Introducing the Account Activity Log

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Today we're excited to announce our new Account Activity Log feature. This tool provides a detailed record of all actions performed within your account, enhancing both transparency and security.

What does the Account Activity actually Log?

The Account Activity Log keeps track of all activities related to your proxycheck.io account. From logins and password changes to adjusting custom rules and lists, or even changing email preferences, every action is documented. This feature ensures you have a clear overview of your account activity.

Below is a screenshot showing a small example of some events, with the launch 50 different events will be recorded here and we'll add more as new features launch.

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How to Access

Log into your proxycheck.io dashboard and click on the new account activity button found in the top right of the settings tab. Here, you can view all recorded events starting from today in an organized manner.

Looking Ahead

The Account Activity Log is part of our ongoing effort to enhance your account security and control. We've also today added location data to the login emails you receive which will enhance account security.

Thanks for reading and we hope you're having a wonderful week!


Dashboard Statistics Update

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Today we've updated the graphs you'll find within your dashboard's stats tab to further break out the detection types shown to now include blacklisted entries and those triggered by a custom rule.

This change was made based on user feedback and it brings some much-needed consistency to the stats tab as you could previously only see blacklisted and custom rule entries in your positive detection log and active tag list but not in the graphs.

Below is how the new bar graphs look with the added data.

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Within the bar graphs, we're also further breaking out blacklisted entries into their own bars for both IP addresses and email addresses. Currently, custom rules are not supported for disposable email checking which is why there's no separate entry for those at this time.

And below is how the new line graph looks, we've also now locked the colors which are used to represent specific data points so they're consistent between loads even if one or more pieces of data are absent.

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To have your data populate for these new graphs you'll need to be using the latest version of our API dated the 22nd of January 2024. We've also updated the Dashboard APIs to make this data available there too. We know for some of you this has been a very desired feature and we're happy to oblige as the inconsistency between the graphs and logs had been overlooked for far too long.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!


New API feature: Hostnames!

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Today we've expanded the information we expose through our API to include hostnames. This has been an often requested feature which we've been working towards delivering at scale for some time, the reason it has taken us so long is because of the unique challenges presented by hostname data, such as:

  1. Because IPs have unique hostnames we cannot share hostname data across a large range of addresses like other data.
  2. Performing hostname lookups live to DNS servers as you perform an API request has a huge latency penalty (sometimes 1 sec+).
  3. There are billions of addresses we need to cache the hostnames for and the data must be synchronised across all our servers.

So to deliver on this feature we had to think very carefully, solve a few technical hurdles and perform a lot of testing. Hurting the API's responsiveness was the biggest concern we had going into this as we knew the data would be very large and cause a lot of in-memory cache misses that would result in expensive database queries.

So how are we accomplishing hostnames at scale?

Firstly, to tackle the latency issue we're going to cache the hostnames for every IPv4 address and through some clever compression we've devised we're able to get our hostname database to a small size while also making it extremely efficient to read from and write to. As a result, in our testing there is no measurable impact on the latency of the API.

Secondly, we're not going to perform live lookups of the hostnames we don't have cached. This won't impact IPv4 lookups as we intend to cache 100% of them at all times but for IPv6 this represents a hurdle that we're still working on. The issue with IPv6 addresses is the IPv6 address pool is so large that we cannot pre-compute them.

One option we explored was compressing the IPv6 addresses into contiguous ranges but that leads to inaccuracies in the data and still leaves an unfathomably large amount of data to cache and synchronise. So for the time being IPv6 will have experimental support only which means if we do have a hostname available for an IPv6 address we'll present it but don't count on these being available.

So let's show you how it looks on a live API result, we've got two outputs in the screenshot below and we've highlighted only the new hostname data in both.

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To have hostnames show you'll need to either supply &asn=1 with your requests or utilise a hostname as a condition in your custom rules. If we don't have a hostname for an IP address it simply won't show one in the API output just like with our other data.

So that's the update for today, we know a lot of you have been waiting for this feature, we've had many requests for it over the years and it has taken some considerable time to deliver this for you but today the wait is at least partially over, we're still working on broad IPv6 support for this feature and hopefully we'll have an update for you on that later this year.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.


Custom Rules enhanced with Dividers

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Since we introduced Custom Rules in 2019 it has continued to be one of our most popular features and as customers have become more familiar with it and we've expanded its feature set we're now seeing some customers with upwards of 100 custom rules in their account.

Last year we improved the interface for these power users by introducing the ability to hide deactivated rules and also search for rules based not only on their name but their rule content which includes searching both condition and output values.

Today we're adding another power user feature, dividers. This feature allows you to add dividers between and above rules so that you can visually separate rules that have different use cases. You can add as many separators as you like and we let you both name them and set the color of your dividers individually. Below is an example of how the feature looks when you've added a few dividers.

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We wanted to make dividers very easy to use so you can simply click on the name of a divider to change it and drag the dividers around to move them like you can with rules. We also didn't want them to look visually cluttered so you only see the divider control buttons when you mouse over a divider like below.

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And finally, we wanted you to be able to customise your dividers not just by name but with any color and level of transparency that you want. To that end, we've added a real-time full spectrum color picker which you'll see if you click on the Color button as shown below.

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So that's the update for today, it's live in everyone's Dashboard right now and we hope you have a lovely weekend.


CIDR ranges added to the API and better 3rd party vendor support

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Today we've added a new feature to our API, CIDR ranges. This change allows you to see the ranges present when you check an IPv4 or IPv6 address on the API which has been an often-requested feature and one that provides greater insight into network route sizes and helps in potentially blocking undesirable peers from accessing your services.

If you've used our custom list feature you may have seen the sample text we populate these lists with which contains entries such as:

123.45.214.0/24 #My Home VPN Providers IP Range

2001:4860:4860::ffff/64 #My Work VPN Providers IP Range

These are CIDR ranges which help to specify a range of addresses within a group. For example, the first range above has /24 at the end which means there are 256 addresses in this range between 123.45.214.0 and 123.45.214.255.

By having these ranges displayed in our API results and threat pages it will help users to quickly add a specific range of addresses to a custom list. This can be useful if you want to stop a specific user who keeps changing IP address within their internet service provider's supplied DHCP range from accessing your services.

We think this change will be well received and it is live as of today through a new API version dated January 22nd 2024. If you're already set to use the latest version of the API (which is the default in our customer dashboard) you will have this feature available in your API results as of this post.


In addition to this news, we've also made a change to the emails that you receive when your plan is nearing expiration. Before today we would send you an email which explained you could visit the dashboard on our website to start a new plan if desired.

As of last week these emails are now vendor-aware so if you've purchased a paid plan through a 3rd-party vendor you will now be recommended to revisit that vendor to renew your plan with an appropriate link being provided. These vendors sometimes offer discounted or bundled pricing so it's a good deal to renew through them and the plans bought through 3rd-party vendors in this way help to fund more end-user software that integrates our API for the benefit of all customers.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!


Our 2023 Retrospective

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At the end of each year, we like to look back and discuss some of the significant changes that happened to our service and this year we focused heavily on our physical infrastructure.

We started early on April 14th by introducing QUASAR and PULSAR, which are our first South Asian server nodes.

These servers were very important because until this time all the traffic that originated in Asia was being served by our European infrastructure which introduced higher-than-desired latency. We had trialled many different servers from many different hosting providers and datacenters until we settled on these and over the past 8 months they've worked diligently.

We followed this up just four days later on April 18th with the first major refresh of our American infrastructure. We swapped out our LETO node for LUNAR. This increased performance and set a new benchmark for our servers in the North American region going forward.

Then eight days after that on April 26th we introduced both SATURN and JUPITER as new North American nodes. This time we didn't replace any current nodes for that region as we had long-term leases on our other older servers so we kept CRONUS, METIS and NYX until between July and September, all of those older servers are now retired.

These three new North American nodes increased our performance so much that we reduced our footprint from four servers to three while more than quadrupling our per-second request capacity.

And with that final hardware update, we were now running the latest and fastest hardware in all regions and that gave us the confidence to increase our query limits from 125 requests per second to 200 requests per second per node and per customer in all regions.

Of course, other changes happened in supporting of our physical architecture, we re-designed the way our servers share and correlate database updates which made features like our new stats graph with per-minute resolution possible. We made some blog posts about both of those things, we also were able to lower our average query latency which gave us an extra buffer to introduce more data to the API like currencies and more detailed and accurate location data.

As we close out the year, the main thing that happened this year that makes me personally happy is our South Asian server nodes. It's no secret if you have followed the blog for the past several years that we have been trying to get servers in Asia that had the network connectivity we needed, the processing power we required and a price that made sense. So being able to finally reach that goal with hardware that will last us many years was a great achievement.

I also want to give one shout-out to the power user improvements we made this year, not only the new high-resolution stats graph already mentioned above but also making Custom Rules and Custom Lists fully searchable. Such a simple concept but it works so well and saves so much time, especially for our most heavy users who have a lot of content in their dashboards.

Thank you to everyone who uses our services for a wonderful 2023, we're looking forward to what 2024 brings!


Operators added to the Positive Detection Log

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In December 2021 we added a feature to our threat pages and API called operator data which lets you view specific information about VPN operators including their name, website and certain policies of their service.

This has been a great value add for our users especially as all that data is exposed through our API directly. However, there has been one area where we've not exploited this data until today which has been the customer Dashboard.

Previously you would only see entries in your positive detection log within the Dashboard like below.

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As you can see the entries are quite generic, a VPN was detected but you don't know which operator it's from and you may want to know that especially if you see a pattern of abuse from a specific operator's services.

And so from today, you'll now receive a more detailed response like below when we know who is operating a VPN server.

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We've made these tags clickable which will open the operator's website in a new tab/window of your browser making it easier for you to research them.

We also tied these new tags directly into our pre-existing operator database (making sure they're always up to date) where not just the names and URLs are lifted from but also the color coding which matches the VPN operator brand colors for easier visual recognition.

So that's the update for today thanks for reading and have a wonderful month!


Improving support for decentralized VPN networks

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As the commercial VPN market reaches maturity and the majority of VPN providers have a well-understood and traceable infrastructure we're starting to see novel approaches to building and maintaining VPN server fleets that thwart traditional detection methods.

One of these approaches is known as a decentralized VPN or dVPN for short. These are where a VPN company doesn't own and operate the VPN servers they sell access to and instead, they act as a broker between consumers seeking to use a VPN and "node operators" who make available their internet connections for rent.

For the vast majority of these dVPN services their decentralized infrastructure can still be discovered and added to our database like any other VPN service but some of them have made it more difficult. One such service we're focusing on today is MysteriumVPN which has a complex broker system utilising tokenized addresses to mask node operators.

To be more specific, in MysteriumVPN's case, you cannot glean the IP addresses of their VPN nodes until you pay some cryptocurrency called Myst to one of Mysterium's brokers who then connects you to a single node operator. Essentially this means you have to pay every individual node operator a small amount of cryptocurrency to be given their node's IP address by the Mysterium broker.

This unique approach has meant that for some time now Mysterium nodes have gone undetected and their abuse on the internet has reached critical levels. Everything from bypassing streaming site geoblocking to scraping website content and performing fraudulent transactions with stolen payment information has been facilitated by these nodes.

Because of that, we've taken a special interest in dVPN's and throughout July we've been developing new tools to better handle them. That is where today comes in where we wanted to share our work on dVPNs and specifically share with you about Mysterium due to it being the largest in the space.

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Above is what the new Mysterium operator card looks like, you'll find addresses from this VPN service presented via our API with a heightened risk score beginning at 73%. This elevated risk score reflects the danger we perceive these addresses as posing because not only is Mysterium a fully anonymous service but due to the difficulty in discovering the addresses, the lack of detection of them by services like our own and most of the addresses being hosted from residential address ranges it has become a magnet for criminals.

At present, we're indexing a few thousand nodes per day and expect to have 95% of the nodes offered by the top 10 dVPN providers detected by the end of this month. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank customers over the previous several months who provided IP addresses that they were certain belonged to proxy or VPN networks, we were able to match many of these to dVPN operators and thus expand our detection capability.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!


Improvements to the Dashboard for Power Users

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Today we've introduced several new features to the Dashboard to make it easier to manage your Custom Rules and Custom Lists, especially if you have a great many of them as some of our customers do.

Firstly we've reduced the space between entries so more can be viewed at once in a vertical stack. This is a minor change but beneficial all the same. You can see how this looks in the screenshot below.

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Secondly to that, we've added a new button to the top of your rules and lists which will insert a new entry at the top as opposed to the bottom of your stack. So you can now add new entries without needing to scroll to the bottom of your stack only to need to drag the rule to the top again.

Thirdly, we've added a new button which will hide any disabled rule or list that you have. We know many of our users like to create situational rules or lists and leave them disabled until they're needed, as a result, you may have many cluttering up your rule or list interface. This feature was requested by a customer only yesterday and we were happy to include it in today's power user update.

The fourth and final feature is a filter field which lets you search for your rules and lists based not only on their names but also their content. So if you've created a rule that targets a specific country or a list that contains a specific address you will no longer need to closely examine every rule or list in your dashboard to find them, you can simply search for it by the piece of information you know is within them. Below is an example of us filtering for a specific rule based on the ISP Vodafone that was included in the rule.

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All of today's new power user features utilise client-side Javascript exclusively which means not only do they work live without page refreshes but they're incredibly fast and smooth with animations where appropriate to convey that something has been hidden and not deleted etc

We hope you enjoy today's update, thanks for reading and have a great week!


Performance Regression Discovered & Fixed

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This is a brief post to let you know that between the 6th and 15th of June, there was an intermittent performance regression affecting our North American service area.

This was caused by a regression in our code that significantly increased database queue times when the API was under high load conditions. We were first made aware of the problem on the 8th of June by a customer but when we investigated, the high load conditions had already ceased making it difficult to replicate and diagnose the cause of the problem.

Today though we were able to view the performance regression live as it occurred and that enabled us to properly diagnose and resolve the code issue. As of this post, everything is solved and the API is once again answering all queries with a consistently low latency. We would like to thank the customers who messaged us about the problem, we would not have discovered it so quickly without your assistance :)

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!


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