Ask LH: Should I Use A VPN Or DNS Proxy For Streaming?

Ask LH: Should I Use A VPN Or DNS Proxy For Streaming?

Dear Lifehacker, Everyone in my house loves to stream movies however I want to ensure they’re doing it safely. Should they be using a VPN or a DNS proxy when streaming? Also, are there any that you can recommend? Thanks, Joel

Dear Joel,

We’re not sure what you mean by “safe” here. Do you mean hiding your identity from the “copyright police” or keeping hackers and harmful malware at bay? As you specifically mentioned streaming movies, we’re going to assume the former.

If your family is watching copyrighted material without paying for it, you should be worried: Australian rights holders including Foxtel and Village Roadshow have stepped up their attacks on so-called “internet pirates” – and they are chomping at the bit to sue small-time infringers.

Circumventing ISP blocks to popular torrent sites is laughably easy – but you can never be sure who is watching from the sidelines, quietly logging your internet activity. It’s therefore imperative to mask your identity if you intend to keep those black sails sinisterly unfurled.

A DNS does not provide encrypted connections or change the IP address of the device in use. When it comes to streaming, it can be useful for watching geo-restricted content such as the US version of Netflix, but you won’t be anonymous while doing it.

A VPN, on the other hand, masks your IP address by redirecting it through an overseas server. In other words, it makes it appear as though you’re accessing websites from a different physical location.

However, it’s worth noting that VPNs come with their own drawbacks so it pays to choose wisely. You can check out our personal favourites for 2017 in this guide.

With that said, nothing you do online is ever truly anonymous. As our own security expert warns: “with enough effort, any ‘block’ can be circumvented and your ISP traced back to you.” Take that for what it’s worth.

Naturally, it’s also important to keep tabs on the types of sites your family members are visiting. Many “free movie” streaming and torrent sites are riddled with adware and malware that are capable of seriously borking your computer – or worse.


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  • A VPN, on the other hand, masks your IP address by redirecting it through an overseas server.Doesn’t have to be overseas.
    I use a VPN for browsing etc because I’m not comfortable with some part time admin dude at the Greyhound Racing of Victoria body having unfettered access to my browsing history (see here Not that’s anything of interest in my browsing, it’s just my own little two fingers up to Turnbull and his ridiculousness.
    But I exclude streaming content from my VPN so all my paid-for IPTV is delivered all legit.
    I also have to exclude certain sites (a couple of banks for instance) from being connected through the VPN as they seem to have IP-based blockers (presumably part of their DDoS prevention).
    A VPN doesn’t stop family members accessing anything they shouldn’t though. For that, Joel might want to check his router out and see if it has some family protection or filtering. Or his ISP may offer such a service. Or have a look at something like OpenDNS that may be useful for him.

  • Are VPNs safe though? I was using a well-known VPN (PIA) for a while last year and started getting repeated attempts of someone hacking my passwords all over the place. Every few days/week another password hack was being attempted. I stopped using the VPN, changed all my passwords (added two-step authentication to those that had it) and the attempts stopped. I am unsure if it was just a coincidence or not.

    • Completely unrelated. Someone attempting to brute force your password is not the result of PIA. If PIA was not secure they wouldn’t need to ‘hack’ your password, they would intercept it in transmission. While using PIA your HTTPS (TLS) connections are still secure.

  • I love to travel different countries, mostly in Asia. For this reason, most concerns I have is about my favorite shows being blocked due to geo-restrictions, that’s why I use a VPN. I prefer FrootVPN than to any DNS proxy because what I want is to have a same IP address to US to be able to stream my fav shows which are only available there

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