DNS Is Just A Proxy – Use A VPN To Access Region Blocked Video

vpn proxy intro   DNS Is Just A Proxy   Use A VPN To Access Region Blocked VideoFor copyright reasons, certain media companies only allow their content to be viewed in certain geographic areas. In plain English, what this means is that they are meanies who suck. And what does the Internet do to meanies who suck? We find workarounds.

Now, I have to officially say that neither MakeUseOf.com or I or anyone living, dead or fictional is promoting breaking any laws, social mores, contracts, or pinky-swears. This is purely for educational and entertainment purposes. (See what I did there? ‘Entertainment purposes’)

Before I get to the tools, I’d like to talk about the process of geographical Internet Protocol (IP) address blocking and circumventing those blocks. For those of you that just read, “Blah, blah, blaaah, blah.” skip ahead.

How They Know Where You Are From

There’s an International Authority that dishes out IP addresses and gives certain blocks of IP addresses to certain geopolitical areas. That organization is called Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or IANA. Using that information, media companies simply read what IP address you are coming from, compare that to their list of countries and IP addresses, and then decide to grant you access or not. It’s pretty simple, right?

XKCD IP Map Updated   DNS Is Just A Proxy   Use A VPN To Access Region Blocked Video

How to Circumvent That Nonsense

If your IP address is what this is all based on, then all you have to do is change your IP address. Simple! Yes, but simple does not always mean easy. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigns you an IP address each time you connect to the Internet. If you’d like a little deeper look into how this works, check out our article on How The Internet Works.

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Typical Oversimplified Internet Connection

Any website or web application can read your IP address. What you have to do is convince the web site that you are coming from another IP address – one that is assigned to the country that the website likes. The simplest and easiest way is to use what is known as a web proxy. Basically you are connecting to a computer in the allowed country and then browsing the web from there. It’s like having a mail drop. Now your browser is actually the proxy’s browser and therefore has the proxy’s IP address. Voila! You’re in.

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Basic Proxy Connection

Another method you could try is to set up a Domain Name Server (DNS) to use, other than the one your ISP uses. When a DNS looks up the IP address for a domain name, it tags that lookup with the IP address of the DNS, not your IP address. This can fool the website you are trying to connect to into thinking you are accessing it from the country that the DNS is in. There are several companies that provide this service, as you can see in this recent article. However, for DNS rerouting to happen, each packet of data still has to go through this alternate DNS. In effect, the DNS is simply acting as a proxy. Therefore, I will refer to DNS re-routing as simply a proxy, since it can suffer from the exact same weaknesses.

DNS Proxy 300x243   DNS Is Just A Proxy   Use A VPN To Access Region Blocked Video

DNS Proxy Simplified

Accessing a proxy server happens through your regular Internet connection and that opens you to some vulnerability in getting fingered. Lots of these proxies end up on blacklists sooner or later and they get blocked. The people running these things may set up a new proxy, or they may just give up. Either way, you’re left looking for a new one.

The workaround for this is to connect to the proxy server via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Think of this as a mini-Internet that only a select few can use that connects you to a server somewhere. Your own highway lanes, as it were.

Basic VPN 300x206   DNS Is Just A Proxy   Use A VPN To Access Region Blocked Video

Basic VPN Concept

VPN’s are more reliable than proxies because they are essentially the same as an ISP, they are your on-ramp to the open Internet. No matter how the content provider tries, they can’t see any further back than where the VPN connects to the public Internet. Blacklisting VPN’s is also a risky business because many corporations use VPN’s, and thousands, if not millions, of people connect to the public Internet legitimately through VPN’s. The shadow of a doubt continues to exist.

Why Is This Not So Easy?

Someone has to set up a proxy server with an IP address assigned to the country from which you wish to appear to be. In doing so, they may be breaking a contract with their ISP, or copyright laws, or goodness knows what.

If a lot of data is going through their proxy server, they may have to pay more money to their ISP for the increased usage. That will definitely happen if they allow enough speed and bandwidth for their users to stream video. So there isn’t really a lot of incentive to set up a free proxy server.

If they are going to add the service of allowing you to connect to their proxy server via VPN, then they take on additional legal risks and costs. For the same reason as proxy servers, there isn’t a lot of incentive to offer you high bandwidth for free either. You are almost certainly going to have to pay a monthly fee for this service. Fortunately, it’s not terribly much. The VPN’s I want to show you are free, however.

The connection to the VPN/Proxy service is usually done in your web browser settings. However, if you are using other Wi-Fi devices, such as a Wii, you may want to set the connection to the VPN in your Wi-Fi router. This would put all of your Wi-Fi devices on to that VPN. You may see the benefit in doing this, if you can.

The Wi-Fi router/modem provided to me from my ISP does not allow me to configure it in such a manner. Phooey.

Who Offers this Service Then?

If you hopped and scotched here directly, you just missed some of the most amazing information ever. Seriously. Go back and read it.

Or you can check out these organizations that provide VPN access to their proxy servers so you can access the region blocked video.

Spotflux

Spotflux Screenshot   DNS Is Just A Proxy   Use A VPN To Access Region Blocked Video

This is a free, cloud-based, VPN/Proxy service. What Spotflux does differently than other VPN/Proxy services is they, “…conduct millions of real-time and automated calculations to remove tracking cookies, malicious viruses, and other nasty things…” from your Internet communications.

At the time of writing this article, Spotflux was completely free and had no bandwidth limit. So this should work on region blocked video content. And it did. Installation was easy and so was uninstalling.

All the installation really does is change the manner of your connection to the Internet to use Spotflux’s VPN. As for all of its other functions, well, I didn’t really see evidence of them. Which is the point. Those functions should be seamless. So, I guess it worked.

VersaVPN

Versa VPN Screenshot   DNS Is Just A Proxy   Use A VPN To Access Region Blocked Video

 

VersaVPN provides a free service and a paid service. They state that the free account still has transfer rates up to 300 Kbps. That’s sufficient to run some streaming video. Maybe not high-definition streaming video, but still pretty darn good. In my area, my ISP will be more of a bottleneck than the VersaVPN free service.

They also claim that the free service will always be ad free. On the security/liability side they only keep logs of your activity for 15-days under the free account. They don’t keep any under the paid-for accounts. Locations you can appear from are limited to the U.S.A. with the free account as well. But still…it’s free.

I installed their VPN client, signed up for a free account, and proceeded to test it. I’m not saying on what, but it was video. No, rated PG video. The short of it, is that it worked. I did get an unsigned installer error when I installed it though. Meh.

There are a few more free VPN services out there, so take a look around – test them out. They do exist.

If you’re interested in learning more about making information free on the Internet, you need to download our free Information Liberation: Guide to the International Web.

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If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

34 Comments -

Chris Hoffman

I don’t think that services like UnoDNS and Tunlr DNS proxy all traffic. They stream Netflix and other services at much higher speeds because only some of the traffic is proxied. It’s unclear exactly how it works as these companies don’t want to give away their “secret sauce,” but it’s been much faster than a VPN or proxy could possibly be for me.

Guy McDowell

Correct. Not all DNS services proxy, or tunnel, all traffic.

What I should have wrote was, ‘certain packets of data still have to go through the DNS, like data through a proxy server and some DNS services tunnel all your packets’.

With only some of your data packets going through the DNS, your transmissions still aren’t as secured as going through a VPN.

Chris Hoffman

Thanks for the clarification! A VPN is definitely ideal for security and privacy. But I don’t care about that when streaming Netflix or what have you. It’s a different use case, really.

Guy McDowell

The use-case is applicable to Netflix usage as well. Utilizing a region blocked service in a region that is intended to be blocked by circumventing the block will violate Netflix’ copyright agreements with the content producers. This in turn will violate your end-user agreement with Netflix and they can shut your account down. Which would suck, for the sake of $5 a month.

Chris Hoffman

Eh, Netflix doesn’t care, they’re happy to have the money and some plausible deniability. Only the content providers would care.

Stephan Huebner

I don’t know about NetFlix, never used it, but there is one other point. From my experience many freely available proxies prohibit things like JavaScript, so many sites may not display correctly or at all when used via a simply proxy. A VPN on the other hand should not limit anything in terms of web technologies (maybe apart from some ports that might need to be opened for special services).

Spencer Taylor

What this really comes down to is whether you want to view streaming content for entertainment purposes, or you want true security. As someone that has worked with VPN for many years, none of these companies, or CyberGhost, HotSpot, etc. are ideal or even desirable solutions for security. I’m not doing anything to worry about, it’s for business purposes, but for folks that need true security because their government is restricting their access to information, they are working on high-profile “stuff,” etc., you really need a true, hardware level VPN that performs on the fly encryption AND does not log anything – ever. For those interested, there are a few well known, affordable and highly reliable solutions out there. Also, hardware level VPN encrypt EVERYTHING – anything connected to the router or stand-alone VPN, including all ports and ALL traffic in and out. The one downside to this, is the need to have a physical device to run a hardware VPN, so it’s not optimal for people traveling or working away from one place, but there are ways to tunnel those transmissions as well.

Guy McDowell

I partially agree that a hardware-based VPN is the best for security. Virtual VPN’s are being used in some very information sensitive areas to great ends.
There are varying levels of encryption available with virtual VPN’s and any communications going through the virtual VPN will be encrypted as well.
The issue with having a hardware-VPN is that you still have to have a server to connect to outside your danger zone. If your government can crack the encryption on your virtual VPN, you can bet they’ll crack it on your hardware VPN as well.

Nevzat Akkaya

Even VPN is blocked by many company networks now. Limitations, limitations… :(

nedim

As i understood you connect to their servers and they download the stuff you want with their IPs and then give it to you. So can you get nay problems with different protocols when using vpn? Does it make harder to pirate stuff, like download via torrents?

Stephan Huebner

It depends on the individual VPN-provider. Most of the free ones suck at download rates and may not even allow every protocol. Plus, take into regard that configuring it in the browser will only concern *that one browser* and no other connections on your system.
Good VPN providers are as cheap as 5 Euros per month. And you should check their policy regarding IP-logs. A good starting point would be this: https://torrentfreak.com/which-vpn-providers-really-take-anonymity-seriously-111007/

Stephan Huebner

Some more remarks: I’ve been using AirVPN for many months now on Ubuntu and am happy with it. Some providers may allow you to connect to them with more than one computer at the same time, but some don’t. And many of them also provide servers in different countries, so that you can choose to connect through, say, UK, USA, Netherlands, Germany or whatever. Very helpful.

Guy McDowell

True. With the free VPN’s though, most of them do seem to be limited to one country’s VPN. Most of the time, it appears that the host country is USA, but I’m sure I saw one that was either UK or Germany.

Stephan Huebner

You’re welcome. And yeah, from what I’ve seen, free VPNs are usually rather limited in terms of bandwidth/speed and available servers.

Stephan Huebner

*sigh* another post that didn’t get through… So, once again: You can get problems with different protocols, as especially the free VPNs don’t always allow all of them (or may block certain ports).

nedim

Can you make settings for protocol specific vpn. For example make only http and ftp go through vpn and all other directly. Or maybe even site specific vpn, when u go to specific sites to use vpn. Thanks.

Stephan Huebner

I am no expert in that matter, so I don’t know. I know that you can open certain ports sometimes, which may be necessary for some games or other applications. But afaik, that is generally seen as a security risk, as these ports are then just forwarded to/from your machine.

Luis Gomez

The simple basic answer is no. The VPN connection you made in your computer is for all inbound/outbound traffic.

Now, you can setup a Virtual Machine (VMware, VirtualBox, etc.) on your machine. Connect to the VPN using the virtual machine and you got two different internet connections using one single computer.

Finally, it could be possible to specify rules to redirect traffic as you mentioned but it is more a router task, and you will need a capable router, and router OS programming skills. Your home/small-office router will do not do the trick.

Guy McDowell

Wouldn’t both Virtual Machines be using the same Network Adapter?
And yes, a good router can be set up to redirect traffic. Trying to remember how we used to do that…

Luis Gomez

Answering your reply you post below: host OS and virtual OS can use the same network card with no problems at all. Just make sure the Virtual OS get its own IP address.

Stephan Huebner

uhm… why should the VPN “usually” be set up in the browser? While it’s a possibility, it’s not necessarily the best, especially if you use more than one browser or other apps (VLC for streaming content for example). Plus, if you are concerned about your privacy, setting the VPN for one single browser won’t help you much.
A far better approach is to set the VPN on system level. While a lot of VPN providers only have Windows- or Mac-native Software, a lot of them provide config-files for OpenVPN, so setting them up on Linux is easy as well.
And another remark: Depending on your usage you should take into concern that many VPN-providers will keep logs of the IPs that connect to them. So you are not totally anonymous, if that is something you’re looking for.

Guy McDowell

I was wrong. I was thinking proxy. VPN’s usually utilize client software, or in older systems VPN hardware.

Yes, many VPN providers collect logs. I alluded to that when talking about VersaVPN’s free service maintaining logs for 15 days, while their paid service doesn’t keep logs.

dragonmouth

One small problem, both of these sites are Windows/Mac only. Seems like Linux is the ugly stepchild and is ignored.

Guy McDowell

Like Stephan Huebner mentioned above, OpenVPN software is available for Linux as well. In the case of a VPN service saying they only support Windows/Mac, you might be able to use OpenVPN with their connection configuration.

Victor Ong

Hm, this seems to me like a direct rebuttal to yesterday’s post about using DNS proxies over VPNs…

Stephan Huebner

I was actually thinking about writing a comment about that post, calling it bs. :D But thought that I might be wrong and that it would have been to harsh.

Guy McDowell

This article is sort-of a counterpoint to the DNS proxy article. We both were working on the same problem but from different starting points – accessing region blocked content. So, it was decided that his would be the ‘point’ and mine would be the ‘counterpoint’. Now, to be fair, that was decided AFTER his article was already published. So, I think if he did a counter-counterpoint, he may well have some well developed arguments in his favour.

George

Reading through their FAQ’s I see they use Java… I don’t and won’t.

Guy McDowell

Fair enough. But you’re probably using Java now in one way or another. ;-)

Faizan Ali

thanks for the info, you have written a exemplary article in simple words.. Kudos to that.. but unfortunately i was a little too late in educating myself about using DNS and VPNs. I had to learn it the hard way as my accounts were hacked when i connected through a public hotspot while i was visitng my cousins in austin.
I had simply know idea how much vulnerable i was to hackers and ever since then i have been researching about how to secure my connection. The best answer i found was VPN. I had absolutely what VPNs were and how to use them untill now.

I also Agree with Chirs Hoffman as i also do believe that VPNs are ideal when it comes to security as compared to DNS. I read Various Articles regarding how VPNs can help make internet secure. I would like ot share these articles in order to contribute to your readers so that the same thing doesnt happen to anyone else.
http://bit.ly/SUQPeF
http://tek.io/16HMaVf
http://bit.ly/Z36r5p\

I hope these Help :)

Guy McDowell

Public WiFi hotspots are handy, but you need to make sure that they are safe. I tend to stick to hotspots that are administered, usually, by competent IT personnel.

Places such as:
Libraries
Large Chain Stores – like McDonald’s
Major Hotel Chains – like Super8

If it’s just an ad-hoc type of hotspot, steer clear!

Faizan Ali

but you are still vulnerable… better be safe than be sorry :)…
I have seen so many incidents that is scares me to connect to public hot spots.. its a cruel world we live in these days!!

Devin Slick

It’s too bad there’s no way to unread this article.

Guy M

I don’t understand your intent. Do you feel this is a bad article, or is the information in it somewhat disappointing to you?