Background: Geo-Blocking Content
There are no hard and fast rules to the way content is licensed throughout the world, but typically content owners develop license agreements at the country level which gives them a fair amount of flexibility when monetizing their content. These license agreements then require the content providers to place geographic restrictions on the services they sell in order to maintain compliance with said license agreements. This manifests itself to the end-user by products and services being different based on the end-user's geography with a popular example of U.S. based netflix subscribers experiencing a significantly different catalog when accessing the service during trips up to Canada.
In some cases, geo-blocking might also be implemented as the content or services might be illegal under local laws for e.g. Online gambling services may use geo-blocking to block the service availability in countries where they cannot legally operate in. Geo-blocking content might also be used as a pricing differentiation strategy to enforce regional packages and pricing bundles as well as to control the malicious nature of traffic being generated from a particular region.
Problem: Circumvention of Geo-Blocking
As with other forms of internet censorship, geo-blocking can also be circumvented. As geo-blocking involves location information, circumventing geo-blocking would entail masking an unauthorized IP address and proxy it to make it look like an authorized IP.
One of the most popular ways to do this is to use Proxy Servers which hides the end user's location at the application layer. By connecting to the internet through proxies, the home IP address of the machine will not be shown but rather the IP of the proxy server will be shown.
Another popular way to access content or services that are not available from outside the country is to use Virtual Private Networks or VPN which hides the end user's location at the network layer. When using a VPN, the end-user's IP address is "hidden" behind a NAT routing layer which basically makes the request appear as it it was coming from an IP address belonging to the VPN service provider.
Broadcasters and studios consider the use of VPNs and similar services to evade geo-blocking by online video services a violation of copyright laws, as these services do not hold the rights to make their content available in the user's country. Hence measures to block such VPN & Proxy users trying to access online video services from outside the country becomes critical to allow media companies who license the content to meet their contractual obligations with their rights' holders.
Solution: Akamai's Enhanced Proxy Detection Solution
Enhanced Proxy Detection (EPD) is a feature that allows Akamai Customers to determine whether the requesting IP is associated with an anonymous proxy or VPN service. EPD leverages third-party suppliers of IP address metadata such that Akamai and its customers can access control decisions based on classifying an IP address in a way that describes how it communicates with the Internet. This third-party IP metadata adds robustness to the detection algorithm because identifying and logging these IP addresses is one of the third party's core functions.
Akamai has partnered with GeoGuard to provide the market leading VPN/Smart DNS Proxy detection solution. GeoGuard's premium VPN/Proxy detection is now fully integrated with Akamai to offer the enhanced proxy detection tool for online streaming services.
When an end-user makes request for a specific content, Akamai sends the requesting IP information to the GeoGuard database and if a match is found, the request can be allowed, denied, or redirected at a category level.
EPD will add to Akamai's existing geo-blocking capabilities along with the Content Targeting solution which uses Edgescape for IP geo-location and geo-blocking functionality. GeoGuard's proxy database is trusted by Studios globally and has been validated with major Content Owners. The capability will allow media companies who license content to meet their contractual obligations with their rights holders.
With one in four online users regularly using VPNs, with the predominant purpose of circumventing content geo-filtering restrictions, EPD will provide a simple and effective method for Akamai customers to just "turn on" the geo-location restriction solution and benefit from an enhanced level of content security from geolocation fraud and geo-piracy.