could connect to a UK VPN server as a simple means to get a British IP address. Then they could watch all the ‘UK only’ content like the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and so on, all the sites would simply see the VPN server’s address.

Here’s an example –

What is more some of the more sophisticated services, now offer the chance to switch to different addresses at will – meaning you could change for a British to an American address whenever you wanted to watch Hulu or a US only site.

It was so easy that literally millions of people use these services to watch all sorts of previously blocked channels. You can even use them to swap versions – I use a US VPN to watch US Netflix from the UK which has way more stuff than the UK version.

Most of the big media sites have been trying to block these services for years with moderate success. For some years most of them have been able to detect and block simple proxies, but for VPNs it’s a matter of identifying the addresses and blocking them one by one – extremely time consuming considering the thousands of services that exist. The BBC have had a rather ‘laissez faire’ attitude by occasionally blocking a high profile service but usually leaving most alone – this has now changed.

Over the last few weeks however the BBC has blocked thousands of VPN services. In a move widely believed as a precursor to the BBCs paid streaming services which will be announced next year. The reality is that people who have been using a VPN to watch the BBC online for years suddenly have been cut off.

There is hope, unless the BBC have developed some sort of system for detecting and blocking the use of VPNs automatically – something which the Chinese haven’t even figured out yet – then it’s likely that this will be short lived. Most of the VPN providers will simply switch IP addresses and re-establish connections. It’s probably worth avoiding any high profile service and those that heavily promote the TV as a ‘tv watching’ (which they all are) – Identity Cloaker is worth checking out as it is very low key and keeps a low ratio of user to IP address – so far it has not been affected by the blocks.

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Indian Censorship Backtrack – No Porn for Indian IP Addresses

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.

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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.

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How to Change DNS on Smart TV

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.

Start Here.
smarthub-smasung

Then Find this….
networksmartdns

Leading on to this page……
smartdns-settings

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.

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Is Speed Important for a VPN Service?

Years ago, I had a very exciting job installing a VPN client from IBM on thousands of laptops in a Pharmaceutical company.  They took security very seriously, the stakes are high with regards drug and research – many of these laptops had direct access to all sorts of confidential data.  All the laptops were secure, all had full disk encryption multiple authentication requirements and if they were lost they could be remotely locked too.

For many years, the company refused to allow access to the internet using company laptops citing the security issues.  However over the years the pressure became greater, people got fed up of carting two laptops every where and the tablet wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as they are now.  Eventually they gave in and allowed people to use both the internet for personal reasons, but also remote access into the corporate network.  There was much expense involved and the laptops were about as secure as they could possibly be in those circumstances using the technology available.

One important concepts was the VPN, first it allowed access to the corporate network and secondly it allowed another level of protection for communication online.  The IBM client software I installed would look for the nearest company VPN server and connect through to that, all the individuals were supposed to use this method every time they went online.  It all looked great in theory although many in security still maintained there ‘no net is safer’ stance.

The problem was, the super secure VPN service was very slow, despite supposedly trying to connect to the nearest VPN server – sometimes this didn’t work very well and the client software would pick some remote server on the other side of the world.  Also some of the servers just ran very slowly across certain connections, in many cases this was due to routing and hardware issues not related to the servers themselves. For the people who used these laptops, the decision was quite simple – fire up the VPN and suffer tedious waits, buffering and delays or forget to start the VPN and surf normally at super fast speeds that are often available in hotels and remote locations.  The reality was very few people ended up using this expensive, global network of VPN servers unless they really had to.

Speed is Important in a VPN

Although it’s primary purpose is arguably security, a fast VPN service is something that is essential if it’s going to be used.   As we can see from this video:

A VPN server will always have some impact on speed simply because it’s adding an extra hop on any route. However a fast, well configured VPN service can minimize this extra lag – in fact there are compression technologies that can severely reduce the effect and sometimes they can even speed up a connection slightly.

When you are looking at choosing a VPN service make sure that you test relative speed carefully especially before taking up a long subscription. There are a variety of speed tests sites available online and what you should do is baseline your connection without the VPN enabled and then check the impact of using the tunnel. Make sure you check the specific countries you need, for example if you use a VPN to access UK TV sites and media – then ensure that you test the UK servers. Often popular countries are overloaded with requests whilst other servers may run much more quickly because they’re underutilized.

Further Reading Here

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Do I Really Need a VPN to be Safe Online?

You’ll get some very different answers depending on where you ask this question. If you happen to frequent security, technology or hacking groups or forums then there’s little point asking the question, the answer will be a resounding yes. On the hacking forums, there will be much ridicule too for even asking whether you need a VPN in the first place. The general opinion of the technically savvy would be firmly in the ‘yes’ camp.

Other’s are likely to see less of a need, many still believing the mantra – ‘I have nothing to hide’ so what’s the point. The problem is that anyone who uses the internet for any purpose almost certainly has something to hide – anything from their credits card numbers to a personal email address (which gives access to lots of other services). This of course, refers to the many internet baddies who are utilising the web to build huge criminal enterprises with all the cash of traditional activities but without the inherent risks.

The other aspect of the question is ‘who’ you’re thinking to be safe from. Almost all of us want to keep our details safe from the cyber crooks, but how many of us care that the authorities can see what we do online? Many people feel that the police and investigation services need access to our email and web histories in order to catch terrorists and criminals. Other’s think that it’s unacceptable to spy on an entire population in order to catch a few baddies.

First a video which reference the subject – Is VPN Safe?

Of course, it’s up to the individual to decide on the whether they do need to use a VPN. What is worth considering though is the plain facts of what happens when you use the internet without one.

  • The vast majority of your web activity happens in clear text (SSL excepted).
  • ISP Logs contain every web site we visit, everything we download and message we send.
  • Every web site you visit can record your identity.
  • When using an untrusted network anyone can steal any of your details used when online.
  • SSL is no protection on untrusted networks (simple MITM attacks)

For me ultimately, it’s the ease in which it’s possible to steal online without using some sort of encryption method.  The fact that it’s relatively simple to steal credentials that give access to email, online banking and paypal accounts and steal thousands makes me incredibly wary.   I suspect if many knew that this was technically possible they would also be equally as paranoid as the guys in the hacking groups.

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Why Should I Pay for a UK Proxy Service?

One things for sure, there’s lots of free stuff on the internet if you’re struggling for cash. If you have the time and inclination you probably don’t have to ever miss another blockbuster ever again without spending a penny on DVDs or cinema tickets. That’s not going to change in the near future unless the industry severely changes it’s business models. Of course, it can be incredibly time consuming and frustrating experience trying to download a film as more often you end up with a version filmed from the back of a cinema, muffled sound, dark images or my personal favorite where the last ten minutes seems to have disappeared.

There are dangers as well as frustrations too, over the years there have been more and more cases of people being heavily fined for downloading and watching copyrighted films. These are ordinary people who just download the odd movie, yet fail to realise that their identity is easily obtainable from their ISP.

However when you are assessing what free’ things are worth the risk on the internet -then beware something like a US or British proxies are most definitely not one of them. People insist on using these free proxies as opposed to buying an IP address, that are posted and harvested on the internet but it’s incredibly risky. For a start most of these servers are simply misconfigured, so technically using them without the owners permission constitutes a criminal act in many countries. However another large proportion are there simply to steal people’s personal information, hackers log and eavesdrop your internet connection looking for usernames and passwords.

This is an example of a paid UK proxy service which of course has the disadvantage of costing money. However in reality that’s unlikely to be the case, as it works well, is fast and can stream video with ease and it won’t put your personal details at risk.

Of course, whatever people say – many are hard coded into the ‘free’ search. However it’s worth stepping back and thinking sometimes about free proxies and VPNs. Even those that look legitimate like the browser add on Hola have to extract something from you in order to at least cover the costs. We all thought that Hola merely riddled your computer with adware and affiliate links but turns out it actually steals your bandwidth too by using your computer in a commercial botnet (it’s true check that link or Google).

The reality is that providing a proxy service costs a lot of money, the bandwidth costs, the support team have to be paid so why would anyone provide that for free? The answer is that they don’t, there is always a cost.

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Change IP to France – Get a French IP Address

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.

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Change IP Address Russia Using a Russian Proxy

Ever wanted to change your virtual location when browsing the web?  Perhaps for security reasons, or just to access some content that is restricted in your location.  Your IP address is effectively your virtual location when you’re online, so a UK Ip address will get you access to any online UK content like the BBC but you’ll be blocked from other countries.

Would anyone ever want the option to change IP Address to Russia though?  After all are there a host of Russian only movie sites that blow Hulu out of the water, or perhaps a news channel that gives the BBC a run for it’s money?

Russian Ip Address, Da

Well in truth probably not, but there actually quite a few reasons for switching to a Russian IP address range.  One of the important ones is privacy, if you want to keep your data safe from prying eyes then routing it through a Russian proxy server is a serious option.   Tracking down someones location and getting access to their server logs can be quite a trivial action in western democracies however accessing them in Russia is usually considerably more difficult.

However that is not to say that it’s a smart idea to piggy back on some free Russian proxy server you find listed on the web.  There are a lot of them for sure, however there is a reason why you should avoid them like the plague.  Because of it’s general inaccessibility to Western authorities, Russia is also home to a significant number of the internet’s cyber criminals, spammers, hackers and identity thieves.  There are a lot of very clever Russian hackers who make huge profits from internet based crimes.

One of the easiest ways to steal from people online is to use their greed against them.  Set up a free proxy and let it filter into the proxy lists, then wait for people to start funnelling their connections through these servers.  All one needs to do is log all the traffic and filter out email accounts, usernames and passwords to build up an easy hit list waiting to target. Whether it’s theft,  spamming or in some cases blackmail, trusting the owner of an free Russian proxy with your internet data is truly a very stupid thing to do.

However using a well run, trusted commercial proxy or VPN server based in Russia is actually a highly secure options.  The minimal laws regarding data retention and access, keep data safe and of course pretty inaccessible, if the server’s owner ensures that logs and data are not stored it makes it a highly secure option for surfing under the radar.  Lots of people use these, but remember that you may find when you change your IP address to Russia, it can be a bit of a nuisance in some cases, many service providers routinely block Russian IP ranges simply because of the criminal and spam threat that comes from these.  My own servers are frequently targeted through Russian ip addresses and I have blocked many ranges myself.

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Hack Attack From Thailand

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.

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Nice Picture of Bangkok

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.

 

 

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How to get a British IP Address

It’s hard to believe, but many of the world’s biggest web sites actively discriminate between people depending on their location. Of course, it’s not called discrimination, they use fancy terms like geo-targeting or geo location instead.  The reality is that the internet from Africa, is very different than that based in the UK from a British IP address.

It really is a form of discrimination. Ever tried to watch the BBC News from Spain online, or buy from a store in Canada using the internet because it’s half the price? If you have there’s a chance you’ll be blocked, because of where you happen to be.

British IP Address

It’s getting worse every year, more and more sites will look at your location and either restrict or block access. We’re not talking about a few, but thousands of the biggest sites on the web. So much so that every time I travel away from the UK, I’m thinking how I can get a UK address to  watch my favorite shows, access my online banking and stream from the many UK only sites.

How to get a British IP Address

Well here’s one solution – use a British proxy.

This method allows you to change your IP address when you need to, which effectively gives you control of what you see and not the web sites you visit. It’s basically very simple instead of connecting directly with a website you merely route your connection through a server which relays your request called a proxy or VPN server.

In the example illustrated here, the software allows you to choose which server to relay your connection through so you can effectively choose your virtual location. So if you’re wanting to watch something on a British media site like the BBC, ITV or Channel 4 you just pick a UK based server. Then when you connect to the web site it will see a British IP address irrespective or where you are.

THen if you need another country, simply click on the location you need. So if you want to watch Hulu or HBO then choose a US server and everything will work.

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