VPN Blockers Explained: How to Avoid and Bypass Them

Key Takeaways

  • VPN blockers can be used by government entities, ISPs, and websites to restrict access and block users attempting to remain anonymous.
  • Common methods of blocking VPNs include IP blocking, deep packet inspection, and port blocking.
  • To bypass VPN blockers, choose a VPN with anti-blocking features, use mobile data instead of Wi-Fi, or try different tunneling protocols, ports, or encryption types.

You’ve probably seen your favorite YouTuber advertise a virtual private network, or VPN, as a great way to get around things like Netflix’s geographic restrictions. Watch any show, anytime, anywhere! But now that they’ve been around for a few years, companies are getting wise to VPNs—and blocking them.

Fortunately, there are some ways to avoid VPN blockers or bypass them altogether. We’ll go over a few of them here, but first, we’ll define exactly what a VPN blocker is, and how it works.

What Is a VPN Blocker?

Anyone from government entities to your internet service provider (ISP) can block your VPN. Websites that don’t want people viewing them anonymously, or even schools that don’t want people accessing certain websites on their servers, can also use VPN blockers.

But how exactly do they work? A VPN works by encrypting your data and hiding your actual location when you’re browsing online, usually via the use of false internet protocol (IP) addresses.

These measures are designed to make it look like you’re in a different geographic location and/or using a different device than the one you’re actually browsing on.

Measures like these make VPNs especially useful for people who need to browse anonymously or make it appear as though they’re accessing the internet from a different location. People in countries where internet use is heavily restricted and monitored, for example, can find VPNs useful for accessing information that wouldn’t otherwise be available by tricking the site into thinking they’re browsing from a country without those restrictions. People in China, for example, can’t access some social media sites unless they use a VPN to get around government restrictions.

Common methods of blocking a VPN include:

  • IP blocking, where a company blocks a list of IP addresses known to be used by VPN services.
  • Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), where the ISP or website monitors the data packets going to and from a device to see if the behavior of those packets indicates a VPN is being used.
  • Port blocking, where a firewall is configured to block certain data ports that VPNs are known to use, not allowing data to get through them and thus not allowing a connection.

Before we go further it’s important to note that there is no perfect method to make yourself totally anonymous online. VPNs make it appear that you’re in a different location, encryption can scramble your traffic, and certain browsers can take steps to make your browser indistinguishable from others, but nothing is absolutely foolproof. That said, a VPN does work to get around many restrictions and can mask your true location.

Common Reasons Your VPN Could Get Blocked

Common situations where VPN blockers get used are when dealing with copyright protections, streaming geo-restrictions, government censorship, fraud prevention, and as part of workplace or school policies.

Some countries like Russia and North Korea have actually made it illegal to use a VPN. China heavily restricts people’s internet use and uses fairly sophisticated blocking tactics to prevent people from accessing restricted sites with a VPN.

How will you know a website is blocking you based on your VPN? They’ll usually straight up tell you with a popup message that reads something like, “It looks like you’re using a proxy. Please turn this off and try reloading the website.”

How to Bypass VPN Blockers

There are a few methods you can use to get around a block, so if one doesn’t work, keep moving through the list.

1. Choose a VPN With Anti-Blocking Features

The simplest option, if you can afford it, is to just pay for a VPN service that’s built to navigate around VPN blocking measures. Many popular paid services like Nord VPN and Express VPN use obfuscated servers to hide the obvious markers of VPN use that blockers have come to recognize. These are also called “stealth VPNs.”

In addition to obfuscated servers, look for a VPN service with many available servers to choose from. VPNs with numerous servers are harder to identify and block because if one doesn’t work, you can just switch to the next.

VPNs with multiple tunneling protocols can also get around blockers more easily. Similarly to servers, if one protocol doesn’t work you can try another to bypass the restriction.

The best VPN to get around blockers has all three of the above. If your current VPN doesn’t, try switching to one that does even if you’re just test-driving it with a free trial.

2. Use Mobile Data

If the Wi-Fi network you’re on is set up to block VPNs, you may be able to get around that by just using your mobile company’s cellular data network instead. Try turning off the Wi-Fi on your smartphone or activating it as a hotspot, then connect your computer to your device instead of the Wi-Fi.

3. Connect With a Dedicated Ip Address

Some VPN services offer an IP for only your use if you pay an extra fee. Dedicated IPs are also sometimes called “static IPs” or “static IP addresses,” since they don’t change. This is different from a static IP address on a local network, which is usually used by businesses with employees working remotely that need to access their work server from home or make file transfers easier.

When accessing the internet on your home connection or smartphone without a VPN, you use the same IP address every time—the one assigned to your device. Since only one person uses it, a dedicated IP address appears similar to traffic coming from a device accessing the internet without a VPN.

4. Try a Different Tunneling Protocol, Port, or Encryption Type

Most VPN services will let you choose a different tunneling protocol to try and bypass a VPN blocker that’s configured to only block traffic coming through a certain type of tunnel. You just need to change the protocol in the settings menu of your preferred VPN.

In the same way, you can change the port your VPN uses to connect. VPNs are usually set up to connect automatically through one or two designated ports, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use others. Go into the settings menu and change the port to see if that helps.

You can also switch up the encryption algorithm your VPN uses. Check your preferred service to see if you can change this manually in the settings menu.

5. Use a Different Type of Anonymity Software

If you’ve tried all that and your VPN still gets blocked, you can try switching to another type of software. The Tor browser, for example, uses “onion routing” to obfuscate the source of your connection and let you browse anonymously in a way that’s arguably more secure than a VPN. It doesn’t record browser history or information about your browsing habits. Web traffic is encrypted three different times.

Some browsers, like Brave browser, have Tor routing built into them and automatically take measures to anonymize your browsing. They may, for example, use anti-fingerprinting measures to make it harder to pick your browsing window out from all the others. According to the company behind Tor, just downloading their browser and navigating to the site you want should work in most cases. If it doesn’t, there are other steps you can take, which they detail in Tor’s FAQ section.

6. Change Your DNS Settings

You might be able to bypass less sophisticated VPN blocking methods just by changing your DNS settings. DNS, short for designated naming service, is the service that helps route traffic around the internet, making sure it ends up at the right destination.

Similar to changing your IP address, changing your DNS setting may trick a VPN blocker into thinking your internet traffic is coming from a “normal” device not using a VPN. Several popular services, from Google to Cloudflare to OpenDNS, will let you switch these settings around.

You can sometimes do this instead of using a VPN to get around restrictions but be aware that changing your DNS settings will not encrypt your web traffic the web a VPN does.

The Best Way to Bypass VPN Blockers

You can try any of the above methods to unblock a website, but the best and easiest method is usually just using a sophisticated VPN service that already has countermeasures built in. Unfortunately, that means most free VPNs won’t cut it.


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