Category: ninja

Why Can’t I Use a Proxy

We’ve all been there – you’re stuck in work or school, and frankly bored out of your brain.   Sure you have internet access but all the most interesting sites are blocked –

  • Facebook Blocked
  • Youtube Blocked
  • MySpace Blocked
  • World of Warcraft (games and forum) Blocked

So why’s it happening and what can you do about it?

Your company or school controls your access to the internet at several points and is blocking your access at several levels.

The first control is probably through their own proxy server.  If you go and look in Tools/Internet Options/Connections/LAN Settings or  something like that in different browsers you’ll probably see a proxy server set.  That address will be a server controlled by your company where they force all internet traffic.  If they’ve done a decent job you won’t be able to change this.

The settings will normally be deployed by something called GPO (group Policy Objects) which are the way most organisations control what their computer looks like.  These apply settings like specific desktops, screensavers, Internet Explorer settings each time you boot up your computer.

Therefore absolutely everything you request goes through the company proxy server.  You might think you’re being clever searching for ninja proxy sites on the internet but I’m afraid you’re not.  All you are doing is creating a log of you searching for ‘ninja proxy sites online’, and letting administrators know you want to bypass their settings. The proxy server will be set to filter out all such requests by a variety of methods.  The most common one will be a huge list of URLs containing all the dodgy one page, Glype proxy installations online.

So you need to bypass this proxy server or do you?

If the organisation has their network set up properly then even by using an alternative browser or modifying the proxy settings in IE will not work anyway.  The reason is that your company firewall, the hardware device which controls all the traffic in and out of your network should only allow web traffic out from one specific address – the proxy server.   So forget about specific IPs, free web proxies or anything specific like a UK VPN or proxy until you figure this part out.  Remember in this scenario if you bypass the company proxy then your request will not get through, it needs to come from that specific IP address or it will get blocked.

Then a couple of things might happen –

  • The alert will be flagged on the firewall (Web requests from an incorrect internal client)
  • The administrator will track down the PC and find out it’s been modified.

But don’t worry in reality probably nobody ever looks at  the logs and most firewalls generate so many alerts that nobody ever looks at those either.

The point is your searching for online web proxies is simply a waste of time.  To bypass most corporate proxies you need to go through that proxy and not around it.  Through it because any other originating IP address will get blocked and may possibly  wake up your IT Department.  But you need to stop the proxy blocking access based on the content (what you are requesting) and the URL (the actual site you want to visit).

There are two things you can do to allow this – first you need encryption so that nothing can see inside your web request and secondly you need some low key server outside the network to relay your request.  These two requirements if implemented correctly will allow you to tunnel through any corporate network firewall or proxy and also keep your surfing private from the administrators and logs.   I should point out that the new generation of Smart DNS servers like this, may be more effective in a lockdown environment that standard proxies although it’s likely you’ll need admin access on your local pc in order to modify the network settings, as generally these will all be assigned automatically via DHCP.

Using a French Proxy for M6 Replay

French Proxy

A couple of years ago I spent a small fortune on a French Language course issued by the BBC for my eldest son.  He was struggling with French at school so I bought this course which was based on the adventures of some cartoon character called Muzzy.  It was pretty boring in French and English and my son hardly watched it at all, much to my annoyance !  What I should have done though is introduced him to the wonderful media channel based in Paris called M6 Replay.

If  you live outside France you’ve probably never tried it as you need a French proxy to access it.  However it’s a wonderful site and has all the top US and European shows as well as some French stuff.  On it you can find the shows like the Simpsons that teenagers actually like but they are all dubbed into French.

It’s a great way to practice and learn your vocabulary and it’s way more interesting that the frankly rather boring BBC character Muzzy – pictured here.  The site is really slick and well designed and just really features all the shows and films that the channel broadcasts throughout France.

Getting Access to M6 Replay Through a French Proxy Server

So if you do try and access the media site from anywhere outside France you’re going to get blocked by default.  The site looks up your IP address when you connect and if it’s in France  you’re ok but if you are not then you’ll get the following warning.

Which in case you’re interested says something like  – “This video is unavailable.  Please try and access it later

But it’s not worth it as you’ll always get blocked as long as you are connecting from a Non-French IP address.  However as we have seen with lots of other media sites across the planet – this is relatively easy to bypass as long as you have access to a proxy or VPN server that is  based in France.

Now you can find these online if you search hard enough, indeed there are a few sites which list ip addresses by country.  However the problem with the free ones is that they’re not very safe and most of them are so overloaded that it’s impossible to stream video across them.  So if you want to access M6 replay or any French sites often then it would make sense to invest in a a private proxy service.  There’s a few with French servers but make sure you check first before subscribing to any of them.  Also check which countries you’re going to need and make a list, so for example if you want to watch Swedish TV then you’ll need a Sweden proxy too and so on.

To illustrate I’m going to show you how I use my copy of the security software Identity Cloaker to access m6 Replay. It has a selection of different proxy servers included in the subscription there are UK, US, European and Australian proxies including some French proxies too.

 

You can see in this graphic the user screen of Identity Cloaker, all you need to do is to scroll down the list and select one the French servers and then press connect.  As soon as you do this you’ll be connected through a secure SSH tunnel to one of the companies Paris based servers.   Identity Cloaker is primarily security software which also encrypts your connection – if you’re just watching video then you should turn the encryption off at the bottom of the screen.

Now when you go to the M6 Replay site instead of seeing your IP address they will see the address of the Identity Cloaker proxy server.   As long as you have selected one of the French servers the site will think you are based in France and not block access to any of the content.

As I mentioned it is possible to find French proxy servers which you can connect manually too, unfortunately it’s fairly difficult to find suitable ones.  If you want to try have a look at this site which lists open proxies by country – http://proxy.org/proxies_sorted.shtml they change by  the hour though so keep checking back.  There are some other decent VPN services too like cactusvpn or vyprvpn which might be worth checking out too, although I found them much too slow from my location.

Just put a video up showing this process on YouTube – it’s entitled – French TV Online.  Here’s the video with a step by step guide to accessing the M6 Replay site.

As you can see if you have the right service with servers in the right countries then effectively nothing should be blocked for you online.  Millions of people use these VPN services to access all sorts of blocked content, my friend uses one to connect home to a Rotterdam only TV station – of course he uses the Dutch VPN for this.

For those who don’t have hours to spend searching there are lots of commercial alternative which offer fast, secure and safe proxies in a variety of countries.  Here’s the service I recommend – . , it’s inexpensive and extremely easy to use – the program sits in your task bar and you can switch proxy servers at the click of the button.  Check it out to see if you like it – you’ll find it opens up so many possibilities with proxies all across the world including a French Proxy !

Here’s the link again for Identity Cloaker – I can recommend the 10 day . to test it out first and to see if it works.

Updated – Just checking – March 2nd, 2018 – still working for M6 Replay

How to use an American Proxy for Netflix – Access in UK or Outside USA?

I’ve just cancelled my Sky cable service, I realised that my wife and I rarely watched any of the channels. In effect we were paying the £65 monthly subscription (that’s $98!)  for my youngest to watch reruns of Scooby Doo on one of the kids channels. This we decided was not great value for money so I went in search for more options in the world of online media and streaming services.  After some investigation and recommendations from a couple of US friends – I decided Netflix was worth a go and signed up for a month.

So here we go – my shiny new subscription to Netflix already streaming mindless rubbish to my 14 year old son.

American Proxy

Screen from the Netflix UK site

Now don’t get me wrong, I was quite impressed – there’s loads of shows and lots of choice.  The interface builds up your preferences from what you watch – which is clever except when  you have a teenager watching South Park all the time which messes up your selection.  The missus and I settled down to watch episode one of a series that we’d somehow missed but everyone else in the universe had been enthralled by – Lost.   So all was good except I kept searching for new stuff recommended by some Americans, and couldn’t find them.

It turns out that the UK and the US versions of Netflix are very, very different.  In fact from my initial research it seems that the American version of Netflix is much better than all the other country variants, even just over the border – Canadian Netflix isn’t anywhere near as good, unfortunately it’s not easy to get the U.S. Netflix.

How to use an American Proxy for Netflix in the UK?

Just as every online service in existence, where you live determines what you can access and as often is the case the best value if to be found in America.

Fortunately  there is a way around this, by changing your IP address and tricking the Netflix application about your location you can access the American version of Netflix fairly easily.  I’d read online and everything pointed to using a proxy server and more specifically a US proxy site.  This was partly true, although the information was slightly out of date and unfortunately even the best proxy server would no longer work as Netflix blocked them.   There are in fact only a couple of services which still work and they use a more sophisticated VPN proxy which is harder to detect.

Now I use two separate services for switching my location and keeping my connection secure, both are fast, easy to use and well supported – Identity Cloaker and Overplay.

In this instance I’ll use Overplay to switch my location to a US one –

Accessing US Version Netflix

At the top you can see the Overplay application, which is pointing at a US server – you just select the country you need from a list.  Now when I start Netflix I am treated as a US surfer and use an American proxy for Netflix which has loads more content and is much more up to date than the UK version.  Netflix operates as a global company so it’s important to highlight that my account is still a UK one, but will change as I move location.  So if I was physically in the USA – my UK account would show the US version of Netflix.

You can use any VPN or DNS based service to change versions like this, Overplay and Identity Cloaker are definitely worth trying though as they are by far the best value out of any I’ve tried. Here’s a good video on YouTube which illustrates –

Incidentally this method is based on the PC, you can use similar methods on lots of other devices, like Wii, Routers etc.  For iPad – try this post and select a US server instead of a UK one, before you connect to the Netflix site.

Update: 01/03/2018
You may have heard that Netflix is waging war on VPNs and Smart DNS programs and you can forget an American proxy, effectively blocking all of them. Only a couple of VPNs now work with the US version of Netflix – the fastest is the program I use Identity Cloaker – who have developed a system which bypasses the Netflix blocks – works great.

BitTorrent Monitors – You Are Being Spied On

It’s no great surprise to me, but at least when it gets covered on the BBC News then more people will believe it’s true. We are not anonymous online and in fact there are people actively tracking and spying on us for a variety of reasons. The BitTorrent story is related to a study completed by Birmingham University, who concluded that anyone using the file sharing service BitTorrent was being monitored.  The study is published here – The Unbearable Lightness of Monitoring: Direct Monitoring in BitTorrent

The study points out that there are at least 10 large monitoring firms logging details of illegal downloads using these sites.  If you start downloading a pirate copy of a popular film or album, your IP address will be recorded within 4 hours by these firms.  So if you don’t fancy being on a list of individuals guilty of copyright theft sitting on the desk of some sneaky litigation lawyer – then you’d better be careful using torrent sites like this and Pirate Bay.

So why are these firms doing this?  What are they actually planning to use these huge lists of illegal downloaders for?   Well there’s probably a certain amount of ‘just in case’ – the data could potentially be lucrative so they are grabbing it now.    The biggest clue comes in the various court cases that have appeared over the years – one of the most famous being the slimy bunch from – ACS Law.

This UK Law Firm obtained thousands of these names and IP addresses from the ISPs of individuals who’s computers had been used for downloading illegal copies of films (mainly pornographic).  Instead of taking them all to court for copyright theft, they decided to send each and every person on the list a demand for a sum of money usually around £500 in order to stop any further action.

These threats were often a complete surprise to the receivers,  they included the list of the films that were downloaded illegally.  Often they would know nothing about these films because of course the person who received the letter was merely the person who paid the ISP invoice.  So grandparents were receiving letters about downloading illegal porn films that others had downloaded using their connection.  Fortunately this horrible practice was eventually stopped but not before thousands had paid up to these threats.

Take a look at these logs which were what the solicitors had obtained from the ISPs.

It’s a new business model for the porno industry.   Instead of making a cheap, low budget porno flick and sell it online for a few bucks – you monitor ISP logs and then blackmail anyone who had downloaded a pirate copy.   I mean even the innocent are going to have some nerve to stand up and defend themselves from the charge of downloading a pirated copy of “Freddie’s British Granny F*ck Volume 1” !!  No of course I didn’t download it dear, don’t you believe me !!!!

So don’t use Torrents if you’re going to download pirated stuff, there’s a whole army of commercial lawyer leech types waiting to track you down if you do.  It’s very easy for them to pay a firm to monitor the downloads of files from P2P sites – they can see your IP address in  the Peer list of the tracker or even just join the download when they’ll directly connect to your computer.  Your IP address (and hence your name and address – check this) is then directly linked to the illegal download and you’ll be on a list like the one above.

Use proxies and security software like Identity Cloaker to protect your self and hide your identity.  There are also a few Private Usenet feeds you can subscribe to with SSL to encrypt your connection – like Astraweb and Bintube.

 

Should Facebook Be Blocked at Work ?

So do you think it’s legitimate to use Facebook at work? Is it ok to spend an hour or two catching up with friends in your lunch hour or is it strictly a leisure time site.

A couple of people who read my post about how you can get passed facebook blocks at work got a bit annoyed about me suggesting it should be banned. Although this is not surprising as the comments were from my friends who are a pretty anarchic lot and would get upset if they were banned from invading Burma. I suspect the phrases ‘infringing on my democratic rights’ and ‘subverting the masses’ might be used.

I mean I hate filtering and censorship more than most people, but really if I was paying someone to do a job and they instead spent thirty hours a week messing about on FB then I have to say I’d be pretty annoyed. So although I hate the blocking aspect I think an employer has the right to do this within reason.

After all this afternoon I opened up Facebook and was confronted by this rather witty post –

A Sample Facebook Post?

Now if you can try and focus on the caption below it’s rather witty, but I think most of us would recognise that having images popping up like that on your screen at work is probably not that appropriate. The problem is that the image is from a wall post and you have little control about what appears there. If that image popped up on your brand new 40″ LCD monitor – there’s a very real chance someone would take offence.

The Problem With Filtering is The Technology

Of course that particular image may get blocked anyway even if you don’t specifically target certain web sites. Many of the advanced content filters make assessments on each image that is downloaded. So the algorithm might for instance assess the number of flesh colored pixels and block on that basis. Certainly the market leaders have this facility although you can see massive problems in this as well. After all the lady from our Facebook picture seems to have forgotten her underwear but to be fair her impressive behind has very few flesh colored pixels on display (umm).

So the following picture would definitely trigger the flesh pixel trigger on some content filters I’ve used.

Facebook Censored Images

Although most of us won’t find that terribly erotic ( although the world is wonderfully diverse and it’s great that someone will!) – it will likely trigger the erotic/porn filter on many filters. Algorithms aren’t great at this sort of stuff, they miss things – lines of code deciding what you can or can’t do is never going to be that desirable.

After all if you’ve got a dirty mind ( I confess I have) then you would presume masses of flesh colored pixels would mean PORN. But it’s not always the case as I hope the above picture illustrates – it’s not that clear cut – just like life!

Censorship should be restricted in my opinion to genuinely criminal or illegal stuff, otherwise you just start on that road of banning things that are embarrassing, inconvenient or you’d just rather keep quiet about. It’s certainly not a basis of democracy, and nobody will die from seeing a slim, pert behind climbing into a helicopter!

The solution in my opinion at least for work is a simple Internet Usage policy which relies on people’s common sense. Let employees use the internet in their own time for ordinary tasks – don’t overly restrict but make it clear that you should have consideration for your fellow workers, don’t access porn, gamble or run a far right political party at work. You can do that at home, or travelling home on the train with your smart phone.

Additional

Ok some times jobs are just too boring without some sort of distraction – so if you want to access Facebook even if it’s blocked – check this post on proxy avoidance about half way down there’s a link to download the demo version of Identity Cloaker which is free and works for Facebook and a few other sites.

It’s demonstrated on this video –

If you just want a Facebook Unblocker then there’s nothing to beat it, also works with Twitter at the time of writing (December 2013)