There are many great things about using a virtual private network service, but you might face VPN blocks from time to time. This can happen when you try to overcome government censorship, unlock forbidden websites, or get past school restrictions. But also when trying to watch Netflix or access other streaming services.
Normally, you can fix this issue by simply switching to a different VPN server. But that does not work in all scenarios. As such, we wanted to show you 12 easy workarounds for VPN blocks in this article. Before doing so, we are examining VPN blocks to find out who is enforcing them and how VPNs can be blocked.
Let’s see what topics we have on today’s menu (click to jump).
- What are VPN blocks?
- Who enforces VPN blocks?
- How are VPNs blocked?
How to get around VPN blocks
- 1. Use a premium VPN service
- 2. Check your VPN’s security settings
- 3. Set up a dedicated IP address
- 4. Change your VPN’s port number
- 5. Turn on obfuscation mode
- 6. Ditch your Wi-Fi and go mobile
- 7. Build your own VPN server
- 8. Use Smart DNS for streaming services
- 9. Use Tor separately or with a VPN
- 10. Use Lantern to defeat Internet censorship
- 11. Try Psiphon for unlocking censored sites
- 12. Give SSL tunneling a shot
- In conclusion
What are VPN blocks?
Let us assume that you wish to watch a TV show that is only available in the US region on Netflix, but you live in Europe. Normally, you can overcome this problem by firing up your VPN client, connecting to a US server, and refreshing the Netflix page.
If you encounter the Netflix proxy error one day, it means that you have been caught. Netflix has detected that you are not really in the US but just trying to fool it by connecting to a VPN server.
Subsequently, it blocks your connection and kindly requests that you turn off your VPN or proxy server to regain access. The problem is that you will only see Netflix shows available in your own country, which does not always coincide with the US library.
Various websites such as Netflix resort to VPN blocking in an effort to block encrypted Internet connections facilitated by VPN providers. It is a way to keep you in check and to control what sites you can visit and what services you can use on the Internet.
Who enforces VPN blocks?
You might be surprised by some type of organizations that block VPN traffic on this list. Each has its own interests they wish to protect. Here are some of the most popular examples of groups that detect and block VPN connections.
Schools and colleges
School administrators can enforce VPN blocks so that students cannot bypass network restrictions. Their goals are legitimate since they wish to create a distraction-free zone for the students to be productive.
And social media sites like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter should not hinder your productivity. Furthermore, it prevents students from cheating on exams by blocking access to sites with answers.
But things become a bit problematic when school administrators block VPN connections to crucial information, like sexual health, discrimination, bullying, or suicide. Any reason for enforcing VPN blocks in these cases becomes redundant.
School and college campuses
Being on campus is completely different from being in school or college, but some ISPs block VPN services regardless. It would not make sense to do this just for making students study since you are not actually on school grounds.
The reason is money, unfortunately. Campus ISPs are notorious for throttling and capping the bandwidth because a student’s Internet monthly subscription is usually cheap (or even free, in some cases). It is why some users wish to hide their browsing activity from ISPs.
As such, it does not make financial sense for an ISP to allow students to watch Netflix, download torrents, or perform other resource-demanding activities on the Internet that would immediately take up the whole bandwidth. Since ISPs are aware of the benefits of using a VPN, they might block such services to stop students from breaking the rules.
Governments for political or religious reasons
There are many countries all over the world that block VPN services or ban the ones that have not been approved by the state. The state-approved VPNs are frequently built to collect VPN usage data, so you are better off without them anyway.
Using a VPN is illegal in some countries (like the United Arab Emirates) and you might have to pay hefty fines or even go to prison for breaking the law. We urge you to refrain yourself from using a virtual private network in such extreme scenarios (better without free Internet than in prison).
A common reason behind this is that political groups want to stop citizens from reading news by the opposition party. In other cases, it is forbidden to practice other religions than the one recognized by the state.
Governments for copyright reasons
Not all governments are evil, though. Some are just taking every means necessary to enforce the laws of its own country, such as copyright laws. As such, it is impossible to use a VPN to download illegal torrents or access websites with forbidden content due to VPN blocks.
Forbidden content could mean gambling, drugs, child pornography, adult pornography, violence, or anything else that is considered illegal in your own country.
The government should pull the plug on many of these sites anyway. But you should not be surprised if you cannot access The Pirate Bay, for example, which is blocked in many worldwide countries.
When it comes to virtual private network services, working for someone is similar to going to school. Nobody likes a slacker who wastes his time on Facebook, so it sounds like a good idea to cut off Facebook access, even through VPN connections.
Additionally, employers who try to be as politically correct as possible block Internet access to pages that other co-workers might find unsuitable, unsettling or just offensive, such as porn, violence, and anything you see on Reddit with the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) tag.
On-demand Wi-Fi providers
We encourage people to use a VPN service when traveling because it brings tons of benefits, like protecting your online identity from hackers on public hotspots. However, some flight carriers and hotels block VPN connections if you are trying to access streaming services like Netflix, Spotify or Hulu.
The reason behind this is quite simple. Why should you access these services for free when they can charge you for them instead? So, the plan is to lure you into paying for on-demand streaming by taking away your VPN’s capabilities.
It is a well-known fact that streaming services block VPN traffic, in order to protect the copyright laws of their content. After all, it is not legal to distribute TV shows and movies in all countries of the world.
The most famous example of this is the Netflix proxy error. Whenever Netflix detects that you are behind a VPN, proxy server or any other similar tool, it shows a black screen and a message that kindly requests you to turn off your blocker to continue.
How are VPNs blocked?
To be able to block VPN connections, Internet service providers must be able to identify your traffic as being a VPN (usually). Here are five methods that can be used to detect VPN traffic.
Deep Packet Inspection
Some Internet service providers are equipped with advanced software for running Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) analysis. It is a technique used to measure the type of each data traffic flowing in and out of the network, along with its destination.
As such, DPI tells apart VPN traffic from HTTP and HTTPS traffic. For example, an ISP can tell when you are watching Netflix, downloading torrents, browsing the web, or calling someone over Skype. And there are hundreds of other kinds of network traffic that can be detected with DPI.
Amount of data traffic
Even if your ISP does not benefit from Deep Packet Inspection technology, it can still see the amount of data that is being transferred through its servers.
If there is a surge, it could assume that you are using your virtual private network service for an online activity that consumes a lot of bandwidth, like watching YouTube clips.
Therefore, the ISP could decide to block your VPN connection, regardless of what you are trying to do on the Internet.
Banning entire ranges of IP addresses
Free VPN applications and proxies provide you with servers using the public list of IP addresses. That means that anyone can access the IPs, including your ISP. Subsequently, it becomes quite simple to enforce VPN blocks by blocking entire ranges of known IP addresses.
But this rarely happens with a premium VPN service because it can afford private IP addresses. Moreover, premium VPN providers make round-the-clock improvements to their products and add new servers as soon as the old IP addresses are compromised.
Banning access control lists
Access control lists contain various rules and conditions related to IP addresses and ports. And each VPN protocol uses certain ports to establish Internet connections.
For instance, PPTP uses port 1723 over TCP, L2TP/IPsec and IKEv2 use ports 500 and 4500 over UDP, while SSTP uses port 443 over TCP.
Therefore, if your Internet service provider notices network activity in those ports, especially if it is unusually high, it might suspect that you are using a VPN.
There are no DNS resolvers
The role of a DNS is to associate your domain requests with IP addresses. When you try to visit a site by entering its link in the address bar, the DNS resolver finds the IP address and loads the site.
But some virtual private network providers skip this step. They access sites by IP address instead of a domain name, in an effort to speed up the page loading by getting rid of the middleman (DNS resolver).
To the surprise of these VPN providers, ISPs can see that you are not using a DNS resolver to navigate the Internet. They could tell that you are using a VPN to secure your browsing, thus enforcing VPN blocks.
How to get around VPN blocks
There are several ways you can use to get around VPN blocks, but we cannot guarantee that they will work. It depends on your network’s circumstances, such as the technologies used by your ISP to detect VPN traffic.
Nevertheless, you can try the following 12 methods for defeating VPN blocks.
1. Use a premium VPN service
If you have only used a free virtual private network tool until now, you should immediately drop it and purchase a premium service instead. Free VPNs do not work the way you expect. They have few VPN servers, limit your connection speed, and sometimes collect and sell your data to third parties.
Instead, premium VPN services are backed by a team of professionals who continuously resolve connection errors and help you get around VPN blocks. A trustworthy VPN promises to keep you safe on the Internet and delivers on that promise no matter what.
However, it can be time-consuming to explore the web in search of the right VPN service capable of getting around VPN blocks. Besides, there are many myths surrounding the VPN, and most of them are not true. To make the best decision, you should compare the pros and cons of each virtual private network tool to see which one is more reliable.
If you do not want to do this yourself, then you can take our advice. We have tested, reviewed and ranked over 50 VPN tools on FindYourVPN to see which is better than the other. As a result, we identified the best VPN services designed to secure your privacy, bypass firewalls, and get around various VPN-related obstacles.
As such, if you need a recommendation, then we suggest opting for ExpressVPN. It is our highest ranked virtual private network service which can get past VPN blocks successfully.
ExpressVPN supports the OpenVPN protocol and obfuscated servers for Chinese users, along with IP leak protection. It also has Smart DNS technology bundled with its MediaStreamer feature, which you can use to unlock streaming services like Netflix without encrypting your connection.
In addition, the VPN provider encourages its customers to join the Tor anonymous network after connecting to an ExpressVPN service. This helps with maximizing security and getting around VPN blocks. If you are interested in using this premium virtual private network service, you can get an ExpressVPN subscription plan here.
2. Check your VPN’s security settings
If you are already using a premium VPN service and encountered VPN blocks although it worked fine before, then you should double-check the security settings of your virtual private network client.
Make sure to enable the IPv6 and DNS leak protection modules, turn on the kill switch, as well as disable WebRTC in all your web browsers. Then, you should pay a visit to IP Leak to make sure that you do not have any IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks. Otherwise, it is time to consider buying a more dependable VPN service.
3. Set up a dedicated IP address
A dedicated IP address is unique and not shared with everyone else. You can host your websites on it, gain better Internet speed than normal, and take advantage of advanced security.
Having a dedicated IP address helps you defeat VPN blocks, especially when it comes to streaming services or ISPs who ban the known IP addresses of VPN services and proxy servers.
For instance, NordVPN gives you the possibility to buy a dedicated IP address that can be used with its VPN service. If you are interested, you can get one here (use the norddedicatedip coupon code at checkout, it costs $70).
4. Change your VPN’s port number
Your network administrator might have figured out the frequently used ports for VPN traffic and decided to close them, in an effort to enforce VPN blocks.
In this case, your solution is to change the port number used to establish Internet connections. For example, try using OpenVPN or SSTP on port 443 over TCP, the same port used for HTTPS connections. It is less likely that your network admin closed this port because it would cripple all secure connections.
You can explore the VPN settings and look for an option for switching protocols and ports. But if this is not possible, then you can access your system’s firewall and create new inbound and outbound rules to bind VPN traffic to specific ports (also known as port forwarding). Just remember to connect to a VPN server before heading over to the firewall.
5. Turn on obfuscation mode
Some VPN services feature obfuscation mode to help you hide the fact that you are using VPN. It is recommended for people who live in countries with strict Internet censorship as well as for those who need to bypass firewalls.
Obfuscation mode disguises OpenVPN traffic to make it look like regular HTTPS traffic. But it is a bit different than the previous point we discussed about rerouting OpenVPN traffic through port 443.
In fact, it is more effective because the obfuscation mode also scrambles the data packet header. Just keep in mind that obfuscation mode makes your Internet run slower than normal because it applies additional encryption.
Examples of VPN services that support obfuscation mode are NordVPN, Mullvad VPN, and Surfshark. There are many kinds of obfuscation modes you can explore in other software than VPN, such as Obfsproxy (used by Tor), Stunnel, and the SSTP protocol.
6. Ditch your Wi-Fi and go mobile
Sometimes, the easiest solution to getting rid of VPN blocks is by escaping the wireless network controlled by the ISP. Switch to your mobile data plan and you will be able to access websites that you could not before.
However, this solution only works for schools, colleges, campuses, and hotels. It does not help you evade government censorship or watch Netflix while you are on an airplane.
7. Build your own VPN server
Building your own VPN server shares the benefits of having a dedicated IP: you gain a unique IP address that helps you get around VPN blocks when it comes to streaming services and ISPs that ban ranges of known IP addresses.
However, you cannot take advantage of the speed and security features provided by a commercial VPN service. Even so, you have full control over your VPN, and you can run it from an unknown location to protect your privacy.
As far as your options are concerned, you can either turn your computer into a VPN server or rent and configure a VPS, which is not free but an excellent choice for masking your true location.
8. Use Smart DNS for streaming services
If you are only interested in getting around VPN blocks to watch Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and access other streaming services, then we recommend dropping your VPN service in favor of a Smart DNS tool.
Smart DNS is a technology that gives you the possibility to spoof your location without encrypting your traffic. No encryption means no VPN, which means no more VPN blocks. Besides, without encryption, you will have better speed.
9. Use Tor separately or with a VPN
Tor is a network designed to protect your anonymity across the Internet. It works differently from a VPN because it applies multiple rounds of encryption to make sure that no one can find out who you are or what you are trying to do.
Anyone can join the Tor anonymous network for free by downloading and installing the Tor Browser. And, if your country bans Tor, you can connect to special servers called bridges to make it more difficult for your ISP to figure out that you are using Tor.
But there is more. You can hide the fact that you are using Tor by enabling obfuscation mode, and you can also connect to a VPN before joining Tor to maximize your online privacy.
This would make your Internet connection slow down dramatically, though, so you need a high-speed and reliable connection. NordVPN has a server mode called Onion Over VPN, which grants you some Tor benefits without having the Tor Browser installed.
10. Use Lantern to defeat Internet censorship
Lantern is a software application that you can use to sidestep Internet censorship. It is different from a VPN or Tor because the bandwidth of users from unrestricted countries is shared with users that have content restrictions.
Just like a VPN, Lantern encrypts the data you send across the Internet, although it is not as effective. But it connects you to the nearest server to make sure you obtain the best speed possible. The tool is compatible with Windows, Ubuntu, Android, and macOS.
11. Try Psiphon for unlocking censored sites
Psiphon is similar to Lantern, in the sense that it acts like a censorship circumvention tool. But, unlike Lantern, Psiphon is completely free to use (open source) and uses a proprietary technology: a mix of VPN with HTTP proxy and SSH tunneling.
You do not need to sign up for anything. Simply download and install the tool, then connect to a server from more than 20 countries. Psiphon also supports upstream proxies that you can use for network restrictions at school or at work. The program can be installed on Windows, Android, and iOS. And there is also a browser version for iOS.
12. Give SSL tunneling a shot
Another way to get past VPN blocks is by protecting your web connections using an SSL tunneling software solution. Stunnel and Ghostunnel are two examples of software applications that implement the OpenSSL library.
Using SSL tunneling, you force the applications from your private network to request public Internet access through a proxy server with HTTPS on port 8080. After the request is fulfilled, the SSL tunnel keeps the connection open for as long as you want.
During this session, you can connect to a VPN server and freely exchange sensitive information. Your insurance is that your data packets are secured with a layer of end-to-end encryption facilitated by the SSL tunneling tool.
Therefore, no one can tell what you are doing, not even the SSL provider. And no one can resort to Deep Packet Inspection techniques to identify the type of connection you are using, so there is no way to block your VPN connection.
However, it can be a bit difficult to set an SSL tunnel with a VPN. It also depends on your device and operating system. Whatever the case may be, you should get in touch with your VPN provider to ask for assistance in this matter.
In the end, VPN blocks should not stop you from enjoying a free, unrestricted Internet, no matter where you live. If you are facing this challenging situation, you must identify the root of the problem to be able to explore our twelve possible solutions and see which one works for you.
Have you ever encountered VPN blocks? How did you get past these restrictions? We cannot wait to hear your suggestions, so please feel free to leave us a comment in the section below.