Wednesday

VPN Router with UK IP Address

Your IP address is important in many ways.  It is the unique network identifier which both controls what you can access but also identifies you when you're online.  An IP address can be traced back to the specific computer fairly easily if you have the resources.

For the average web user, your IP address affects your online experience in two ways - privacy and accessibility.  Fortunately there are ways which you can control and protect both these situations and your IP address.

Most people search online about switching or hiding their IP addresses because they are unable to access some online resource.   Many of the biggest web sites control access to their features based on physical location.  This is determined by your IP address, yes they have nationalities - connect to the internet from Paris and you'll have a French IP address, connect from Cairo and you'll have an Egyptian address and so on.

Unfortunately this is where the restrictions start,  to watch Hulu you'll need a US IP address, for the BBC you'll need a UK IP address such as this.   Which is where we come across VPNs.  A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a VPN server.   The important factor with regards filtering is that if you connect via a VPN your real IP address is hidden. So you can use a UK VPN to watch things like the BBC from anywhere in the world.

This can be configured directly from your computer however in some cases it's easier to set up a VPN router with a UK IP address.  This means that any device connected through that router would be anonymous and be assigned a UK address.

Here's how you can set up a VPN connection from Identity Cloaker on your router.


Not all routers are capable of supporting these VPN connections, however the better models should be able to. It's important to remember that the router is acting as the client here and making a connection directly to the VPN server. Most routers will support inbound VPN connections but only some will support outbound VPN client connections, make sure you check before buying a VPN router to set up with a UK IP address.

Whilst the VPN connection is enabled, every device on your network will have the same address as the VPN connection.

So for instance, if you were in Spain and you enabled the UK VPN connection on your router - any device connected would also have a UK IP address. People use this option particularly when they want to use a VPN on devices like Smart TVs and devices which have limited network configuration options.

Remember when this VPN is enabled, all your other web activity is affected too. So a Google search on your phone would yield UK results or whichever country the server was based in. Most people using this configuration would set up multiple VPN client connections for different countries which you can enable as required.

Identity Cloaker subscriptions give you access to lots of different IP addresses in many countries all of which support these client VPN connections.

Friday

Buy UK Proxy IP Address

So you may have heard that to bypass all these region locks that you simply need to use a proxy, right? To be able to watch Match of the Day on your laptop whilst relaxing on a Greek Island, you just need to buy UK proxy IP address to hide your location?   Well that used to be the case but it's a little out of date.

The use of these regional restrictions is growing everyday and unfortunately the companies are enforcing them even more aggressively.   A couple of years ago, you could simply search online for a free UK proxy to hide your real IP address and watch sites like the BBC from anywhere.  Sure they were often a little slow, but any of these servers would do to stream the BBC and there were plenty to choose from.

Unfortunately this is no longer the case as the BBC like all the other media companies now block the use of proxies by default.  If you connect to any large media site and try and use a proxy, then you'll get some sort of message like the following -

Buy UK Proxy IP Address

This one is from Netflix, but as you can see the site detects the use of proxies and simply won't work any more.  The BBC was the last company to implement this particular detection, so there's literally no point anymore in going to buy UK proxy IP address for watching TV online.

So if proxies are dead, how are people able to bypass these region blocks?  The reality is now you need to use something like a VPN which can't be directly detected.  These work in a similar way except that they are virtually impossible to detect automatically.  So for example, instead of using a UK proxy server you would instead connect through a UK based VPN before accessing the site you needed.

Although the sites cannot detect the VPN easily they do proactively try and spot them, mainly by identifying specific IP address ranges which are supporting lots of connections. This actually takes a lot of resources though because these addresses can be switched very easily.

Here's one that still works -



It's important to try out these VPN services before you subscribe for a long time. Many of them have been blocked by the larger media companies and are no more use than a proxy. The BBC has blocked thousands of servers used by some of the VPN services so it's important to validate first.

Unfortunately the demise of the proxies mean that there are very few free options left anymore.  You can certainly have a try with TOR, which can provide some security through routing through other users computers.  It's pretty frustrating for streaming video though because of the low speed and it's a bit fiddly to configure the 'exit nodes' to ensure you have a UK IP address.

My personal recommendation is for Identity Cloaker, it's reasonably priced, fast and well supported.  It will allow you to watch all UK based media sites and lots of  others in the USA, Canada and different countries.

Sunday

Now Even the BBC Block VPNs

So what's the problem with using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) why are they consistently being blocked by companies, organisations and even Governments.  Well the reasons vary slightly in each circumstance but basically it's because it enables the user to exercise control about their web activity.

A VPN firstly provides security, there's a reason that most international countries install VPN clients on their laptops.  Their employees might be quite happy trusting their credentials and passwords to the bloke who set up the Cafe Nero Wifi, yet understandably the company usually isn't.  A VPN is a secure, encrypted tunnel which allows an employee to connect back to their home document or email server without risking their details.

Other's have different reasons, the Chinese Government has spent a fortune trying to block people using VPNs to browse the web.  This is simply because they can't spy on what's going on within the encrypted tunnel and secondly it allows people to bypass any blocks and filters on undesirable sites (like social networks and unbiased news sources).   Are you getting the picture? A VPN provides control, security and privacy for us the humble user.

There is another reason that VPNs  are not possible and this is because it allows the user to hide their real location and therefore bypass region locking.   There's some information here as the BBC is the latest to enter the war against VPN users -

You see the It IT appears the BBC want only people who are actually in the United Kingdom to be able to watch the BBC online. VPNs allow people from across the world to access the services and they don't like that. The reason isn't some Brexit inspired selfishness, well not quite, it's about maximising revenue for the global rights to it's programmes. The BBC used to reach out to the world, although now it apparently only wants to do it through DVD sales.

So all over the web, the VPN is under fire as it's seen as the last barrier to the corporations and establishment completely controlling what we do online.  Fortunately it's actually surprisingly difficult to completely block all VPNs simply because there's no reliable method of detecting the more advanced ones like Identity Cloaker.  So hopefully we'll be safe for a while.....


Wednesday

The Kodi Legal Paradox

Over the years the copyright wars have moved in different directions from newsgroups, usenet, peer to peer and the infamous PirateBay.   About fifteen years ago all the geeks I knew where using a private FTP server run by someone from Manchester to download films and movies.   The principle was simple, this guy would basically download every film, album or TV series he could find and loaded them onto a super fast server. Then you paid 10 pounds a month for unlimited access and downloaded everything you needed, worked great until suddenly one day it  (and him) disappeared!

The issues there were a little more straight forward than today because most of the definitions of copyright infringement involve downloading, copying or stealing licensed material.  Just like the person who makes pirated copies of DVDs, it's relatively simple to prosecute these people using criminal law because there is a theft and physical evidence.  



However now it's a little more complicated simply because of the way the internet has developed.  Speeds have generally increased greatly now and the days of downloading a film over a few hours (or even days) have long gone.  In fact most of us have internet connections that can happily stream a movie while we watch it.    Which has enabled a previously little known media streaming software called Kodi to become very  popular indeed. 

Kodi can be installed on all sorts of devices and is popular particular on android based media boxes. Although Kodi is simply an open source media player which started life called XBMC (Xbox Media Center)
, it's adaptability and the hundreds of available plugins have put it in the center of home entertainment for millions of people.   

In thousands of homes across the world, a little media streaming box or Fire stick loaded with Kodi and some associated plugins is busily streaming copyrighted material directly to their TV sets.  These devices can even be bought preloaded and preconfigured so no technical knowledge is required, and effectively have the ability to stream all sorts of subscription services for free.  There are plugins for streaming Sky TV, Virgin, BT and Netflix to name but a few - the combined costs of these subscriptions would be over a hundred pounds a month so you can see the attraction and you don't need to use a VPN.

It's clearly damaging the companies like Sky who pay billions in licensing deals for everything from Sports to movies.   However the legal implications at least against the end user are unclear, because people are simply viewing a video stream of the content and not downloading then it's difficult to prosecute them.  Despite over 50% of the investigations by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) being concerned with Kodi there are still very few prosecutions.

The few successful prosecutions have come against people pre-loading Kodi and selling the boxes to individuals and organisations which is contrary to the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.

Brexit May Change Legal Situation
The primary reason users of these boxes cannot be directly prosecuted is due to a ruling by the European Court of Justice. It stated that no individual can be prosecuted for looking at copyrighted material online as per Article 5.1 of the EU Copyright Directive. It basically states that users aren't directly downloading but just watching on their screen which doesn't require the permission of the copyright holders.

Morally of course, it's difficult to argue that it's not theft but as yet our legal framework hasn't quite caught up with this situation. It wouldn't take much modification of the copyright legislation to make using Kodi to watch Sky for free illegal and this is expected to happen in the next few months. The European laws currently protecting people will obviously have little effect when Britain leaves the European Union anyway. It's probably time to turn that Kodi box off or at least use a VPN service to hide what you're doing with it!

Friday

My VPN Doesn't Work!

For many people around the world, a VPN is one of the their most essential online tools.   These Virtual Private Networks allows users to surf securely and have unrestricted access to the internet.   The VPN was primarily designed to add a layer of security to web transactions, however nowadays it's arguably more often used as a way to hide your location.

For example if you try and access the BBCs online service from outside the UK you'll get blocked as it's not accessible outside the country.  Same goes for Hulu, US Netflix, ABC NBC and RTE in Ireland - in fact just about every major media site on the web is only accessible from specific countries.  When you combine the other internet restrictions often applied by specific countries, huge areas of the web are often not accessible depending on your location.

So what does the expat Brit, or travelling US businessman do when they can't access all their local shows and media?  Well they use a VPN service to hide their location and let them watch whatever they want, irrespective of where they happen to be.  You'll see holidaymakers in Spanish bars watching Eastenders on their laptops whilst an Irishman streams Gaelic football on RTE online next to him.

Basically a VPN bypasses all these blocks and allows you to watch whatever you want.  Services like Identity Cloaker have adapted to locate servers in all of the most populous countries.  I have personally been a subscriber for nearly ten years now and use it pretty much every day when travelling.

My VPN Doesn't Work

Over the last year however things have been getting a little difficult, as the media companies have started to fight back. For a variety of reasons ranging they've started to try and block the use of VPNs when accessing their services. There has always been some attempts to block the use of these methods, however they have never been that serious. It's actually very difficult to detect a properly configured VPN so the companies would have to individually block IP addresses. Although this works it's only temporary (VPN services simply switch their addresses) and it's extremely time consuming. Nevertheless the BBC attempted this purge early in 2016 and succeeded in blocking many thousands of VPNs from being used to access BBC iPlayer from outside the UK.

VPN doesn't work
Other companies like RTE, Hulu, ABC and many others have followed suit painstakingly identifying addresses with multiple connections and individually blocking proxy and VPN connections from accessing their sites. Many of the smaller VPN companies have closed down, although most of the established companies have the sort of infrastructure which allows them to keep switching these addresses round so are still active.

Unfortunately 2016 saw a new development which I expect to be extended throughout this year. Netflix have been under pressure from the media firms that they license their media from to block access to these programs. The primary reason is that Netflix pays for distribution rights per country, so they only have the rights to broadcast content in those specific countries, yet a working VPN completely bypasses this.   The media giant however decided to use a different approach to blocking the virtual networks by blocking every IP address which was classified as commercial.

Suddenly the cry my VPN doesn't work went up across the world as literally 99% of these services stopped working with Netflix overnight.   The problem was that all these VPNs are installed in commercial datacentres and as such Netflix was able to block every  single one of them in one go.  There were casualties of course, people could no longer access their accounts from company offices for example, but it appears this was a price worth paying.

It's likely many more of the big media companies will follow this method, although it won't be suitable for all of them.  Amazon Prime has already followed suit so that you may have problems accessing video streams if you use a VPN with a commercial classification.  A couple of the more advanced VPN systems like Identity Cloaker have upgraded their networks to include residential IP addresses, however this is very difficult to do so it's unlikely that most providers will be able to do this.

Further Reading - Buy UK proxy ip address