Whenever you connect to the internet, your physical location makes a big difference to your experience. For example when you use a search engine like Bing or Google have you ever noticed how it brings you in answers that are relevant to your location. So if you typed in local plumbers you won’t get a list from the other side of the world or a completely different continent. Search engines tailor your results to your physical location and lots of other sites do exactly the same.
The reason is that the search engine has looked up your location when you connected, then provided results based on that location. Mostly this is a positive experience because it brings you useful results that are based in your area. The locations are not always perfect but generally they do a reasonable job. However increasingly this technique is being used for other purposes which are perhaps not quite as beneficial. For example many sites will redirect users to different prices depending on their location – so you may pay more (or less) depending on your physical location.
So How Does This Happen?
Well basically when you connect to any web site, you make a direct connection from your PC to the web server hosting the site. This allows the web server to access your IP address, which is tied individually to your computer uniquely. This address can be looked up using a big database to see where it is located. Now at this stage the IP address won’t give your exact location and address (although it can be used for this), just your specific location based on your ISP.
So for a search engine this is generally fine, after all it’s unlikely you want results based on Japan if you live in London. Where it gets annoying is when you get blocked or rerouted simply because of your location by other websites. For example if you’ve ever had that message on Youtube – ‘not available in your country’, or been blocked from watching something on Hulu or BBC iPlayer because you’re in the wrong country.
How Anyone Can Change Your Virtual Location
This is when it’s best to take control of your digital location and make it work for your. Here’s an example of how someone is hiding their real IP address so they can watch BBC Iplayer abroad by switching to a UK IP Address such as this.
What they are doing is actually hiding their real location from the website they are visiting and instead relaying the connection through another server (proxies). This means that the website only sees the location of the proxy server rather than yours, when you additionally use software with the ability to switch proxies it means you can change your location at will. Not only does it keep your own location and identity private, it also gives you the possibility of choosing a new one. If you connect to a proxy in a specific country then you’ll appear to be located in the same place. It’s great for all sorts of online activities, many millions for example use this technique to watch all the free UK TV that’s available online if you’re located in the UK.
It’s also much more secure to relay your connection through another trusted server, as well as allowing you hide your location it also means you can encrypt your connection too. Using the right tools, you can bounce your connection through something like a secure Russian server like this, without affecting performance and ensuring nobody can access any of your data. The encryption means that no-one can intercept your data when it traverses across the internet (using all the shared hardware that’s needed). It’s vitally important to use some sort of encryption if you’re connecting using someone else’s internet access point. Your data is especially vulnerable in these situations and cyber criminals often target places like coffee shops, hotels and airports to steal credentials of people using their free but often insecure wifi.