Using a VPN Abroad
A Dirty Little Trick
It is natural to assume that wherever you go in the world, the Internet is going to look the same. After all, it's meant to be global. It's also natural to want to have the occasional taste of home now and then in the form of your favorite television programs or the odd news bulletin from a familiar broadcaster. So it can come as a bit of a shock to discover that not all those sites and services you take for granted back home are available to you abroad.
The fact is that broadcasters and other providers of Internet content have all sorts of reasons for not wanting you to see their output from beyond their national boundaries. Netflix, the world's biggest provider of paid-for online streaming media is particularly keen on making sure that content intended for North America is only seen in North America, with the same restrictions applying to all the markets it operates in.
Other culprits include Pandora and Spotify, who are bound by their license agreements with recording studios to see that their content stays within strict boundaries. Similarly, access to the BBC's iPlayer is restricted to the UK because the content is owned by the UK license-fee payers.
But what if you're one of those license-fee payers? Why should you miss out on the latest episode of Doctor Who just because you've jetted off to sunnier climes for a few days?
The dirty little trick employed to disenfranchise ex-pats is known as geo-blocking. It works by looking at your computer's IP address which gives away your physical location.
The best way of beating a geo-block is to use a Virtual Public Network. Just so long as your VPN provider has a server in the country where the web site you want to access is located, you're laughing. Once you're connected, the web site no longer sees your I.P. address, it sees the I.P. address of the server. So as far as the site is concerned, you are talking to it from a physical location to which it is quite happy to provide its services.
Other good reasons for using VPN while you're abroad include:
- Beating the Censors. There are, alas, many governments who can't stand the thought of their citizens knowing what's going on and talking freely about it. Such governments are prone to blocking social media sites like Facebook. The answer to this is good old VPN. Just log into a server located in the free world and Facebook is yours once more.
- Beating the Spooks. Believe it or not, some countries are highly suspicious of foreigners and see them all as potential spies and saboteurs. Security Services that are happy to spy on their on citizens won't think twice about intercepting your emails and VOIP calls if they can.
- Beating the Crooks. Just like the Internet itself, Internet fraud is a world wide phenomenon. If you use a Wi-Fi hotspot, it's smart not paranoid to assume that somebody somewhere wants to steal your credit card, bank and other personal details.
VPN: Just like a certain credit card, don't leave home without it. While you're packing your bags and checking your tickets, take time to make sure you have a good VPN provider to keep you safe online and help you enjoy your cyber home comforts abroad.