Thursday, September 29, 2022
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Is BT webmail blocking VPN connections?


Inside testing right here at ProPrivacy, and remark threads on British Telecom’s (BT) personal help boards, would seem to counsel that the venerable UK telecoms supplier has taken steps to limit entry to its webmail platform in case you are connecting over a VPN.

Remark threads on BT’s help boards first confirmed up in November of 2021, with clients complaining that they had been receiving an odd error message when attempting to hook up with BT’s webmail service. The webmail service is out there free to each present and former clients of BT by way of an online app. Nonetheless, not like different webmail companies like Gmail and Yahoo, solely previous or current BT clients can use these electronic mail accounts, no nameless sign-ups are allowed.

TS-003 error code

When clients attempt to login to the BT webmail portal whereas linked by way of a VPN, they’re offered with the next message:

Our testing has confirmed that this error code impacts plenty of well-known VPN suppliers, together with ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Non-public Web Entry, and PrivateVPN – even customers of the Puffin safe browser have reported points. It doesn’t appear to matter what protocol is used (we’ve examined each OpenVPN and WireGuard), and even attempting obfuscated servers or multi-hop connections leads to the identical concern. Some suppliers with an enormous variety of UK-based servers, reminiscent of Nord, nonetheless have places that work, and others reminiscent of PrivateVPN and ExpressVPN, have a few places that do nonetheless work.

BT’s discussion board posts

The problem was first flagged by a buyer complaining that they may not entry BT webmail by way of their PC. The preliminary response from a BT discussion board moderator appeared to counsel that BT had been blocking particular IP addresses on the suspicion they had been getting used for malicious exercise.

This error message will seem if the IP handle that you’re utilizing reveals up as being probably unhealthy. It is defending you from attainable establish theft or malicious networks.

DanielS – BT Discussion board Moderator

One other BT moderator, StuartH, was much more blunt in one other thread, stating that the explanation for this message was that the person was attempting to attach with a VPN.

I seemed up this error message and it tells me it is prompted as a consequence of accessing by way of a VPN, I see out of your earlier publish that the Puffin Browser acts as a VPN.

StuartH – BT Discussion board Moderator

It’s disappointing to see that BT has seemingly taken steps to limit customers from accessing their service whereas linked by way of a VPN. VPNs usually are not unlawful within the UK, and there are various legit causes for somebody to be utilizing them – a want for privateness and safety foremost amongst them. So, to say that their cause for this block is because of some form of “malicious exercise” is disingenuous.

BT’s response

On discovering this, we reached out to BT for solutions. Was this one thing they’d carried out intentionally or was it an accident, a side-effect of one other change? They acquired again to us to elucidate that this was a problem they had been trying into, and provided one thing of a repair on the morning of the twenty fifth after some VPNs that had failed on the twenty fourth had been now capable of join.

Nonetheless, after placing BT’s claims to the check, we seen some VPNs nonetheless had points connecting, and reached out once more because it appeared they had been prepared to repair the problem and put customers’ privateness first. The response we obtained was disappointing, to say the least.

Our precedence is to make sure our clients’ knowledge is protected. We monitor visitors continually and can block any suspicious exercise to guard our clients.

BT

It’s a disgrace to see that BT has chosen to flag visitors as “suspicious” just because somebody makes use of a VPN, forcing paying clients to decide on between entry to the positioning or compromising their on-line privateness and safety. We will solely hope that this undesirable and unwelcome change is eliminated as shortly and quietly because it was launched.

Outcomes of testing as of 28/02/2022

ExpressVPN

  • Docklands

PIA

  • Manchester

PrivateVPN

Surfshark

  • Connection throws “PR_End_of_File” error and the positioning will not load. This impacts all servers examined, no matter location or nation.

NordVPN

A few of Nord’s servers are blocked, some are OK. There are too many to realistically check each single one, however people would possibly have to hunt round just a little to search out one which works.

Ultimate Ideas

It’s disappointing to see BT becoming a member of in with what appears to be a rising motion to restrict and limit using VPN connections throughout a big swathe of the web. Within the UK, web sites like Simply Eat and Smyths Toys are additionally denying entry to anybody utilizing a VPN. The boilerplate rationalization from these corporations is that these connections are “suspicious” or “malicious” and so they’re barred.

It is really a disgrace to see using a VPN being seen as one thing undesirable in an age the place our on-line identities are increasingly more necessary, and ever extra in danger from theft or surveillance.

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