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How does Netflix detect and block VPN usage?

How does Netflix detect and block VPN usage?


Since not all Netflix shows are available worldwide, many of its subscribers turn to VPNs that hide their location and trick the streaming service into offering them a content catalog for a different region.

However, if you have tried to do this before, you may have found that Netflix was able to detect and block your VPN connection. But how can he do that? In short, the streaming service uses various tools to identify VPN connections including databases of known VPN IP addresses – and it always seems to come up with smarter and more extreme ways to stop you from getting around its geo-restrictions…

Why does Netflix block VPNs?

You might be wondering why Netflix puts so much effort into preventing paying subscribers from accessing region-locked content.

The short answer is that copyright holders do not receive revenue when content is illegally streamed from an unlicensed region. Over the past few years, Netflix has become a content maker in its own right, providing thousands of Netflix Original episodes and movies. This gave the company a huge financial incentive to crack down on VPN use.

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VPNs are commonly used to trick Netflix’s location-discovery servers by directing your Internet connection through an IP address associated with a specific location. However, most VPNs have too many IP addresses to offer to users, so when you connect, you can be assigned an address that hundreds or thousands of other clients have already used.

This is why the most effective method that Netflix uses to block VPN connections is to simply check if the IP address you are using is associated with a VPN. There are a lot of companies that collect information about IP addresses. Once it becomes clear that the user is navigating through the VPN, their address itself is flagged as the VPN associated in a database.

Once Netflix sees this, it blocks that address and sometimes other IP addresses owned by the same host. For this reason, if you intend to use a VPN to access Netflix, many people turn to the likes of ExpressVPN or NordVPN. These companies maintain huge server networks and tens of thousands of IP addresses that are updated regularly, which means there is a better chance that you will be able to find an IP address that Netflix hasn’t already recognized as associated with the VPN.

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Netflix increases risks

Although Netflix is ​​always searching and blocking new ranges of VPN IPs, the big VPN providers are equally busy, buying and allocating new and new IPs and still working.

Some VPNs try to escape Netflix’s attention by using residential IP addresses – the IP addresses that are usually assigned by the homeowner’s ISP. Makes sense: There is clearly no way for Netflix to block a range of residential IP addresses, and ban thousands of its customers.

But then, in August 2021, this is reportedly what Netflix did, stopping VPN access but getting hundreds of thousands of legitimate Netflix users in the crossfire.

It’s not yet clear if Netflix will continue down this path, but it does, it appears to be a major escalation in the untie wars.

(Image credit: Netflix)

DNS server location mismatch detects VPN usage

Another way that Netflix detects and blocks VPN use is to check for conflicts between IP addresses and DNS (Domain Name Server) settings. On some devices, mostly iOS or Android, the Netflix app may override your DNS setting, exposing your real ISP server. If Netflix recognizes this mismatch, it will be obvious that you are using a VPN.

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Modifying your device’s network settings, or setting up a VPN connection on your router instead of your streaming device, may circumvent this type of detection system.

How does Netflix detect and block VPN usage?

Netflix does not want its users to stream shows and movies in regions that are not licensed to distribute them. To prevent this from happening, Netflix monitors connections with a DNS server location mismatch as well as IP addresses known to belong to VPNs.

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