Netflix Ups Ante in Fight Against VPNs

Published · Aug 15, 2021

Back in 2015 Netflix began banning subscribers attempting to use VPNs to bypass geographically-restricted content.

Now Netflix is intensifying geo-blocking by targeting residential IPs. In the process, some subscribers that don’t use VPNs have had content locked off.

Netflix libraries differ from region to region.

Sometimes a party in a region will own an exclusive license for a particular piece of media, keeping it off Netflix. This content is still “on Netflix”, subscribers in affected regions just can’t access it.

It’s geo-blocked

Many VPNs can be used to bypass these region blocks, allowing users to access a wealth of content they couldn’t before. Netflix has been waging a cloak and dagger war against VPNs for years.

At first, Netflix was blocking subscribers using a VPN, unless they disabled it. Then last year, the service eased off slightly on its blocking attempts. From then on, VPN users were able to access Netflix originals but little else.

On the other hand, VPN services quickly began devising workarounds but remained secretive about how they do it. It’s now common knowledge that one method is through the use of residential IPs.

By using residential IP addresses from big consumer service providers like Comcast and AT&T, VPNs can make their users appear as if they’re living in residential areas.

This makes them less suspicious. Up until now, this method has worked well, but Netflix has begun identifying and banning them too.

Collateral Damage

Unfortunately for many non-spoofing bystanders, ISP's often provide shared residential IP addresses. These addresses act as “pools”. Netflix may block innocent users if it detects a VPN user in their shared address/range.

TorrentFreak first reported on these developments, after WeVPN brought it to their attention. A WeVPN spokesperson emphasized that Netflix is blocking “hundreds of thousands of legitimate residential Netflix subscribers”.

Users took to Reddit and social media to complain about content missing from their Netflix libraries. Netflix is working on rectifying the situation. For the time being it has told users to contact their ISPs to seek a possible solution.

In an illustration of cruel irony, it appears the whole exercise may actually trouble VPN users the least. VPN services are already working on bypasses, with some like CyberGhost having already succeeded.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.