Tag: technology

BBC iPlayer Proxy – Using One Abroad in 2019

For many years now, there’s been a worrying trend developing on the internet.  What was once all free and open is now hidden behind paywalls or being blocked and censored.  Sometimes it’s whole governments but more often it’s down to commercial companies.  Take for example the BBC, their wonderful iPlayer application is hugely popular but if you step outside the United Kingdom then you’ll be instantly blocked.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve a large standing order paying for your TV license, if you’re not in the UK you can’t watch it.

There was some hope, that the European Union would solve this problem as they were trying to implement a ‘single digital market” which would make it illegal to block access like this.  Yet with the onset of Brexit, it’s unlikely the BBC will bother doing anything about this now. There’s also the new subscription channel called Britbox – https://www.britbox.com/home which is available in the US and Canada, obviously it’s not as good as the full channels but it’s got lots of decent shows.

The businesses involved have decided they prefer a sort of restrictive model that also makes them lots of cash. So now people get filtered based on their location – for example forget watching BBC Iplayer proxy in the US or Japan for free, it’s not going to happen (well not without some sneakiness of course). Yep and the lovable BBC have decided against the public spirited World Service model of sending out their content for free, instead they restrict it just to people in the UK.

This is especially annoying for the people like me who already pay the license fee but can’t watch the BBC when they’re out of the country. But don’t worry here’s a way which will allow you to access anything you like including the Beebs iplayer, Hulu irrespective of your location.  It doesn’t matter where you’re based, you can choose.  The solution works in most scenarios so for an example – here’s how to use a proxy to access BBC Iplayer outside the UK.

BBC Iplayer Proxy Workaround.

Firing up BBC Iplayer outside the UK you’ll pretty soon try and watch something and be greeted with the following message.

BBC proxy

Ha Ha No IPlayer for You

It looks like some technical wizardry of the highest order, but fortunately for us it’s not.  When we connect to BBC Iplayer, the site records your IP address and looks up which country it’s registered in – if it’s a UK IP address the show will start playing otherwise you get the above platitude. Now for these illustrations I’m going to use my subscription to Identity Cloaker, you used to be able to use free proxies but they no longer work unfortunately.

There are a couple of free uk proxy server services but they finance themselves by inserting adware on your computer and some even share your out your internet connection, stay clear !!  In the good old days you could also use things like foxy proxy and the extremely dodgy hola firefox too.

BBC iplayer proxy chrome

Choose a UK Proxy for IPlayer

I just open Identity Cloaker and scroll down to select one of the UK proxies and that’s it.  From this point even though I’m connecting through the Wifi at an overpriced Spanish hotel in Barcelona – it doesn’t matter.  The BBC will think I’m in the UK as it looks at the IP address of the proxy server and not mine. So using a BBC proxy works incredibly well, here’s what I see now.

Firefox VPN

Latest Dr Who from BBC Iplayer

Here’s a video of the process …that I hope explains it.

Instead of the warning when watching the BBC through a UK iPlayer proxy I get the play button and can watch whatever I want.  You’ll also be able to access the live TV streams when connected too. In fact the IP check is at start of the show so if I need to I can just disconnect from the proxy using Identity Cloaker software and stream it directly through my Spanish connection. Is it enough to cheer me up after just having my wallet stolen in a Barcelona bar?

Well probably not but being a fanatical Dr Who fan it might just save me from an evening spent drowning my sorrows drinking overpriced San Miguel from the minibar.

(Note to all visiting Barcelona  – if some nice couple seem overly concerned about marks you have on the back of your jacket and offer to help you.  Then run away/call police – you are having your wallet stolen – yes I did fall for it!) 

Finding a BBC iPlayer Proxy Free – Alas No Longer

Just for the record – you can unfortunately no longer use the free proxy services for this, the BBC have blocked them all and many of the commercial VPN services too.  Any of the companies who openly advertise the BBC on their website will often find themselves targeted by the BBC legal and technical teams – it’s best to be low key which is why the best services don’t mention the iPlayer specifically.

Here’s the link for Identity Cloaker – I can recommend the 10 day . if you’re just away on a trip or holiday, or just to see if it works.  There are loads of other services who offer something similar though, but this is simply the one I found to be fastest and best value.  I’ve been using it for over 8 years now as a BBC proxy without a problem and it also works for ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky GO.

If you want to watch using an Ipad, Smartphone or tablet you can use Identity Cloaker too just by setting up a VPN manually on pretty much any other device.  Yes for BBC iPlayer proxy ipad too. – try this post about watching BBC Iplayer on the Ipad Abroad.

What’s My Port – Why is it Blocked?

So what’s a port? Does my computer have one and where do I find it?  Are a selection of questions I often get asked when trying to explain why they can’t access their favorite proxy server, or use file sharing sites whilst they are at work.

Computer ports are of course very dull, but they are intrinsic to how computers work.   Firstly a quick distinction – there are actually two distinct categories of ‘ports’ when you’re referring to computers – hardware/physical/peripheral ports or network/virtual ports.  With regards to computer security, it’s the network ports which we are most interested in,  physical ports are just the places you plug things in on the back or side of your computer.  The common ones are USB, Serial, Parallel, VGA and stuff like that – here’s a picture of two common physical ports you might find –

Computer Ports

The network ports are virtual, they don’t physically exist but are merely exist to allow information to flow across a network between different devices and programs. They are an important part of TCP/IP networking and some knowledge can be of great benefit if you are having filtering or blocking issues. Your computer will be constantly opening and closing these virtual ports when you’re online and you can see which ones are open by running a program called netstat from the command prompt, or for a more user friendly display try one of the freeware tools like Currports which will allow you to see them a little easier.

Port List Computer

Click to Make Bigger

You’ll see in the graphic that there are loads of ports open in response to what programs and applications are running on my computer. Most popular services tend to use standard ports, although this isn’t essential – in the list above you’ll see that there are processes being established on port 443 – this is the SSL port and is open on my computer as I’m logged into my Facebook account in my browser. It’s worth having a look at these lists on your computer because every process there is effectively using your computers resources in some way. For instance I noticed that Dropbox which I stopped using months ago was still sitting running on my computer listening on several network ports.

You can often tell which program or service is running simply by the port number. For example web browsing will normally take place over 80 or 8080, SSL on 443, FTP on 21, DNS Services use 53 and Email 25. I’ll put a more extensive list up in a separate post because it’s useful to have a reference. These ports are therefore also used when someone is trying to block access to something. So for example if you’re the administrator for a corporate network and you want to stop people using FTP to upload or download files from the internet, you could block port 21 which would effectively break standard FTP clients.

It’s a common tactic and is a simple way to control access on a large scale, for example the Great Firewall of China will block ports that are used by anonymity programs like TOR or indeed those using a UK proxy for BBC. However it’s also possible to circumvent blocks like these if you are able to utilise non-standard ports. For example modify your FTP client to use something other than Port 21 to communicate or relay your email through something other than port 25. In the next post I’ll show you how you can use Identity Cloaker to redirect any application traffic onto whichever port your decide and bypass these filters.

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.

How Secure is Email – Privacy Issues

There is a common analogy used in security discussions about how secure email is. It’s generally considered that using standard email is about as secure and private as taking a postcard, writing down your secret thoughts, then handing it to a passing stranger and asking them to post it for you. If you take in to account how emails are sent and the technology involved it’s not far from the mark. Mind you I can’t remember the last time I got a postcard so maybe this particular analogy will be out of date soon.

You can go to extraordinary lengths to secure your email though, there are many secure software solutions that will encrypt your emails and patch up the various privacy holes in email in general. However for many of us, who simply strive for a reasonable level of privacy this can be a daunting and expensive task. In some senses, it’s perhaps best to stay clear of email if you want real, gold standard levels of privacy and security and look for another method of transferring information. The most serious privacy concern with email, that everything you send is sent in clear text. Anyone on the distribution route of your email can simply eavesdrop on the content and read it without any fuss – no hacking or cracking of passwords is required.

Packet Trace of an Email

Packet Trace of an Email

Take a look at this packet capture, taken from the sending of an email using Thunderbird.
The entire email – the sender, the recipient, time stamps and the message is in clear text – all of it readable without any effort.

So let’s add a level of privacy to this transmission, I’m going to use Identity Cloaker to secure my email. We fire up the application, select a secure server in another country (I’ve chosen a Swiss server here) and then tell Identity Cloaker what to encrypt using the application screen.

Set-encryption-email

In this example I’ve told it to encrypt Thunderbird, which is the email client I use on this particular PC. I’ll then resend the email and see what you can pick up from the wire using a packet capture program (Wireshark available for free here!).

Encrypted Email Traffic
As you can see, or perhaps I should say ‘can’t see’ now all the data regarding the email is encrypted and is inaccessible to anyone reading it on it’s journey. Using this technology, adds a huge level of email privacy and can be used with all applications which don’t properly encrypt your data including messaging clients, browsers and a host of others. However it is important to remember that the email is only encrypted during it’s journey, when it hits your client or mailbox then the message will be in clear text again unless some additional encryption solution is used to protect here. Having said that at least all your messages are protected in transit and aren’t left sitting unprotected in logs on routers and servers all across the net!

What is Internet Filtering (and How Can you Beat it)?

This is becoming a more and more important question as we spend an increasing amount of time online. What exactly is internet filtering and should we learn to live with it or try and bypass it at every turn?

It’s probably best to start with some background, and define some of the types of filtering you’ll find online and who enforces them. All sorts of people could potentially be filtering your internet access, largely dependent upon your location and situation. Governments often filter extensively – places like China, Thailand and Iran heavily restrict what you can see or do online. More worryingly many places monitor rather than block which has led to many bloggers for instance being imprisoned for merely expressing an opinion online.

Web Filtering
More democratic nations are also starting to increase the amount of filtering they engage in. Australia seems very keen to introduce an extensive filtering system whilst Iceland are proposing to block internet porn completely from their country.

There are also more understandable filtering which takes place in your workplace, schools or colleges generally to prevent individuals accessing inappropriate sites or spending their working days on Facebook!

Surprisingly though all this filtering is usually obtained through very similar methods. Your local college is liable to be filtering your internet feed using the same methods as the Sudanese Government. If you decide you do want to beat internet filtering – then here’s two of the main methods used;

Filtering TCP/IP Headers

Every TCP/IP packet consists of two main sections, the header and the data. Inside the header you’ll find the destination IP address effectively where the request is being sent to. A simple but popular method of internet filtering is to maintain a list of ‘blocked IP addresses’ any request sent to these addresses is either dropped or blocked. It’s nto a very effective method though and means spending a long time keeping an up to date list of IP addresses and servers. It also often ends up blocking legitimate sites by mistake.

Filtering Based on Content

A more sophisticated method which involves looking at the data in the packet and not simply the address from the header. It usually involves an investment in new hardware to enable content filtering. This method is much more configurable and will allow blocks on inappropriate content such as porn, gambling etc without the reliance on maintaining a static list of sites.

It’s not perfect and there are still ways to beat this method of internet filtering too, it can also heavily impact the speed of the connection as well.

There are many variants of these methods and of course you’ll find lots of different security configurations employed as well in many organisations. For example many companies will only allow outgoing web requests out through a single server address normally a controlled proxy server. This is to stop people using the free basic web proxy servers that you find over the internet.

So Can You Beat Internet Filtering?

The simple answer is that you normally can. Evading the simple TCP/IP header filters is relatively straight forward – just finding a proxy server which does not have it’s IP address listed will normally do the trick.

Obviously it’s more difficult if you’re faced by a sophisticated content filter like BT Clean Feed, Websense or Optinet. These are actually looking in the data for both web addresses and specific keywords or patterns in the content itself. The simplest way to stop these content filters blocking you is to make your browsing unreadable by encrypting it. Encrypting your data means that the filters can’t actually see what is in the data in order to make a decision, when combined with a proxy server you can normally beat most internet filters.

Take a look at this video, which demonstrates how Hide IP Software actually works.

If you need a product that does this and more – then take a look at . , it has the technology to encrypt and cloak your protection plus access to an extensive network of proxies all over the globe – servers in the United States, Britain, France, Canada and many more across the world. You can use it for complete seclusion, to circumvent web filtering,censorship or even just to watch Hulu, BBC Iplayer or any media site you enjoy. The proxy will shield your IP address and the encryption will protect your data from logging and content filters.