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Looking for a USA Proxy Server

Why do people look for USA proxy and VPN servers? Well there’s a variety of reasons and now many people use programs like this,  just to  hide their identity online.  Sometimes specifically for privacy reasons or often they simply need a US IP address to bypass internet blocks based on location.

US Location

For example if you are having a holiday in Turkey, don’t presume you can access all the same web sites that you do from Florida.

Many sites particularly media sites restrict access to US visitors, blocking any IP addresses from outside the country. In addition you’ll also find that countries like Turkey heavily filter the internet too, often restricting sites like Twitter and Facebook to anyone inside the country.

So on the whole privacy and freedom – these are why many of us use either a proxy or VPN everyday. So what’s the difference between these two technologies and which one should I use. Both perform basically the same function but in very different ways, which ultimately will define which is best for you.

Proxy Servers

A proxy is a computer that acts as an intermediary between you an the websites you visit. When you use a proxy, the traffic will appear to come from it’s IP address not yours. This is why people will use a US proxy to access US only resources, a UK proxy to access the BBC and so on.

The two main types of proxies are as follows:

  • HTTP proxies – designed to work for web pages i.e HTTP
  • Socks Proxies – no specific protocol, handles all traffic.

A few years ago, proxies were pretty  much all you needed to access most sites and you could find free ones all over the internet.  Nowadays though most media sites can detect and block the use of proxies and there are many security issues with them too.  They can still work for a few sites, a proxy based in the UK will still allow you to access the majority of the BBC iPlayer application for example (need a VPN to download from the site though).

VPN Servers

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and in some ways they perform a similar function to proxies.  A VPN creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between your client and a host VPN server.  This allows a new level of privacy as even your ISP cannot see what you do online other than your connected to a secure VPN server.   The main advantages are that the VPN provides a much higher level of privacy masking pretty much everything you do online from everyone. They are more resource intensive though and quite costly to run and support, which is why you won’t find any free ones online.  Filtered on IP Location

The encryption layer does involve a slight overhead which can slow your connection down slightly.  However the better ones like Identity Cloaker compress the data as it’s being transported so can actually slightly speed up your browsing through some VPN servers.

VPNs are much safer to use and if you have access to a VPN in the right country you should be able to access  any restricted site.  So to be clear you’ll need to use a US VPN for sites like ABC, HBO and Hulu, but a UK one for BBC, ITV and UK TV sites.  Most of the major providers will provide a network of servers across the globe but you should check if you have a specific requirement.

Here’s my two recommendations –  both offer full VPNs, fast servers and access to many different countries in the basic subscription.  Although both supply software to connect, you can set up the VPNs manually on most other devices like tablets, smart phones and even routers.

Identity Cloaker is definitely, 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 proxy servers and even more UK based ones  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.

Overplay 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.

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Looking for a Polish Proxy

You may wonder why I’m writing about Poland and worrying about where to find a proxy server in Poland.  Well although I have no real need to access Polish websites, I happen to know a few people who live near me and do.

In years gone by the internet was pretty open, I rarely remembered ever getting blocked access to a website.  But things have changed now and there are lots of filters, blocks applied all over the place.  In the last few days I was blocked from accessing Hulu in the USA, my banking site and a funny video clip on YouTube because ‘it was not accessible in my region’.

Fortunately for those of us who get cross about these sorts of things – there are now loads of tools and services which can bypass these blocks which use VPNs and proxy servers.  It’s easy to find one if you want standard countries like US and the UK but they can be difficult to find for smaller countries.

For example my friend comes from Krakow but now has settled in the UK.   But much of his family are still in Poland and he often finds himself connecting back to Polish websites.  Unfortunately increasingly he gets blocked because his location (or IP adddress) is outside Poland.  Last week it was a Polish TV site online and a bank based in Krakow that had an online service.  It’s exactly the same reason you can’t access Hulu from the UK or some of the cracking shows on Canadian TV that are online.

The technology is called Geotargeting and the easiest way you can see this demonstrated is simply by using Google.  So here’s what I get if I go to Google  –

Google checks my IP address when I connect, cross references with a database of IP Address/Country and sees I’m in the UK so delivers the British version of Google.

But unfortunately this technology is also used to lock me out of many web sites and applications that are not UK based.  SO I can’t watch Simpsons on Hulu, listen to music on Pandora or anything that is restricted to other countries.

Anyway I’ll show how I can change my IP address to a Polish one as a quick example.  All I need to do is connect to a Polish server and tunnel my connection through that.  This will then fool the web site into thinking that’s my location.   There are lots of services which can do this but one I use often is called Overplay

Here’s the software working, I just select the country I need and then press connect.  In  this case I want to get an IP address from Poland so I select a Polish proxy server from the list.  I then just put in the username and password and I’m connected – that’s all there is to it – takes about 10 seconds.

Here’s the connection screen, then you just minimize it to the task bar and carry on as normal.  However while this is connected all my requests are being routed through the server in Krakow, and that’s where I’ll appear to be from.

Now you can see that if I visit Google, this time I’ll be given the Polish version because my IP address is listed from Krakow.  If I change connections I’ll be given a different version  Of course this isn’t particularly useful as I’m not really in Poland.  But if I wanted to access a Polish media site or online banking then it would be very useful.

Here’s another option demonstrated in this video about accessing TVN player.

If I changed to a US server I could use all the American sites even on my Ipad, change to Canadian server and watch Canadian TV and so on.  They’re well worth checking out as you get all the servers included in the subscription – helpful support too – Overplay Trial.

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Change Netflix to US Version

So why would you want to do this?  Well the simple answer is that the US Version of Netflix is much better than any other one.  It has thousands more shows and films, plus much more recent releases – some of it only just out of European cinemas for example.

There are many examples but here is just one brief explanation of why you may want to change Netflix to US version.   It started for me when I became rather hooked on a Sci-Fi series called Lost which you might have heard of.  My partner and I had both managed to miss the hysteria about this show the first time round, but got well and truly hooked after a few series.   This is one of the great advantages of Netflix, you can find a show you like and then watch the whole thing over a few weeks, with no huge gaps between series.

Just look at this – six years and six seasons of one the best Sci-Fi shows ever made, all for a few dollars a month subscription.

netflix-american

I think it happened about half way through, when we were up to season 3 – we’d been watching for a few weeks an episode a night.  Then disaster struck, it just disappeared, gone with no warning or anything – boy were we mad!  We were not alone, loads of people were online complaining about this sudden withdrawal and the only help was a vague promise that it might return to the UK Netflix at some point.   This was the trigger, up to then I didn’t realise there was such a thing as a UK Netflix  but if you search online you’ll find lots of information on this.   The best estimates I’ve seen suggest that  there are around 4000 items on UK Netflix, but about 9000 plus if you change Netflix to US version.

It is surprisingly easy to do, and after a few weeks of investigating plus trial and error – I think I have found the best solution.    First of all forget about using American proxies, VPNs and security programs for this – you don’t need them.  Sure they all work, but are difficult to install on anything other than a PC and also can really slow your connection down.

What you need is something called Smart DNS – which is basically a very clever way of accessing any of the world’s country restricted websites by hiding your real location.  The best Smart DNS service can hide your location by just rerouting a small part of your initial connection with a server, allowing you to stream directly from the media site after that.   Your internet speed will remain pretty much untouched but a whole new world of internet media sites will be opened up to you – from BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Pandora to the US version of Netflix it doesn’t matter where you live.

This is the Best Smart DNS Service I’ve found

There are a few, but I only found one which was –

  • Reliable
  • Easy to Install
  • Allowed you to Switch Netflix Locales

The last point is important, although you might want to watch the US version of Netflix the majority of the time – there are some things only found on your home version. For example French and German Netflix have lots of content in French and German, which won’t be on the US version. So you want to be able to switch between the versions –

Netflix Locale Selector
Netflix Locale Selector

Instead of switching everyone automatically to the American version of Netflix, this Smart DNS service allows you to switch version using this web page.   This is incredibly useful and makes it a doddle to switch between different versions when ever you need.  Without this method you’d have to remove the Smart DNS settings from your devices to go back to the original version of Netflix. Anyway here’s how you install it on a computer, but as you can see it’s just as simple to utilize on a Smart Phone, Mac, tablet or any network enabled device.

Basically after you have subscribed to use the Smart DNS servers, you just need to change the default DNS server in network settings. It’s usually accessible on most network devices – I personally use it on a WiiU, Playstation, iPhone, iPad and Smart TV.

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Setting Up Smart DNS on Smart Hub Samsung TV

For anyone who spends a lot of time online, Smart DNS is one of the most useful applications you can have. It basically is a special DNS server which can filter requests to specific websites and hide your true location. So for example you can use it to watch US only TV stations like Hulu and NBC from Europe, or stream BBC iPlayer or ITV player onto a device outside the UK.

You can get the best value Smart DNS here – Smart DNS Free Trial.

Previously people used proxies and VPNs to bypass these restrictions but these had two main drawbacks –

  • Could be difficult to configure outside a PC/Mac environment.
  • Involved streaming all traffic through the proxy/VPN server.

For example a proxy server might need a username and password to access, which is fine if you’re using a PC application, but not so easy to get working on a Smart TV or games console. Smart DNS provided pretty much the same functionality (as far as accessing media sites) by simply changing one setting in your network configuration – here’s how it works on a PC.

Pretty neat eh? It can be set up on most devices, once you have enabled Smart DNS for your account, then you just need to find how to change the network settings on the device.

Here’s where to find it on a Samsung Smart Hub TV

smarthub1

The settings and screens can vary from model to model, but hopefully these will point you in the right direction.

smarthub2

You’re looking for the network settings information either in the Wired or Wireless connection settings. If you’re using a wireless connection most of the Network configuration will be assigned automatically by your access point, but don’t worry if you look for manually set the settings you can override the DNS setting (which is the only one you’re interested in).

smarthub3

Simply change the Primary DNS setting to the Smart DNS proxy address then change your country region within the Smart Hub. On most of the current TVs you do this by pressing the following keys – fast forward, 2, 8, 9, rewind keys on your TV remote. Please note if you have a F (2013) or H (2014) model of Samsung TV there is a new key sequence. This will bring up your Internet Service Location where you can change to the country you require, for example American Netflix will require you select the USA.

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Turkey Block Access to Twitter

There are approximately 10 million Twitter users in Turkey but many are reporting bad news.  It appears that the social networking site popular across the word has been blocked to many Turkish based users by  the country’s telecommunication’s regulator.   It’s not quite clear whether this ban has been implemented completely but certainly many users are reporting being redirected towards a warning page when trying to access Twitter.

Here’s the message one mobile phone user got when trying to reach the site.

turkeyblockstwitter

Twitter and indeed other social networking sites have of course been banned before in Turkey, YouTube was offline for about 2 years before the block was lifted.   This time the Turkish Government have been more up front about the ban with the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vowing to ‘wipe out Twitter’.

He is quoted as saying

“I don’t care what the international community says at all. Everyone will see the power of the Turkish Republic,”

The reason is very probably linked to numerous documents being posted reportedly showing evidence of the widespread corruption relating to the Prime Minister. There have been numerous allegations including recordings of telephone conversations where the prime minister discusses where to hide various huge amounts of money so investigations can’t find them.

Mr Erdogan is of course citing other reasons and legal issues but the reality is very plain to the majority of people and all the Turks I have spoken. Corruption is rife among the upper echelons of the Turkish Government and Twitter is allowing people to speak about it – hardly surprising it’s being banned.

Of course it’s utterly futile and in many senses only serves as an admission of guilt in many people’s eyes. The ban will be circumvented and there are a myriad other ways that any information can be circulated just as quickly, blocking Twitter is just plain stupid.

If you need some help getting into the site then just use a program like Identity Cloaker illustrated here which will bypass all the Turkish web sites blocks quickly and easily. If you want to try it first the demonstration version of Identity Cloaker is available free here for download actually allows access to Twitter so you could use this version for free to access the site and a few others.

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When is a Proxy Secure?

For many people, using proxies is an essential step to enable security and personal privacy.  They will know that every time they use the internet for anything that a record is kept in many places about their activity.  Often it’s just a small cookie or a record in a log, but at your ISP for instance there is a complete record of every site you visit, every file download and every video watched.   This is where the authorities go for instance when they want to investigate something, your ISP.

So it’s hardly surprising that many people seek to hide some of this information, you don’t need to be an international jewel thief or extremist terrorist to want a little more privacy than is currently available to the average internet user – i.e none at all.

So then they look at proxies, and indeed a ten minute Google search will point you in this direction.  The proxy server will sit in between you and the web site you visit, meaning that they cannot record your visit properly – only the proxy address.  You’ll still get everything logged in your ISP though unless the connection is encrypted perhaps using a VPN or SSH instead.

But here lies a problem, proxies can offer a layer of security but only when they are configured and administered properly.  If they aren’t then you are merely handing over yet another complete record of your online activity to another server.  In fact it can be worse than that, lots of of the ‘free proxies’ available online are only put there to steal and harvest people’s data.  Enterprising hackers will take over these open proxies and log all the data that is transmitted through them – looking for usernames, passwords and identity information that can be used to make them money.

The internet is swarming with free proxies, using the vast majority of them is a really bad idea. I logged into four the other week completely at random and all of them were completely insecure in fact two of them had the proxy service itself running in the context of the ‘root’ account – something only a real IT novice would ever do and extremely dangerous.  The reality is that a server is only secure when someone is taking the time and effort to ensure it is secure – that knowledge and effort is rarely available for free.

However if you’re only using a proxy to stream video, perhaps from BBC iPlayer or another media site then perhaps a free proxy could work?  After all there’s no personal data just a stream of video so what’s the harm?

Well nothing really, the problem here is much more about practicalities, all these free proxies are completely overloaded and run at a pitifully slow rate.  Occasionally you’ll unearth a little fast gem that has escaped notice by the proxy scrapers – but it won’t be fast for long -rarely longer than an hour or so.  Expect to spend more time looking for new servers than using them.   If you can afford it then a paid subscription is definitely the way forward.  Here’s one I recommend in this video – Fast Proxy Server.

As you can see the proxies in this program run very quickly indeed, if you want to stream HD or even standard resolution video or media then a slow proxy will make most un watchable.

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Lost, Gone from Netflix but Not Forgotten

I used to love Netflix, it’s different, has lots of great movies/series and it’s very easy to access using Smart TVs or my favorite the Roku. But this Summer they pushed me too far, I had ‘discovered’ the show – Lost about 8 years later than everyone else. I’d listened to everyone rave about this, glazed over as they discussed strange sound plots and completely ignored it – mainly due to the hype. Well one day I noticed it on my Netflix account and thought I’d give it a try, the rest is a story about obsession. For a few days I watch a couple of episodes a day – right up to my vacation. I couldn’t wait to get back to complete the series but when I returned it had gone !!!!

Lost no longer appeared anywhere on the listings, a search revealed it was ‘unable to stream’. A Google search revealed lots of very upset people like me, stuck on an episode somewhere, stranded at some cliff hanger movement and now we were all ‘Lost’.

No warning, no countdown enabling you to take a few days off work and cram them in. One day Lost was there and the next day it had completely disappeared, what a wonderful way to treat your customers! Well a little research, led me to a few conclusions – firstly the show had only actually been removed from the UK Netflix, secondly Lost was still streaming on the US version and lastly my account would work on US Netflix if I had an American IP address.

So here’s what I discovered –

The truth is that if you use IP cloaking software like Identity Cloaker and hide your real IP address – you can be watching US Netflix irrespective of your real location.  If you haven’t checked it out, then you’ll also discover that the US version had loads more shows and films – usually much more up to date stuff too.  So it doesn’t matter if you’re in Canada, Germany, UK or Italy then you don’t have to stick with the version of Netflix you have been assigned you can pick your own.

You don’t need to open a new Netflix account, they seem to be global but just redirected to the country you are in.

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How to Watch Canadian TV from the US

Most of the blocks, bans and filters online are based on your location. It’s slightly ironic that the internet was meant to bring us all together, yet most of the world’s media sites are working out ways they can block people from different locations.

Canadian TV - CTV

Anyway the vast majority of these sites simply look up your IP address when you connect before deciding if you watch or not. So for example to watch CTV the Canadian broadcaster, you’ll have to be based in Canada or connect from a Canadian IP address.

Unfortunately it’s difficult to control your real address as this is assigned to you when you connect to  the internet by your ISP.  Although it will sometimes vary, it will always be linked to the country you are connecting from.

Fortunately, you can hide your real IP address by conencting via an intermediary – often known as a proxy or VPN server.

How to Watch CTV Outside Canada

Anyway the easiest way to see how it’s done is to watch this short video.

That’s all there is to it. Using a program like Identity Cloaker means you can swap your IP address with a click of the mouse whenever you like. Switch to a Canadian one for CTV, then back to a US address for Hulu followed by a British IP address for the wonderful BBC iPLayer – more here – www.iplayerusa.org.

If you want to do it for free, you’ll need to find a free Canadian proxy you can use and modify your browser settings to use it instead. It’s not hard to do but unfortunately it’s difficult to find the servers, proxies and VPN servers are very expensive things to run.

You can try it out by using the Identity Cloaker trial account – 10 days of CTV, Iplayer, Hulu or whatever you need to check it works for a few dollars – for the price of a coffee and sandwich you’ll be impressed I’m sure!

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Just to Share

You know sometimes you just wanna share a song…….

It’s worth a listen….

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A Bad IP Address

Hackers using IP Address

Of course, if I said someone lived in a ‘bad neighborhood’ or was rejected for a loan due to a bad credit score then you’d all know what I mean.  But in this ever increasing online world there’s another aspect to your existence that can have an affect on your life – and that is your IP address.

Your IP address is of course your unique identifier assigned to your computer when it’s online.  It’s full name is internet protocol address and you can read the technical background on the wonder of IP and it’s role in TCP/IP here.  But suffice it to say, that without this address it is impossible to communicate online, it allows you to visit websites, download films and DVDs and send emails and just about every thing else available on the web.

In fact your IP address will already partly affect some areas of your online experience.  Have you ever been blocked from a site or video? Perhaps tried to watch something on YouTube  and been told it’s not available in your country?  Well that’s all down to the location of your IP address – mainly what country it originates from.

Your IP Address

 So if you do a quick search online, many sites will tell you that to find your IP address – just select command prompt type in the command ipconfig /all as I’ve done in the screen shot above.  From this screen you might suppose that my IP address is 192.168.1.15 as circled.  This is actually a private IP address and is only valid in my internal network – it’s not my real internet facing address.   Within my house like millions of other people I have multiple devices like laptops, phones and PCs all connected through my internet connection, these internal addresses allow them to communicate through my single real IP address.

To find your real IP address, you need to look at the configuration screen of your modem or router, the device that actually connects through to your internet provider.

Here’s mine –

Real IP Address

Well a bit of mine, obscured for privacy reasons !  This address is allocated by my ISP to my connection and all my devices will appear to the internet to be from this single IP address. So my son, downloading games to his Xbox will appear at the same address as my wife and I surfing from the same location – we all originate from the same single address.

About Bad IP Addresses

So although at any point in time, your connection will be the only one online using this particular IP address – it doesn’t mean you always have.  If you can see from the screen shot – the address has been assigned dynamically from my ISP – who basically have a big pool of addresses which they allocate individually to their customers.  All the addresses will be assigned from this database which are registered to specific providers and countries.  This is how geo-targeting works – everyone knows which country an IP address is assigned to.  Which is why you’ll need a US IP address for Hulu and a UK address for BBC Iplayer, anyone can look up which country and IP address is located in very easily.

ip-address-bad

Sometimes an IP address can be used to send out millions of spam messages, attack websites or download and share pirated software and films.   Most hackers and spammers will normally try and use someone else’s address to hide their location – obtained via viruses and malware without the owners knowledge.

This is the sort of behavior that can find any IP address blacklisted – on some of the thousands of lists of ‘bad IP addresses’.  Many of these lists have been developed to combat Spam and so mail servers across the world can block any mail received from them.  Unfortunately IP addresses are routinely shared and reallocated to you can easily end up with one these being issued to your connection.

Common scenarios of being allocated a ‘bad IP address':

Problems Buying Things Online 

Ever tried to buy something online and found your payment couldn’t be processed?  You might get some generic error message from the retailer saying it couldn’t accept payment or something similar.  This may be that your IP address has found itself onto a blacklist somewhere.  Frequently IP addresses are blocked if they’ve been used by online criminals perhaps with stolen credit card details or similar.  Some of the spam lists are also used by big payment processors – some companies block addresses from whole countries, certainly a problem if you’re accessing the internet from somewhere like Nigeria.

Difficulty with Sending Email

If your address (or worst your mail server address) has been put on an internet blacklist you may find problems with emails.  Maybe emails bouncing back undelivered often with obscure sounding error messages.  Many of the big webmail providers like Hotmail and Yahoo will routinely block emails from IP addresses on the blacklists.

Accessing Websites and Forums

Internet blacklists are often used by many sites to try and prevent spammers and hackers accessing the sites. Many websites will automatically block access from IP addresses which try and login to secure servers for example. Here’s the message I get whenever someone tries to hack into one of my websites.

IP:       202.102.253.6 (CN/China/-)
Failures: 5 (sshd)
Interval: 300 seconds
Blocked:  Permanent Block

Log entries:

Sep 13 04:51:36 xenon sshd[23175]: pam_unix(sshd:auth): authentication failure; logname= uid=0 euid=0 tty=ssh ruser= rhost=202.102.253.6  user=root
Sep 13 04:51:38 xenon sshd[23175]: Failed password for root from 202.102.253.6 port 6291 ssh2
Sep 13 04:51:41 xenon sshd[23179]: pam_unix(sshd:auth): authentication failure; logname= uid=0 euid=0 tty=ssh ruser= rhost=202.102.253.6  user=root
Sep 13 04:51:43 xenon sshd[23179]: Failed password for root from 202.102.253.6 port 4974 ssh2
Sep 13 04:51:46 xenon sshd[23185]: pam_unix(sshd:auth): authentication failure; logname= uid=0 euid=0 tty=ssh ruser= rhost=202.102.253.6  user=root

You can see that after three failed logins, the system will now block any attempted access from that specific IP address. It wouldn’t matter if that IP address was assigned to a different person or location, until that restriction is removed you wouldn’t be able to view my website using that address.

There are further questions 0f course – how do I find out if my address is blacklisted? How can I change my IP address?  Which I will try and address in my next post –

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