Netflix blocks access by VPN from abroad

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The popular Internet movie streaming service Netflix has started blocking subscribers who use VPN software that enables them to bypass geographical restrictions.

 

Many people with a Netflix subscription in their home country like to watch it abroad when they’re on holiday, but normally the service is blocked to comply with movie studio requirements. If you have ever tried to access Netflix in Thailand (or other services such as the BBC iPlayer), you’ll no doubt be aware that it’s usually impossible to watch as the content is restricted based on your location.

But Virtual Private Network (VPN) software allows you to configure your intended location and appear as if you were in another country like the U.S., thus allowing full access to the service intended for that country.

Netflix takes action

Netflix

Recently, Netflix has been taking action against people using such tools – for example the Android Netflix app now forces you to use Google’s DNS servers, making it more difficult to use DNS-based location un-blockers. Additionally, they have started to block certain known VPN IP address ranges. The move by Netflix comes as the studios seem to want more control over what people can watch and where.

At the time of writing not all VPN users are experiencing problems accessing Netflix, but one of the VPN providers – TorGuard – noticed lots of access problems by its users since December 2014.

“This is a brand new development. A few weeks ago we received the first report from a handful of clients that Netflix blocked access due to VPN or proxy usage. This is the very first time I’ve ever heard Netflix displaying this type of error message to a VPN user” – TorGuard’s Ben Van der Pelt

Netflix is reportedly experimenting with several blocking methods, such as querying the time zone of the user via the browser or mobile device’s GPS, and comparing that to the timezone of their computer’s IP address. Pretty sneaky and annoying for VPN users, but it is of course a legitimate thing to do in accordance with their terms and conditions.

Movie studios enforce new rules

The movie studios, including Sony Pictures (who was the recent target of a cyber-attack allegedly by North Korea), are also starting to force Netflix to verify that its users are in the real locations they claim.

Netflix has been told by Sony that it has to “use such geolocation bypass detection technology to detect known web proxies, DNS based proxies, anonymising services and VPNs which have been created for the primary intent of bypassing geo-restrictions.”

It appears that Netflix will implement more blocking tools and methods over the next few months, though it’s likely that the measures may also cause problems for people who use VPNs for privacy and security reasons.

Unfortunately, other streaming services are also targeting VPN and proxy users – Hulu has also rolled out similar restrictions. It remains to be seen how Netflix users who watch in Thailand via a VPN will be affected.

UPDATE: we have since learned Netflix claims there is “no change” in the way that it handles VPNs. So it’s not clear why the blocking issues have started to show up in the past few weeks, after all…

SOURCE: TorrentFreak.com

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12 Comments

  1. Someone will just create a tool that outsmarts their detection technology.

  2. James Baker on

    I don’t understand. I already logged into my router as soon as I got it and changed it to use Google’s DNS servers because they are faster than the defaults in the router. But how can Netflix know which DNS I’m using when the DNS returns Netflix’s IP to my box, and my box ultimately queries Netflix by IP? I don’t go “through” a DNS server to get to Netflix.

    Why would Netflix care which DNS I used? I’d think they’d be more interested in my IP address if they are trying to block proxy servers, VPN’s, foreign countries and such. They get that information fed to them with a silver spoon.

  3. Crud!, just bought a Sony TV. Sony…the anti consumer and technology company.

  4. Why should anyone want to use stuf from a company that installs rootkits on computers to even try to control the music you use?

  5. I bought it before I read this article. It was a bit cheaper than the Sammy so I went again’st my best judgement and bought the Sony. Maybe I was living in the past when Sony fought against the media giants, but not anymore. They are just their proxy now (showing my age here).

  6. Thanks for the article Dr. Banks. For those who live outside USA and want to access Netflix, you can use UnoTelly. It changes your IP address so you can get US Netflix.

  7. johnmelvin on

    I find this blocking disgusting. I would love to have Netflex and others. I called them and like 4 years ago I was informed by their representative that they were looking into broading their service. Of course they allow Europe, South America, Mexico etc……….but not Asia. It seems to me if you have a subscription and pay it what is the point. If movie companies are so fearful of copying this can be done in the USA also. I had to cancel my subscription to Netflex because of it.

  8. Robin K Maddex on

    I sometimes access Netflix from the UK via a vpn in Canada and I get a notice telling me that when travelling and using netflix, just informing me that I may not be able to find my favourites and other personalisation when using my account from another country.

  9. Pingback: Netflix has more than 30 million users via VPN

  10. they allow europe? so why we people from poland can’t use netflix? i have to use hola or vpn to watch anything…

  11. johnmelvin on

    September 15th 2014: Netflix is now available in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium Austria, Switzerland – We’re guessing this European expansion will only continue to grow.