Chances are you’ve hit a VPN block. VPN blocks are firewalls set up by websites, ISPs, schools, or workplaces to detect when someone is using a VPN to access a website or content that is forbidden to them.
You might wonder why VPNs would even be blocked to begin with.
Schools and workplaces might block VPNs so that students and employees can’t waste time on social media or access sites that could be offensive to others. More seriously, repressive regimes want to stop people from using certain websites or enforce government surveillance of everything that people say online. Finally, individual companies use VPN blocks to enforce their geo restrictions. The best-known VPN blocker is Netflix, whose vast library of movies and shows aren't available to viewers outside of the US because of copyright issues.
There is an ongoing game of tug of war between VPN companies and authorities trying to block their users from access. There are many workarounds to the problem, though they might depend on your location, the content you’re trying to access, or the VPN provider you’re using. Below are 10 tips to help you bypass VPN blocks and freely enjoy the internet.
1. First Consider Your Environment
If you want to succeed at bypassing a VPN block, part of the solution is to understand what type of VPN block you’re facing. For example, if you’re at school and want to get around the local block on YouTube without having to leave campus, you’ll probably find it easier than trying to unblock Netflix USA from Malaysia. If you’re in China and you want to access any one of the many websites that have been blocked by the government, you’ll need a different solution than if you’re in an open internet society such as Australia.
2. Bypassing a VPN Block at School or Work
To bypass VPN blocks at school or work, you might succeed by just using your mobile data connection instead of the local network. Sure, you’ll have to pay for data on your cell phone plan, but you’ll be able to freely use Facebook and YouTube without breaking any rules.
If we’re talking about bypassing local VPN blocks at school or work, then bear in mind that the owner of the local network is legally permitted to place whatever block they’d like on users of their network. If you’re caught breaking school or work rules about internet use, then you could be suspended or fired, so do consider the consequences first.
3. Bypassing a VPN block for Netflix
Netflix is one of the hardest VPN blocks to bypass. As a major player in the entertainment and media industry, Netflix loses out the most from VPN users getting their content free of charge by using a VPN service. As such, Netflix puts in a lot of work to block VPN services from undermining its subscription policies. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can bypass a VPN block for Netflix in a couple of ways:
The first one is to Choose a good VPN provider that is constantly switching up its IP address. This way, Netflix doesn’t know it’s a VPN and won’t block those IP addresses. The alternative way is to set up a dedicated IP. Some of the better VPN services offer dedicated IP addresses. These will almost never be blocked by services like Netflix because the IP address is technically privately-owned, so it doesn’t get flagged.
In general, check with a VPN provider to see if it unblocks Netflix before signing up.
4. Bypassing a VPN block for Amazon
Unblocking an Amazon VPN block is really just a matter of switching locations to one that isn’t geo-restricted by Amazon. Here’s how to do it:
Sign up for a reliable VPN service with a wide variety of server locations. When you finish, select a server from the appropriate location where Amazon doesn’t block (the US is generally the easiest, but there might be servers closer to you if you’re in a different country that’ll work better). This will change your IP address to a non-blocked location, and the Amazon block should be lifted. Now you can finally Proceed and use Amazon as usual.
Also, check that your firewalls or other antivirus software aren't causing the problem.
5. Bypassing a Block With Restrictive Governments
In many repressive VPN-blocking regimes, the main approach is to block internet users from getting to VPN sites in the first place. If you plan ahead and download a strong VPN before you travel, you should be able to use it within the country without any problem. The top VPNs have hundreds of servers worldwide and strong encryption and privacy policies. If you forgot to do this, you'd need to use a proxy like the TOR or Shadowsocks to get to the VPN sites.
6. Considering Your VPN Provider
VPN blocks come in various forms. The most common method of VPN blocking is to set a site to block the known IP addresses of VPNs. Because there are so many VPNs out there and they change their IP addresses so fast, it's impossible for anyone to block every single IP address of every VPN. This is why smaller VPNs sometimes work better than the more popular ones because their IPs are not yet known to the restricting bodies, and why VPNs keep adding and changing their IP addresses.
7. When Known VPN IPs Are Blocked
Because many VPN blocks work by forbidding access to known VPN IP addresses, smaller VPNs are sometimes more effective than the bigger ones. If the IP address of your VPN isn’t yet known, you’ll be able to slide under the radar of the VPN block. Large VPN services also frequently cycle their IP addresses to create new ones that haven’t (yet) been blocked, so that you can keep on defeating VPN blocks even with a well-known provider. Things change all the time and a VPN that works today might fail tomorrow, so it's a great idea to take advantage of the free trials offered by major VPN providers.
8. When to Use OpenVPN Protocols
If you’re using a VPN to watch movies on Netflix or Showtime or to visit one of the many forbidden sites from China or Iran, you’ll need to try some more advanced moves. Switching which port you use through your VPN is easy on VPNs that use OpenVPN protocols. Port 80 and Port 443 are both usually successful at getting past VPN blocks.
9. The SSL Tunneling Approach
Another approach is to use SSL tunneling. This means using stunnel software to wrap your OpenVPN-encrypted data in yet another layer of encryption to hide the fact that it’s a VPN. The software for stunnel isn’t easy to use, so while it’s highly effective, it’s also not very accessible if you aren’t a tech whiz. SSH tunnels work in a similar way to stunnels, but your internet connection will be a bit slower, and you'll also need to learn a good deal of programming to configure SSH tunnels.
10. Using Smart DNS Routing
Finally, some advanced VPNs use smart DNS routing, which is harder to block than VPN protocols. It's not a common approach, and DNS services also aren't fail-proof, but if you've been having trouble using other methods, then a DNS service could be worth a try. Though it’s not a feature you’ll find across the board, there are a select few providers that offer DNS protection.
Bypass VPN Blocks to Keep the Internet Open
Whether you want to use social media at school, keep up with your favorite shows while traveling, or need to bypass restrictive regime blocks as a journalist or activist, there are ways to keep the internet as free and open as it should be. Bypassing VPN blocks might take some work, but it’s certainly possible, and definitely worth it.