One of the most popular pages on my site is an article summarising 8 ways to stop bookies closing your account.
It has produced a stream of responses since its publication to the point where I believe the comments section at the bottom is now better than the post itself!
However, I still feel there is almost certainly more to say on the subject.
And one of the big outstanding questions is – should bonus baggers and arbers hide their identities from bookmaker sites, especially when using specialist software?
With this issue in mind therefore, I’ve taken to looking at IP cloaking programmes.
And yes, in what you may consider a moment of sheer paranoia, I’ve decided to trial one such product.
Ladies and gentlemen, I therefore give you: Hide My IP.
So… what do products like this one actually do?
Well, if the sales page is to be believed, quite a lot.
Hide-My-IP purports to allow you to
- surf anonymously
- conceal your identity
- encrypt your connection, and even…
- prevent the Government from spying on you!
I can see that this might be quite appealing for anyone who doesn’t like the idea that they’re being monitored by large corporations.
But I confess that my main worries are rather more pragmatic:
- Will it help me access Betfair when I’m on holiday in France!? (which I soon will be!).
- And, the real big one….. how would you test it!?!?
Possible test ideas!
I decided to ask a knowledgeable reader of mine, Harry, who lives in Canada. And this was his response:
You’ve asked a good question. Offhand I can think of two different ways to test this software. The first would be to run a so-called proxy test, or perhaps several of them. There are many proxy testing sites available online, some better than others. The better tests would give me an indication of just how well Hide-My-IP can, well, hide my IP. If a proxy test can discern my true IP address, then it’s an automatic fail in my book.
One thing I would definitely want to check out is how well it fairs when switching IPs. Apparently you can switch IPs as often as every 10 seconds. That sounds amazing, but I have to wonder how well this works in practice. For example, what happens to streaming content when the IPs switch? More to the point, what happens to a half-finished betting transaction when it switches? This feature looks like the main selling point, but I tend to doubt that it works as advertised.
The second test method is a bit more involved, and before trying it I would likely consult a computer-savvy friend of mine. It basically amounts to “taking a leisurely tour” through known dangerous territory whilst supposedly cloaked, and then running a scan/sweep to see if anything nefarious (like a super cookie) has managed to find its way onto my system.
Another area to test would be potential speed decreases. Not difficult to spot those.
One thing I find a bit disconcerting is that there don’t seem to be too many reviews of the product yet. There are five bloggers in India who really get along with it famously, while the rest of the world is silent. But then maybe the product is just shiny and new.
So we’re going to break new ground here at Lay Back and give the trial a (tentative) go!
I don’t know how it will turn out but I’m interested enough to try.
The product seems to be realistically priced – the premium version works out at just $7 per month – so it might be of realistic interest to many.
And that’s about it from me as I am now teetering on the very limits of my technical knowledge!
I will now hand over to Harry to present his findings.
In the meantime, you can read more about Hide-My-IP here.
Hello, Harry here, with my first ever report on Lucy’s site, all about (or mostly about)… Hide-My-IP.
When Lucy first asked me to pen this review I felt somewhat hesitant, knowing that I would most likely end up submitting a less than positive story.
This is not to imply that I had a predetermined bias toward the assigned product, Hide-My-IP, or that I am somehow impossible to please.
To the contrary, I was rather curious and certainly more than willing to give the product a fair shot. And I am normally always eager to test drive something that is cost-effective and promises to make my life a lot easier.
So… why the hesitation?!
(If however, you’ve no idea what Hide-My-IP is all about, I recommend you first read Lucy’s introduction before returning here for my report).
I simply know far too much about the online gaming industry’s ruthless Orwellian tactics to reasonably expect this or any off-the-shelf consumer product to deliver privacy and anonymity miracles.
Because believe me when I tell you, dear reader, that there are currently no consumer-level VPN services or browser plug-ins available that can reliably conceal your identity and online activities from today’s tech-savvy bookmakers.
You might as well be trying to hide from the NSA.
What about discrete browsing mode, you’re wondering?
If you are expecting a gunfight then at least have the good sense to bring along a gun.
Now I know that there are some of you who do not want to believe me, and perhaps you really don’t believe me.
Perhaps you are saying: “This bloke is an alarmist! He’s completely unhinged! Bonus bonkers! A member of the Illuminati!”
Here is what I say: you obviously have never tried online arbing or bonus bagging before, or at least not lately you haven’t.
Can I get An amen?
I’ll bet I probably can.
In fact, I’ll bet I could probably start a new religion in the comments section down below. [Note: That might even be the whole point of this sermon.]
Something is definitely up, and it clearly is not our account balances.
My recent survey of arbing and bonus bagging forums has convinced me that arbers and BB-ers alike are currently being slaughtered in droves.
The problem is worse now than ever before.
Even to the initiated — perhaps especially to them — these once-profitable activities hardly seem worth the trouble anymore.
It used to be that it was only a matter of time before the jig was up, before one could expect to find oneself severely limited or outright barred from playing.
Those were the good old days.
It seems time is not on our side anymore; the limits and closures come very fast and furious nowadays.
Suffice it to say, arbing and bonus bagging are now very dangerous activities, relatively speaking, and one must always proceed with extreme caution if one hopes to live to fight another day.
“How are they able to identify me so easily?,” you may well be thinking.
How they identify you is a subject for a whole series of articles, and we will get to all that in the coming weeks and months. But in the meantime I have this Hide-My-IP product to review, along with an obligation to report if it will help mathematically-advantaged gamblers achieve any sort of technological advantage.
So, will it do that, help you to gain an advantage?
Here is the short answer: yes and no.
Probably more no than yes. It really depends.
Did that clarify things for you?
I rather suspect not.
Why don’t we start from the beginning…?
Hide-My-IP is essentially a standard VPN service with some interesting twists.
These twists are really the only thing that make it interesting and potentially quite useful for our purposes.
So the main question that I’m going to address is, are these novel features, these twists, enough to overcome the decided technological disadvantage that advantage gamblers now face?
In the long run I don’t believe they are.
Let me first give you the obligatory rundown.
Hide-My-IP’s feature set includes the following:
- No logs. Hide-My-IP claims not to keep any data logs that could potentially compromise your privacy/anonymity. It is reasonable to assume that this is true, although it may be worth noting that the company is US-based and thus subject to what some might call draconian privacy laws.
- Umpteen servers in umpteen countries, each featuring umpteen IP addresses. The selection here is not what you would find with a benchmark product like HideMyAss, but there are still more than enough servers and locations to comfortably get the job done, no matter where you happen to live. The list of available countries includes the US (numerous locations), Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Russia, France, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Hong Kong, Sweden, along with about 30 others.
- Works with all popular browsers and on both Apple and Windows platforms.
- Very easy to install and navigate: it took me roughly five minutes to get up and running. That said, I found it somewhat challenging at times to stay up and running, and especially when attempting to stream content from overseas. Occasionally I was forced to suffer through an episode of spinning beachballs, but more often I noticed video footage becoming slightly jittery. This was only an occasional annoyance, mind you. I did not experience any such difficulties when placing bookie wagers.
- Mostly stable connections. Here we come to a serious issue. “Mostly” is fine for the average consumer, but an arber who experiences a dropout in the middle of a transaction (or even merely whilst on the premises) will suddenly find him- or herself exposed. Literally. I was very fortunate this did not happen to me, because dropouts will cause the software to shut itself down without any warning, such that any processes connected to the internet at the time will disclose your true IP address to whatever they are connected to. Very bad. Not quite as bad is having to reset parameters after a dropout, which is also necessary.
- Relatively inexpensive: although Hide-My-IP’s ad copy states that there is only a one-time payment of $29.95 for the service. And while this is technically true, it’s not the full story. A premium subscription service is also available with monthly charges of $7.00 OR a one-time payment of $84.95. This premium subscription will enable faster speeds for downloading and surfing while also offering more customizability. On average I found surfing speeds to be a little on the slow side, meaning the premium package would likely be a more suitable option for arbers in particular. Either which way, it is a very competitive price.
- Intermittent IP rotation. Here is one of the twists. With Hide-My-IP one can switch IP addresses as often as every 10 seconds. IP switching is not really a unique feature, but every 10 seconds might well be some kind of record. [Note: I don’t suggest turning the volume all the way up to 10.] The best part is that switching IPs automatically eliminates that nasty batch of cookies you’ve just collected whilst tethered to the previous IP. Cool!
- Encrypted transmissions. Hide-My-IP uses a strong encryption protocol to ensure that your transmissions are always secure and inaccessible to prying eyes.
- Android capability. There is an Android version that is available for a one-time cost of $2.95. I don’t have this version, though I imagine a premium-level service may be available to these customers as well. I was unable to get more specifics on this before my deadline.
There are a few other moderately-interesting features that I could bother to mention, but this seems like a good place for us to ask the following question:
Strictly from an arber’s or BB-er’s perspective, what exactly is wrong with this product?
Again, I wish to stress, despite its occasional instability issues, this is no doubt a fine product if your intent is to access some otherwise inaccessible content from abroad, or even just for everyday browsing purposes.
It is a nifty little tool that does a solid job about 95% of the time.
As a solution to avoiding detection by today’s ultra-sophisticated bookmakers, however, Hide-My-IP has precisely zero chance of keeping you off the radar.
Here is the main reason why.
A regular VPN (approximately 99% of them) can only change your perceived location. In Hide-My-IP’s case, it can change your perceived location as often as every 10 seconds or so. Impressive. But what it cannot do is transform your actual computer and its resident browser into a new one.
In other words, it cannot change who you apparently are, it can only change where you apparently are.
So the question is, who apparently are you? 🙂
Well, according to your internet browser — that is, your computer’s public “face” and “personality” — you are a great many things.
In the computer interfacing process, one discovers that you are:
- all of the software and all of the individual fonts that you have installed on your hard drive;
- all of the dimensions and capabilities of your computer screen, your CPU, and your disc memory;
- your operating system, along with its exact version (and browser);
- and, well, I think by now you are getting the picture.
Whatever is required to make interfacing with the internet more practical and seamless is what goes into your browser. If the picture still seems a little blurry, then why not take a moment right now to learn something about your online “face” and “personality,” and what sort of impression you make on those with whom you interface.
Follow this link and complete the 15 second test. I can wait. You will soon see yourself as bookmakers see you!
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 15 second wait <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
So did you get your test results?
What did you think?
If you have never taken a browser fingerprint test before then I imagine you probably don’t know what to think.
Here is what to think: “How many other computers in this world do you suppose have exactly the same browser profile, or “device fingerprint,” as yours does?”
The answer is very likely to be, “not very many.”
In fact, the answer is very likely to be “nobody at all.”
You are probably unique—or at least, your computer with its installed browser is.
In all likelihood nobody else has the exact same combination of hardware, software, fonts, settings, and so on, as you do.
Pretty interesting, huh?
Bookmakers certainly think so.
Browser fingerprinting has now usurped tracking cookies as the bookie’s most effective weapon for getting rid of the advantage gambling “riffraff.”
This is not to say that you can just ignore tracking cookies; you most certainly cannot, as they are still widely used by the books in their overzealous efforts to “know the customer inside out.”
And that’s the good news, that at least one part of the problem, malicious cookies, is reasonably manageable with a little software retrofitting.
Indeed, the product we have just reviewed does an admirable job of clearing out dangerous spyware cookies before they have a chance to infect your system.
The bad news is that device fingerprinting is infinitely more difficult to stop than blocking or eliminating cookies, and it is almost impossible to foil without having the right technology in your corner.
VPNs are not the right technology, although they can and often do make up part of the ‘right’ solution.
I’ve explained all of this to make the following point: Hide-My-IP will do nothing to obfuscate your browser’s fingerprint.
You must obfuscate—blur, muddle, make vague—your browser’s fingerprint if you stand any chance at all of surviving in this game.
Your browser must “blend in” with the crowd, and by this I do not mean that you should go out and buy the same Macintosh or Dell computer as everybody else!
One popular way to obfuscate is by using TOR, the ultimate browser blender.
Cruising the internet with TOR—“The Onion Router”— is slow, sometimes painfully slow, but if blending in with the crowd is the higher priority then TOR is far and away the best tool for the job.
Because if we can count on anyone to object to the use of privacy enhancement tools, it is online bookmakers, a few of whom have been known to block access to TOR users, or otherwise render the gaming experience more restrictive or inconvenient for them.
One clever workaround here is to combine TOR with a VPN service, thereby allowing you to disguise your threatening TOR face and personality from these hypersensitive bookies.
I still do this myself and I have found that it makes for a cheap and fairly effective subterfuge.
But finally, what of Hide-My-IP?
Well, I think you can probably tell from my remarks that it gets a verdict of “Not Bad” from me. But it’s not the whole answer either… so I’m awarding it a Neutral rating.
And remember everyone: knowledge is power.