Netflix Steps Up VPN Ban, Also Targets Residential IPs (Update) *TorrentFreak

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Netflix has stepped up its efforts to ban VPN and proxy users from circumventing geo-restrictions. The streaming service now also blocks residential IP addresses, as some unblocking tools use them to circumvent restrictions. It’s not without collateral damage as many regular Internet users without a VPN are now reporting “missing content” on Netflix.

Six years ago, Netflix began blocking customers who tried to access its service through a commercial VPN or proxy service.

These changes came after copyright holders repeatedly complained that “pirates” were circumventing Netflix’s geo-restrictions.

The VPN ban caused a lot of frustration for legitimate VPN users, many of whom had no intention of breaking the rules. At the same time, VPN “hackers” have found workarounds by choosing services that actively circumvent Netflix restrictions.

Circumvention of Restrictions

VPN services have managed to circumvent these blocking efforts in different ways. Most keep the technical details private, but some are well known to use residential IP addresses as proxies, to make VPN users look like regular subscribers to ISPs.

This cat-and-mouse game has caused quite a bit of frustration at Netflix headquarters, and in recent days the company seems to have stepped up its blocking measures.

There is a flurry of complaints on social media from users whose VPN services were suddenly “blocked” by Netflix. Previously, these people could not play any content using a VPN. That changed last year. Now VPN users can still view Netflix Originals while other content is hidden and blocked.

People trying to directly access blocked titles via a saved URL will instead see the dreaded Netflix proxy/VPN error message.

Netflix Bans Residential IP Addresses

Netflix doesn’t explain which IP addresses are blocked and why, but the most recent efforts are much broader than before. This issue was brought to our attention by WeVPN, who noticed that the updated geolocation system was blocking their residential IP addresses.

These IP addresses are assigned to mainstream ISPs such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon. While it makes sense for Netflix to end these workarounds, there seems to be some collateral damage.

“The collateral damage is that hundreds of thousands of legitimate residential Netflix subscribers are being prevented from accessing Netflix’s full local country catalog from their homes,” a WeVPN spokesperson tells us.

Although we are unable to verify how many people are facing problems, it is clear that the measures are affecting regular subscribers.

Complaints start pouring in

TorrentFreak contacted Netflix for comment, but the company did not immediately respond. However, a quick look at social media shows disturbing numbers of Netflix subscribers running out of content, which is exactly what would happen when an IP address is flagged.

“Hi! I noticed that my account only shows Netflix originals and a handful of non-Netflix original content on my TV, but on my phone it shows everything as usual/normal”, Reddit user observed literary fact.

problem

“I don’t know what happened but Netflix suddenly stopped showing the tv shows I was watching when my laptop is connected to the internet via wifi. it shows the same tv shows when my laptop is connected to the Internet via a mobile data hotspot”, another person wrotewith a commenter reporting the same issue.

netflix problem

In the past 24 hours alone, there have been various reports people who are Suffering “missing title“problems. None of these seem to be using a VPN.

The common theme is that Netflix only displays Netflix Originals on their IP address, which is expected when flagged as a VPN or proxy. A Redditor managed to get a new IP address from their ISP, which immediately fixed the problem.

“Contact your ISP…”

Although Netflix hasn’t released an official comment on the situation, the company is aware of the issues.

A user who complained on Twitter, have been advised to contact their ISP to see if their IP address is associated with using a proxy or VPN. This is a peculiar suggestion, as the blocking takes place on the Netflix side.

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We don’t know how widespread the issue is, but based on the number of complaints we’ve received so far, it’s definitely not an isolated issue. This raises the question of whether VPN bans are worth the collateral damage.

Netflix has every right to take action against people who circumvent their restrictions, but when it hurts paying customers who don’t use VPNs, it might not be the best course of action.

Meanwhile, VPNs are taking countermeasures to ensure their customers can access Netflix without restrictions.

WeVPN told us that the company is experimenting with a solution, which seems to work for now. CyberGhost and Private Internet Access, which have also been hit by Netflix’s new blocks, say they managed to get around it in a day.

Update: A Netflix spokesperson informed us that the company does not ban all content from VPN and proxy services. Netflix Originals are still available, as we mentioned. The streaming service is working with people who were inadvertently affected to restore access to the full library.

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