Want to Bypass the UK Porn Block ?

So finally after many years coming up with a stupid plan, the UK Government is about to try to control access to porn supposedly to protect our children.  Apparently with little discussion and consultation it’s now about to be implemented on July 15th backed by a comprehensive UK age verification system.  The United Kingdom will be the proud owner of the first advanced democratic nation to implement a nationwide ban on accessing pornography online.

UK Porn Block

It appears though they haven’t really spoke to anyone apart from a few children’s charities. There certainly doesn’t seem to have been any input from anyone who knows something about technology.

First of all I’d like to state that 

  • a) I have kids
  • b) I don’t want them looking at porn

However I still think it’s a stupid idea, but before pointing out why – here’s a quick summary of what’s going to happen.

On  the 15th July, anyone visiting a Pornography site from the UK will be presented with an age verification check.   Now many porn sites already have these, but currently they are merely a ‘Are you Over 18 button’ which you just have to press to confirm.  There are no real checks on these buttons and this is what will fundamentally change.

All these sites will require any user from the UK to verify their email address, then their current age.   There will be a variety of options to do this, including using a credit card, uploading scans of driving licenses or passports.

If you don’t like the idea of scanning your passport and uploading it to some website so you can gain access to pornography then there is another option.  You can also visit a local shop or newsagent and verify your age and address there.  In exchange you will be given a card or ‘porn pass’ which you can use to verify your age on the websites with a code.

Why the UK Porn Block is a Bad Idea

1) Goddamit there’s porn everywhere!

We probably all realise that there’s a lot of porn online. However it might come as surprise precisely how much. Nobody knows for sure of course, but even conservative estimates are pretty staggering. This article suggested that over 37% of the entire internet is made up from pornographic material.

Now even this is wrong there’s no doubt that there are literally millions of pages of pornography all over the internet. Much of it unregulated or posted casually in forums, social media sites, bulletin boards or shared via places like Twitter. Of course the big, legitimate multi million pound porn sites will implement these changes. However I suspect that a small website hosted in Ukraine by a bloke called Ivor who likes large breasted Grandmothers is not going to be that bothered about implementing the UK Government’s controls.

Basically one reason the porn block won’t work is because most porn sites will not bother installing the controls. In reality the only sites that will are probably never targets for kids anyway.

2) Push the Problem Underground

What inevitably happens if you start to regulate or control something like this, is that it goes underground. If you block access by age verification to established porn sites, people won’t just stop using porn they’ll just visit the sites which aren’t regulated or controlled. So instead of accessing popular or mainstream porn sites, more and more people will start using the dark web ones or those hosted in countries who don’t care about the UK’s Porno campaign.

3) A Massive Porn User Database Run by The Government

Let’s just consider what the Government is actually creating here – a massive database of millions of of UK porn users. Every person who wanted to watch porn online would have to add their details to this database. Sounds kind of intrusive? How many people would be comfortable adding their name to this list? Of course, why the hell should they ask permission and register their sexual interests with the government.

Even if you trusted the Government to protect and handle this information carefully (hmm) – the potential risks of accidents or misuse are extremely high. What if the information was compromised, and people started posting lists of teachers or clerics or police staff who were listed as ‘registered porn users’. Irrespective of the legality, the potential embarrassment and humiliation would be awful.

Hands up who wants to register their sexual preferences with the government so they can store it in a database that they promise never to use and keep safe.

4) It’s Easy to Bypass

The implementation of the technical infrastructure behind this is bound to be hopeless.  They almost always are whenever Governments attempt these sort of ill thought out projects.   There have already been rumours that one of the main age verification companies involved will be MindGeek using their AgeID system. The slight issue with this company is that they own three of the world’s largest porn sites,  no conflict of interest there then!  Although they keep that fact very quiet it should be said, nothing on there website for example.

Irrespective of how the age verification process is implemented the core problem will be that the UK Porn filter is only applied to UK people.  I’m sure the French wouldn’t be too impressed if the UK Government decided which porn sites they could visit!   This puts us with only one option, geo-location – determining peoples location from the IP address they connect with.  So every porn site will look up the inbound connection, and if it’s from the UK then the age verification module will be implemented.

This means that every half decent VPN service can be used to bypass these blocks easily.  If you ensure your VPN is connected through a Non-UK server then you’ll be completely unaffected by the UK Porn Block as it won’t apply to you. Many children are well aware of this technology as they’ve been using VPNs for years to download pirated films and music online.   Unfortunately as most won’t be able to afford the fast, safe versions they’ll end up using the dodgy free VPNs that install malware and hard porn popups on your computer instead.

Anyone with the slightest technological knowledge will be able to use a VPN like Identity Cloaker to bypass the UK Porn filter with no effort whatsoever.  That would mean they could watch porn without any restrictions and crucially without being added to the Government’s registered porn users list.

Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen – the UK porn block is a pointless, stupid and intrusive idea but if it does – do yourself a favor and use a VPN.  This our favorite – the best VPN which will keep your identity completely protected if you do want to watch porn online.

Identity Cloaker

 

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Where to Buy Residential Proxies

It seems a very long time since I first starting playing around with proxy servers, indeed it was about 1996 when I had the opportunity to start playing around with them. I worked in a technical college and we were donated a hugely expensive Sun Sparc which nobody had a clue what to do with (including me) with a connection to JANET. Fortunately as it was a college, in the summer everyone disappeared bar a few full time staff and I had days and weeks to play around with my new toy and I read a document written from CERN about proxies by Ari Luotonen. I started to learn about proxies and even bought Ari’s book when he released it a few years later – Web Proxy Servers.

Where to Buy Residential Proxies

The technology was pretty exciting and new, in fact the first proxies were developed in the CERN labs alongside the birth of HTTP and the world wide web. Proxies even became a source of employment, as the internet age developed and we moved to a world where everyone wanted and expected the internet at their workplace. These web proxies were essential in controlling and managing internet access to corporate networks. Of course, as web presences developed there was even more ‘proxy based’ support work with the requirements reverse proxies being installed on coporate networks and datacentres to protect the back end servers too.

However fast forward to 2019 and I probably spend more time using proxies than setting them up and fixing them. Frankly it’s easier to let other people deal with the headaches of securing, configuring and optimizing servers which are almost always hammered most of the time. So I have become a bit of an expert in the proxy service market place too, which can be extremely bewildering when you first venture into it. Anyway the point of this post is in response to a couple of questions I got mailed to me on this site – basically where to buy residential proxies ?

When you’re looking online for proxies for whatever task, most of their descriptions now refer not to the specific technology but rather the IP addresses that they are allocated. So for instance you’ll hear about US proxies or datacentre proxies which basically refer to their location and the classification of the IP addresses they are assigned. As many of these servers are used to hide the client’s location, where and what the IP address is has become extremely important. If I want to use one to watch UK television for example then it needs a British IP address assigned to it other wise it won’t work. You can read all about what it takes to be a BBC proxy in another post on this site. Similarly as well as location, there is another component – whether the proxy uses IP addresses which are classified as residential IPs or commercial ones. A residential IP address is normally assigned by an ISP to home internet connections, so is among the most trustworthy of IP addresses available online. Which is why marketers, researchers, and spammers all prize these addresses highly – they make you look like an innocent home user.

Where to Buy Residential Proxies

So if you’re looking to place multiple adverts on Craigslist, buy limited edition sneakers or simply trying to run a number of Instagram accounts to fund your lifestyle then residential addresses are the ones you probably need. Herein lies a little problem as the reason they are so trusted is because they’re normally only assigned by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to ordinary users who sign up for broadband accounts with them. Therefore they’re very tricky to get hold of to exploit for commercial purposes but they’re definitely needed.

Just for illustration, for my security and privacy needs (as well as watching the BBC) I have used for many years the excellent Identity Cloaker. It’s fine for bypassing some blocks and great for online anonymity and security yet the vast majority of it’s IP addresses are from commercial ranges so for some purposes they won’t work. Lots of websites have determined that if you’re coming from a commercial IP range then there’s a high change you’re using a proxy server (particularly if there are multiple connections). So if you’re trying to run numerous online marketing tasks then you’re likely to get block or filtered very quickly.

Many businesses and marketers for example run multiple Instagram accounts in order to promote their businesses or products. It’s well known for being a great platform for doing promotional posts on. However if you run lots of accounts from commercial addresses you’re much likely to get flagged by Instagram as a commercial user and your accounts banned, restricted or even deleted. Yet if you run these from a proxy with a range of residential IP addresses then you’re much, much safer. The same can be said for hundreds of other platforms and E-commerce sites, residential IP addresses are great camouflage.

But as we mentioned earlier they are much, much harder to obtain. Fortunately though some of the more advanced companies have managed to establish decent networks of residential IP ranges to assign to their servers. These used to be very expensive but new technology like backconnect and rotating servers have brought the unit price down significantly.

Here’s are the companies I currently use to supply me with residential proxies. I like to use different companies as it helps rotate the addresses used with my various accounts.

Storm Proxies – these guys seriously know what they’re doing and have been around for many years. they have a fast 1GB network with thousands of proxies with all sorts of IP ranges including a large selection of residential addresses. You can also buy proxies optimised (usually means not used and blacklisted) for lots of different platforms for marketing on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and lots of others. Crucially they own the hardware that their proxies run on, whereas many firms simply rent or lease their servers. This improves support and gives them much more control on configuration of the services.

Rotating Proxies  – a new find for me and I’m quite pleased about them.  Recommended by a friend who runs a huge number of very profitable social media accounts, they have lots of different types of proxies include some great residential ones.  The ones I was recommended are the premium dedicated residential proxies. They’re all super fast and have unmetered bandwidth, so you don’t have to worry about building up bills.  They’re not as cheap as rotating and shared proxies but generally much safer because only you are using them,  Unfortunately they only have US IP addresses at the moment but hoping that might change.

Now I’ve used a few others, but currently for residential addresses these seem to work best at least for my activities.  There is one other company which you should be aware of, if only because they have by far the largest network of residential IP addresses.  They’re called Luminati and have an enormous residential IP address network which dwarfs anybody else.   I have used them in the past and it’s a very decent network with some of the best speeds for residential addresses.   However these are not cheap residential proxies.  They’re actually quite expensive but you can lower the costs by using their filtering options at the proxy dashboard which an adviser will help you with.

The reason that their network is so huge is that they’ve built it by creating an enormous P2P network.  Residential users sign up for their free VPN service called Hola and in exchange allow the part use of their connection and computer.   These millions of users are providing the residential addresses used by Luminati’s commercial network.  I’m not entirely comfortable witht hsi method and would certainly never use Hola  myself, but to be fair they have improved the visibility of their terms and conditions.  Mind you I’d bet that a large percentage of users probably have no idea that they’re sharing their computer and connection in exchange for the free VPN.  It does work though and means that you can grab residential IP addresses from virtually anywhere in the world from their 186 million users !!! I have to say if I was using other peoples money and marketing for a big client, I’d probably use them as they are the most business legitimate proxy company.

Sinister Saudi Tracking App – Absher

It’s quite incredible to believe that in 2019 that there exists an application who’s primary purpose for Saudi men is to monitor and track women’s movements.  It’s provided by the Saudi government and it’s called Absher.

Now for anyone from a Western style democracy this would seem obscene, inhuman and unbelievable, yet it’s very real and currently even available on the Google Play Store to install on your smartphone.  First though there’s a couple of background facts that you need to be aware of  –

  • Saudi Law stipulates that every woman must have a male guardian.
  • Much of this guardian system has been computerized and put online.
  • Guardians are allowed to specify which airports women can travel from (or not)
  • System send text message alerts to guardians when women use their passports.
  • This is not a new system it has existed for years.

It’s incredible, amazing, the digital 21st century meets the medieval ages courtesy of the Saudi Arabian State.  What’s more it seems that this is application has even been given mainstream approval by appearing in places like the Google Play Store and Apple App store too.

Looks quite friendly and innocuous, doesn’t it?  Absher has many meanings in Arabic which don’t really tell the real story – ‘your request is granted’, ‘good tidings’ and ‘at your service’.   However these phrases are only really true if you’re male, for this application and digital service effectively enslaves women under the guardianship laws.

Imagine sitting behind this application is a database of Saudi Arabian women, with details and settings which are controlled by their male guardians.  Now much of the Absher system is very ordinary and wouldn’t look out of place in London or New York.  You can pay government fines, register the birth of a baby or renew your driving license (if you’re male obviously!).

Yet you really can use Absher to specify which (if any airport) a women can use to fly out of the country.  Permission can be given or revoked with a couple of button clicks, so for example you could block local airports.   If your digitally tracked female attempts to use one of these airports their ‘male guardians’ would notified by an SMS message to their phone.

The control over women is just restricted to which airports they can use either.  The guardian can specify how many journeys the woman can take, where they can travel to and for how long.  It’s supposedly there for safety yet obviously it is capable of much more.   Many women attempting to escape from the confines of Saudi Arabia are caught using this system.  As soon as any women attempts to use a passport they are effectively alerting any male guardian of their location and intentions.

The state argue that Absher app is available for women to use too, however this doesn’t include the travel permission pages.  Any woman who wants to escape what in some cases is little more than legal slavery has to find a solution to evade Abshar.  Many young women steal guardians phones and reset passwords, they can then give themselves permission to leave.  Obviously this has to be done quickly before hte guardian realizes and resets those permissions.

Digital technology does offer some balance though to this grim story of modern day repression.  It comes from the internet and social media which is full of stories of women escaping Saudi Arabia and starting new lives.  There are lots of forums and groups where women and girls share tips and advice about making their own escape plans.   Women are becoming aware that there are options and that other countries will offer them asylum if the escape the Kingdom itself. News and documentaries are spreading word of their plight too including some programmes still on the BBC iPlayer which are available by proxy.  The pictures of happy, escaped Saudi women living normal lives in other countries are in themselves inspirational.