Posts Tagged: security

How to Stream Media Anywhere with a Secure VPN

Fans around the world rejoiced when Netflix announced it would expand service to 130 additional countries, making the streaming video giant available in almost every country (except for China).

Their bubble was soon after burst, however, when they discovered Netflix wouldn’t be including the full catalog in those countries. Content licenses are mainly to blame for the gap between countries’ catalogs, as studios and production companies stipulate where their content can be streamed. However, customers can take matters into their own hand — even before the global rollout, Netflix subscribers living abroad used VPNs (virtual private networks) to evade the geographic restrictions on streaming services like Netflix.

Why Virtual Private Networks?

VPN providers supply the software and servers needed to route an Internet connection through a proxy location, making it appear to Netflix as though the user is somewhere else. ExpressVPN is one such provider with hundreds of servers scattered across 78 countries. It offers apps, media consoles and routers with every subscription, and each server is optimized for web streaming for unlimited bandwidth.

An Imminent Ban on VPNs?

Shortly after its global roll-out, the company announced it would take steps to stop VPN users. While we’ve yet to see exactly what Netflix will do, it’s certain to be an uphill battle; the company can’t tell the difference between someone connecting from a VPN and someone connecting directly without knowing each specific VPN server’s IP address.

For Netflix, blocking VPNs will be a reluctant necessity to appease content publishers. Blocking VPN servers one by one is likely to result in a costly game of cat and mouse – Hulu attempted a similar ban in 2014 and gave up in defeat after less than a year.

Because Netflix actually gains from letting VPNs slip through the cracks, critics speculate if and when it will throw in the towel on such a profitless endeavor.

More Benefits than Just Netflix

Aside from unblocking Netflix, VPNs give users a slew of added security and other features. All traffic is encrypted and anonymous, so ISPs and hackers can’t monitor user activity. VPNs can also speed up streaming services in places that throttle bandwidth, because censors can’t identify the traffic; location restrictions on Spotify, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more can all be easily accessed with a VPN.

ExpressVPN goes the extra mile when it comes to user privacy by never logging or monitoring user activity. On top of that, the company is based in the British Virgin Islands, beyond the legal jurisdiction of the US, UK, and EU. The right VPN provider can significantly boost a user’s privacy protection. If you value your privacy, or even if you just want to unblock geo-restricted content, you need a VPN.

Download ExpressVPN today and protect your privacy!

The Sling Encryption Mystery

There’s quite a thread going on at the Sling Community forum regarding Sling’s new encryption “feature” and its impact on At-Large Recorder. Jeremy T from Sling is doing his best to answer the critics, and has made his third post.
The money quote (emphasis mine):

Finally, I’ve tried to be clear that there are issues regarding this topic that I simply cannot discuss. Some of the other users in this thread have guessed at them, and I appreciate those posts. In my last comment I asked readers to sit back and really think about our motivation here. You think we are motivated to try to “screw third parties”? I already stated we plan to have some form of API/SDK coming out down the road. You really think that we want to “screw Slingbox owners”? Why on Earth would we want to do that??

I guess Jeremy didn’t really make it clear that there were other motivators to the decision. Web users, and especially early adopters like those who buy Slingbox devices, are very sophisticated, and the attempt to say encrypting the stream to “protect users privacy” didn’t really make sense to anybody. Likewise with the protecting “content owners” reason. He probably would have been better off saying “I simply cannot discuss” like he finally did in the third post. While nobody likes that excuse, they can respect it at least. I respect it.

The fact that Sling cannot discuss the rationale for the decision makes for an entertaining game of speculation. The Sling Community forum participants certainly have a lot of theories. Since I have no inside knowledge, I get to speculate, too!
Sling has received a huge amount of investment money – $55 million or so. One of the investors is EchoStar. The content people are always paranoid about these new technologies (TiVo has investments from the major networks), and investing in these companies is a good way to keep the technologies under control. One theory is that as a condition for the investment, Sling agreed to ensure the stream couldn’t be redirected. They probably didn’t think it could be done until At-Large Recorder appeared, hence the need to quickly add encryption, and the fact that this was “always on the product roadmap” as Jeremy suggests.

This also keeps them out of possible legal trouble with HBO, MLB any anyone else concerned with geographic rebroadcast issues.

Sling has taken great care to ensure the streams couldn’t be “split” and beamed to several people at once. Theoretically, if the stream can be recorded, it can be retransmitted to several people at once. This breaks the legal protections they have put in place.

I don’t think the “recording” aspect is the cause for the consternation. The way At-Large Recorder works, you can’t really retransmit in real time anyway, as the file isn’t viewable until recording ends.

Anyway, that’s MY theory. We’ll probably never know.

Sling is in a bit of a pickle, in that they can’t do anything and everything to make their product the best it can be. It would be great is they could be more open about the reasons behind the decision, but this may leave them open to legal trouble by recognizing any legal weaknesses publicly, so it’ll likely remain a secret. I believe that if Jeremy T could say more he would – he’s clearly (and rightfully) a little upset about being beaten up on the Sling forums.

Sling and Applian are a little similar, in that we both are pushing the envelope of what people can do with their media. Sometimes we can’t market our products the way we’d like either. Fortunately, people are still able to find us when they want the best tools for recording online video, music or radio, and they tell their friends.

If Sling wants to work with us to make a recording solution that doesn’t put them in legal jeopardy, that would be terrific. It would be great for Sling, and their users. Or maybe products like HAVA and others will add this capability, and they’ll just open it up, as it will cease to be an issue if everybody is doing it. I hope we’ll be able to come up with a solution soon.