You can’t take two virtual steps these days without someone telling you to get a VPN for Netflix. Whether it’s a sponsorship in a YouTube video or some show recommendation thread, VPNs seem to be everywhere. But are they really worth the hype? As it turns out, yes – read on to see why.
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I Live in the US! Why Do I Need a VPN for Netflix?
Let’s get this one out of the way first, as the US has the largest Netflix viewership. When people get a VPN for Netflix, they usually default to the US because that’s where most of the “exclusive” content is.
You probably already know that the US has one of the biggest Netflix libraries as well. Some 5300 shows and movies, according to an April 2020 count.
The number has definitely changed in the meantime, as a host of other companies have created their own platforms and took back the streaming rights from Netflix.
Now, while there’s still a lot of stuff left to watch, you’re definitely not getting the full Netflix experience. In fact, library size doesn’t really matter due to the weird nature of regional exclusivity.
You get amazing shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia stuck on Netflix UK. Then there are the Studio Ghibli films which they’ve recently added everywhere. Well, everywhere except the US, Canada, and Japan – which is a huge bummer. Unless you use a VPN to change regions, that is.
How Do VPNs Let You Unblock Netflix?
All this talk of being able to watch shows from other regions – but how does that work, exactly? Well, the main way websites and online services detect your location is by checking your IP address. This identifier reveals your approximate geographical location, right down to the ZIP code in some cases.
When you connect to a VPN server, your real IP is masked and your device takes on the server’s IP. This tricks websites into believing you’re in a different physical location. As such, they’ll start serving you content specific to that region – including shows that aren’t available in your area.
Of course, Netflix are well aware that people use VPNs to bypass geo-blocks. They hire specialized companies that gather VPN IP ranges for blacklisting purposes. This is why free VPNs don’t usually work on the platform – they can’t afford to have thousands of servers worldwide like a premium provider. They also tend to be a security nightmare, but that’s beside the point.
That being said, subscription-based VPNs aren’t excluded from blacklisting. This is why they use special techniques to mask your VPN traffic. For example, if you use obfuscated (or “stealth”) VPN servers, your traffic is disguised as regular old HTTPS traffic, which is used by most websites nowadays.
You’re Not Using a VPN Just for Netflix
Some countries pay more and get barely two-thirds of the titles you can find in the US, Ireland, and other major libraries. Yet it’s completely understandable to not want another subscription just for some extra Netflix content.
However, keep in mind that you can unblock shows from other platforms as well – some of which are exclusive to a single country (like Hulu and BBC iPlayer).
The Security Benefits of a VPN
We can’t forget about a VPN’s primary purpose, either. That is, securing your data against hackers, mass surveillance, and greedy ISPs looking to profit off your online behavior. Hackers in particular have ramped up their efforts, taking advantage of the chaos and paranoia stirred up by the pandemic.
By encrypting (i.e. garbling) your data with a VPN, you’re kept safe from some of the most widely used cyber attacks. One of them is known as the “Evil Twin” attack; and no, it’s not the title of a horror B movie. Instead, it involves a fake Wi-Fi hotspot that mimics networks found in airports, hotels, and other public places.
Once you’re connected to the hacker’s hotspot, they can easily record your logins, payment info, and other sensitive data. Since VPN encryption happens before your data leaves the device, this attack method is rendered useless.
Speed Up Your Netflix Binge Sessions
Not particularly worried about data security? Then let’s get back to entertainment. More specifically, to the part where your ISP slows down your Internet speeds if you stream a lot of videos. VPN encryption prevents them from seeing your online activity, with two positive results:
- They can’t sell your browsing and location history to advertisers
- They won’t be able to tell which services to throttle on your end, meaning no more sudden dips in streaming speed
So yes, getting a VPN exclusively for Netflix doesn’t sound like the best deal. But that’s overlooking all these other benefits that are part of the package.