Blocked and filtered, monitored and restricted – this is the reality of the internet today. Ever clicked on a particularly funny looking video to be greeted by the message – ’we’re sorry that video is not available in your area’. Perhaps you’ve tried to watch the latest episode of that TV programme while on holiday. Maybe you’ve simply tried to place a bet while travelling using your online betting account. There’s a very good chance that none of these will work simply because of your physical location.
When did the internet change like this? It was once open to all, it didn’t matter if you were in a cyber cafe in Karachi, an Airport in Harare or sitting in a Starbucks in London – we all saw the same online, we were all equal. But that’s not the case any more – commercial interests, government filters and restrictive licensing meant that whatever you see online is highly dependent on where you live. Much of it is promoted as improving the user experience, while that’s partly true the majority is simply to boost profits or to control what we see online.
Mostly it’s geo-targeting that’s to blame, a website will check which country your IP address is from before deciding on what you can see. If you don’t believe me check out any media site in a country apart from yours – Non US residents try and watch something on ABC or Hulu, or if you’re in the US go and try to watch something on the BBC iPlayer website. Put simply it won’t work simply because the internet is now layered in Tiers and not all open to all. Media sites like these are a great example, virtually every single one works perfectly when you’re in a specific location (usually the domestic market). However as soon as you travel, then they’ll stop working. These huge international barriers being placed on something where location really shouldn’t matter.
We’ve mentioned some benefits and they’re definitely are a few. Search engines for example will tailor your results to match your location. So if you search for electricians you’ll get results located in the same area as you. Search for film times and you’ll see them matched to cinemas in your local area too. All this is useful in most cases but the blocks and filters are much more pervasive than these.
It doesn’t seem right that your physical location should be so important on a global communications network like the internet. Some people are seriously disadvantaged by their location with access to many important internet sites like PayPal and eBay restricted based on their location.
As always though there are work arounds, mainly in the various technologies that can be used to bypass these blocks. The vast majority of these sites determine your location using the IP address of your computer. Now although you can’t change this, you can hide it to a certain extent. By connecting through an intermediary server you can hide your real location and use that of the server. These are called proxy servers which you can gain access to through many different locations. You can use a BBC Iplayer proxy or a VPN to access Hulu and Pandora and it doesn’t really matter where you are – read this. In fact for internet surfers in most developed countries, a subscription to one of these services is becoming a necessity.
Many services offer access to servers across the world meaning whenever you get blocked you can simply select the appropriate server and you’re back in business. But of course this has meant that slowly the internet is becoming accessible to some and inaccessible to others. If you can afford one of these subscriptions you’ll be fine but others will have to live with the handicaps. It’s not really how the internet used to be and I suspect it’s not how most of us wanted it to be!
GridFTP server configuration overview – Updated March 2021
The configuration interface for GridFTP is the admin tool, globus-gridftp-server(8), which can be used with a configuration
file and/or run-time options.
Command line options and configuration file options may both be used, but the command line overrides the
The configuration file for the GridFTP server is read from the following locations, in the given order. Only the first file which can be located will actually be loaded:
If the value contains spaces, they should be enclosed in double-quotes (“). Flags or boolean options should only have
a value of 0 or 1. Blank lines and lines beginning with # are ignored.
For complete command documentation including all options, see globus-gridftp-server(8).
This page includes information about general configuration of the GridFTP server. Security options are discussed below as well as some other suggested configuration options. If you want to use proxies to connect to the server remember you need a method of passing authentication over using the proxy. Without user authentication being available the server would have to accept anonymous connections with no credentials, clearly a security risk.
Security should be the primary concern for any configuration though, particularly for a public facing FTP server. Any breaches are liable to involve costly bandwidth bills and possible legal issues if the service is used for suspicious purposes. These would be traceable to this specific server, especially if the attack used proxies in order to hide their true location, If you’ve never seen how much bandwidth an FTP server installed on a hacked server can use, then you’d be truly amazed.
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. There is no debating that fact and far to many people today never get around to it at all. This leaves them having to work well into their 70’s and really struggling to get by late in life. It’s even worth considering choosing your employer based on the pension provision. for example in the United Kingdom, Government employees rarely receive the highest salaries but most have pensions far and above most private ones. For those people, pensions are often just linked to their final salary so they don’t have the worries about performance of their investment like most pension funds.
I started buying stock when I was in college and it is something I have never regretted. Today that might be difficult for most students as tuition’s have skyrocketed and it is hard trying to stay out of debt. But working and putting away even a little bit of money on a regular basis is what every student should be trying to do.
The Internet has empowered people to be able to have access to all sorts of information and use it to better their lives. For someone young trying to learn how to buy stock in a particular company, they find that it is easier than many of the computer games they play. Buying stocks and building a portfolio can all be done right from your home laptop and even an iPad if that is all you have. Once you open a broker account, buying and selling stocks takes place any time of day over the Internet. It is easy, quick, and virtually anyone can do it. Most importantly though, everyone should learn how to invest in the stock market because that is the best way to build a retirement nest egg.
The key fact is that it’s much, much easier to save for retirement when you’re young than if you leave it until you’re older. Unfortunately it’s difficult to appreciate this when you’re young and have more fun things to spend you cash on. Recently on UK television and the BBC, there have been many adverts encouraging people to start saving for their later years including using a new state backed pension system for people who have no other fund.
Kids today learn to use the computer just about as quickly as they learn to talk. Investing now days is done online and it should be taught to all kids, the earlier the better. They need to learn that we all have to provide for our own retirement and not rely on the government. With the easy accessibility of the financial markets online, every one is on equal footing and anyone can learn how to participate in stocks which are the best way right now to grow your money. There’s no reason why you should be limited to just US sources of information as well. Although many media and TV sites are restricted based on location you can use a proxy like this to watch UK TV online in Europe or the US easily. When you’re connected to a proxy in a specific country, you can access the same resources as someone actually located there. This sounds fairly minor but it’s not! Changing your location like this can give you access to all sorts of information and offers not available (even remotely) to people based outside that particular country.
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.
Not real money of course, but a version of the digital currencies that seem to be always in the news at the moment. A student who has not been named in Imperial College London, one of the UK’s top Universities has been sneakily setting up all the computers to mine dogecoins for his account. This is one of the very newest digital currencies, and ironically one which was initially setup as a joke. That seems to be changing now though, in December 2020 Elon Musk even tweeted in support of Dogecoin. He actually suggested that it might one day become the major currency of the planet. It was largely believed to be a joke but the value of the crypto currency soared anyway.
The cryptocurrency is one tipped to one day replace bitcoins and become the ipso facto standard for digital currency, although it should be added there are quite a few of those! Mining refers to the act of solving computer algorithms which earn the user dogecoin credits. It’s normally not worth mining many of these currencies as normally the costs of the cpus and electricity used are more than the value of the currency mined. However obviously if someone else is paying all the bills, then the economics of it change drastically. Basically the costs in mining most crypto currency are energy and resource based, so if you can use these for free you can’t really lose (unless you get caught of course).
As the value and potential of these currencies rise then incidents like these are likely to increase too. It’s the second report in a week we’ve seen of these sort of events although I’m sure there are many more. For example some years ago, in Harvard somebody tied up the college’s supercomputer – Odyssey to do exactly the same thing. Obviously there is a huge problem for college’s with the events as the computers are effectively not available to other students for more legitimate uses. As many have found college computer resources are often not entirely used for their specified purpose.
The simple fact that many overlook in committing these crimes, is the perception that the coins are anonymous. Although that’s only partly true – gaining and using computers themselves is rarely anonymous – access can normally be tracked very easily. Even if you don’t use physical access like entering the buildings and using the computers directly – you’re still not safe. Remote access is usually fairly easy to trace unless you use privacy tools like next gen proxies or VPNs with military grade encryption. This can hide your connection details if you do it right, most people involved in stuff like this rarely cover their track with any sort of proxy however.
The student in Imperial has now been banned from using the research computing facilities for the foreseeable future – the college issued a statement that such uses was strictly forbidden. Unfortunately for the student involved his 30,000 Dogecoins that he has produced using this method will hardly be sufficient reward – they are currently worth approximately £20! It should be mentioned that now, the value has risen considerably but probably not enough to justify the crime. The value now would be nearer £200 a slightly more respectable value, although if Bitcoins had been mined they would be worth considerably more.
There are similar ‘crimes’ taking place in other areas too, harnessing other peoples computers and networks can be very lucrative. From creation of huge Bot networks which are rented out online, to running things like ticket proxies for running multiple accounts to buy things like concert tickets and sneakers.
Unsurprisingly many people now take laptops or tablets away with them when travelling. Mainly because for many of us the internet is a pretty much essential part of our lives, Think of it, we pay our bills, arrange our finances, plan our leisure time and a hundred other things all online. The advantage is that this doesn’t need to stop when we go travelling as long as we have an internet connected device with us.
For most people that means using wifi services when we travel. There’s no end of places where for the price of a coffee or beer you can hook up to the internet. Great for checking out where you want to eat that night or to make sure you’ve paid that cable bill on time. There’s plenty of free access too – your hotel lobby, airport and even local libraries normally supply free wifi to customers and just people passing by.
But this is not without it’s drawbacks and risks, any wifi network you use could potentially intercept or log whatever you do online. There’s no real way of telling whether a Wifi access point is legitimate or not in most cases. That Wifi signal could be called anything by anyone including deceptive names like ‘official airport-name Wifi’ , there no restriction or checks in the vast majority of places. These access points can even be created on our own mobile devices. You might think you’re using the official free wifi of a company but really connecting through a mobile phone from some complete stranger.
So it’s better to do things like check your online banking using more established wifi set ups, if you really have to. However that’s much harder to than you think, certainly don’t check anything important like email or bank accounts using free wifi. The problem is that the little bar on the end of the street may serve great beer but what do they know about securing a Wifi access point? Whether there’s bad intentions or merely lack of security knowledge your data can be at risk.
One potential solution is to utilise a security program like a VPN or SSH connection whilst you travel. Most companies who operate internationally will normally provide their employees with such program in order to connect safely back to the corporate network. These connections are encrypted between the two endpoints and therefore not at risk to rogue or malicious wifi networks. Your connection is protected by encryption and routed through a VPN or proxy server for an added layer of protection.
If you are not lucky enough to have one to use through your employment there are lots of services which you can subscribe to for a small cost. Most can be hired on a monthly basis too enabling you to protect your connection for a very small amount of cash. It is essential you pick a well run proxy though as other wise your browsing and internet speed could be very slow.
Check this video out for an example –
Which demonstrates what routes you can take to maximise the speed of your connection whilst online. There are other advantages to using this sort of software whilst abroad – you can for instance use it to hide your IP address and access content not normally available in your location. For example many use it to watch things like the BBC, ITV or Hulu from anywhere in the world – here’s a demonstration video.
Overall there are some advantages to using a VPN to protect your connection when travelling but as always common sense is the most important factor. Be careful which networks you use, always select the most trustworthy available. If you think there’s something wrong, don’t connect – simply wait and another access will soon be avalable.
Much has been spoken over what rights we have to access the internet, however it is becoming a very real issue. Whether you can log onto your Facebook account might sound a rather flippant issue with regards human rights but to many people it really is that important.
A couple of years ago I was living in Turkey, a modern, secular country with a fairly relaxed attitudes to most things. But politics change and in Turkey there is a growing power of religious parties, who have a much less relaxed view towards the internet than most of the population. There have been a series of court cases and lots of lobbying for a huge number of websites to be blocked inside the country. For example the atheist author Richard Dawkin’s website was blocked for some time (indeed I think it still is) because he published a review ridiculing a book on creationism that stated the world was a few thousand years old.
Now whatever your politics or religion, the reason so many people are keen on a secular government is that no one religion can define what you can or can’t do based on their own beliefs. The idea that a religious leader has decided that no one in Turkey should be able to access a book review is quite clearly ridiculous. But the issue can become even more complicated when you look at media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. These sites are incredibly popular because they are pretty much open to everyone, people are allowed to speak their mind and say what they like. That will obviously lead to some people being offended, but can you block an entire site like this?
Facebook has been blocked in Turkey for a few weeks, I believe it was due to someone publishing some of the Muslim cartoons that caused such controversy. Fortunately it’s not blocked now, but the black list of sites blocked in Turkey grows every year – the majority due to pressures from fundamentalists in positions of power. Indeed any country which has a dubious human rights record or a reputation for suppressing free speech will always look to control the internet and social media sites specifically.
You don’t need it at the moment, but you never know when it might change so here’s a Facebook proxy method which costs nothing and works virtually anywhere –
These tools do get blocked and in somewhere like China you’ll find a lot of them don’t work or are detected. Fortunately the technology is improving on both sides, some of the latest hi tech proxies are virtually undetectable and some VPNs even pass through the Great Firewall of China too.
The problem is that the most popular sites on the internet usually are havens for free speech. You might not agree with much of what is said on them, but that’s only natural we don’t always hold the same views. Censorship of these sort of sites, will only lead further down the dark road of filtering and control that countries like China and Iran take part in. Sure there is a solution to accessing these sites and maintaining your anonymity through proxies and VPNs but not everyone will use these.
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.
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.
If you’re looking to learn a new language then the internet is an unrivalled resource. You can access lots of online information and lesson without having to spend a penny on expensive courses and tutors. Obviously interaction with a native speaker is essential to developing your skills further but there’s no doubt the internet can get you a long way on a study of language. If you’ve got some money to invest, there are actually lots of great tutors who teach languages online. This market was already growing but the pandemic of 2020/21 has increased it by many times. People have realised that tutoring online is not only quite straight forward it’s also very economical. Costs of travel are eliminated and it’s very flexible for both tutor and student.
One of my favorite resources is available on one of the best sites on the world wide web the BBC Website. There’s nothing quite like it for sheer breadth of content and there’s lots of language lessons available for free too. This is the languages page where you can access the online lessons for a host of different language from French to Chinese – http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/. For younger students the Bitesize range has a selection of basic language skills – these can also be used for people to new to the English language to develop their knowledge.
If you are learning a new language there’s also a host of opportunity for practice to be found on the many media sites on the web. When I was learning French I found watching my favorite shows on the M6 Replay media channel helped a lot. Listening to dubbed French when watching the Simpsons really helps your language knowledge and makes it fun to learn. Unfortunately many of these web sites are restricted by location – i.e. you have to be in France to watch M6 Replay, USA to watch Hulu etc. However it is possible to bypass the geolocation blocks by using a proxy or VPN server.
This page shows the technique – BBC iPlayer on my iPad, but it’s relevant for PCs, Laptops and any country in the world.
If you prefer video demonstrations then you might prefer this-
You can also watch it directly on YouTube if you prefer but the principle is just the same. Hide your location by routing your connection through a proxy or VPN server. For geo-targeting blocks then just ensure that the server is in the right country, for for the BBC or UK TV online then use a British server and so on.
It would be nice if these media sites opened up their content to the world however that seems unlikely in the short term. But there is no doubt if you look around the internet and use a couple of inexpensive proxy services you c an track down some awesome language resources online.
In the early days of the web, everything was pretty much free and accessible to all. To some extent this is still the case, at least in many sectors but things are starting to change rapidly. There are growing examples that instead of a huge repository of knowledge the internet is rapidly morphing into a huge virtual shopping mall. What’s worse it seems that many of these Malls have strict entrance restrictions – you can only come in if you’re from the US, or using a certain browser etc. There is a huge branch of ’restrictive technology’ being developed simply to block, censor and filter websites.
Education is one of those areas that is bucking this trend, at least for now. Online classrooms and virtual lessons are appearing over the internet, sponsored by educational establishments across the world. At the moment you can even sign on for free at a class run from Harvard, Princetown or Cambridge University in the UK. World class education, for free available to anyone without restriction – well for the moment anyway. It is believed that this model won’t stay in this altruistic mode for long, but at least we can enjoy it while it does.
It is difficult to see who is to blame, but certainly the free market and profit incentive looks at the core of this change. We are increasingly seeing profit maximising models being applied to some of the best sites on the web. One of the easiest to spot is the price discrimination techniques adopted by many of the webs biggest media sites. This is an economic technique designed to maximise profits and involves charging different prices to different markets. In the real world this is fairly easy as you can use geographical boundaries, a company will charge one price for it’s goods in India, then a higher price in Europe where there is more money available.
With the internet this is more difficult to operate as we are all connected to the ’same internet’ irrespective of our location. But the media companies have implemented special technology called geotargeting which does split the market. The website basically determines your location from your IP address, and then you are offered different products and prices dependent on this. For example the media streaming company Netflix operates globally but has a host of different services tailored to different countries. You can watch Netflix in Canada and have a completely different set of media than in the US. Incidentally you can bypass these blocks and to some extent control your own internet connection – see this website for details – or watch this video if you prefer.
It basically involves hiding your real location and supplying a false one as required. You don’t actually change your location but use an alternative one by routing your connection through a proxy like this. This enables you to maintain some anonymity and also bypass any geo-restrictions being applied to a site. So for example if you want to watch British TV stations online you’d choose a proxy server based in the UK.
Hopefully education will be the exception to this profit maximising model that seems to be determining the future of the net. It is difficult to see how the vast investment required to supply these resources can be raised without the profit motive though. Both the technology involved in producing proxies and trying to block them is largely linked to maximizing revenue. Even usually altruistic companies like the BBC have started blocking VPNs and proxies in order to promote their commercial alternatives such as BritBox.