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Archive for May, 2013

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How to Watch RTE USA, UK When Not in Ireland

Another post for those missing their favorite TV channels just because they are outside their home country. This ones about accessing RTE from the US, or in fact anywhere that’s outside the Irish Republic.   RTE player is a great little site linked to the Irish National broadcaster – RTE (Raidió Teilifís Éireann). people-ireland

As usual though if you’re not actually in Ireland when connecting to the website then it won’t work for you, although you can access some of the radio content and sometimes the Irish news.  I always think this is a bit strange as the people who will want to watch things like RTE and the GAA over the internet will mostly be Irish people living in places like the UK and USA!

So How Do I Watch RTE in the US/UK?

It’s not actually that hard to do, when you connect to RTE player the site determines your location. It does this by checking the location of your IP address – if it’s an Irish IP then fine but anywhere else and you get redirected to the international version of RTE player which blocks most of the decent shows and all the sport like GAA.

So all you need to do is change your IP address to an Irish one. It’s actually not that easy to change your real IP address as it’s controlled by your ISP and is linked to the country you connect from. Fortunately there is another way, and that is connecting via a VPN or proxy server, when you do this the web site see’s the servers address and not your real one. So if the VPN server is in Ireland, you will also appear to be in Ireland and all Irish only resources like RTE Player will work just fine.

There are quite a few companies who offer these services, but only a handful worth considering especially if you need an Irish IP address. Here’s the one I use a security program called Identity Cloaker. I like it because it’s well priced and has lots of fast servers in different countries which is useful for accessing sites like BBC Iplayer, Hulu etc which also block access from outside countries.

It’s a little program which sits in the taskbar and you simply select the country you need to connect to –

select-irish-proxy

So for RTE we’d obviously select one of the Irish servers and then press connect.  You then open your browser as normal, and when you visit the RTE player site, you’ll get the Irish version of the site rather than the International one simply based on your IP address.

RTE Player with Irish IP

Using the Irish server you can watch anything on the site as RTE considers your location to be Ireland.

It’s extremely easy to use and the servers are very fast which is essential if you’re going to be streaming video across them.   You can also access some fantastic sites in other countries simply by selecting the matching country – try Hulu by using a USA proxy, BBC Iplayer in the UK or there’s some great online TV stations in Canada and France for example.   They’re all included in the subscription which only costs a few dollars – here’s the program in action.

If you want to access RTE in the US then give them a go, you can get a 10 day trial here, which only costs a few bucks.

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Looking for a High Anonymous Proxy – Some Thoughts

If you’re looking for a super secure, highly anonymous proxy then it can be rather confusing.  After all what does constitute such a server, there are no real definitions only opinions.

The first thing to be aware of is that if someone just adds the word secure or highly secure to their description it means nothing.  There are literally thousands of one page proxy servers running as default installations on some free web hosting space which describe themselves as secure – they are not.   To keep a proxy secure needs time, technical skill and a very real commitment to keeping the infrastructure secure.

For instance, there are loads of people running proxies who never even consider the question of which user context the proxy should be running in.  It’s actually very important but surprisingly a huge number of people run their proxy services as root.

This is a very bad idea, not only does this potentially give an attacker a very real chance of obtaining complete control not only to the proxy but the server it runs on.  The slightest bug or vulnerability in the service can be exploited – there goes the server, the data, user accounts and logs.

A Step Towards a Properly Secure Proxy

Someone more security aware might run the proxy service in the context of the ‘nobody’ user.   The advantage of this account is that it has no real administrative rights or privileges and there the integrity of the server is maintained even if the account is compromised.  It does have some rights though and can access public directories and any other directories or services running in the ‘nobody’ user context.

But the real secure way is to create a dedicated user account specifically to run the proxy server in.  It would have no other function and importantly no other rights or permissions applied.   This protects the server, the logs and any users data that may be on the machine.  It’s a simple point but a fundamental step in running a truly secure proxy server and giving you a secure IP address to use – 99% of the proxies you find online won’t be set up like this.

The unfortunate thing is that people tend to imagine that a proxy server that obscures your IP address adds a level of security and anonymity automatically.  This is simply not the case and a badly configured proxy is far worse than using no proxy at all.   Remember that when you use a proxy server all your data is diverted through that server and everything is probably logged too. It’s a huge risk using a badly configured server, whether it’s meant to be a simple porn proxy or highly secure VPN!

The security of the proxy server is really dependent on the technical expertise of the people who set it up and run it.  You’ll never get a secure proxy server for nothing simply because professionals don’t work for free. Kids running proxies on free web space who have no concept of security – do however.

Updated Content and Tags – May 10th, 2013

Aside

The Truth About Proxies

If you search on the internet you’ll find many proxy sites including plenty of USA based proxies – usually they consist of loads of adverts and a little slot in the middle of the page where you type the website you want.

These sites promise you the following –

  • security
  • anonymity
  • ability to bypass firewalls
  • ability to bypass content filters

In reality you’ll normally get none of these although to be fair there are some benefits.  Here’s the truth about these proxies and the claimed benefits to help you make your own decision.

Security

If you’re really concerned about security and your privacy then the answer is don’t use these websites.  certainly never use them to access any site that requires passwords or personal credentials.  These sites normally are set up quickly and easily using a proxy software called Glype.  This is simply installed on some cheap or free hosting account and surrounded by adverts in an attempt to make money.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with that but be aware the server is not secured, they are also not highly anonymous and there will be no mention of what happens to the logs and you are trusting that website with whatever data you send through it.  In reality all you are doing is adding another risk to your browsing.  There are some malicious web sites which exist just to steal any credentials that are sent through it.

Anonymity

The claim for anonymity for these sites can be partially true if they are configured correctly.  What they can protect from is the web site you are visiting storing your IP address in it’s logs.     The main problem with trying to stay anonymous on the web is two fold – firstly your browsing is logged in its entirety at your ISP, secondly it’s all in clear text so is readable by anyone.

The proxies will sometimes stop your IP address being logged at the web site you visit – that’s it.  But in exchange it will be logged on their server which may well be run by a 16 year old in his spare time.

Using Proxies to Bypass Firewalls

This can work in a particularly lax environment but in those cases you probably won’t need a proxy server!   If the firewall just blocks access to specific IP addresses or URLs then this might work.  However most environments are rather more sophisticated than that.  Also the majority of web proxy sites are themselves blocked anyway.  They can be useful in countries with basic blocks on popular sites like Facebook and YouTube for example.

Using Proxies to Bypass Content Filters

This is a complete non starter as no web proxy will have the slightest effect here.  The problem is that although a content filter also looks for specific web sites, IP addresses and content to block it actually looks at the request itself.  Most filters look inside the packet themselves so proxies will have no effect whatsoever apart from getting you flagged by the IT Admins for trying to circumvent any restrictions.  There is only one way to bypass a sophisticated content filter and that’s to use a concealed proxy server plus encrypt all your data.   The encryption means that the content filter can’t look inside the packet and work out the destination. So if you don’t want to have every thing you do online logged and recorded by your ISP and/or employer then encryption is a must. It’s often used when people access pornography online – particularly popular in the middle East where a porn proxy are standard because of the various blocks implemented by the Governments.

Updated –

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Need a USA Proxy Server for a US IP Address?

Here’s a question that many people want the answer to – How can I obtain a US IP address?   Well hopefully this post will help. If you don’t want an explanation about USA proxy sites and simply want to buy a US IP address at a very low cost – then try, for a few bucks a month you can have a host of secure, fast US IP addresses plus Canadian, UK, Australian and lots of other countries at your fingertips.

Many web sites determine what you see based on your location, so for example if you want to watch Hulu – you need to be in the USA.  Access is controlled by location so it doesn’t matter if you’re a US citizen, if you’re trying to access Hulu from a hotel in Rome then you’re Italian and you’ll get blocked.  This is why changing your real IP address is becoming a much more common requirement, simply because that loads of the best websites restrict access depending on the location of your computer.

So for example anyone outside America may get blocked from a US banking site,  and you’d certainly be blocked from accessing US-only sites like Hulu or Pandora.

More and more sites are restricting access based on location, it’s often due to licensing issues.  Another reason is economic, many websites operate price discrimination (basically charging different prices to different people to maximise their profits), they obviously don’t like consumers finding the cheaper options!

So if you wanted to access a US only site and you’re outside the US, then you need to acquire a US IP Address.  Then you could buy from a US only site or watch something like Hulu or Pandora irrespective of your location.  Better still you could get much better value, for example the Americans Netflix is way better value than any other version.  Now your IP address is assigned to you by your ISP when you initially connect, there’s no way to change this without losing internet access.

However although you can’t change your IP address  –  you can hide your true address and present another one.  You do this by connecting via either a VPN or a proxy site, both of these will obscure your real IP address. They both operate in similar ways, the proxy server routes all your web traffic via itself and simply forwards all data in both directions. The VPN is actually a secure, encrypted tunnel which routes all traffic from your computer through the VPN server.  Both have strengths and weaknesses.  In reality a VPN is more difficult to detect by remote web sites, although this can involve a slight overhead on speed in some situations.

Which one you choose is really dependent on what your requirements are – a VPN gives you security and more access to remote sites. But if you just wanted to access something like the BBC or maybe to watch Canadian TV in the US then a proxy server is enough.

 

So perhaps we want to watch some shows on Hulu but we are based in Europe,  for this particular channel a proxy won’t work as Hulu is able to detect them – so we need a VPN service.  Unfortunately there are no free VPN services available unless you can access one through your employer or college.  Many multinational companies have VPN/Remote access services to allow employees to access their home location.  It’s worth checking this out although you should ask your IT department for clearance . Or you could make your own by installing a VPN service on a rented server or a friends US based computer.

But an easier option is to just select a VPN service which allows access to a wide variety of  servers especially if you want to use it with an iPad or mobile device, check this post – Watching BBC Iplayer on Ipad in US.  These services are all pretty low cost now and the best ones include servers all across the world.  Here’s some things to check out when looking for a decent service :-

  • Firstly check that the company have some method to allow easy connection. The decent companies have custom connection software to allow you to connect/disconnect easily.
  • Make sure your subscription allows access to multiple servers in different countries included.
  • Speed is essential if you’re going to use the service for watching video or any streaming media – try to choose a trial account first to test this.
  • Be careful you don’t get locked into renewing accounts – use a payment system like Paypal if you can which you can cancel easily.

Unfortunately although there is now lots of choice, many of these services don’t have the knowledge and infrastructure to support high speed access.  Avoid anything that seems too cheap or sponsored by advertisements, always test first with a short subscription or trial.

I basically use two different services which offer both proxy and VPN functionality at a decent price.  Basically these will give you access to a network of  US IP Addresses plus loads of different nationalities at a click of a button

IDC is primarily a security product but offers both proxy and VPN modes for accessing BBC Iplayer, Hulu and all media sites.  They have loads of  US and even more UK based servers so if you want to watch the BBC Iplayer service then it’s probably your best option. They do have lots of servers in the France, Germany, Australia, Canada and throughout Europe as well though.  They also don’t automatically renew your subscription either which I like.

OVP is another great little company, I like their connection software which is easy to use.  Lots of US servers included in the standard subscription. They also have the widest selection of servers although perhaps many won’t use most of them.  If you need a server in somewhere unusual they are most likely to have them.  The support staff know their stuff and are very helpful.

Both these companies allow Paypal and are easy to cancel when you need. They also had the fastest servers out of the ones I looked at. Don’t worry that they don’t openly advertise the bypassing functionality for sites like Hulu, BBC, ABC etc – it’s deliberate, the services which openly promote this get closed down eventually.  In fact Identity Cloaker is now one of the very few VPN services which will still allow access to Netflix in 2017.