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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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European Initiative – Is the Digital Market Changing

It’s almost essential nowadays to have access to a VPN or proxy service, not just for the security concerns but because the internet has become a minefield of blocked sites, copyright issues and geo-inspired redirections.    A few years ago, you were rarely blocked from any website but now it’s a daily occurrence and if you live outside Europe or North America it can be even worse.

Now there are lots of reasons for these blocks but most of them revolve around copyright and profit maximisation.  Sometimes that video or movie is only licensed in a specific country so cannot be broadcast to other locations – a ridiculous notion in the concept of a global network like the internet. However there is an important proposal being tabled by the European Union that could change the way that digital products are sold and distributed across the world.

Basically it is proposing a ruling that ensures the portability of digital products in line with one of the EU’s fundamental ideals of a single market.    What that means is that if you buy a service anywhere in Europe you should be able to access your purchase from anywhere.  This is clearly not the case at the moment, even to the extent that a British License fee payer loses access to the iPlayer the minute they leave the confines of the UK.  They are not alone and virtually every global media service blocks and restricts access based on locations.

bbceu-iplayer

This would be fantastic for the consumer and no longer would we need to use a plethora of proxies to access content online.   It does get ridiculous sometimes, when you switch from a US VPN like this one minute in order to watch NBC and then to a UK one to watch  the BBC.  Some days I switch IP addresses a dozen times to avoid various blocks especially if I visit the Far East   It’s also getting worse with the BBC who were reasonably relaxed about these circumvention techniques now starting to target and block VPNs in order to maximise their commercial revenue from the new BBC Store.

It’s frustrating to see a service like Netflix delivering vastly different products dependent on your location – the US version of Netflix has thousands more films than most other country variants.   Obviously the Media companies are less than impressed mainly because it restricts the level at which they can leverage different markets to maximise their profits.  One comment from the leaders of a TV and media lobby –

“Any intervention that undermines the ability to license on an exclusive territorial basis will lead to less investment in new products and reduce the quality and range of content available to consumers.”

John McVay – CE of TV Producers Organisation Pact

There is plenty of opposition from other media organisations of course and whether any proposals can withstand the lobbying remains to be seen. It is still unclear if the changes would permeate to the USA but in all it could be significant change in the way we access digital products and services.

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BBC iPlayer Blocking VPN Services

It’s finally happened, after years of apparent indifference to the millions of ‘unofficial’ viewers, BBC iPlayer is now blocking VPN services that are being used to watch the BBC from outside the UK. To recap, since the demise of the BBC International service the only way to watch the BBC from non-UK locations is to use a proxy or VPN to hide your real location.

BBC iPlayer blocking VPN

What happens is that when you access the BBC website it looks up the location of your IP address, if it’s in the UK then everything works – if not then you get another version of the site with no live programmes and no BBC iPlayer. Fortunately it’s not that difficult to bypass these blocks, all you need (or needed) to do was to connect using an intermediate server which was based in the UK. This would make it appear that you were in the UK and hence everything would work fine. The BBC would assume that the IP address of the VPN server was yours and then allow you access, as long as the VPN server was in the UK.

Over the years many different media services have waged war on these services. Proxies were the first to fall, almost all the big online media companies now block access through a proxy server automatically – although they still worked with the BBC iPlayer until this last update. Companies like Netflix and Hulu were particularly aggressive in blocking VPNs – also their legal departments were targeting the companies who openly marketed these services.  The BBC however didn’t really seem that concerned occasionally closing down the odd provider but doing little technically to block these services.

How is BBC iPlayer Blocking VPN Services ?

At the moment it’s fairly simplistic, but you might have discovered very effective -simply blocking the IP addresses of these services. All they need to do is to identify which IP addresses are being used by multiple users and block them from accessing the content. It’s not difficult to do, although it also will block legitimate UK users who use a VPN for security too.

BBC Iplayer Blocked

Once the IP address of a VPN service is blocked it becomes useless for accessing any of the BBC iPlayer or live streaming programmes. Most of the biggest and widely marketed VPN services have been affected – my IpVanish account suffered the block although apparently they are working on a fix. Ultimately it can turn into a game of ‘Whack a Mole’ with IP addresses being continually changed and then blocked by the BBC – usually someone gives up in the end. Fortunately my IDC account still works perfectly which is probably largely due to the fact that the number of users per IP address is limited and the company is very low key in advertising the TV watching functionality.

Ultimately the best advice is to avoid any VPN company who openly markets themselves as a BBC iPLayer VPN service, these will definitely be prioritized and worse may be closed down completely. It has happened in the past and is relatively easy to achieve – usually a legal threat against the hosting companies does the trick.   It is unlikely that the BBC would be able to block access completely, simply because they would have to be constantly updating it’s firewall tables with new IP addresses to keep up.

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End of the Line for Smart DNS ?

In  the battle to circumvent blocks, filtering and censorship – Smart DNS technology was like a breath of fresh air.  It catered for people who didn’t care about security and encryption – they were just concerned that the USA version of Netflix was much better than theirs or they desperately wanted to watch the latest version of Dr Who on the BBC online.    Both situations were restricted depending on your location, to watch the vastly superior US version of Netflix you had to physically be in the US and to use the BBC iPlayer you needed to be in the United Kingdom.

BBC Iplayer Blocked

Clearly all couldn’t be true, and slowly we’ve all got used to being blocked and redirected depending on our location.  Of course, we could all use VPNs and sometimes even proxies worked but these are expensive to run especially fast ones.  Imagine the costs of thousands of people streaming video all across  the world – the hardware and bandwidth requirements are substantial.   Decent VPN servers cost a lot to run and hence the subscriptions had to reflect this, people tried to piggyback free servers across the world but these are generally hacked or illegal servers which carried substantial risk to your personal data.

Smart DNS threatened to change this, instead of relaying your entire connection through a server in the required country it merely redirected a few packets to fool the geotargeting of the target server.  When you connected to Netflix – Smart DNS could fool the server into thinking you were in the UK, US, Australia or Japan with only a few misdirected packets of location data.   This meant it was fast, and secondly it was also much cheaper as the bandwidth costs of the Smart DNS supplier were much smaller.

All looked great but, the warnings have been there for some time that Smart DNS might not be so future proof.   Firstly it stopped working on many different media devices like the Chromecast or Roku where mysteriously the applications started to enforce public DNS servers. This meant that you could no longer specify your own DNS settings which effectively stopped you using Smart DNS. This caused problems however, particularly with speed where millions of devices where suddenly using public DNS servers like Google’s 8.8.8.8 server presumably without financial compensation, this issue slowly disappeared.

huluipblock

There’s no doubt though particularly for media companies like Netflix and Hulu, Smart DNS are in their targets.   Yesterday I tried my two Smart DNS accounts to try and get access to the Japanese version of Netflix (which has some great movies on it), all my attempts failed with the simple message – ‘blocked’ despite having worked fine the day before.  Specific IP addresses are simply being blocked from accessing the Netflix and Hulu services, it’s blunt and unsophisticated but it works.

The reality is that these global media providers are coming under increased pressure from the movies companies to block the use of circumvention particularly Smart DNS.   The reality is that it costs them money if they receive a fee for licensing the movie in a particular country and then millions of people end up watch it all over the world.

Of course they can do this with VPN and proxy servers, simply block access from specific IP addresses.  Which is why it looks like staying low key and using a more discrete service is a sensible option.  Some of these bigger VPN companies market very aggressively and directly promote specific TV stations, sporting events and TV channels in their advertising.  This makes them instant and high profile target for IP blocking, it’s probably best to avoid these companies – particularly for long subscriptions.

Identity Cloaker, is certainly worth a look – marketed only as a security product it’s been working for many years by deliberately keeping a low profile. Is it the end of Smart DNS? Well in some ways it’s more vulnerable than VPNs but only time will tell if it lives on.

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Is Speed Important for a VPN

A VPN is primarily a security product, a secure virtual private network which can protect data in an unsecure environment. Nowadays that insecure environment is normally the internet, an amazing global network that has transformed our lives but as far as security goes it’s pretty hopeless. The problem with the internet, is the very reason it’s become so pervasive – it works with all sorts of different devices. Can you imagine if the internet was segmented – my Apple Mac could only connect with Apple Web servers or web sites on Linux servers could only be accessed via Linux desktops? It would be fairly hopeless, yet it would be much, much easier to implement security in this context.

Of course we do have security in our web browsing of sorts – it comes in the form of the SSL layer in HTTPS. The little padlock you see at the front of the web address means that your communication with that web site is encrypted and is not transmitted in clear text. Everything else that goes through your browser does travel in clear text across hundred of routers, switches and hubs owned by a myriad of companies and organisations. HTTPS is not that secure anyway and connections can be intercepted and accessed but it’s certainly better than nothing.

However it’s without a doubt that a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is much more secure, it consists of an encrypted tunnel between two points in which data is transmitted.  It ensures that nobody can intercept data, particularly at it’s most vulnerable point which is at transmission.  You can see the attraction particularly if you’ve ever sat using a public wifi network at a cafe or hotel with a packet sniffer and seen everyone’s data fly across your screen (try it!).

So of course security is important however the reality is that today a VPN service is not always used for it’s primary purpose.  It’s more used for hiding your IP address – in order to bypass filters and content restrictions. Using a VPN as an online IP changer – like this video demonstrates:

Means not only can you bypass heavy handed government filtering, such as Turkey which routinely blocks the big social media sites. You can also side step the much more common geo-blocks which the world’s major media sites operate. Most of these need you to be in the country of broadcast to gain access – USA for HBO, UK for BBC and so on. However if you use a VPN which terminates in a specific country then you can bypass these blocks. So the next generation of VPN software allow you to switch your connection between different countries therefore bypassing all these blocks.

Which is great but of course, if you’re just trying to stream the latest ‘Game of Thrones’ onto your PC or laptop, you’re probably not that bothered about security only whether you can watch without buffering and in HD. The secret to this of course is speed, a speed VPN for PC is the important factor not whether someone can decrypt your data – a video stream isn’t that interesting anyway.

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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 the IP spoofing tutorial is in the video.

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

Spoof My IP – Step by Step

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).

 

Now I know it looks kind of complicated and technical but unlike most IP spoofing tools 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 –

change ip address

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 IDC 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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USA Proxy Server – American Proxy Sites

Why do people look for USA Proxy and VPN servers? Well there’s a variety of reasons and now many people use phrase ,  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 proxy

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 the US.

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 US 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 and can give you US IP addresses 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 or proxy 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.

IDC 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.

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.

UPDATE 08/2016

Netflix have implemented a new system for blocking VPNs and it’s worked very well.  The vast majority of VPNs no longer work, however Identity Cloaker has updated their software to bypass the latest block.  So if you want access to US Netflix, you should choose Identity Cloaker, if any other VPNs now work please post a comment.

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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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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 –