VPNs or Virtual Private Networks have several uses—to access remote content, to protect your privacy and keep you anonymous, to make online browsing more secure, and many others. However, in recent years, studies have shown that VPNs are mostly used to get around restrictions placed by any of these entities:
- Governments: Internet usage in countries like China, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba are heavily censored due to the repressive political situation in these countries. Australia and some members of the European Union also employ some sort of Internet censorship that was subtle at first but is now becoming quite obvious.
- Companies: Offices are known to restrict employees’ access to sites that can affect productivity. This includes social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Schools often block access to these sites as well.
- Video streaming sites: Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube are just some of the online entertainment sites that restrict content according to a user’s geographical location. They cite copyright protection for employing geo-restrictions.
- Copyright owners: Movie producers and sports promotions companies, like UFC, protect their works (and maximize their profits) by limiting access to their contents. Copyright owners are also known to put pressure on video streaming sites, as in the case of Netflix who used to be lenient on VPN usage before.
These restrictions are usually made by blocking IP addresses based on location. So the most effective way to bypass them is by obtaining an IP address from a location that’s not blocked. A VPN allows users to do this, which is why a lot of people use VPNs to bypass restrictions. The bad news is that these entities we listed above have found some ways to block VPNs, thereby reinforcing their restrictions.
Fortunately, there are ways to bypass VPN blockers, and this is the good news that will be discussed in the following sections.
Types of VPN blockers
Before we delve into the various methods to bypass VPN blockers, it’s important first to have an idea of how VPNs are blocked. Below are three of the most common VPN blockers:
VPN blockers: DPI (Deep Packet Inspection)
DPI or Deep Packet Inspection is ideally used to protect networks from being invaded by hackers and DDoS attackers. It can also be used to prevent network congestion so that people who are streaming videos won’t slow down the whole network. Here’s a simple video that will make you understand DPI better:
Deep Packet Inspection is also used by governments to block VPN traffic, most notably by China, Syria, and Egypt. DPI technology reads packet headers which all kinds of traffic have, including those coming from a VPN. Even when DPI cannot read the packet body which contains the actual traffic content, it can still detect the VPN’s traffic just by looking at the packet header.
VPN blockers: IP blocking
Netflix, one of the leading source of entertainment content, was pressured by movie producers into banning VPNs. Netflix does this by blocking IP addresses associated with VPN service providers. It is not the only website employing this strategy; Amazon, HBO Go, and Hulu also use IP blocking to restrict VPN users from accessing their content.
— The Independent (@Independent) April 19, 2016
Websites can also monitor simultaneous connections coming from a single IP address. If the number of connections exceeds the normal range, these websites will then block that particular IP address. Aside from websites, governments also employ IP blocking by banning all overseas IP addresses.
VPN blockers: Closing of ports
Offices block VPNs by closing ports that are normally used by VPN clients. System administrators are aware which port numbers are used by VPN protocols (like PP2P and L2TP), so they close these ports which effectively blocks VPN users. You can watch this video to learn how the opening and closing of ports are done:
Bypass a VPN blocker: Switch to an unblocked VPN
This is the most straightforward approach and entails a little technical know-how. All you have to do is research which VPN providers have advanced functionalities that would enable them to bypass VPN blockers. Check out our list of premium VPN providers. We tested each of them and found that most of them can bypass VPN blockers. These providers also offer money-back guarantees, so you can try them out and get a refund if they don’t get around the particular blocker you face.
Use a dedicated IP address
The anonymity that VPNs provide is partially due to the fact that these providers rotate IP addresses. A single IP address can be shared by hundreds or thousands of users simultaneously, and a website that monitors the usage of an IP address can easily detect activity that is more than the normal range.
Getting a dedicated IP address will help solve this problem since you will be the only one using that IP address. The number of detected connections will be within the normal range, and websites won’t be alerted. Some VPN providers, like PureVPN and VyprVPN, offer dedicated IP addresses.
Change port numbers
Most VPN clients allow you to configure port numbers. So if your system administrator has closed the ports used by your VPN, you can easily switch to other ports. We suggest that you switch to these ports:
- TCP port 80: This port is officially assigned to HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, but you can connect your VPN to this port as well. Obviously, system administrators won’t close this port.
- TCP port 443: Port 443 is assigned to HTTPS or the Hypertext Transfer Protocol over TLS/SSL. Just like port 80, system administrators wouldn’t want to close this port so you can use it.
- Less popular port numbers: System administrators tend to close only those ports known to be associated with VPNs. Choosing port numbers that are not well-known can also work to bypass port blocks. Port numbers that come to mind are 41185 and 2018, but choices will depend on the VPN protocol used by your VPN.
For these methods to be effective, get in touch with your VPN provider and ask them which port numbers will work. However, the first two ports on the list (80 and 443) are what most people use.
Some VPN users suggest the use of the Tor browser to bypass VPN blockers. Using Tor with a VPN provides double protection. However, this makes things slow, so Tor is not ideal for streaming or P2P file sharing. The Tor network has very limited bandwidth and isn’t suitable for excessively heavy Internet activities.
Use a VPN with Obfsproxy technology
This method makes OpenVPN traffic undetectable to Deep Packet Inspection by hiding OpenVPN traffic behind an obfuscation layer. Basically, obfuscation removes identifying metadata on a VPN’s packet header so that traffic won’t look like it’s coming from a VPN. While you can set this up yourself, you can also go for a VPN provider that offers this type of technology.
A VPN protocol called stealth VPN uses the same logic. Moreover, VyprVPN uses a similar technology called Chameleon.
We’re happy to report that our team has resolved the connection issue on Android platforms in addition to the Windows App. VyprVPN users will be able to connect successfully from China using the Chameleon protocol through their Android and Windows devices. pic.twitter.com/0UUspJC6ch
— VyprVPN (@VyprVPN) December 28, 2018
The tweet above is certainly an encouraging one from this innovative VPN provider.
Run your own VPN server
This is an advanced method that won’t completely protect your privacy. However, this will allow you to hide your real IP address and have your own unblockable VPN IP address. You can set up a home VPN server just like how it’s done in this videos starting at 6:13:
If setting up a home VPN server is too much of a hassle for you, you can just check out the VPN providers we’ve tested and reviewed, then see our reviews of the best VPN routers.
VPN blockers can be bypassed
It’s like a game of whack-a-mole: websites, companies, and governments use technology to restrict access to certain contents while people use VPNs to bypass such restrictions. Then websites, companies, and governments will discover their restrictions being bypassed. What will they do? They will employ VPN blockers to kick VPN users out.
Thankfully, it doesn’t end here. Advocates of a free Internet are fighting back and have found several ways to bypass VPN blockers (as we pointed out in the list above). Also, VPN providers are constantly developing more advanced technology to make their services more secure and untouchable. Dedicated IPs and obfuscation are a few of these solutions, and a lot more advanced ones are surely coming.
But if a person wants to decide on his own what he can, and what is not, he will find a way out. This is just my observation. Will he use VPN, Tor browser, use anonymous cryptowallets, but will find a way out how to bypass the ban.
— LetBetOfficial (@LetBetOfficial) January 25, 2018
The best VPN providers and privacy advocates will find ways. The key here is to stick with VPN providers that are reliable and known to adopt innovative features. Keep posted on such providers by reading our reviews.