Most of us have been victims of geo-blocking. Geo-blocking refers to the restriction of a network or internet service to a specific geographical location. Networks and services are blocked for a number of reasons including copyright and license protection, managing costs of running the network or service, limiting hacking especially for games, price discrimination, etc. The problems begin when you have to travel and find yourself locked out of a service that you need. Before we can get into how to circumvent these inconvenient restrictions, we must first look into how it happens.
How geo-blocking works
To access the internet, each network device is assigned a unique identifying address known as the Internet Protocol (IP) address. The IP address is often assigned by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and is, therefore, geographically sensitive. When you move to a region with a different IP address pool, your device is automatically assigned a different IP. An IP address pool is a number of IP addresses available for allocation by the ISP as determined by the geographical region. A network or service looking to restrict services to a certain region, therefore, restricts access to a specific address pool. IPs that exist outside of this pool are thus exempt from accessing these services.
How to overcome geo-blocking
Install a VPN
VPNs are one of the best ways to circumvent geo-restrictions and unblock websites. A VPN encrypts your network traffic then transmits it through a different network using a tunneling protocol. For this to work, your device is assigned a different IP address by a server that exists in a different region. If a company configures its server to restrict access to IP addresses within that region, you gain automatic access regardless of your actual location. For instance, you could be traveling to Africa and still have access to geo-blocked US services. The upside is that you also get to enjoy a tremendous amount of internet security and anonymity owing to the high levels of encryption on the network and data packets transmitted through it.
Make use of Tor
Tor encrypts the user’s information, including the IP address, then sends it through random numerous network relays. At each relay, the information is decrypted enough to identify the destination. Consider a classroom with a thousand students. A note is passed through random students and the only information any of the messengers know is the note’s intended recipient. Unlike the classroom, however, the original IP address is never revealed even at the destination relay, which makes it a brilliant way of overcoming geo-blocking. Unfortunately, Tor is a browser-based service. This means that it doesn’t encrypt your entire network traffic and as such, doesn’t work on geo-blocked application services such as games.
Install a premium Smart DNS
Imagine what it would be like if we had to type IP addresses for all the sites we visit. Instead, we use domain names or site addresses, thanks to the Domain Name System (DNS), which works by sending queries to servers to match a site address with an IP address and vice versa. DNS works both ways, and just as your device is able to recognize the IP of the site’s server, the server can also identify yours enabling geo-location and geo-blocking.
A Smart DNS service is an application that routes your traffic through a server in an accessible location. When the internet company’s server sends the query, the IP that is identified belongs to the select server and not your device thereby circumventing any geographical restrictions. The downside is that the service works for select websites. Therefore, if the site that you are trying to access is not supported, the restrictions will still apply. Another downside is that the traffic is not encrypted and is therefore unsecured.
Make use of proxies
Proxies work in much the same way as a Smart DNS service. In fact, Smart DNS is an example of a sophisticated proxy, which should explain a lot about how proxies work. The notable difference between proxies and Smart DNS is that proxies have to be manually configured, while Smart DNS automatically selects the servers to use. When using a proxy, all your internet traffic is transmitted through a different server, which overcomes a lot of restrictions, including geo-blocking. Like Smart DNS, proxies are often not encrypted by unlike Smart DNS it covers all your internet traffic and not select sites.
Points to note
Having the ability to circumvent geo-blocking, such as a VPN, is not in itself illegal. Nevertheless, what you determine to do with this ability is what determines its legality. You should use this ability wisely. Reading the terms and conditions of a website beforehand should prove helpful when violating terms by exploiting technicalities.