An Aussie VPN Found A Way Around Netflix's Geo-Blocking

Image: Netflix

Earlier this week the popular VPN provider UFlix announced it will no longer support foreign Netflix access following a spike in geo-blocking measures from the streaming giant. If you were a UFlix customer, this means you no longer have access to Netflix's extensive US library of movies and TV shows. Thankfully, there's one VPN provider that still appears to be working — and it costs as little as $2.99 per month.

VanishedVPN claims to have solved the geo-blocking issue with Netflix and other US streaming sites. We've tested the service and the workaround appears to be on the level. The service also boasts unlimited data, an affordable annual subscription and a dedicated sports channel.

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What is it?

VanishedVPN popped up a few months ago in the wake of Netflix's aggressive VPN crackdown in Australia. Unlike many of its competitors, it has managed to find workaround that can successfully circumvent geo-blocks imposed by Netflix and other companies (for the time being, at least).

Here's a video showing US Netflix up and running in Australia using VanishedVPN:

How does it work?

VanishedVPN works like any other VPN. Connecting to the service is a piece of cake for anyone who has set up a VPN before. For tech-shy users, there are video demonstrations on the website for Mac, Windows, OSX, Android, PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows devices. There's also a dedicated app in development to streamline the process.

For obvious reasons, VanishedVPN is keeping its geoblocking workaround a closely guarded secret.

"The team behind VanishedVPN has decades of experience in delivering and managing large scale commercial IT Services, including several multinational telcos & finance organisations," the company explained to Lifehacker.

"This has enabled us to design and deploy an innovative solution to bypass the current geoblocking for US and UK based streaming services."

The VPN provides access to US, UK and Australian-based servers. The latter is handy if you frequently travel overseas and want to access local streaming services such as Stan or ABC iView while abroad.

Is it safe to use?

Unlike many VPN providers, VanishedVPN is a genuine business startup registered in Australia. This means they can actually be held accountable if things go wrong. (Although there doesn't appear to be a phone number on its website, which usually doesn't bode well.)

For what it's worth, the company's privacy policy seems pretty above board. The company logs the user's source IP address, the IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and total number of bytes used for a period of 30 days. This is kept for the purpose of billing, troubleshooting and "for handling crimes performed over the service." After 30 day period, all customer data is wiped.

VanishedVPN does not log user's traffic or the content of any communications, will not perform deep or shallow packet inspection of traffic (unless requested by the customer) and does not throttle users' internet connections for any reason.

What's the quality like?

We tested out the service while connected to a US server and the quality was pretty good. Netflix required a minute or two of buffering but after that it looked no different to a local connection. (Apart from all the extra movies and TV shows, that is.)

While browsing the web, you might notice unfamiliar ads popping up on websites. This isn't some sneaky revenue raising scheme: rather, they're just regular ad bots from Google AdWords and the like. The reason they are appearing is because they can’t track your real geo location. Still, it's probably best not to click on them.

How much is it?

VanishedVPN has a range of pricing plans with the cheapest being an annual subscription for $35.88. This works out to $2.99 per month, which is the best price we've seen from a local VPN provider. You can also pay $7.99 month-to-month which is still slightly cheaper than most of the competition.

There's also a free seven-day trial and an introductory month for 99 cents. If you opt to pay month to month, you can cancel at any time and won't be billed for the following month.


Provided VanishedVPN can keep the geo-blockers at bay, this could be our new favourite VPN provider for US Netflix.

This story originally appeared on Lifehacker


Comments

    Ahem ... being based in our lovely paranoid / Nanny-state land aren't these guys compelled to retain metadata contrary to their 'we delete logs after 30 days' hogwash ? That's why I'd never use an Aussie VPN myself ...

      The required metadata is exactly what has been stated in the article as being logged. As for how long they're required to store it for I don't know, it could be 30 days.

        2 years buddy, two freaking years according to the regs. If they're claiming to delete metadata after 30 days they are either (a) lying to you or (b) woefully niaive about the legislative framework their sector operates under in Australia and can expect a visit from the friendly men Senator Brandis employs sometime soon.

          Yeah, if it's 2 years then I'd agree with you. I stopped paying attention to that legislation once I realized what the content of the metadata was.

      I was watching US Netflix in Australia via ExpressVPN http://bit.ly/ExpressVPN-Netflix lastnight without issue. Have just connected and opened up Netflix to a show Ive not seen before (nor is available on Netflix Australia)... streaming without issue

      Last edited 05/01/17 2:45 am

    Paying more money to get what you paid for. Ugh, the world's a headache.

      Only you don't pay for u.s content because netflix don't own the rights to that content in Australia. It's not netflix people should bitch amd moan about it's our copyright system.

        It's not even the copyright system that's the problem, it's the content producers/owners that decide they want to restrict access to their content depending on where you live in the world.

          Well not really, prior to Netflix being an option in Australia those content rights holders had to license with *someone*, in most cases FTA networks or Foxtel, in order to get their content seen here.

          When Netflix launched, they obviously couldn't license programs or movies that are already tied up in exclusivity arrangements with those other parties - this is why Presto (a joint venture between Seven and Foxtel) and Stan (a joint venture between Nine and Fairfax) can offer content that Netflix can't. However as these licenses expire, Netflix can negotiate to pick them up and begin to expand their library.

          I heard recently that Seven might be pulling out of Presto soon (as in within the next six months), meaning that productions created or owned by Seven (e.g.: All Saints) may disappear from Presto and resurface on Netflix. Netflix has plans to make their entire library global in 2017, though it's debateable whether this is actually feasible.

            What gets me is the amount of shows and movies that aren't on any of them - want to watch classic drama or sitcoms from the 80s or 90s? You're fresh outta luck on most counts - I'd like to see some older television streamed

              I assume a lot of these are demand driven. Netflix recently added the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and while conceptually funny from a nostalgic point of view, I haven't sat down and watched a single episode yet. Realistically, would adding shows like this bring in an appreciable amount of new business? It's not like you or they only pay per view, so is it worth obtaining the licenses and hosting the content if it's not going to win or retain customers? Plus I imagine some license holders feel like receiving a licensing fee instead isn't really worth it while DVDs are still flying off the shelves. I'm pretty sure there's one or two shows that have expressly stated that their DVDs are too popular to justify the jump to streaming, but I can't recall them right now.

    I can't comment on these guys as I haven't used them before. But there are other alternatives that are working for US Netflix. That being said, I would be cautious signing up to a 12 month plan with any VPN provider if you're specficially looking for a Netflix Unblocker.

    Netflix are doing a pretty good job at filling the gaps lately. Try VPN providers out for the cheap/free first months. Netflix has shut ours down each month for about 4 months, but ours finds a way around it each time.

      It's a pain! My unblocker of choice has been out for over a week now so time to give these guys and their free trial a spin.

        Yeah, I use Getflix and it's been up an down since Netflix started their crackdown. Works for a while then goes offline for a while, then comes back up again. Sadly, even when it's working these days it only gives you the option for US instead of all the other regions like UK, Canada, Japan, etc etc.

    I used to use unblock.us but that stopped working about 6 months ago. I was a loyal customer for about 3 years but they couldn't get around the geo blocking.
    But now I've become accustom to the Australian Netflix, unfortunately

    I've been using these guys for a few months now with no worries at all. They've jumped on support issues quickly and any time Netflix has caught them they are up and running again quickly. AA++ Would Buy Again

    Rather than compare what unblockers work at any given time, what stuff should one be looking for on US Netflix? I mean, actual movies/shows?

    The reason I ask is I'm a Foxtel customer. I'm clearly the 'in dispute' market because I can either stick with Foxtel and get the 'express' content soon enough because that's what Uncle Rupie pays his license fees and politicians for; or cancel and go to (a more viable region of) Netflix.

    Netflix is an absolute chore to actually use. It's very very ugly UI and it fights against you.

    Honestly, I watch five minutes of Jim bloody Jeffries and now all my recommendations are full of his crap.

      very very ugly UI? Foxtel has to take the cake for that one.

        Try browsing all titles in alphabetical/release order without using a third-party site.
        Try finding anything more than twelve hits on a specific title/actor search.
        Try finding a category you know it showed you once on the main page but isn't showing anymore because you watched a few series in a different genre.

        Netflix's UI is complete fucking balls, a deliberately contrary nightmare of obfuscation because God forbid people actually find what they WANT to find and not what Netflix (or its preferred content providers) wants them to find.

        I love the on-demand price and the range (even for Australia's relatively limited selection), and its quality, all of which shit over anything Foxtel's managed to provide in the on-demand space, but it definitely comes at a non-monetary cost, and that is my fucking patience.

        There is no good excuse for it.

          Considering User Interface redesign is a popular trend among tech (social network, streaming platform) companies, I'd imagine it'll be redone soon enough. If they ever stop chasing geo-blockers, that is.

          Last edited 01/09/16 12:04 pm

            I really don't think it will. I'm very confident that the obfuscation of title-browsing is a deliberate part of their backroom negotiations with content-providers, to grant specific titles more exposure than others.

            It's simply too dramatically useful (obvious, default, even) a functionality to be missing unintentionally.

            Last edited 01/09/16 12:15 pm

              They are in the money making business. This wouldn't surprise me at all - and you'd be hard pressed to say that no other business takes a bit of extra monetary favours one exchange for front page advertising. Maybe even kotaku, we'll never know.

                The problem is when it actively hinders usability. Thus, I call it a shitty UI because they've made a decision to be deliberately obtuse for financial/similar concerns.

                May be a great business decision, but it's a fucking shithouse UI.

                  I don't comment enough to upvote your comments...but +1 on everything.

                  Browsing the "secret" category codes and favouriting shows is the ONLY way I ever find anything I might feel like watching. And that was the US library.

                  I only keep my sub for my folks, who love their crap UK /US crime. Of which the Au library has plenty.

          I've never really noticed a problem with it, other than categories/genres being flat out wrong. Action movies labeled as romantic comedies etc... For me that's literally the worst part. Clicking on Action Movies just gives me all sorts of random crap... and that's not exactly a UI issue anyway.... it's more of a sorting and list issue.

          If you want something specific, it's easy to type it in.
          The stuff you were just watching is at the top.
          You can have different users (great for kids for example).
          You can add stuff to a "watch later list"
          You can click on each title, and then navigate/search by that actor, genre etc..
          The "More Like This" list is a much better tool than the categories/genre are.

          I've never found the need to have something listed alphabetically. Do you want to watch Sonic X and then go straight to Sons of Anarchy?
          Release date is a valid point I guess.
          I don't get your second point? If I type in an actor I'll get all the results. What more did you want? Just because there's only 1 Margot Robbie result on AUS Netflix is a content problem not a UI problem.

          Anything else is off the page and basically pointless anyway. The huge images of the Netflix Originals at the top can be annoying but I understand why they are there. It makes sense.

          It's far from the best UI out there, but it's hardly the worst.
          It's also changed a lot and used to be much worse.

          Netflix is probably the most progressive tech company in the world from a UX and UI perspective. They are testing the placement of everything constantly and everything is placed based on how fast it gets you watching. They don't want you browsing for long. They discussed the choice paradox recently and their research shows that if you don't pick something to watch within 2 minutes, your likely not to watch anything. So there won't be a design "refresh" anytime soon because it's evolving and changing everytime you interact with it

      If you're even considering Foxtel after using Netflix, then perhaps online streaming isn't for you.
      I have no idea how you could go back to expensive, not on-demand, ad riddled viewing after trying Netflix. Even if you don't like the UI.

      As for recommendations, surely that's a personal thing. The more you watch, the better the recommendations will be. They are based on what other people liked not what's "similar". That's why you can get a recommended show that has nothing to do with the documentary you just watched.

      If you want somewhere to start then pretty much all of the Netflix Originals are great.

    isn't this thread just supporting copyright infringement?

      It's not strictly illegal to circumvent geoblocking by using a VPN. It fits into one of those grey areas. Some politicians have even called for it to be defined as legal for us to do so.

      That not so much a 'technical' point as it is a semantic one.

      You ever hear of the movie "Charlie's Country?"

      It's a movie filmed in my city, yet it's not available on Australian streaming or cable services.

      Somehow, it's available on Netflix in other countries.

      Now, you can bet your bottom dollar the production team would probably like to see their Aussie movies get Aussie eyeballs, surely.

      Last edited 01/09/16 9:16 am

      Not at all. It's not piracy to use US Netflix. Worst case you're violating the Netflix terms of service and they could cancel your account. Getting your streaming video from the US instead of Australia (assuming it's from a legit source like Netflix) is no different from buying a DVD from Amazon in the US instead of getting it locally here.

        It most certainly is copyright infringement, although it is Netflix who are guilty. If a film distributor has given them permission to stream a particular film to residents of the continental US for a certain per-stream royalty, and you manage to convince Netflix to stream it to you in Australia, then that stream was unlicensed.

        Even if Netflix paid the US distributor for the royalty, the film's copyright holder could sue Netflix for the infringement. In turn, Netflix could try to recover their costs by suing you for unauthorised access to their service (while their service might have streamed the film to you, you only managed that by circumventing the controls that are intended to enforce the legal contract).

        Now it is highly unlikely that this would actually happen. And from a moral stand point, "paying the wrong arm of a multinational corporation to access some content" is pretty far down the list of bad behaviour.

      Using VPNs is not copyright infringement. Circumventing geoblocks using VPNs is also not copyright infringement. You're still paying for the content. As @braaains mentions the absolute worst thing you are possibly doing is violating Netflix's term of service, which may result in them cancelling your account (probably unlikely to happen, as you are still paying for the content). But it's not illegal.

      Last edited 01/09/16 9:28 am

        Well, the absolute worst thing you can possibly be doing is watching a movie outside of its licensed region by providing falsified information which can potentially land you in hot water and a substantially larger subscription fee than you were expecting. (ie. Fines) It's still a murky scenario though.

    I just want to watch the KDramas available in US Netflix.

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