It can be frustrating being able to watch a movie or series trailer on social media but not the actual movie or series. All because your favorite video streaming site is unavailable in your location. The problem transcends movie streaming. You could also encounter geo-restrictions when doing ad verification, purchasing goods from some e-commerce stores (PlayStation Store), and some music streaming sites.
The geo-restriction mostly feels like discrimination, and you may also feel helpless, especially if you do not have access to information about how you can go around this problem. Fortunately, this article provides this information. It discusses the various methods you can use to access geo-restricted content and singles out the best.
You can access geo-restricted content using these three methods:
- Virtual private networks (VPNs)
- Tor browser
- Proxy servers
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
A virtual private network is an encrypted connection (tunnel) between your computer and the service provider’s server located in another country. The encryption prevents people from eavesdropping on any communication originating from your computer. Furthermore, the VPN assigns your computer a new IP address attached to the service provider’s server, also known as an exit node.
This new arrangement facilitates access to content limited to that country. For instance, if you are in a country that cannot access Disney+, you can use an exit node located in the United States to access the site.
Nonetheless, although VPNs offer encryption, some service providers store users’ communication logs, which hackers could access in the event of a cyberattack. And that’s not all. Some of these providers may sell the data to the highest bidder, further breaching your privacy and exposing you to unknown risks. Additionally, the encryption process slows down VPNs.
Tor browser is mainly known for anonymizing users’ web traffic. It does this by routing requests and web traffic via the Tor network, which, at any given time, is composed of three separate layers of computers/nodes.
The first layer hides a user’s IP address and assigns it a publicly registered identifier. It then passes the traffic through a randomly selected node constituting the middle layer before spitting the traffic out through the exit node.
The three different nodes change the user’s IP address and, by extension, their location. However, Tor assigns the IP address at random, and it is up to the user to configure the browser such that it selects an identifier from the desired location.
Although Tor is effective in anonymizing traffic, it puts users at risk of government surveillance because of the type of users – mostly criminals. It is also not as secure as one might think since a tech-savvy hacker or operative can intercept the traffic.
The various shortcomings of VPNs and a Tor browser point to proxy servers as the remaining option. With that being said, you should not take this statement to mean that proxy servers are perfect. They also have their disadvantages, but they are far much better in comparison to Tor and VPNs.
Using proxies to access geo-restricted data
Picture this: if you intend to access Australian content, you can use an Australian proxy. Such a proxy will simply assign your web requests an IP address registered within the Australian territory. This Australian proxy, and virtually any other proxy, works as an intermediary through which a user’s web traffic is routed. The traffic originating from the computer (web requests) is assigned a new unique IP address. The proxies essentially hide the device’s real IP address.
Notably, a reliable and reputable proxy service provider should have a vast IP address pool that provides access to geo-restricted content in different markets globally. Once the Australian proxy, for example, assigns your computer an Australian IP address, you can access content on, say, Netflix Australia. You can visit Oxylabs website for more information.
Alternatively, you can use the Australian proxy if you work for a multinational company that needs to verify ads displayed in Australia. The benefits proxy servers provide with regards to circumventing geo-blocking are not restricted to the Australian proxy example. Provided you are using a reliable proxy server that will assign you new IP addresses – some proxy service providers assign previously blocked IP addresses – you can bypass geo-restrictions.
Nonetheless, proxy servers also have some drawbacks. For instance, shared proxies are slow and unsecure. Also, proxies cache data, some of which could contain sensitive information such as passwords. This means that a person working for the proxy service provider could use their position to access this data. They also do not offer encryption, as is the case with VPNs.
You can address these issues by selecting a reputable proxy service provider and choosing the right type of proxy. In short, proxy servers are the best method whenever you need to access geo-restricted content.