For millions of people across the world, there is one reason and one reason only that they use a VPN - it's called BBC iPlayer. For many expats using a Virtual private network has become a lifeline to home, for others it's just the chance to watch quality TV without being bombarded with advertising every few minutes.
Many of us who live outside the UK remember the disappointment of connecting to the BBC iPlayer site and discovering that it simply wouldn't work from outside the UK.
Fortunately this was short lived as we discovered that there is a workaround being used by millions of people across the world. This is the reason why technologically challenged pensioners suddenly started ordering proxy servers and VPNs - so that they could still watch Match of the Day, the News or Eastenders from anywhere in the world.
Virtual Private Networks have many uses including allow the user to encrypt their data and hide their location when browsing online. The offshoot of this is that when a website checks your location, you can control what it sees. Connect through a UK VPN and you can watch any of the UK TV sites online including the BBC. In fact now the most advanced VPN solutions like Identity Cloaker even allow you to switch locations at will, so you can watch US, Canadian, Irish or Australian TV channels too.
Some of the media sites have fought back, Hulu for example waged war on these services in 2014 wiping out the use of proxies and blocking many VPN services. Netflix, ABC and NBC also have active controls and frequently target these services. However the BBC has never seemed to try very hard to block remote users who use a work around.
Now this has all changed, the BBC has blocked thousands of UK based VPN addresses. It appears to have drawn up a list of providers to target, from my research it appears to be the most obvious targets. The largest VPN providers and those who actively market their services as TV watching VPNs have been the biggest sufferers.
There has been a wave of disappointment across the globe as people fired up their VPNs over the last few days and were greeted with the simple message that the BBC iPlayer was only available in the UK.
Fortunately there is a solution, there has been no great technological leap in VPN detection, it appears the block is simply placed on the IP addresses. Stay clear of the TV watching VPNs and stick to a security based product and you should be fine. Identity Cloaker has been unaffected so far, and you can still watch BBC iPlayer through their VPNs. As for the blocked providers it's likely they will simply update their IP addresses and be back working soon in any case.