Netflix To Start Cracking Down on VPN Piracy
Netflix understands that licensing issues prevent every country from having Netflix. They also understand that those same agreements mean the countries that do have Netflix don’t have the same — and may, in fact, have worse — content libraries. But the streaming service would still prefer that people didn’t pirate.
As with plenty of geoblocked services, Netflix has become victim to users bypassing access restrictions through the use of VPNs and other tools that allow them to change their geographic location. With the right program, a guy in Australia could have full access to U.S. Netflix. So it’s no real surprise that Netflix is now cracking down on “VPN pirates,” by instituting measures to block programs that circumvent geographic restrictions.
For starters, the Netflix Android app has started to force Google DNS, which makes it more difficult to utilize DNS-based location unblockers. In addition, a selection of VPN-IP ranges were targeted as well. Netflix is even accessing a user’s time zone through their web browser or through their mobile device’s GPS in order to figure out if they’re in the correct geographic location to be using the service.
Naturally, this is a bit of a problem for VPN providers, considering their users might not be pirates so much as security conscious consumers. TorGuard reports that it has encountered a huge surge in access issues since mid-December for its users, even those based out of the United States who are simply using VPNs for privacy measures.
“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,” said TorGuard’s Ben Van der Pelt.
However, TorGuard findings reveal that blocked access was simply temporary, as users were able to bypass Netflix’s attempted restrictions simply by logging into a different U.S. location. Although the prevailing theory is that the issues TorGuard users were experiencing were the result of Netflix testing its new VPN-blocking software in preparation for a larger scale launch in the coming months.
“I have a sneaking suspicion that Netflix may be testing these new IP blocking methods temporarily in certain markets,” added Van der Pelt. “At this time the blocks do not seem aggressive and may only be targeted at IP ranges that exceed too many simultaneous logins.”
Of course, Netflix’s efforts might all end up being for naught anyway, since sites like TorGuard and Unblock-us are already working on implementing several solutions to the problem that will allow its users to be able to continue to use a VPN client in conjunction with Netflix. Still, this was a route Netflix had to try sooner or later, especially with online piracy becoming something even the least-savvy internet user can accomplish. So whether Netflix’s prevention tactics succeed or not, this is an important first step.