What Is a VPN Blocker

Contents

This is why students use VPNs to circumvent such restrictions.

School WiFi Blocks VPN: How to Get Your VPN Unblocked

Unblock VPN on your school for complete browsing freedom

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Updated on August 29, 2023
Reviewed by Edgar Nicov
Privacy & VPN Expert

Since the dial-up Internet era, Edgar was interested in online resources. From forums to e-commerce websites, he started digging into how those resources could generate revenue. Today he. read more

  • People usually want to use VPNs either at work, at school, or in a hotel. But public institutions tend to practice network restrictions.
  • If your VPN got blocked in one of the above scenarios, check out this guide to promptly regain access to the web.
  • You might consider leading privacy tools that can unblock VPN connection on any of these social environments
  • We included market-leading software that offers advanced privacy with Smart DNS connection.

vpn

The most common places people want to use VPNs are either at work, at school, in a hotel, or at college and/or university grounds. These are the areas that usually have public Wi-Fi, so as long as you have the password, there’s easy access to the internet for you.

However, even with all the access information given, these same institutions have restrictions as to who or what can access their networks, and this includes apps such as VPNs.

So what happens when your VPN is blocked at school, hotel, college, or university?

Thankfully, there are ways to bypass such restrictions and get on with your work or browsing. Check out the listed solutions below for the specific place your VPN has been blocked.

VPNs we tested to unblock various forbidden resources

ExpressVPN

Browse the web from multiple devices with increased security protocols.

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Private Internet Access

Access content across the globe at the highest speed rate.

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Cyberghost

Connect to thousands of servers for persistent seamless browsing.

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How to unblock school or hotel Wi-Fi without VPN?

There are alternative methods to access your school’s Internet without using a VPN, namely with a Smart DNS proxy that can work on multiple devices.

With this privacy tool, it’s possible to bypass school or hotel Wi-Fi web restrictions, but it can’t offer the same quality as a VPN because it lacks enhanced security or multiple servers you can choose from.

Hence, it is better to consider VPN software with Smart DNS features included in one subscription, knowing that both alternatives require you to pay for it.

How to unblock websites on school Wi-Fi?

As we mentioned, the most suitable method to regain access to your favorite websites is to use a VPN service that includes advanced protocols and a Smart DNS utility.

What VPNs to use on school Wi-Fi?

According to some Reddit users, the most reliable VPNs you can use on a school connection are the ones with the following ports:

  • VPN that supports port 443 (HTTPS)
  • 80 (HTTP)
  • 53 (DNS)

In this regard, you can use specific VPNs that support these ports type as the ones mentioned below:

How do I unblock my VPN in schools, hotels, colleges, or universities?

1. School WiFi blocks VPN

Networks that block VPN traffic can be unblocked using several techniques and/or tools to regain full access.

Even if your VPN cannot get through the school’s firewall, there are others that actually can – they’re called Stealth VPNs.

Schools these days have internet access, but admins are always checking that students don’t do monkey business online, so they monitor and/or restrict access by blocking social networking, gaming sites, as well as VPNs.

The good news is that blocking such VPN traffic requires identification, but you can disguise your traffic and make it unblockable.

Therefore, to fix the issue of VPN not working on school WiFi, consider using a tool that can camouflage VPN traffic as regular HTTPS:

Private Internet Access

PIA is a world-class VPN service owned by Kape Technologies with one major goal, which is to free the internet for you.

Cleverly bypassing admin restrictions, geo-targeting, ISP throttling, and more, PIA is your trusted partner in fighting online censorship.

With PIA, you will be able to circumvent network restrictions imposed by any institution. Plus you’ll enjoy lightning-fast download speeds, unlimited bandwidth, and an impressive global collection of 3292 + servers while you’re at it.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Private IP address allocation for anonymous browsing
  • Protection against your ISP and more with a strict no-logs policy
  • Liberate streaming, bypass censorship, and unblock geo-restricted websites and content
  • Highest download speeds and unlimited bandwidth without any buffering or slow loading times (ideal for streaming, gaming, and P2P torrenting)
  • Access to servers from all over the world (3292 + servers in 46 locations)
  • Secure Protection on Public Wi-Fi and military-grade encryption for your traffic data
  • Block ads, trackers, and malware
  • Secure VPN Protocols and tunneling technology
  • Protects up to 10 devices simultaneously with just 1 subscription

Private Internet Access

Bypass network restrictions in any institution, whenever, and wherever with PIA!
Check price Visit website

Note: We suggest you avoid free VPNs because most of them do not protect you at all.

1.1 How to unblock VPNs in school

A stealth VPN can scramble your traffic so it looks like regular TLS encrypted web traffic. If you want to unblock your VPN, do this:

1.1.1 Run OpenVPN on port 443

This port is used mostly by SSL/TLS encrypted web traffic as a standard internet encryption protocol used each time a site is accessed with sensitive data.

OpenVPN already uses the SSL encryption library, so just switch the port to 443 and it will slip through except for the most difficult DPI firewalls. VPNs let you switch port numbers or give dedicated server locations to allow access to port 443, so check with your VPN’s tech support on how to set it up.

1.1.2 Obfuscation

Most VPN protocols have a data packet header sort of like a fingerprint that can let a firewall recognize VPN traffic. In this case, using a VPN with obfuscation or stealth technology will obscure the packet headers so that the fingerprint isn’t recognizable.

1.1.3 Use TOR network

For advanced obfuscation, you can use the TOR network for maximum privacy and unblocking. This makes your VPN unblockable, but it will be routed via multiple proxy layers that are encrypted, and come with different speeds so it can get really slow.

The configuration process is also complicated, but there are VPNs with built-in VPN-over-TOR support.

2. VPN is blocked at College

Network administrators in colleges usually block site access, especially to social networking and streaming platforms like Netflix and others. This is because students are known to do a lot of torrenting, so college Wi-Fi was one of the major culprits for this, hence it was nipped in the bud.

Today, college students can only dream about torrenting, plus the main idea is to help them focus more on their studies. Additionally, the bandwidth use is affected if each student is downloading or streaming videos, so throttling happens often and faster.

However, since students are in a digital world, there is a need to access these sites.

So restrictions affect and defeat the intentions of study and research, which should break information barriers and increase global collaboration.

This is why students use VPNs to circumvent such restrictions.

However, colleges can block VPNs, so to get around these limitations, you can either use VPNs with obfuscation or change the port number. In most cases, college firewalls detect encryption tools via Deep Packet Inspection, so to bypass this, hide your encryption protocols.

3. VPN is blocked at University

This is a place of higher learning, and what better way to increase knowledge and share information than by using the internet?

Unfortunately, like colleges Wi-Fi restrictions apply on campus networks in Universities as well. They can block VPN services on specific ports.

While university firewalls do that, HTTPS/HTTP ports are open. Similarly, the university can use advanced filtering methods like Deep Packet Inspection.

Port Blocking is the most common technique to restrict all ports that are not for browsing the Internet. That’s why you can still use the internet but block specific apps or services that work online.

Encrypted traffic (HTTPS) uses port 443, and unencrypted traffic (HTTP) uses port 80. This is why ports 443 and 80 are always open.

While default configurations of OpenVPN, IPsec/L2TP, and PPTP do not use any of these, SSTP is the only encryption protocol that works on port 443 by default.

It is thus the best protocol to use on networks that need port 443 for regular browsing. Unlike PPTP, SSTP is very secure and only works on Windows.

You can forward OpenVPN via port 443, but not all VPN providers allow this though they have this feature in their desktop software (mobile devices don’t support it).

Hence, if the university firewall only blocks ports that encryption protocols are using, choose a VPN that offers SSTP protocol or allows OpenVPN port forwarding to port 443 (maybe port 80) so as to bypass the firewall and gain unrestricted access to the Internet.

Another way to block VPNs is via a highly advanced firewall like the Chinese Firewall that uses DPI to detect encryption tools.

This means the port forwarding isn’t enough as the firewall can distinguish traffic and block the data routed through your VPN. In this case, hide or mask encryption protocols by sending OpenVPN over SSL and SSH tunnels.

Using stealth VPNs can mask your VPN traffic and make it undetectable because all your traffic will look like HTTPS so your university won’t tell you’re using a VPN.

Otherwise, you can get a cheap smartphone and make a WiFi hotspot.

4. VPN is blocked in hotels

If you’ve tried using a VPN in a hotel, you may find that it doesn’t work as they may want you to pay for in-hotel movies instead of streaming for free.

Here’s what to do when your VPN is blocked by the hotel:

  • Disguise your VPN traffic as regular web browser traffic, which makes it impossible for the hotel’s network to block your VPN service unless they want to block all HTTPs browser traffic, which is unlikely.
  • Check with your office IT admin on your computer’s configuration so they can log the situation and troubleshoot for you. In the case of an overlapping subnet, the hotel router assigns your machine a private IP address range, and this matches that of the office, so when your VPN client connects, it uses the current source IP address (office network), and the gateway you connect to sees this as a local address, so they overlap and deny your VPN connection.
  • Ask your IT admin to set up a different IPsec client for you to navigate automatically.
  • Use stealth VPN technology to disguise and/or scramble your VPN traffic so that it isn’t easy to identify as such, or disguised as regular encrypted web traffic. You can do this by running OpenVPN on port 443, or using stealth VPN or obfuscation.
  • You can also run your VPN through the Tor network as it makes it virtually unblockable and highly anonymous. The downside is that routing traffic through multiple proxy layers can slow down connection.
  • Switch between DNS servers by replacing the DNS of your ISP or increasing your browsing speed.

Hide.Me

Hide.Me VPN

Hide.Me is a VPN tool that will work great on school networks.

This eVenture Ltd. owned VPN client will allow you to connect via multiple servers all over the world, so you can be untraceable. Moreover, Hide.Me work in more privacy-sensible countries like China and Russia.

Another great feature of this tool is that you can use it on 10 different devices. More so, it doesn’t affect your bandwidth to any noticeable degree, so your browsing will not be just secure, it will also be fast.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • No sign-up or registration required
  • No logs of your online activity
  • Access to 1700 servers located worldwide
  • IP Leak Protection and Split Tunneling
  • Strong AES-256 encryption
  • Secure VPN protocols
  • Compatible with all major operating systems

Hide.Me

With Hide.Me you will protect your identity wherever you are in the world on 10 different devices at once.

Check price Visit website

Explore more VPN Solutions to cover each and every one of your needs. Don’t forget to visit our Unblocking VPNs Hub as well.

Are there other ways you know to get around VPN blocking in hotels, schools, universities, or colleges? Let us know in the comments section below.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How to use a VPN to get around blocks at school?

To get around blocks at school with a VPN, you just have to connect to a server. Once you do that, you no longer access the internet directly through your school’s network. Therefore, the admin won’t see what you do online, and banned sites, games, or apps become available again.

How to install a VPN on a school computer?

Go to your VPN provider’s website and download the app. If your school blocked access to the VPN’s site itself, you have other options:

  • Use a proxy to access the VPN website
  • Download the app’s .exe file to another device, then send it to your school’s computer using your email or by adding it to a flash drive
  • Use Tor to access the VPN website

How to use a VPN on school WiFi?

You can use a VPN on school WiFi by simply installing it on your device. Enabling extra security features like server obfuscation will ensure the school network won’t block your VPN.

Are there any free unblocked VPNs for school?

Free VPNs are easier to block completely because they have fewer IPs. That said, out of the free providers we tested, these are the most likely to work: hide.me, ProtonVPN, and TunnelBear.

What Is a VPN Blocker?

Virtual private network (VPN) blocking refers to methods that prevent the use of VPN tunnels to communicate with other people, machines, or websites. A VPN encrypts data that travels between two parties and gives users a different Internet Protocol (IP) address. This provides users with privacy and security.

However, for reasons discussed below, governments and organizations sometimes want to prevent the use of VPNs. This leaves some users figuring out ways to unblock VPN connections so they can enjoy secure, discreet connections.

Why Do VPNs Get Blocked?

Government Censorship

Governments sometimes do not want their citizens to access certain websites, so they block these sites. With a VPN, it looks like your IP address is outside the country, making your access look legitimate. To counteract this, some governments block VPNs.

Copyright

People sometimes copy a movie and upload it to a website that allows users to download content, such as a torrent. People who download or upload the content may try to hide their identity with a VPN, so copyright holders may try to block VPNs to prevent illicit dissemination.

Streaming Location Restrictions

If you have ever been to Mexico and tried to use Netflix, you may quickly see that the movies available there are different than those you can access in the United States. For this reason, people often use VPNs to get a United States IP address. When Netflix sees a U.S. IP address, it shows the same content you would get if you were physically in the States.

School and Workplace Restrictions

Sometimes employers or school administrators do not want employees or students accessing certain sites while at work or school, so they ban the use of VPNs on the business’s or school’s network.

Types of VPN Blocking

IP Blocking

With IP blocking, a company or person will collect a list of IP addresses connected with VPN services. All of these IP addresses will then be blocked on the network.

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)

Deep packet inspection (DPI) checks the data packets moving through the traffic going to and from a device. In this way, an organization or government may be able to figure out if you are using a VPN and stop your activity.

Port Blocking

It is possible for a firewall to block certain ports, specifically ones that VPNs use. If your data travels through one of the blocked ports, the firewall will not allow it to pass through, preventing you from communicating using your VPN.

How To Avoid VPN Blocks

Server Switching

You can often bypass a VPN block by switching servers or going to a different VPN provider. The organization blocking your access may have focused on only the more popular VPNs when choosing what to block, so you may be able to gain access using a less popular service.

Obfuscated Servers

An obfuscated server is able to hide the fact that a user is using a VPN. This makes an obfuscated server a good option if the list of banned servers is relatively comprehensive.

Dedicated IP Addresses

With a dedicated IP address from a VPN provider, the address you use is far less likely to get blocked by an organization. Because it is only used by you, it is highly unlikely to pop up on a list of VPN IP addresses.

Change Ports

When a network is blocking VPNs using a firewall that bans the use of certain ports, you can change the port you are using so your transmissions can still pass through. This requires discretion because if your methods are uncovered, admins may block each port you use to access VPNs, one by one.

Change Security Protocols

When a network is blocking VPNs using a firewall that bans the use of certain ports, you can change the port you are using so your transmissions can still pass through. This requires discretion because if your methods are uncovered, admins may block each port you use to access VPNs, one by one.

L2TP/IPsec

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is a method used to transmit internet traffic between users and machines, but it lacks adequate security. To resolve this issue, L2TP is sometimes used alongside Internet Protocol security (IPsec). IPsec encrypts the data packets being sent through the internet, making them extremely difficult to read, even by VPN blockers.

IKEv2

Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is a VPN protocol designed to work with IPsec. IKEv2 makes the encryption keys. This makes your VPN connection harder to block because the data cannot be deciphered without the secret key.

SSTP

Secure Sockets Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is made to send and receive Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) traffic. PPP is a protocol designed to send data packet-based traffic through the internet. SSTP uses a secure sockets layer/transport layer security (SSL/TLS) channel to send PPP traffic. SSL/TLS gives you security through the use of encryption while also checking how well the signal is going through.

PPTP

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is used to overcome a free VPN blocker because it can transmit a lot of data quickly. This makes it easier to watch videos or listen to high-quality audio for PPTP users.

WireGuard

WireGuard protects data using encryption algorithms to help users bypass blockers. It can be used on a variety of different types of devices, including macOS, iOS, Android, BSD, and Windows.

Switch to Mobile Data

If you are on a network that is blocking VPNs, you can simply get off the network and use mobile data instead. This way, you do not have to interface with the blocking network at all. To do this, you will need a mobile internet service provider (ISP), which comes with a phone or mobile hotspot plan.

How Fortinet Can Help

You can use FortiGate to bypass VPN blockers by setting up your own dedicated network using ports allowed by the network you are using to connect. In this way, there is no chance of your IP address showing up on a banned list, the port will be accepted, and the IP address you are using will be a dedicated one. You also get the power to control who can access which applications, which adds another layer of security to your network.

Additionally, one of the VPN flaws associated with public, free VPNs is they often have their IP addresses already banned. However, with Fortinet Crypto VPNs, you get your own VPN without having to worry about its IP address being blocked.

FAQs

What is a VPN blocker?

Virtual private network (VPN) blocking refers to methods preventing the use of VPN tunnels to communicate with other people, machines, or websites.

Why do VPNs get blocked?

VPNs typically get blocked due to government censorship, copyright concerns, streaming location restrictions, or school and workplace restrictions.

What are the different types of VPN blocking?

Types of VPN blocking include Internet Protocol (IP) blocking, deep packet inspection (DPI), and port blocking.

How do you avoid VPN blocks?

To avoid VPN blocks, you can change ports or security protocols. You can also switch to mobile data so you do not have to interface with the network that is blocking your use.

What to do if your VPN is Blocked

What to do if your VPN is blocked

Is your VPN blocked at school, work or your favorite streaming platform?

Virtual Private Networks are the perfect tool for unblocking content and staying secure online, but that makes them targets for firewalls and blacklisting too.

There are several reasons your VPN service might be blocked. You’ll learn why you’re VPN is blocked and the most effective methods to bypass VPN blocks.

Best VPNs to bypass VPN Blocks

These are the best VPNs for bypassing firewalls and vpn blocks. They offer advanced features that helps them evade firewalls, packet filtering and other VPN-detection technologies.

They offer unique features such as stealth protocols, VPN over Tor, and dedicated IP addresses to make sure your VPN works almost anywhere.

  • NordVPN – Obfuscated servers and VPN-over-Tor
  • Private Internet Access – Stealth protocol & smartDNS
  • IPVanish – Obuscation, Huge IP address pool
  • Cyberghost – Obfuscated servers
  • VPN.ac – stealth protocol

Why are VPNs blocked?

There are several reasons VPN traffic might be blocked on a network, service, or website.

These are the most common reasons.

1. School & Work

Students working on computers at school

Schools, universities and employers often block VPN traffic. There are a variety of reasons they might elect to do so. In general in boils down to a few things:

  • Distraction – If your network admin blocks social media apps and streaming sites to keep you focused at work or school, it makes sense to block circumvention technologies as well.
  • Security – Because VPNs are encrypted, packet filtering technologies like DPI don’t work. This can prevent a cybersecurity risk, especially at the office.
  • Liability – Some VPN uses can have legal risk, such as torrenting copyrighted files.

2. Licensing & Copyright

Best VPNs for Netflix

Many streaming services try to detect and block VPN usage. Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ are a few examples of streaming apps with anti-VPN technology.

Content licensing is incredibly complicated and usually has different contracts for each geographic region. Because VPNs let you access content from multiple regions, they’re often targeted by streaming platforms.

VPNs may also be used to evade restrictions on account sharing by people that don’t live in the same location. This is something Netflix is cracking down on recently, asking account holders to pay for their shared accounts.

Fortunately, many VPNs have built workarounds that evade Netflix’s detection technology. Even better, such usage isn’t likely to be illegal, merely a terms of service violation.

3. Censorship

Government censorship is widespread outside of western democracies. You’ve no doubt heard of the ‘Great Firewall of China’. Numerous authoritarian regimes around the world attempt to limit access to information as a form of control. This extends to VPN blocking, which can be used to circumvent firewalls.

China isn’t the only country doing this. Russia, Belarus, Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan are a few examples of countries that have declared VPN usage illegal. Others like Turkey, China, UAE and Venezuela are using firewalls and blocking technologies instead.

4. Fraud & Abuse

Bad actors use proxies & VPNs for DDOS attacks, fraudulent credit card purchases, online theft and other forms of fraud. They use the anonymity and database of IP addresses to commit crimes.

Even though this is a tiny minority of VPN users, many financial and e-commerce sites have taken steps to block VPN connections, especially for users that aren’t logged in.

Examples of sites that have (or currently do) limit VPN traffic:

  • Banks (blacklisted IP addresses)
  • Forum sites
  • Payment processors – Stripe, Paypal, Braintree

But here’s the good news…

Blocking VPN traffic requires identifying VPN traffic. Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to disguise VPN traffic, making it almost unblockable.

How VPNs are Blocked

Network admins use multiple techniques to block VPNs and other encrypted traffic. These are the tools you’ll see most often:

Port Blocking

Network cables plugged into a router

VPN protocols like OpenVPN often run on the same default ports: 443 for TCP and 1194 for UDP traffic. If a firewall blocks these ports entirely, any VPN running on exclusively on those ports will be blocked as well.

Fortunately, full port blocking isn’t used very often, especially for port 443 which is also used by all SSL traffic (the encryption that protects all secure websites).

Bypass port blocking: Switch to a different tunneling protocol or non-standard port.

Deep packet inspection (DPI)

Even though VPN data packets are fully encrypted, they still contain metadata the tells intermediaries (like your ISP) where to forward them to.

Some VPN protocols even use default data packet headers that allow firewalls fingerprint VPN packets.

Firewalls use advanced software to perform this analysis. IT professionals call this Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) which can analyze the type and destination of every data packet traversing the network.

Deep packet inspection is what allows your ISP to tell the difference between youtube, web browser, VPN, skype or any of 1000+ other types of traffic. DPI is how a network can throttle, restrict, or even block certain types of traffic.

But here’s the key: If you can disguise your VPN traffic as regular web browser traffic, you can make it impossible for a network to block your VPN (unless they’re willing to block all https browser traffic. Not likely).

Bypass DPI: Use stealth protocols to obfuscate packet headers and circumvent fingerprinting.

Blacklisted IP addresses

VPN services rent huge pools of IP addresses which are shared among users with active VPN connections. Often these IPs are from the same ‘c-block’ of IP addresses, e.g. 100.65.192.1, 100.65.192.2 etc.

Services like Netflix attempt to identify which IP blocks belong to VPN traffic and then block those IP’s from streaming. Smaller companies can use 3rd-party IP blacklist databases provided by data brokers and cybersecurity consultants.

Blacklisting is the primary technique used by web-facing services and websites to block VPN traffic since they don’t have access to the raw packet data (like your ISP does).

Bypass IP Blacklisting – Switch to VPN servers, use dedicated IP addresses, use a VPN with integrated SmartDNS

How to Unblock a VPN

To combat VPN blockades, VPN providers have developed sophisticated workarounds to circumvent nearly every technology used by firewalls and websites to detect VPN traffic.

It’s important to choose the correct circumvention technique to match the blocking technology being used and the type of service or firewall that is blocking VPN traffic.

Recommended circumvention techniques:

  • Switch server / IP address
  • Change the VPN protocol or port
  • Use obfuscation (stealth protocols)
  • Use SmartDNS
  • Get a dedicated IP address
  • Change DNS servers

Change VPN Servers (new IP address)

Works for: sites and apps that block VPN usage. If it’s a streaming service (e.g. Netflix) you’re better off using SmartDNS.

Change NordVPN server location (map view)

If you’re getting a VPN error from a specific website, service or app, there’s a good chance your IP addresses is in their blacklist database.

Sometimes, simply switching VPN servers will do the trick, which should put you in an entirely new block of IP addresses. Companies like NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer well over 100 unique server locations.

It’s a good idea to use a server location that matches the app’s visitor demographic. So if you’re visiting a US website, use a server based in the USA. Your Lithuanian IP address looks suspicious.

You may have to try a few different locations until you find an unblocked IP address. If you’re still blocked, try clearing your browser cache & cookies or using a different browser altogether.

Switch Protocols

Works for: Firewalls that block specific ports or VPN protocols (work, school, public wi-fi, in-flight)

Change VPN protocol or port settings (Private internet access)

By default, most VPN apps use the OpenVPN UDP protocol on port 1194. OpenVPN is pretty obvious with its footprint and is easily blocked by even basic firewalls.

If your VPN app offers it, try switch to OpenVPN TCP which usually runs on port 443 (the same as HTTPs web traffic). This makes it harder to block with port-based blocking.

If that fails, switch to a different protocol altogether. L2TP/IPSec is a good backup option, though you may have to setup a manual connection to use it. Recently, many VPN providers are offering the Wireguard protocol which isn’t targeted by as many firewalls as OpenVPN and is harder to fingerprint.

VPN providers are aware that some ISPs/networks are blocking VPN traffic. That’s why they invented ‘Stealth’ VPN technology.

A stealth VPN can disguise/scramble your VPN traffic so it’s either not identifiable as VPN traffic, or even better — disguised as regular TLS encrypted web traffic.

Here are the two tried and true techniques to unblock your VPN service on almost any network:

Obfuscation (stealth VPN)

Works for: Firewalls that detect VPN traffic (ISP, School, Work, public wifi)

Shadowsocks obfuscation (private internet access software)

Protocols like OpenVPN don’t have to use default ports. Nor do they need to use the default packet headers that make them vulnerable to Deep Packet Inspection.

Lots of VPN apps now include stealth protocols or other obfuscation techniques that help disguise VPN traffic and make it harder to block.

Enabling this is usually as simple as turning obfuscation on in the VPN software (as with IPVanish) or switching to an obfuscated server (NordVPN).

VPNs can use multiple Obfuscation techniques, such as:

  • changing default packet headers
  • Add additional SSL encryption (disguise OpenVPN traffic as https traffic).
  • Route through an encrypted proxy (e.g. ShadowSOCKS)

Obfuscated Protocols: VPNs like IPVanish and VPN.ac offer obuscation as an in-client option that you can easily toggle on, regardless of protocol.

Some companies have even built stealth protocols from the ground up. Vypr VPN offers their excellent Chameleon protocol (based on OpenVPN) which even works to bypass the Chinese great firewall.

Obfuscated Servers: Other companies have dedicated servers with anti-blocking technology. All you have to do is a choose a compatible server in your VPN apps server selection view. NordVPN and Express VPN are two companies with obfuscated vpn servers.

SmartDNS

Works for: streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, NFL Sunday Ticket, HBOMax

If you want to access websites and streaming services like Netflix, you’ll need more than a simple VPN connection. These services use IP-blocking blacklists, network heuristics and other sophisticated strategies to detect VPN usage. Simply switching IP addresses isn’t going to cut it.

Instead, choose a VPN that uses an integrated smartDNS proxy to bypass VPN-detection algorithms. In fact, you don’t even need to use a VPN at all. Services like ExpressVPN’s mediastreamer DNS can be configured directly on your router, PC or mobile device.

SmartDNS works seamlessly behind the scenes and uses a secret pool of non-banned IP addresses for the initial authentication checks when you access a compatible streaming platform. It’s an elegant way to bypass VPN blocking.

Static / Dedicated IP Address

Most VPNs use pools or shared IP addresses, where you’re sharing a single IP address with dozens of other users. This type traffic often appears suspicious to websites and makes it easy to identify which IP blocks belong to VPN providers rather than residential traffic.

Some VPN services offer dedicated IP addresses, where you get your own unique IP that belongs to use you. These IPs are unlikely to be blacklisted and won’t have suspicious usage heuristics that you get with shared IPs.

Static IP addresses are usually a paid upgrade ($3-5 per month). VyprVPN even lets you deploy your own dedicated VPN server to a cloud VPS server which you can access using their app.

Switch to Mobile Data

Instead of using a firewalled wi-fi connection, just user your mobile data from your smartphone. You can even use the hotspot functionality or USB tethering to share your internet connection to other devices. This is perfect for streaming to your laptop at school if the school network is blocking VPNs .

Change DNS

If your VPN doesn’t provide its own secure DNS servers, you’re likely using the default DNS provided by the network you’re connected to. These could leave you vulnerable to VPN blocking, even on simple consumer router models.

Instead, you can force your device to use 3rd-party (free) DNS services such as GoogleDNS (8.8.8.8, 8.8.4.4) or Cloudflare (1.1.1.1, 1.0.0.1).

This technique will only bypass the simplest of firewalls, but it’s a completely free tweak (and good privacy practice) so it’s worth a shot.

Advanced Obfuscation Techniques

If you’re trying to circumvent a sophisticated firewall, the above methods to circumvent vpn blocks may not work. In that case, you can try one of these advanced obfuscation techniques.

VPN over Tor

NordVPN is one VPN provider that offers a VPN server that tunnels your VPN through the Tor onion network. This is a network of encrypted, anonymous proxies that help obfuscate the VPN data packets themselves, not just the headers.

Tor was built from the ground up as an anti-censorship and privacy tool, and it makes it nearly impossible for an endpoint or middle-man to identify the original source of the traffic.

In our testing, Tor routing is quite effective at bypassing VPN blocks.

VPNs with VPN-Over-Tor Support

ShadowSOCKS

Shadowsocks proxy

ShadowSOCKS is like a lightweight version of Tor, but doesn’t rely on a 3rd-party network of volunteer proxy nodes. Instead it’s a client that allows user (or VPN services) to tunnel to an encrypted proxy server over SSH. ShadowSOCKS can effectively transport and obfuscate UDP traffic such as OpenVPN.

Compared to Tor ShadowSOCKS offers faster speeds but may be less effective at bypassing the most advanced firewalls because it isn’t resistant to active probing.

Nevertheless, it’s proven highly effective at bypassing the Great Firewall and other national blockades.

Supported VPNs: Private Internet Access now includes a Shadowsocks option directly in their VPN app.

How to know if your VPN has been detected?

Websites that blacklist VPN usage are pretty transparent about whether they think you’re using one. For example, Netflix displays the famous ‘Netflix Proxy Error’ message if they detect your VPN connection.

Netflix proxy error

Other streaming apps aren’t quite so blatant but usually display an error message to the effect of:

“This content cannot be streamed in your region”

– Love, Hulu

And finally, some sites display no message whatsoever, they simply deny access. For example, I found that my online bank account would reject all my login attempts when connected to a certain VPN service.

Summary and additional resources

We’ve learned 3 different ways to unblock your VPN on any network, and get through any firewall.

The easiest solution is often the best, and you’ll find 90%+ success by using either OpenVPN on port 443, or a VPN with built-in obfuscation technology.

And if after exhausting all options you still find yourself blocked, then go with obfsproxy and Tor as the ultimate unblocker.

More useful articles and guides:

  • Learn how VPN encryption works
  • Why your passwords AREN’T strong enough
  • The best VPN-capable wireless routers

FAQ

How do I know if my VPN is blocked?

If you’re VPN is blocked, you typically won’t be able to access the web at all. If a site is blocking VPN traffic, they’ll usually display an error message when you try to access it.

It’s a good idea to check your VPN connection logs, just in case it’s a configuration error and not a firewall that’s causing your issues.

Does my ISP know I’m using a VPN?

It depends. If you’re using a standard VPN protocol without obfuscation then yes, your ISP can likely detect your VPN traffic based on the packet headers.

If you’re using port 443 or an SSH wrapper for your VPN, it’s less likely that their filtering technology can distinguish VPN usage from standard SSL traffic.

Is VPN Usage Illegal?

In some countries, yes. In other countries (e.g. China) VPNs are legal but heavily regulated. In most democratic nations, VPN usage is legal and widespread.

Is it legal to bypass VPN blocks?

As long as your country doesn’t outlaw VPN usage, bypassing blocks shouldn’t be illegal. In cases where a website or service is blocking the VPN (Netflix), circumvention is usually a Terms of Service violation. This is not a criminal offense but could theoretically result in account termination.

To our knowledge, neither Netflix or any other major streaming platform has banned a user for VPN usage.