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The Netflix VPN Ban

It was always quite an anomaly, for several years before Netflix was actually available in Australia – there were over a quarter of a million registered users there.    If you tried to access any version of Netflix there, you’d be blocked and told that it wasn’t available there yet.  So how come there were hundreds of thousands of Aussie subscribers? Well the simple fact was that all these people got fed up of waiting for Netflix and simply used one of the better VPN services usually located in the USA.

Better VPN

The idea was, you start your VPN service first and connect through to a US based VPN server and then you’d be able to access the US version of Netflix using your subscriber account.   Of course, Netflix knew about this – suddenly hundreds of thousands of accounts were created using Aussie based bank accounts and credit cards – but they still paid for the service so nobody really minded much.   The same trick was used by millions across the world – either to access Netflix from somewhere it wasn’t launched in or to access a different locale version – until the Netflix VPN ban hit the world,  when they banned all VPNs from everywhere!

The Netflix VPN Ban – Why and How?

So why did Netflix take such a draconian measure after all people weren’t stealing the service, they still paid for a valid subscription simply accessed from another country? The problem lies with the ways that licensing works, all the non-Netflix movies, TV shows and documentaries are individually licensed on a per country basis. So Netflix may have the license to broadcast a particular movie in the US but not in Europe so they have to segregate their services.

Unfortunately this means that the smaller countries often have vastly inferior versions of Netflix despite the subscription being the same worldwide. The companies who own the broadcast rights got fed up with people in different countries simply using a VPN or proxy to bypass these licensing issues and put some pretty heavy pressure on Netflix to block access.

residentialipaddresses

This they have done, now nearly every VPN and proxy service has been blocked from accessing the Netflix service. They instigated a global block on accessing their servers using commercial IP addresses which included 99.9% of all the VPN services – suddenly everyone had to go back to their own regional version of Netflix. Which was ok if you are in the US which has a fantastic selection but not so much if you were perhaps an ex-pat accessing from a small European country.

The Netflix VPN ban on these services was incredibly effective and perhaps shows a model for region locking which other companies may follow. Previously people like the BBC had tried to block VPN services by individually identifying their IP addresses but it never worked for long as they simply be swapped out.

There are still some of the better VPN service which are still working, a small selection of VPN companies like Identity Cloaker have implemented servers with residential IP addresses to bypass the Netflix VPN block.  You can also read about another firm which has managed to get a Smart DNS Netflix solution working too.

Most though have simply given up as these addresses are much more expensive and harder to obtain unless you are a registered ISP.  So if you want to access a different version of Netflix you should ask your provider if their service still works with Netflix as the majority don’t.

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Switching Locations for a Better Price

Many companies who operate on the internet operate an economic technique called price discrimination. This is a way where companies can sell the same goods and services for different prices in order to maximise profits rather than sell at a single price to everyone. The concept follows the idea that different people will pay different amounts for the same product.

The internet initially looked like it would change this, price discrimination relies on separating markets in order to charge different amounts. When anyone can buy from anywhere in the world the barriers seemed to fall especially for services and low weight items which can be easily distributed. Why buy something for £100 from a UK based site when it’s available from a French site for half the price, the web threatened to smash down these barriers.

Alas this didn’t last long, and in some cases the internet has made things worse with global companies setting up localised versions of their sites (and prices) using a technology called geo-location. This is quite a simple technology which looks up your physical location based on the internet address (IP) that is assigned to you by your ISP (Internet service provider). Using this technology people are redirected or even blocked based on their location, so connect from France and you get a French version of a site, from USA you’ll get a US version and so on – the idea that different prices and services can be supplied based on what the local market will support.

This behaviour is now pretty pervasive with almost all internet retailers operating to some extent. Login and check an air fare price for example you’ll probably get offered a different fare depending on where you are physically for the same flight. This of course makes it essential that you can get some sort of control back unless you want to be paying top prices for everything you buy online. To do this is fortunately very straight forward – simply use proxies to change your IP address. Here’s how you can use an English proxy – just here, to switch your location to the UK.

So whilst connected to this service you can choose out of about twenty countries to route your connection through. Use a British server and you’ll have a British IP address, an American service will give you a US IP address and so on. Using this you can check out the prices of all sorts of site based on different physical locations.

For example I always use this to watch the BBC from Ireland but I recently wanted to book a city break for my family. Funnily enough I got completely different prices for flights based on an Irish address to a British address despite the flights being identical in every sense. Unsurprisingly I have found that generally my standard UK address gives me a much worse deal than a French or American on for some reason.

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Spoof My IP iPad

There’s quite a few articles on this site about how you can hide your real IP address and use one from a different country. However most of these are based from the perspective of a computer or laptop, on these devices it’s much easier to buy  – ‘spoof my ip‘ software specifically designed to accomplish this task. However many of us now, browse the web, watch movies on other devices too – ranging from tablets, smartphones and smart TVs. So here’s a quick introduction entitled – how to spoof my ip address on an iPad or in English – how I hide my IP address on an iPad the same software can be used on any device though.

So in this scenario, I’m travelling away from home and I just have my iPad with me – am I locked out of all my favorite shows because I can’t connect through a proxy server. Well no you’re not, in fact it’s just as easy to hide your IP address on a tablet as it is on a PC in fact you can usually use the same software or service. But for start let’s just put up a video showing you the process in case you don’t want to read the rest of this post.

This uses my favorite security software Identity Cloaker but instead of using the software you just create the VPN connections manually – you can see how simple it is in the video.

However here’s the steps if you don’t like videos

On your iPad –

  • Select Settings
  • Select General
  • Select Networks
  • Select VPN

spoof my ip

You can see in the image, I’ve already created on VPN which I use for accessing US based sites. However you can have any number set up so just select add VPN configuration and you can add another one.  You should get to a  screen like this (might change slightly if you’re on a different version of iOS).

spoof my ip

 

Now I know it looks kind of complicated and technical but it isn’t really – here’s a break down of what you put in the fields.  Just leave the configuration on L2TP and fill in the boxes.   If you’ve subscribed to Identity Cloaker there’s a list of them in the members area or support will email them to you.  If you’re setting up a VPN with another company you’ll need to check with  them to make sure that the servers are VPN enabled and what the configuration settings are.

  1. Description – Give it a name based on which location UK Connection,  US Connection  etc,  then you can select quickly which country you need
  2. Server – Put in the  server name you got from the members area.
  3. Account Name – Your Identity Cloaker Username (or other VPN)
  4. RSA SecurID – Ignore this
  5. Password – Your Identity Cloaker password.
  6. Secret – The VPN Secret Name is in the members area.

That’s it, if you have the information at  hand it literally takes a couple of minutes – press SAVE (top right corner currently) to complete.  Then you should have an extra VPN connection listed on the screen like this –

changeipadaddress

To use the VPN you simply have to select the one you need and then turn VPN to on from the top of the screen.   Whichever VPN you have enabled will then connect, I have the British VPN selected in this demonstration screen.  It’s worth putting in all the different connections you need all at once, then you can just enable them whenever you need.  You’ll see the VPN connection being made and then this logo at the top of your screen

how to spoof my ip address

So when this is enabled all your traffic will be encrypted and routed through the selected VPN server.  You can set up a selection of VPNs all to different countries, I use about six to spoof my ip address to a variety of locations.

Therefore you will also appear to have the IP address located with each server so if you want to watch the BBC iPlayer enable your UK VPN and so on – your real IP address will not be visible.

If you haven’t got Identity Cloaker yet – I can definitely recommend it, it’s probably best to try the 10 day trial first to see how you get on with it.  They have a very professional set up and the servers can cope with streaming video without any issues.  However there are a couple of other decent companies and the process will be very similar to use them.

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A Bad 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 –