What Should You Do If Your VPN Is Blocked?
One of the main reasons why people use a Virtual Private Network is because it allows them to bypass many restrictions and unblock unavailable content. But what if your only solution for doing this gets blocked instead?
It’s not an unusual thing, because it happens even to the best providers in the industry. However, some issues are much more complicated than others. And while sometimes it takes no effort in fixing the issue, other times this might be a real challenge. So, depending on why your provider got blocked in the first place, let’s look at the possible solutions.
Why Is My VPN Blocked?
There are many reasons why a VPN can be blocked, but we categorized the issues into three main categories.
Work/School block – There isn’t much to say here. Many times, employers block unauthorized VPN services to prevent an unproductive behavior from their employees, such as wasting time on Facebook. As a matter of fact, this is not surprising at all. However, this way you can’t even send an email without your company knowing about it. Sometimes it can be annoying. The same rules apply for schools and universities, where networking and gaming websites are usually blocked, together with some VPNs.
On-demand Wi-Fi block – Sometimes pay-per-day hotels and in-flight wireless services block VPN providers, simply because they want you to pay and use their services. So, don’t be surprised if you are not able to connect to Netflix or Hulu, because the idea is to pay for the movies instead of streaming them for yourself.
Government restrictions – This is one of the most common issues of why your VPN would be blocked in the first place. However, this can go in two directions – blocking for political and/or social reasons, or due to copyright. Governments are trying hard to block access to pirated content, and websites that promote or facilitate copyright piracy. However, it’s the other thing that raises concern. Many countries, including China, Iran, and the UAE are waging a war against VPN providers. Country-wide firewalls are limiting VPNs. A perfect example is “The Great Firewall of China” which can block even some of the best VPN providers. It’s a way of controlling the citizens of these countries and the free flow of information.
Websites Blocking VPNs – Sometimes the problem lies in the websites you’re trying to reach. For example, streaming websites have been trying to block VPNs for a long time now. And some are quite successful in this. Only a handful of providers can actually bypass the Netflix block. The reason behind the restrictions is usually copyright issues.
How Are VPNs Blocked?
No matter the reason behind it, VPNs are usually blocked by firewalls which serve as a layer of protection from unauthorized access. They use an advanced software that performs a deep package inspection (DPI). With the help of this, firewalls can analyze and recognize any type/destination of data packet trying to reach the network. This software can differentiate all types of traffic and throttle, restrict, or block them.
However, some countries/websites use different preventions. In some countries, VPNs and the content overall are blocked directly by the Internet Service Provider, under government orders.
Depending on the problem, there are a few possible solutions for which you don’t have to be a professional.
Some of the simpler ones are using mobile data (when the problem is in your Wi-Fi connection), trying a different server, using Dedicated IP addresses, or an alternative network. And while these alternative networks such as Tor or Shadowsocks are not the same as a VPN, they can easily bypass censorship and blocked content.
Moreover, for a slightly more advanced solution, you can try changing port numbers. It’s the logical address of each application or process that’s using an Internet connection in order to communicate. Many VPN clients have this option which allows you to switch through the ports. The two most used ports are the TCP port 80 & TCP port 443. The first one is used by unencrypted traffic or HTTP websites, while the other is used by HTTPS encrypted and secure websites. TCP port 80 can be detected even by the most primitive firewalls, while TCP port 443 is much harder to spot. In this situation what you need to do is run your OpenVPN protocol (if your provider has it) with this port number. Switching to port 443 will allow you to easily slip through the most rigorous DPI firewalls. But, keep in mind that only high-quality paid providers will have this feature. If you are facing any difficulties, contact your tech support to guide you through the port switching process. If your VPN provider has an SSTP protocol, you can also try it as it uses the TCP port 443 by default.
Additionally, if you are using a VPN service that has Stealth Technology, your traffic will be unrecognizable, and you could bypass almost any block. Simply put, “Stealth Technology” is a VPN server/protocol that can easily disguise VPN traffic as regular traffic, which helps it get around VPN blocks.
More Advanced Solutions
If your VPN provider has SSL tunneling as one of its features, then you are in luck. It’s an open-source multi-platform that creates tunnels encrypted with TLS/SSL encryption, used by HTTPS. The VPN connection, preferably OpenVPN, going through these tunnels is very difficult to tell apart from HTTPS traffic.
Similar to SSL tunneling, SSH tunneling is also an option. With SSH the VPN data is passing through a layer of “Secure Shell” encryption, mostly used in the business world, but extremely helpful.
If you have problems with both, the best thing you can do is contact your provider’s tech support.
Most of the time, whether you get blocked or not depends on the quality of your provider. If it lacks some features, chances are, you won’t be able to bypass the block. So, worst case scenario you’ll have to change it for a better one. And if you are doing that, at least now you will know what to search for in your new, more advanced providers.