Are You Really Hidden Online in 2021 ?

When you logon to your computer and start browsing the internet, there’s a feeling that you’ve some element of privacy.   After all you’re probably on your own computer, tablet or phone using your own internet connection in the privacy of your own home.  There’s a tendency to believe that whatever you do or say online is not really linked directly to you as an individual.  It’s part of the reason why many people seem to have complete personality changes online, an expectation that you can say or do anything without consequences.

Although twenty years ago, this was probably true to some extent – it certainly isn’t now.  The news in the UK are frequently filled with stories and reports of legal cases concerning blogs, tweets and comments made online.  It seems that many people make these remarks often under the misapprehension that they are made under the cover of anonymity.  However the idea that you can do anything online anonymously is fairly far from the truth.  Only this week a blogger in Singapore was fined $100,000 for reposting an article on Facebook with allegations about the Prime Minister – Singapore blogger ordered to pay nearly US$100,000 damages to PM for Facebook post | Singapore | The Guardian.

Facebook is of course probably the last place you want to hang out if you’re looking for any level of anonymity.  The platform is one of few that is based on people using their true identities when using it.   There’s plenty who don’t of course but it’s normally a simple case to work out who’s said who especially if they have any level of interaction with other users and friends.

This of course becomes very obvious when the individuals find themselves in court or in the media, however many young people still seem to fail to learn this lesson.   The reality is that just as in real life, anything you say online is ultimately traceable to an individual – sure it can take some effort and there can be some exceptions.  But overall it is important to act online in a similar way as you would act in real life.

The reason is that everyone who connects to the internet is assigned an IP address which is linked to the device they are using.   If you access to the internet at home, then tracing this IP address is a trivial matter – it is linked directly to  your name and address via your ISP (Internet Service Provider).   Tracking any web visit, email or message sent whilst using your home computer is very straight forward indeed.

Even messages sent from an unmanaged internet connection using a smart phone or  tablet can usually be traced.  This is normally not directly through the internet address you’re using at the time but through connections related to those accounts.  So is it possible to have any anonymity at all online?

Well it is possible, although it does take some effort and it involves using something called a proxy or VPN to hide the origin of your internet connection.  have a look at this video for example.  It enables you to hide your location by routing through an intermediate server.

This is a similar method lots of people use to bypass the other tracking technology used online – geo-targeting.  This technology filters and blocks based on your physical location, it’s commonly used by media sites to restrict access to their domestic markets. However millions of people use it to access TV sites when they’re outside the correct area.  Most UK expats for instance have been using them for decades to access UK television online like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.  It should be noted though that these companies do try and stop these workaround, you can read about these measure in this article – How the BBC Tries to Block Your VPNs

As you can see it is possible to make it very difficult indeed to track people online, but without taking these steps you should presume that everything you do can in fact be traced back to an individual.  Of course the debate on anonymity/privacy online is often quite a heated one with strong arguments on each side.  Using proxies and VPNs like these though has become almost automatic for many of us who want to keep our online world private.

Some people think that everything should be attributable to an individual indeed social networking sites like Facebook insist on people using real names to interact.   Others point to the potential for abuse of this sort of data, and with the Snowden revelations which showed how the various security services routinely track and harvest our data – it’s difficult to argue with this.

Whichever side of the debate you side with, one things for sure – young people should be aware of the fact that they have a digital identity and it can usually be linked with there real life.   It is probably not appropriate to encourage the use of all these tools which hide and anonymize your connection without stressing their responsibilities.

Develop Your Kids Technology Skills Using the Internet

Sometimes when I look at my kids sitting for hours playing some online computer game, I start to think they really don’t appreciate the amazing resource they have at their disposal.  In the mid 90’s I started to teach internet computer classes in the evenings and the adults were truly amazed at what they saw.  Sure it was slow but we could look at web pages hosted thousands of miles away, we could talk to people on the other side of the planet using our keyboard and collaborate with anyone – anywhere.  It was amazing what that little box – the 14.4k modem could transform your computer into – a box that could take you around the world.

It all seems fairly common place now and perhaps we’ve slightly lost sight of some of the amazing possibilities.  How many of us have wasted hours just watching TV online or playing Candy Crush instead of using this resource for something better.

Of course some people actively use the internet every day for personal development.   Universities and educators operate on a global level now, information can be transferred with amazing speed  not just via periodicals slowly published by professional bodies.  In fact it is perfectly possible for the lay person to get access to pretty much the same level of information as a graduate at a top university preparing their PHD.

What I try and do with younger children is to slowly introduce more interesting web sites and how they can incorporate them into their learning.  Take for instance language skills – if you are learning a foreign language  why not try and watch your favorite show in that language once in a while.  It works amazingly well especially if you pick an episode you are familiar with.  My eldest child watches episodes of the Simpsons on the French media site called M6 Replay for example.

Anyone learning English is of course spoilt for choice but may I recommend investing in a VPN or proxy service so you can access iPlayer abroad – like this –   Here you can find some wonderful shows for kids and the English is generally spoken without strong accents and broadcast in top quality.  You can even watch and download High definition versions if your internet connection is up to it, here’s a useful video demonstration of the procedure.

The video is also accessible directly on YouTube and should be available in all locations.  It should also be mentioned that there is a great education section on the BBC websites called Bitesize which covers all levels of children’s education and much of it linked directly to the UK school curriculum.  Especially useful if you’re taking holidays or home schooling children.

The internet is full of such examples and possibilities, often for free to develop your skills in any area you can think of, it is a truly a wonderful resource for the children of today if we use it wisely.

Promoting Computer Skills in the Classroom

When I was young, computer technology wasn’t really taught properly in schools.  There were many problems but one of the most fundamental was there was no-one able to teach the subject.  Computer classes were usually ended up the responsibility of the maths teacher presumably because that was the closest subject  they could find.   There was little chance of learning much, when your teacher knows slightly less about the subject that you do.

Certainly  there was little hope of learning any real computer skills, but at least we got the chance of some exposure at a subject that was very, very new (yes I am that old!).  It wasn’t until Advanced level that I actually learnt anything about computers within the education system but by  that time most of us had learnt plenty from computer clubs and magazines.  In fact you’ll probably find that most older people in IT are largely self-taught, it was the only real way to learn.

In the UK even now some 30 years later there is a problem with the way which our schools teach computer technology.  In my son’s school for example a moderately successful comprehensive, there is not a single teacher capable of teaching any level of computer programming.  Just like many years ago the ICT curriculum is dominated by word processing, DTP, spreadsheets and databases.  In reality,  the latter two are largely ignored too with pupils spending hours producing simple posters, documents or graphics.  Oh and of course the dreaded – internet research skills.

There is no mention of networks, of coding or how computers actually work and communicate with each other. None of the teachers are qualified or seem to have the skills in these areas.  The skills they are taught are useful to a point but they do seem to be focussed on secretarial rather than developing real valuable computer skills with a real world value.

It’s not the teachers fault of course, if you look at the curriculum there is simply no need to teach pupils the fundamentals of programming for instance.  It’s very heavily weighted to producing posters and documents, skills that my generation just picked up as they went along.  There’s really little point spending weeks on end producing documents in order to justify an ICT slot in school.  Our children could be walking out of school at 16 with Java, Networking or HTML design skills instead they know how to type a document and make a newsletter.

I recently tried to explain to a group of kids how I was able to watch British TV online when I was on holiday using a proxy server.  None of them had even the slightest idea how these devices communicate and certainly not how a proxy could relay my connection through the UK.  If you’re missing the BBC when abroad by the way – then check this site out British TV Online.

They were interested and engaged but you could tell they had no real knowledge in the area.  The only ones who seemed to have any networking knowledge at all was those who’d spent some time getting their games to work well.  Reducing the ping, lag and latency in Call of Duty seemed to be the primary driver for learning about how networks communicate.  In some senses this is not important, the driver behind the desire for knowledge can really be anything.  If you want to speed up your gameplay or watch Match of the Day online from the US, you’ll need to learn some networking concepts.

There needs to be a real change in how we teach technology in our schools, our current approach is just not going to cut it in the modern world.  I’m sure Chinese kids won’t be walking out of school with a few posters and a basic insight in how to use Microsoft Word.

Why People Mask their IP Addresses in 2021

Everything you do online is based on one important piece of information, your IP address.  This is your number on the internet and at any one point in time is unique to you and you alone.  The full name is Internet Protocol address and you’ve probably seen this series of numbers like  In fact every single device, every laptop, phone or tablet has an IP address when it’s connected to the internet.

The address is used by lots of people online in a variety of ways.  In places like China and Iran, your IP address might lead to a knock on the door by the police if you post the wrong thing online.  In any country, what do you online can be traced back to your computer using this address.  Logs are stored all across the internet in the memory of routers, at your ISP or the logs of the web sites you visit – all of them contain your unique IP address.

Of course unless you live in a place like Iran and are not some sort of cyber criminal – then perhaps this is not a concern for you.   Many people of course are concerned by this lack of privacy and even people in democratic nations are concerned about the lack of privacy there is online.  These people and of course those with something to hide will generally use proxy servers to hide behind a fake ip and keep in the shadows.

Other people will use these servers to hide their IP address for other reasons.  Sometimes web sites block access to people outside a specific country.  Take for example popular media site like Hulu, will only allow access to their site if you have an American IP address.  Many videos uploaded on YouTube are only accessible from specific locations again based on the IP address you are using.  Another popular example is the BBC who have one of the best media and TV sites in the world, again restricted by location.  Although millions do use a VPN to watch the BBC despite their efforts to block access.

In reality a whole host of people are learning about and using VPNs and proxy servers for a wide variety of reasons.  It’s not just hackers and dissident protesting against despotic regimes.  It’s also worth investigating this area if you’re running any sort of online business as multiple IP addresses may be useful for market research and promoting your web sites.

Although people have been using these methods for many years to watch things like UK TV, I personally have been doing this for about 14 years now.  You would have expected some pushback from all the companies who instigated these restrictions in the same place.  They’re do this for a variety of reasons but mostly it’s two – copyright restrictions or profit maximization, sometimes a mixture of both.  Many firms now implement anti-proxy or VPN blocking technology but nobody has figured out a way to block them completely.  The Chinese Government invest a fortune trying to restrict all VPNs and haven’t yet succeeded completely either.

The next generation of proxies and VPNs are set to be even more sophisticated at hiding their tracks.  The weak point of any of these proxies is the IP address, so newer proxies usually operate by loading addresses from a vast central pool.  This means that they can switch between different IPs and classifications as required.


Next-Gen Residential Proxies – Why You Should Be Using Them in 2021

There’s no doubt that proxies are changing, even during the lifetime of this website there have been significant developments.  Over the years the supply of professional proxy and VPN services has escalated due to certain specific requirements that many people have.  The biggest driver by far has been the need for privacy and anonymity although surprisingly from very different type of individuals.

next gen residential proxies

The basic premise of a proxy server used across the internet is to act as a buffer between the client computer and the web resource it’s connecting to.  By sitting between the two sides of the network connection, the proxy can shield the location and identity of the host computer.  There’s all sorts of people who use them, from political activists living in authoritarian states to internet marketers who simply need to run multiple identities online.

The requirements will vary depending on what you’re trying to achieve. For example a basic proxy will rarely be sufficient for most tasks anymore, whereas there would have been no problem ten years ago using these for most tasks. Now there’s a problem with using the basic servers available from the proxy market primarily because most sites will block any type of data scraping session.   That simple web scraping solution installed on your site to bring in data from other sources needs more protection in 2021.  Some sites even have installed machine learning algorithms to detect when proxies are used to access their web data directly or via web scraping tools.  Much of this detection focus is on the IP addresses themselves, which is why so many proxy services are moving away from traditional data center IP addresses.

If you’re worried about people eavesdropping on your connection and discovering your identity then certainly you’d also be wise to consider a level of encryption too.  A proxy with a layer of encryption is effectively a VPN service (Virtual Private Network).  For other people what’s much more important is the IP address assigned to the proxy server rather than hiding the exact connection information itself.  This is because a primary driver for most commercial and data science tasks is not complete anonymity but to mimic multiple, ordinary home users.

Don’t Be Yourself Use Multiple Identities and Residential Proxies

People and businesses who operate online often need the ability to create and operate multiple digital identities.  This could be for a variety of reasons including things like research, multiple scaping sessions or e-commerce.   Unfortunately this isn’t really possible if you try and do this through a single network location like your office or home PC.  The issue is that without using something like a proxy you’ll be locked into a single IP address which is located in a specific location.  So a marketing company operating from Paris would find it very difficult to place an advert on a USA located site like the regionally split Craigslist.

This is where proxies come in and importantly the ability to switch or rotate the IP addresses that are assigned to your connection automatically.  The correctly configured proxy can allow you to have multiple identities all over the world without ever leaving your PC.  Without them you’d have to rack up the air miles travelling all over the world.

It opens up a myriad of options for all sorts of people.  Millions of people for instance use a proxy/VPN server to watch TV that is normally blocked.  As we speak there are thousands of people watching the BBC from Spain online something that is technically not supposed to be possible.  All they do is hide their Spanish IP address by using a proxy server based in the UK which unlocks all the UK TV channels without a problem.

Many online entrepreneurs use proxies to operate digital identities across the world.  By switching their IP addresses to match the target countries, they don’t need remote offices or to keep travelling for their data gathering.  Investing in a rotating proxy servers allow firms to target global markets from anywhere in the world.  They use them to run things like multiple social media accounts, data extraction tools – being able to collect data without the risk of detection and being blocked.  There are lots of people running huge businesses on eBay and Craigslist simply by virtue of multiple accounts through these next gen residential proxies.  With the right account, decent proxy management you can mimic a huge network presence from a single desktop at home.

Only the Next Generation Residential Proxies Keep You Hidden

There are issues though, with the traditional, standard proxies based in datacenters that we’ve all been using for years.  This is due to the detection systems that many websites use in order to block the use of proxies.   This is done for a variety of reasons, but especially to restrict access to international or duplicate connections.  For example many internet marketers operate hundreds of social media accounts – a practice not popular with some of the platforms.  A popular platform for marketers – Instagram  restrict access or disable people’s accounts if they try and run even  a couple of accounts from the same connection.  They are even able to detect some proxies primarily based on their IP address ranges.  Combined with sophisticated AI powered dynamic fingerprinting, it’s become much more difficult to hide and manage duplicate accounts.  It’s very simple for a web site to instigate IP blocking against any suspected account of address originating from a commercially registered address.

With today’s machine learning technology, websites are able to identify a non-home user by the type of IP address they are using.  Most addresses are classified as commercial or residential ranges, depending on where  they are registered.  Instagram will flag too many connections from commercial IP addresses, whereas those assigned by ISPs are normally treated much more favourably.  Which is why you’ll find most people have switched to using residential proxies especially for commercial online activities.  Initially it was difficult to find a proxy service provider who offered a residential proxy platform, fortunately this situation is changing.

Next Generation Residential Proxy

The latest generation of next gen residential proxies actually use different IP address ranges.  They specialize in routing their proxies through residential IP addresses, which are the same addresses assigned by ISPs to home users through their internet connections.  These residential proxies look like human users and are much less likely to be identified as originating from proxies.  E commerce sites typically will restrict access to any non-residential addresses in order to combat fraud.

Standard residential proxies though are hard to set up because of the difficulty in obtaining genuine residential IP addresses.  They are not available as widely as datacenter IP addresses although there are numerous innovative methods to obtain access to them.  For example Luminati have established a huge global network of residential addresses through individual home connections.  In exchange for using tools, games and software the company can route traffic securely through these home connections. Many of the next gen residential proxies have been created like this using shared or borrowed home connections.

Other developments include gaining access to other sources of addresses which are difficult to identify as commercial connections.   One example is to route traffic through mobile gateways and use the addresses normally assigned to our mobile devices. These are called mobile proxies which use address ranges which are used to allow network connectivity to our mobile phones and other devices. These are extremely difficult to detect and also it’s not really feasible to block access as they are so dynamic switching between users as they move around.

Obviously these IP addresses are very much in demand, however there also difficult to obtain so only a few providers offer them.  One of the biggest providers is a company called Luminati  who have the largest network of residential IP addresses and also a substantial network of mobile IPs too.

UK VPN Free Trial – Yes They do Still Exist !

There are lots of VPN services available now but there’s certainly been some significant changes in the industry over the last few years. Whatever you need a VPN for, whether it’s for security features or you just want to change your IP address to watch a TV site.  Your primary needs will determine which sort of VPN provider you need, there’s actually a significant difference between the IP VPN address supplied by each service. There’s a certain amount of distinction between security focused providers and those who are clearly targeting bypassing geo-targeting on big media sites like the BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

Of course, the simplest way to find out if a VPN works well is to try it out.  However there’s a lot of choice and most of the VPNs charge quite a lot for short subscriptions preferring to offer great deals on long subscriptions like two and three years.  In an ideal world the answer would be a VPN free trial but over the last few years these have gradually disappeared.  Much of the reason is abuse, many people used the VPNs with free trials for nefarious purposes – mainly hacking and spamming. With no trace backs and identification required these were ideal – the trial users had no intention of converting their VPN free trial to paid subscription either.

They’ve now virtually disappeared replaced instead with money back options and guarantees, where you have to almost always have to supply a credit card and then trust that your money  will be refunded if it’s not suitable.   However there are a couple who still do offer a chance to try out without payment and even one of the best VPN companies too.

The Best VPNs with Free Trials are Here (well there’s only one!)

If you want to test out for yourself, this is the best free trial available, it’s currently a 14 day trials too and what’s more it even works with Netflix.  If you want to see how it works, scroll down to the video at the bottom of the page – it’s as easy to use as something like NordVPN too.

UK VPN free trial

They’re called Smart DNS Proxy and have actually been around for many years.  They offer two key products both which are included in the free trial package – Smart DNS and a traditional VPN.   Smart DNS is actually a technology which allows you to bypass geo-restrictions on popular sites like BBC iPlayer and Netflix.  There’s no software involved you simply change your device’s DNS setting and enable your account.  It means that you can get it working on virtually any device including games consoles, media streamer and smart TVs plus on phone and laptops too.

It’s an ideal product for those who just want to stream media from a normally blocked website.  I usually use it on my laptop and Nvidia Shield to watch the BBC iPlayer when abroad.

Choosing the Right Type of VPN Provider

For most customers, there’s two primary reasons for investing in a VPN – the privacy/confidential aspect and the ability to use it to watch things like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix and blocked YouTube videos

There is some crossover, most of the ‘serious’ VPN providers connections will obviously unlock many of these entertainment sites. This is because they are less of a target than the mainstream entertainment VPN and DNS services, so tend to get ignored. Certainly if your primary concern is a secure encrypted connection with the added facility of bypassing geo-blocks they’re often the better option. Whereas if you’re not bothered about security or encryption then one of the TV watching type VPNs or Smart DNS systems will suit you better.

Indeed it may be that for those who just want to watch things like Hulu and the BBC iPlayer then you might be wise to disregard the VPN completely. One of the drawbacks of using a VPN is that it routes your entire connection through the VPN server which when streaming video can slow your connection down substantially. Consider that the entire video stream is routed from the origin via this third party server then to your client – there’s inevitably going to be some drop in speed. Normally this depends on the cost of the VPN service, the cheaper ones will load more clients onto each server and will usually be a lot slower than the slightly more expensive ones.

UK VPN Service Free Trial

For streaming video, especially to devices other than a computer or laptop you may find Smart DNS works better. This is because only a small part of your connection is routed through the target country, literally enough only to hide your location. The rest is then streamed directly to your computer meaning you should get your full connection throughput.

Best of Both Worlds – UK VPN Free Trial

So let’s assume that your primary aim is to watch UK Television from abroad, you may need the occasional VPN service to check your email or online banking on the move too. Smart DNS requires no software and a few of the services offer a VPN service included in the package.

So here’s the one mentioned above and the one I primarily use for my TV watching –

As you can see it’s relatively simple to set up on a computer or laptop. On any other device you just need to find the network connection settings and modify the DNS servers to the ‘Smart ones’. If you want the changes to affect your entire network you just need to change the DNS servers on your router or modem. In this case all your devices will be routed through the Smart DNS servers and will be unlocked to all sites. Remember this method offers no security or protection at all, it’s simply a method to bypass geo-blocks operated by sites like the BBC.

As mentioned there is a VPN service included in the package at no extra costs and it’s something you can test in the trail too. You can use the VPN free trial download and the Smart DNS service on any devices you want for up to 14 days. It’s plenty enough time to try it out properly and see if it unlocks the sites you need. It’s quite unusual for a firm to offer such a lengthy free period nowadays, there’s very few who even offer a VPN trial 7 days at maximum.

Again I’d be cautious about relying on the VPN for too long because too many free trial users will affect the speed. It’s not such an issue as using Smart DNS as the VPN servers are not really used that much as explained earlier in the post. In general for security it’s best to pay a little more if it’s important to you, the only free VPN programs that are available are highly insecure and actually share your connection with other users.  Having someone else using your internet connection in exchange for a free VPN is not something I’d advise.

So if you’re feeling isolated from your favorite UK TV channels and want to try something out – Smart DNS Proxy is definitely worth a try. I personally tried it out expecting the worse but I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t use the free VPN client that comes with it and pay for another solution. However for watching British TV stations like the BBC and ITV then their Smart DNS solution is hard to beat and it’s one of the cheapest available too.

Another huge plus factor for this Smart DNS company is the ability to route your Netflix account to the USA version irrespective of your actual location. The US version is fantastic and has loads more films than most other versions of Netflix. There are very few companies who are able to support Netflix now because in 2017 they started blocking access to commercial IP addresses. This meant that 99% of all the VPN services in the USA were instantly blocked. This is one of the few solutions which supports the residential IP addresses that Netflix needs.

So give them a go, you’ve got 14 days to try it out with absolutely no obligation. The best UK VPN Service free trial currently available, just click the graphic to get started.