Archive for February, 2017

My New Travelling Companion

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

I had to go and work in France a few weeks ago, and it was an incredible experience.  However one of the difficulties I had was being a single (and slightly disorganised) person I found it very difficult to keep my domestic life running smoothly.  I had presumed that the internet would make managing my affairs more straightforward, things like paying bills, utilities and subscriptions could all be done online.  However this actually wasn’t as straightforward as I initially thought, for one very simple reason.

This is the situation that what you can do online from an American home is not always the same as can be achieved from a French hotel. The reason is a technology called region locking which restricts access to various websites and services based on your location.   My first problem was a direct result of this, when I couldn’t access my online banking in order to pay some bills.   It turned out that as an anti-fraud measure my banking site was only available to someone connecting from the USA.  Any access from a foreign country e.g France was blocked in case it was fraudulent – sensible but extremely inconvenient.

It wasn’t just this, a myriad of sites I discovered either didn’t work properly or certain features were disabled because of my location.  Even simple things like my Netflix subscription didn’t work properly as I got redirected to the French version (with lots of French dubbed movies!).  I did figure this out in the end by using a US IP address for Netflix  which was a revelation to me.

Using a VPN like this turned out to be the solution, if I needed to use US only websites then I merely connected through my US VPN service.    The site would think I was in the US and my online banking worked and lots of other sites too.   It made life much simpler and gave me that link back to home that was being denied me because of all this region locking.   I also discovered that using the VPN actually made sense security wise too, it ensures all your data is encrypted whilst connected protecting it from anyone who was eavesdropping!

For anyone in the same situation I can recommend using one of these services. They’re relatively inexpensive and can normally be subscribed on a monthly basis which is useful for people who travel occasionally.

More Reading:

http://www.uktv-online.com/entertainment/working-netflix-vpn/

Dangers of Using Torrents

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

When you first see a torrenting client being used it’s pretty impressive stuff, search for a movie, click a button or two and a little while later it’s sitting on your hard drive.   There is no need for any technical knowledge, no special skills or coding required other than installing one of the many BitTorrent clients on your computer.  It’s simple to see why they are so popular when you can get a copy of a brand new DVD downloaded at no cost whatsoever.

Unfortunately there are risks and these are growing greatly all the time.   The problem lies mainly on the transparent nature of these clients and how torrents actually work.  When you load a torrent file into your client, you aren’t actually downloading anything at that point – it’s simply information regarding a set of files which may be downloaded.  These files don’t actually exist on a single server, they are shared among thousands of computers which are actually downloading the file , known as ‘the swarm’.   When you start downloading your computer joins this swarm and shares the files on your own computer as you download.  The idea is that all the computers help download and share the file, people are expected to stay in the swarm for some time after completion in order to keep sharing the content.

It sounds great in theory, however the open manner leads to numerous issues.  First the sharing, the bitTorrent client is actually sharing out a section of your hard drive with complete strangers.   This is never a good idea in any context, although direct exploits against torrent clients are relatively rare – uploading viruses and malware is extremely common.  It’s basically a simple way to spread a virus because you are automatically given rights to save files on a stranger’s computers.

The risk of infecting your computer and data while using torrents, has always been around but there are greater issues to using this method too.  The problems comes with the complete lack of privacy while using these clients while downloading.  While there is a way of doing this safely not many people bother, this article has more information – best VPN for torrenting.  Imagine this, when I try and download a ripped copy of the latest Hollywood Blockbuster – in the torrent screen I will see the IP addresses of thousands of other people illegally downloading the file too.  Now imagine you’re the copyright holder, this is a list of people who are infringing your copyright.   Every single person on that list is identifiable through their IP address and could potentially be sued for damages running into thousands of dollars.

It’s easy to see how the media firms are attracted to this method, targeting those users with legal action has two main effects:

  • Brings in huge amount of revenue in fines and damages.
  • Acts as a strong deterrent for copyright infringement.

It’s already happening in the US and across Europe where individuals are receiving threats of legal action because they’re internet connection has been used to downloaded pirated content. It’s incredibly lucrative as most people will inevitably settle out of court when threatened.  IF you’re using these torrent clients to download files then you should make sure you protect your privacy whilst doing it.

Further Reading: