Category: TV

BBC Block VPN Connection Services

It was a move greeted by shock, disbelief and to some extent even despair suddenly the BBC started to block VPN connections from across the world.     Just to roll back a little, for years the BBC had insisted that all it’s media content was only available to domestic viewers i.e those who were physically located in the United Kingdom.  However although this was official policy, the BBC did very little to actually enforce this other than a basic IP check which blocked anyone accessing from a non-UK IP address.

BBC Block VPN Connection

This IP blocking method although effective was actually extremely simple to bypass, all one needed was a way of hiding your location.

Initially this could be achieved by using a simple proxy server although in 2016 BBC started to block these following the lead of most global media companies.   There was another method left, using something called a VPN which stands for virtual private network which also allowed users to hide their physical location and IP address.

A VPN connection is virtually impossible to detect and so these have continued to work and many have switched from using proxy servers.  Unfortunately VPN services are more expensive to run and therefore these are almost always require a paid subscription.  The free ones are filled with advertising, share your internet connection with strangers and are all frustratingly slow to use which means that everything involves extensive buffering.

Here you can see in this video, a demonstration of a VPN program being used to access the BBC from outside the UK.

Although the move to paid services was upsetting to a lot of people, these subscriptions where relatively inexpensive and as they opened up all the UK TV channels are still extremely popular.   However during the second part of 2016 and into 2017 the BBC started to attack these services too.  In fact during specific times, literally thousands of people found themselves blocked almost overnight – one day they were happily watching the BBC the following day they were blocked. It almost seemed that suddenly they had figured it out, BBC iPlayer detecting VPN services – was it possible? Well no, they can’t detect them but it’s true that for many their BBC iPlayer VPN not working had suddenly occurred.

So if the VPN connection is virtually undetectable, how did the BBC manage to block so many of them?

How Does BBC Block VPN Connection Services

As mentioned, a properly configured and well run VPN service is almost impossible to detect.  Even the Chinese have thrown huge resources at identifying and blocking VPNs in order to control the huge use of them to circumvent their filtering and censorship.  They have not been completely successful and many Chinese routinely use VPN services to bypass the Great Firewall of China and indeed retain their anonymity in one of the most oppressive internet states in the world.  Other media companies have all tried in various ways too, most seem to settle with a partial success of blocking the simple proxies.  Nearly all media companies now block the easy targets so for example you can’t use a simple French proxy for M6 Replay either.

So obviously the BBC do not have anything like the technical expertise or resources to match this, however there are other options which can be fairly effective.  Firstly although the actual type of connection cannot be easily identified, they can identify when thousands of concurrent connections come from specific IP address ranges.  VPN servers will have limited numbers of IP addresses and when the BBC detects thousands of streams all being directed at the same ones then it’s likely they are some sort of proxy or VPN.

Secondly, many of these VPN services are easily identified by a little detective work.  Many of them openly advertise or display their TV watching services on their websites.  Type ‘BBC iPlayer abroad’ or ‘watch UK TV abroad’ into a search engine like Google and you’ll see some paid adverts for various websites.  All the BBC has to do is look up these services and block them manually, anything that looks like a TV watching service and not a proper security based VPN will be fair game. So there are some truth to these rumours, but it would be wrong to say that BBC iPlayer not working through VPN anymore

So in essence a little detective work and monitoring incoming connections can be a pretty effective way of blocking these VPN connections.  There is no real BBC iPlayer vpn workaround, merely selecting the right sort of VPN service.  Fortunately the older legitimate VPN services don’t advertise these facilities and also have large infrastructures with lots of servers to spread their connections. They have made little additional effort in blocking these services since the BBC iPlayer VPN 2017 purge, so the remaining companies should be fine – certainly I’ve been using Identity Cloaker for over a decade now without issues.

Companies like idc still work with all the UK TV stations despite these blocking efforts because they remain primarily security services not ‘TV watching’ proxies.

How to Unlock More Movies on Netflix

One of the problems with Netflix is it’s just too big! Much is made of of it’s super clever algorithm which is designed to guide you to your favorite shows, however the reality is that most of us will never come across thousands of the shows and movies stored on there. Most of the versions of Netflix are the same but the US version has even more content with some estimates suggesting tens of thousands more films and TV shows. Here’s how to unlock more movies on Netflix using a simple hack.

So how can we browse all these films more easily, well some clever chap has discovered a way to break out of Netflix’s suggested movies mode and dive straight into specific categories.

It turns out that you can go straight to thousands of pre-defined categories on Netflix just by using the correct URL. For instance, here’s a few.

Classic Comedies – http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/31694
Music Documentaries – http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/90361
Sports Dramas – http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/7243

You can access them by modifying the end number of the URL and you’ll be directed straight to that category if you’re logged into Netflix. There are in fact 76,000 different categories some of them extremely specific – for instance there’s a category of ‘Witty Movies by Woody Allen’.

Fortunately someone has produced an incredible list of all 76000 categories which you can find on this link. Just have a browse and you’re bound to find a few categories of interest that you’ve never found.

What’s more if you switch to another version of Netflix then these categories still work but you’ll see different movies and shows depending on which country. SO for example you could use one the Netflix VPNs such as this and switch countries before clicking the URL and see loads more. That means you can go directly to very specific genres under each country variant armed with this list and a Netflix working VPN.

It’s definitely worth trying and of course the Netflix algorithm will pick up on your choices after you watch and rate them to update your standard auto-generated menu’s too.

Best UK VPN Access for iPlayer

Which is the best UK VPN Access provider with British based servers for BBC iPlayer?  It’s a difficult question, simply down to the huge choice that is available now online.  Years ago, I was involved in a project to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) client on thousands of laptops in a large multinational company.  The laptops consisted of wide variety of hardware, lots of different language builds and each had different software installed (even some VPN client software which needed to be removed first).   One thing I did learn throughout this project is that VPN client software can cause all sorts of problems mainly concerned with network connectivity if it doesn’t work properly.

best vpn for UK TV abroad

Reliable Software is Important

This is why, choosing a reliable VPN service is so important. For most of us, an internet connection is why we use our computers, using a poor service will at best slow down your connection and at worse completely break it. A VPN needs to be well configured, maintained and supported both at the client and the server side to work quickly, securely and seamlessly.

In fact seamlessly is an important point, because the better a service is, the less impact it will have on your connection.  If your internet speeds plummet to a slow crawl as soon as you enable the connection then it’s going to be fairly worthless.

Most people need a VPN for the following reasons:

  • Secure their connection and personal details.
  • Access blocked websites like Hulu, BBC iPlayer, ABC and others.
  • Privacy

There are other reasons, but it’s mainly to bypass blocks and ensure security, any well run VPN should be able to supply both of these.  If you’re interested in a accessing a particular service like British TV online then a fast UK connection is the priority.  This is an important point, the best VPN or Smart DNS service will actually allow you access to a network of VPN servers in different countries. However it is the speed of the specific servers that you connect to which will ultimately determine how it performs.

For example, many services offer a server in a few different countries, which is great if you are not concerned about which country you connect to.  However if you want to watch and access the BBC online then you will have to select a UK one to change your IP address, unfortunately so will many others.   Which is why for so many companies popular servers will be completely overloaded.

Identity Cloaker monitor their servers 24/7 and because they are one of the oldest and safest UK VPN Access providers on the internet they have a wealth of expertise in maintaining fast, accessible servers.  They also have deployed servers based on demand – their network has dozens of UK and US servers with huge, available bandwidth to be used for the popular media sites like the BBC and Hulu, but less servers based in other countries.

Which means their UK VPN servers are fast, very fast especially when used with the compression algorithm in the client software.

The reality is that the service is one of the best because it has been around for so long and been actively developed.  The software is sophisticated and robust, the servers have been optimized over the years to provide the fastest and most effective service.

Here’s a great example, although Identity Cloaker was originally available using the client software which redirected through a UK BBC proxy for British addresses but it was becoming apparent that demand was moving towards different devices.  For example many people were starting to stream video directly onto Smart TVs, tablets or media devices.  Making different versions of the VPN client software was almost impossible for many of these devices, how do you install software onto your Smart TV for example?

Which is why all the Identity Cloaker servers were modified to allow direct VPN connections from other devices.  Basically it was possible now to set up your VPN connection manually on tablets, ipads and phones.  You can even connect directly from your router to effectively switch every device to use the VPN even things like Smart TVs – watch this video.

This won’t be suitable for everyone of course, because by default it does effect every device connected to that router.  However it’s a marvelous fix for situations where you can’t get access to the network configuration settings and still need the a good VPN you can get access to.   Most modern routers will have this facility, although unfortunately in the UK there is a tendency for ISPs to supply heavily restricted devices.  BT have removed the majority of the connection settings in it’s Home Hub device including much of the VPN functionality.  The overriding advantage of this message though is that the IP address is classed as a residential one, a valuable asset that you’d normally pay for from a residential IP provider !

However for speed, security and reliability then I can thoroughly recommend Identity Cloaker which you can try out for 10 days using their . .

Is a Residential VPN Service Essential?

If you’d asked about a residential VPN service 12 months ago not many people would know what you were talking about. Although there were a few companies like Storm Proxies a residential IP provider mainly supplying addresses for use in the UK and USA. They were mainly used for people seeking that little extra privacy and in the SEO and internet marketing arenas for promoting sites and using marketing tools. However having access to a residential IP address is becoming important in another areas – bypassing region blocks.

What Exactly is a Residential VPN ?

There’s two parts to this question, most of us have probably used a VPN but that vast majority have standard IP addresses from commercial ranges.  However residential proxies and VPNs have IP addresses from residential range.  The likelihood is that your standard internet connection almost certainly already have one. If you go to any of the check my IP address type sites and look at your public IP address, it’s normally been assigned by your internet provider. Your modem or router will be assigned this by your ISP to establish your internet connection. Here’s mine, heavily censored obviously –

Residential vpn service

Residential IP Address

– it is assigned by British Telecom, whom I have the misfortune to be a customer, they allocate that address and it’s pretty much out of my control.    The address can be classified as a UK Residential IP Address and that in itself has many implications for example;

  • Can Watch BBC iPlayer and all UK TV channels
  • Blocked Access if I try and watch Hulu or NBC
  • Search Engines Set to UK Results
  • Netflix will Route to the UK version only

That’s only the start but it gives you an idea about how your IP address controls what you can do online.  Of course, many people weren’t happy about all this filtering, blocking and redirection.  They wanted to watch the BBC News when on holiday, watch the rugby from Ireland and knew that the US version of Netflix was way better than any other one.

Here’s one in action –

The solution was simple enough – to hide your real IP address and instead relay your connection through a proxy or VPN service.  This was a perfect way to access any web site you liked, especially as most of the best services offered a range of servers in different countries.   At the click of a button you could switch from a UK address to watch the BBC, then switch to a US server to enjoy your Hulu subscription.

The important thing was having access to a server physically located in the country you needed, nothing else mattered – until now.  

Unfortunately it looks like it’s going to get much more complicated in the future and we can probably thank the media giant Netflix for this.  In a few short weeks they have effectively blocked 99% of the VPN servers used to access their site.   Not only have Netflix blocked access based on the location of the IP address, they have also restricted any connections from commercial IP addresses.   The problem is virtually every VPN service uses a commercial IP address as they are housed in data centers across the world.   You can get residential VPNs from specialist providers but they are extremely expensive, suppliers like proxyrack you usually have to go on a waiting list to get a residential VPN.

There are Very Few Residential VPN USA Available Anywhere

It doesn’t matter how advanced your VPN or proxy solution is, if it doesn’t have a residential IP address there’s some tasks which are going to get blocked automatically.     These residential IP addresses however are mostly reserved for domestic customers – you can get one easily for your home connection but it’s very difficult to get a range to support VPN services in different countries.  You definitely can’t just buy residential IPs to use like you can with standard commercial address ranges.   The other worry is that when other media companies see the huge success that Netflix has had in blocking VPN access they are likely to follow suit.

dns-trick

Many platforms now distinguish between connections originating from these different IP ranges.  Nearly all the large social media platforms for instance automatically detect these.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll get blocked from a commercial range after all lots of people use these platforms from work or from commercial networks.  What it does mean is that your account or connection will be flagged as originating from this sort of range.  Many people who promote or manage numerous Instagram accounts have reported issues until they’ve started routing their accounts through private residential proxies.

Finding a VPN Network with Lots of residential IPs

There is some hope,  Identity Cloaker  have come up with a solution by integrating residential US IP addresses into their infrastructure.  They are not used all the time, but merely when a connection is made to the Netflix site – it is automatically routed through a US residential VPN.  You can see this working in this video rather confusingly called Using a Proxy for Netflix which shows how a UK viewer can access the US version of Netflix through a VPN without issues.  They have limited numbers though, so this solution is not suitable for managing multiple accounts or high volume activites.

For access to US Netflix from anywhere try out the . and see how well it works for all the world’s major media sites including US Netflix.

If  you want any volume of residential IP addresses for running SEO tools, Bots for buying from various sites and similar then you’ll need to go direct to the residential vpn providers.   The problem is a single IP address is ok for watching a movie but pretty much useless for any sort of automated tool, in fact you’re going to need access to a significant amount to stop them being banned.  The best providers have a variety of systems to make this accessible including rotating and backconnect proxies which effectively rotate the IP address automatically.

Here’s the best one by far, which you can test out for 48 hours without commitment –Storm

Do You Trust Your TV? It Could be Spying on You.

Well if you have a new Samsung TV then perhaps you should think twice before answering that question.  Their new generation of Smart TVs have a voice activation feature that allows you to switch on and off, change channels and stuff like that, but it’s possible that this comes at a significant cost.

 

An eagle eyed EFF activist called Parker Higgins, took the time to read the privacy policy of these TVs and discovered a rather alarming paragraph which stated –

Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.

So let’s just have a think about this, if you enable the voice recognition function on your shiny new Samsung Smart TV, the bloody thing will not only listen to all your conversations it will also transmit them to a myriad of  third party companies.  Your TV would actually be sitting in the corner of your room spying on you!

Now putting aside my personal dislike of all voice enabled devices, I mean why is talking to an inanimate device preferable to pushing a button, this is a seriously worrying threat to people’s privacy.  For a start you’d have to be permanently on your guard, who knows where your conversations are going to – just some spotty Samsung technical geek  or more likely a selection of marketing companies?   Secondly, it’s not only spying on you the owner of the TV but anyone who happens to be in the room – have they given their permission ?  Should anyone entering your living room be given a disclaimer and need to sign a consent form !!

Samsung have now modified the wording in their policy insisting that the TV doesn’t in fact listen to ordinary conversations.  This is however rather difficult to believe after the initial policy wording,  I mean you’d never put that down in writing if it wasn’t in some way true.  There is obviously little thought being put into the design of these devices, as far as privacy goes – relying on stuffing a few sentences deep in the TVs documentation (which it probably thought nobody would read).

There are other aspects to the technology which makes it even more unlikely that conversations can’t be monitored by the device.  For start the TV is capable apparently of recognising complex requests like –

‘recommend a good Sci-Fi Movie’ or ‘open BBC iPlayer

I mean a TV would have to listen to pretty much everything to pick up and filter requests like that, this is beyond someone like me shouting OFF  in his stupid accent.

What is more that the TV doesn’t have a single microphone, you can’t just huddle in the corner away from the TV whispering – there’s another in the damn remote control.   Cunning move, the TV remote in my house for example it is the singlest most difficult to find device by far.  It routinely turns up in all sorts of obscure locations and I’m sure my children are on some sort of retainer to hide it every time they’ve finished watching.

Well I for one, will not be purchasing one of these things, however unfortunately it will also involve me upgrading my general level of paranoia.  I foresee a future of creeping around electronic stores or checking the backs of friends TV sets when I enter their house  (and of course enquiring about the location of the remote).

Does anyone really need this rubbish !!