If you are a Netflix subscriber you have probably heard that Netflix recently announced they are going to be cracking down on customers using a VPN to access content outside of their own country.
You could almost hear the collective sigh of all the Australian Netflix subscribers. Instant anxiety set in, people were worried: could Netflix really block VPN users?
Had Netflix’s engineering department done a deal with the devil to block VPN’s, proxies and DNS providers using techniques never before seen in tech so far?
The simple answer is: no.
It is impossible to detect a VPN user, even more impossible to truly block them. The only reliable way that Netflix can pinpoint and block out users who are skirting geographical borders is creating a blacklist and blocking IP addresses and ranges from these Netflix catalogue unlock services.
But it is a lost cause. All it takes is for the provider of the service to spin up new DNS and VPN server instances with new IP addresses and ranges to get around the block.
There are ways:
- Netflix could match the billing address of the subscriber’s credit card to their location. But this would mean that the concept of a travelling account would cease to exist. It would mean a Canadian visiting the US and wanting to watch Netflix in their Airbnb place would not be able to. Using gift cards and voucher codes would skirt this yet again.
- Give subscribers warnings and terminate their account after the third violation. This would be pretty bad for Netflix’s core model, banning your paying customers would not be an ideal strategy.
- Strong arm content/rights holders to allow their content to be geographically unlocked. We live in an age where we can video call relatives on the other side of the world, but we can’t get access to the same content as others can
The real crux of the issue here is Netflix are not to blame. As long as you are a paying subscriber, Netflix really does not care. Obviously they will not admit nor take that stance publicly, but they do not care.
The end goal with Netflix is to make the catalogue and platform accessible to everyone. If Netflix truly wanted people to stop, they can make it harder to access the coveted US catalogue, but they won’t.
These stories of people finding their third party unlocking services being blocked and not working are short-lived. Netflix is rattling cages and showing Hollywood that they will do something.
But we can’t forget that others have already tried and failed, like Hulu which unsuccessfully tried to block VPN’s using the same blacklist approach.
So, relax. If the service you are using to bypass geographical constraints stops working, it does not mean you can’t use another service or your current provider will not find a quick way around the block.
I tried to watch netflix but it wouldnt let me. I had to sign up for a vpn at arcvpn to be allowed.
You are forgetting that an IP address has a lot of metadata attached to them. Including the company that is assigned the IP block, and an ASN ID. A lot of IPs are also registered as “industrial, commercial, or enterprise” IPs. Netflix has likely manually banned a large sum of ASN IDs related to data centers and servers-as-a-service providers. This allows for easy and effective (completely possible) blocking of VPNs, and is a method used by many sensitive websites to block VPN users.
Sure, you can’t tell if the connection is coming from an active VPN connection, but you sure can tell if it is coming from a server, or residence assigned IP.
So, instead of reading “Netflix is blocking VPN users”, you can read “Netflix is blocking IPs assigned to servers.”
It is not an easy block to get around if you’re a server.