Tag: DNS

Using DNS to Fightback

There’s a lot of information on this site, about the various methods used to filter, block and deny access to specific websites. Content filters, geo-blocking and firewalls now form part of the internet’s infrastructure rather than existing in isolation to protect genuinely secure networks. Of course, there have always been ways around them and in reality if you had something like the portable version of Identity Cloaker stored on a USB drive, you were normally able to bypass them. But in reality most people wouldn’t want to get involved in the world of proxies, VPNs and encryption because basically they just wanted to watch stuff online.

After all if you’re faced with a big shiny flat screen Smart TV, and you find you can’t watch a video on YouTube or The Simpsons on Hulu – then downloading PC software is not going to get your far. The reality is that we access the internet in so many different ways nowadays and via a computer is just one of these. In my home just for an example, the devices capable of browsing the internet include computers, tablets, phones, TVs, an Xbox and a WiiU and probably more. The challenge is to enable those devices to have unrestricted access to specific websites, not just the computers.

There in lies the difficulty, you can’t install PC based software on your phone, TV and Games console. The most you’ll be able to control is the device’s network settings from some generic menu like this –

wiiu-networksettings

This will be the same for your phone, Smart TV and tablet – most devices will allow you access to these settings somehow. Although there are some which don’t – the annoying Roku won’t let you manually change all these network settings for some reason ( Geek Note : although you can remotely assign them through DHCP).

Fortunately now this is all it takes is to use Smart DNS – which you can see from this video demonstrating the procedure on an iPad.

So to bypass all but the most fiendish network blocks all you need to do is to be able to manually alter the DNS settings. Unlock BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Pandora and Netflix on any electronic device you need, just by using Smart DNS.

It’s a wonderful piece of technology, designed to bypass the commercialism and control that corporations are seeking to impose on the internet user. It’s simple to use, cheap and doesn’t impact your connection, so I thoroughly recommend it. Remember the video above – Change DNS iPad settings enables Smart DNS on the tablet but it works the same on any internet enabled device, just find those network settings and change your DNS server to a Smart one.

Region Free DNS – Smart DNS Review – Changing a Device’s IP Address

Wow what a geeky title,  well hopefully this post isn’t too dull but it’s inspired by a few emails  – so here’s a kind of introduction/Smart DNS review in response.  Now a lot of us, are living a pretty region free life online, with the use of certain programs and services we are not blocked and redirected based on our location.  So I don’t have to watch the vastly inferior version of Netflix just because I’m currently in the United Kingdom, I can watch the US Version instead or when travelling I can watch the BBC iPlayer abroad!  It’s all pretty straight forward on a computer, laptop or smartphone – load up the program, switch servers or  use a DNS service and you can choose your own virtual location with a false IP address.

Here’s the basic steps for a PC –

Can’t see the video above? You can find it on YouTube it’s all about Smart DNS But of course the world is not that simple, and many of us have different devices that are getting blocked.  Media streamers, Smart TVs and games consoles; just like our computers.

These just like our computers can get blocked based on their location too, and there’s no obvious way to manually configure network settings, especially if you don’t have the right IT infrastructure.  Installing a sophisticated security program written for a PC or MAC isn’t going to work but how about these innovative DNS services that a couple of the leading VPN/Proxy providers have developed.  These services work across all sorts of platforms – phones, games consoles, Smart TVs, tablets and computers – in fact virtually anything which has access to the internet. So as it’s a smart DNS review, here’s the Smart DNS Service I Use – click on the link for a free 14 day trial too!

Smart DNS Proxy

In case you don’t know Smart-DNS is a sort of halfway house to unblocking geo-restricted media content online.  It basically routes part of your connection through a specific server using your domain name system (DNS) settings.  So if you were interested in watching US Netflix from Europe for example, you would establish initial connections through a United States proxy server and then stream directly through your own connection  All you need to do is enable your IP address with one of these region free DNS services and then change your DNS settings on the device you need.

So I Can Change the Location of a Device like a Roku, Boxee or a Smart TV?

Yes you can but this isn’t always obvious, because many devices don’t let you alter or change network settings like DNS servers.

How Can I Change Roku Network Settings

How Can I Change Roku Network Settings

So let’s take for example this device, the amazing Roku (which really is that big!)  The Roku allows you to stream content directly to a TV through an HDMI cable.  Most people use it to access Hulu, YouTube, HBO GO and similar channels, but it’s a network-enabled device meaning it is affected by the location of your IP address.Connecting a Roku to a TV in the USA alone won’t enable users to use BBC iPlayer and similar geographically-restricted channels.

Smart DNS is ideal for this sort of situation: it’s not a full-blown virtual private network (VPN) connection like this, but should be just enough to fool the media-streaming site into the location you specify. Except the Roku (like most streaming devices) has no network configuration settings; you cannot manually modify its IP address nor its DNS server. It’s why you’ll often see people stumped and asking on forums – how to change Roku IP address because it’s certainly not obvious.  Perhaps these are blocked for a reason. I imagine major streaming companies like Netflix wouldn’t want users to be able to access these settings – but they haven’t directly prevented these connections either. It should be noted that now Netflix will only allow access from residential IP addresses, so you should check they are available before subscribing with anyone.

Luckily you can modify the settings in most cases, either on your router directly or by using DHCP. DHCP is the protocol that sits on your routers, Wi-Fi access points and modems that assigns IP addresses for all the devices on your network.

Region Free DNS

Here’s the settings on my Netgear router which allows the device to allocate IP addresses on my internal network – you allocate a range – 192.168.1.1-192.168.1.254 in this case and each device will be assigned it’s own address when connected to this network. On a full proper DHCP service, not on this particular router example, you can specify other details including which DNS server to use. You could also set up your own DHCP server on a computer for allocation there are loads of free versions you can use. For Smart DNS to work you only need to assign the specific Smart DNS server to the device you want to work. So I could assign a specific DNS server to my Roku remotely, which could either be a US, UK or any country employable by the service you use. In my situation with this router, I would just assign the Smart DNS setting to the router itself in the DNS settings. All this does is enable everything in my network to use  the Smart DNS setting which in many cases is more suitable for people.

DNS Settings on Router

These are normally in Internet or LAN settings on your router. Instead of using the assigned settings from your ISP, specify the Smart DNS ones you received from your provider – in my case, Overplay. If you’re lucky the DHCP service on your router will allow you to specify the DNS settings like this TPlink one. assign-dnsto-roku Once you’ve assigned your new Smart DNS settings to your router, every device connect to your Wi-Fi network would also be assigned to the Smart DNS settings – that’s your Roku, iPhone, Smart TV…whatever. If you want a particular device to have different DNS settings, simply assign them locally on the device – they will not be overwritten by DHCP. I should however urge a word of caution particularly due to my tests: the above works fine for most devices when assigning DNS settings to devices on your network.

But there is a possibility that your device may be regionally locked in some fashion which would prevent you using region free DNS. The earlier Roku’s were, and I’ve heard reports of some Smart TVs and media streamers doing the same.  Basically they force these devices to use something like Google DNS servers by default, therefore overriding any DNS servers you set.    If DNS requests are hard coded into the device, you are either going to have to block them or accept it isn’t going to work properly.  One of the main issues is using Smart DNS Netflix requests as they seem to be forcing manufacturers to enforce their geo-restrictions in their hardware.

I would recommend checking for a specific device’s compatibility by starting with a short-term region Free DNS subscription first. . has a 1-month plan starting at less than $5 USD, perfect for testing the service to make sure it supports whichever device you want to use.

Once Upon a Time There Was a Hosts File

When the World Wide Web was little and called the ARPAnet, resolving computers to their IP addresses wasn’t a big deal. In fact because the network consisted of only a few hundred hosts, a single file called HOSTS.TXT was sufficient. This file contained the name to address mapping of every computer on the ARPAnet. Unix computers hacked the HOSTS.TXT and built it’s own version and stored it into /etc/hosts – all was fine and dandy.

The HOSTS.TXT was maintained by a Network Information Centre and distributed by a single host. Any client would pick up a fresh copy every few days to see if any new hosts had been added to the network. Slowly there were problems as the network got bigger – here’s some of the biggies:

  • Traffic – the toll on the SRI-NIC (the computer which held the master copy of HOSTS.TXT) became unbearable. Network traffic and CPU utilization was overloading the host.
  • Name Collisions – No two hosts on a network can be the same. There was no system to enforce this uniqueness of host names – duplicates started to appear in the host list as it got bigger.
  • Consistency – making sure that everyone had the correct version of HOSTS.TXT became extremely difficult. Machines on the far edges of the network would take so long to get an update that it was

It didn’t work, name resolution started to cause havoc on the network as it grew, mailservers fell over as duplicates appeared. Hundreds of versions of the HOSTS.TXT file caused loads of issues and the reliability of the network plummeted.  A new system was needed and it was needed fast, that system was delivered by a chap called Paul Mockapetris.  He released two RFCs  – 882 and 883 which were the first definition of the Domain Name System – or as we mostly refer to it as DNS.    These RFCs have now been superceded many times as security, administration and implementation problems have been identified and rectified.

The Internet as we know it relies not on some huge text file but the Name resolution delivered by the Domain Name System.  DNS is simply a huge distributed database, local control of this data is allowed.   However this data is accessible across the whole network through a client/server set up.  Now this is where the history lesson finishes – I don’t want to start talking about Name Servers, resolvers or caching as you can find that stuff in other places.

Here on theninjaproxy.org we like our information is little more practical – so lets have a look at a little legacy of the HOSTS.TXT file that is used as a first step of resolution by Windows TCP/IP.

There’s the little fellow  – a text file called hosts which contains your computers first port of call in Name resolution before it uses methods like DNS for example.

It can be used to block or filters websites, hackers use it to infect clients with viruses and trojans by redirecting to nasty sites.  Also plenty of places still use it to make web based applications work properly or to redirect clients to specific computers.

It’s quite simple to use – here’s a brief illustration.  We are going to redirect a web site to a different place using the hosts file –

Let’s redirect our web surfer to somewhere pleasing to the eye – playboy.com.  First we find the IP address of the site by pinging it -216.18.172.158.   Next we need to make some simple modifications to our hosts file – you’ll usually need administration access to alter this file.


You can see we have added a line telling the computer that the site www.google.com can be found at the address 216.18.172.158 (oh no it can’t!).

Of course you’ve guessed what will happen when anyone tries to visit Google on this computer!

Sometimes doesn’t work as great on the bigger sites that rotate their IPs over lots of servers and you may have to clear your cache with CCleaner beforehand.  But you get the idea, another slight modification is that you can use the hosts file to block access to sites to.   Instead of redirecting a site to different IP address you can just redirect to your local computer using 127.0.0.1.

For example perhaps you are getting pissed about all the adverts that are served on websites from ad.doubleclick.net, simply add this line to your hosts file.

127.0.0.1     ad.doubleclick.net

This will have the effect of blocking access to that website (and blocking it’s adverts).  It’s a crude but reasonably effective way of blocking access to specific websites on a particular computer.  Many companies or schools use this method on public facing or ‘kiosk’ machines.

Unfortunately hackers also use this method too, viruses modify your hosts file to redirect your machine to malicious websites instead of popular sites like Facebook or similar.  So it’s always worth checking out your hosts file occasionally to see all is in order.