In many countries, governments block websites that they feel are against the culture and norms of their countries. In Pakistan, for example, the government imposed a three-year ban on YouTube which has been lifted in the meantime. So how were YouTube users accessing the websites during the ban? They were using Virtual Private Networks. So, keep on reading to learn how to bypass VPN blocks from scratch.
In most circumstances, when a country bans a website, people can easily connect to a VPN to access the website. But sometimes, the government takes extra measures. Sometimes they ban the use of VPNs as well. Also, websites that are banned by the government have discovered a way to block VPN servers, which means that even if you connect to a VPN server to access banned websites, you will still not be able to access it. There are a lot of solutions available for this problem. It is not hard to bypass censorship, but first, we must understand what censorship is and why websites are censored.
Disclaimer: Before you read the rest of the article and learn how to access websites that have blocked VPNs, it is important that you know the use of VPNs is not illegal and bypassing VPN blocks will not get you in any kind of trouble with the police. Even in countries like China and Iran, it is perfectly safe to access sites that have blocked VPNs. In United Arab Emirates (UAE), however, using VPN can land you in jail. UAE banned the use of VPNs in July 2016. Therefore it is advisable that you do not use a VPN service while you are in UAE.
It is also a little risky to use VPN services at your school or your office as well. If you get caught, you could get into trouble with your teachers or your boss. You could get suspended or even fired from your job. It is important that you keep these things in mind while enjoying the benefits of a VPN.
Why Are Some Websites Blocked?
Let’s discuss the possible reasons why some countries have decided to ban websites. This will help you to understand what kinds of mechanisms you need to deal with.
Websites can be blocked for various reasons. Sometimes the reasons are political. If the government of a country feels that a website displays content that goes against the values the people of that country hold, then they will ban it.
The greatest example of this is perhaps The Great Firewall of China. The government of Mainland China has censored numerous websites, keywords, and certain types of online activities, including even some Wikipedia pages. Another example of political censorship is in Iran, where the government has banned many social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and people have to use VPNs to gain access to them. But in some countries, even the use of VPNs is considered illegal. UAE is one of the places where the government has banned the use of VPNs.
Another reason why governments block websites is that of copyright infringement. Piracy is considered illegal and a form of theft in many countries, which is why many governments ban torrent websites and any other site that promotes piracy or distributes pirated content. The UK is at the top of the list of countries that have banned pirated content and Russia has also started to follow its lead. As a result, many have turned to downloading legal torrents only.
School & Workplace Restrictions
It is very common for offices and workplaces to ban websites that they feel would distract their employees from their work. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, are banned in a lot of offices and workplaces, and it makes sense why employers would ban them. Employees tend to ignore their work because of websites like these, which is why it’s quite understandable for workplaces to block them.
Websites get blocked for the same reason in schools and colleges, too. While it makes sense for schools to ban certain websites, when universities do it, it does not feel justified. Schools ban websites that serve inappropriate content. Many sites with the pornographic material are banned in both schools and workplaces. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are also banned in many schools for obvious reasons. And also, many schools and colleges also choose to ban sites with political content.
Why Do Some Websites Block VPNs?
Websites that stream videos are known to block people who access their site with the help of a VPN. They do this so they can earn the highest profit by segmenting the market on the basis of regions. Wireless services that are provided by hotels also tend to block VPNs so that customers don’t find a way to stream their movies for free.
How Do VPNs Get Blocked?
In essence, there are three methods employed by websites that block Virtual Private Network applications. Here’s a quick overview:
- IP Blocking: This is considered to be the most common method for blocking VPNs. Companies can build lists of IP addresses associated with VPN servers. In case you’re detected using an IP associated with a VPN service, you will be blocked from accessing.
- Port Blocking: Sometimes, a firewall is used to block the ports (for example, 1194 (UDP), 4500 (UDP), 1723 (TCP), etc.) which are used by VPNs.
- DPI (Deep Packet Inspection): VPNs are sometimes shut down by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). A DPI locates the data that is used by VPN protocols, and it also causes the ISP to tell where the traffic is coming from (YouTube, VPN, Skype, etc.). Even though all VPNs encrypt your data, it is possible to tell what software was used to encrypt the data.
How to Bypass VPN Blocks?
Now that we know how VPNs are blocked, we are going to look at the solutions through which you can bypass VPN blocks. Let’s jump right in.
1. Use Mobile Data via Smartphones
This is the easiest and simplest method for accessing blocked websites. This will help you access websites that have been blocked by your school or office, but you still won’t be able to use websites that have been blocked by the government.
This is a very simple trick, and it does not require any advanced techniques or knowledge. You simply turn off your Wi-Fi and browse the Internet through your mobile connection. You will be charged by your service provider, but at least you will be able to access websites like Facebook and Twitter.
2. Switch to a New VPN Server (or Service)
Websites and companies can block the IP addresses of more popular VPNs, but nobody has the time or the energy to block all VPN services. If the VPN you are using gets blocked, try switching to a lesser known VPN. Even if the IP you are using gets blocked, you can switch to a different IP of the same VPN provider.
VPN providers tend to recycle their IP addresses so that their IPs don’t get blocked. Regularly recycling the IPs can easily save them from getting blocked by websites. This technique is more commonly known as ‘whack-a-mole.’ You should talk to your provider and ask them if they employ this technique.
Blocking IP addresses was relatively easy when VPN providers were using IPv4 addresses. But now many VPN providers are switching to IPv6 which allows them to host more IPs than IPv4. This shift from IPv4 to IPv6 will make it harder for websites to block IP addresses and will most likely render this method completely useless.
3. Create Your Own VPN Connection
If the two methods mentioned above do not suit you, then you can create your own VPN server and access the blocked websites through that server. The server that you create will have a different IP address, and it won’t be able to get blocked.
To create your own VPN server, please follow the steps below. Please note that the following method works only if you already use
- Go to the Start menu and type VPN in the search option. Click on ‘Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection.’
- Once you are on the VPN Connection window, enter the IP address or the name of the server (Domain) to which you want to connect.
- If you want to connect to the server straight away, click on ‘Don’t connect now.’ Then, click on ‘Next’.
- Enter the username and the password if you want to. You also have the choice to leave both of the fields blank. You will, however, be asked to enter them again when you’re establishing the connection.
- Select the Windows Network logo on the taskbar, go to ‘VPN Connection’ and click on “Connect.”
- You will now be on the ‘Connect VPN Connection’ window. Write the name of the Domain and enter your username and password and click on ‘Connect.’
4. Use A Different Kind of Software
If you are going to a place like China or Iran where Internet censorship is a very common thing, it is advisable that you download tons of VPN software before you go there, because even if VPN websites are blocked in those countries, you can still connect to a VPN server. If you forgot to bring a VPN software with you, there are still some applications that can help you access sites that have blocked VPNs.
- Tor Browser: Tor is a software that allows you to browse the Internet anonymously. Tor nodes can easily be blocked, but you can bypass IP blocks on Tor nodes through Tor bridges. It can also evade Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) through a technique called Onion Routing. It ‘bounces’ communications through a ‘network of relays,’ which are controlled by volunteers. You can download Tor Browser free of charge.
- Shadowsocks: This application is actually very common in China. Shadowsocks is an open-source proxy application which is used in this country to access censored websites. It is an anti-GFW server and a SOCKS5 proxy created by a Chinese developer, which explains why it’s so popular in this country.
- Surge: Surge is a lot like Shadowsocks, except it only works on iOS. This is a good thing since iOS tends to be a very closed platform where installing third-party apps is close to impossible (if they don’t come from the App Store).
- Lahana: This software was created to bypass VPN blocks in Turkey, but you can now use it anywhere. The purpose of this software is to make it easy to create new nodes in Tor. It is effortless to block nodes in Tor, which is why this software exists; so that if old nodes get blocked, people can easily make new ones. Using Lahana nodes costs around $20 per month.
- Psiphon: This is another open-source software used for bypassing VPN blocks. Psiphon is an amalgamation of different VPN, SSH, SSH+, and HTTP Proxy technologies. When you are using VPN and cannot access a website because of a VPN block, you can change your settings to SSH or SSH+. One reason why people love this software so much is that if the Psiphon website is blocked in your region, you contact them through email and ask them to send the software to you.
Advanced Solutions For Bypassing VPN Blocks
One way to access VPN-blocked websites is to set up your VPN in a way that the websites detect it as regular Web browser traffic. With some of the solutions given below, you can connect to a VPN service and access any website without facing any problems.
- TCP Port 443: Whenever you access a website that requires you to enter important information, like your credit card account, your Internet connection uses the port 443 (used by HTTPS), which is the standard encrypted protocol. If you change your port number to 443 on your VPN software, you will be able to access most websites very easily. This port is almost never blocked because online shopping or exchanging of important information is not possible without this port. Port 443 is also much harder for websites to discover by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). The option to change port number is available in almost all VPN software. If your software does not allow you to change your port number, you can do it manually by editing the OpenVPN configuration file. However, you should talk to your VPN provider about this first before making any changes.
- TCP Port 80: This port is used by HTTP which pretty much runs every website. This port can never be blocked, but Deep Packet Inspection can easily pick up VPN traffic on this port.
- Stealth VPN: Sometimes, even on port 443, websites can detect VPN usage because most VPNs have a data packet header which can help firewalls detect them. VPN providers know that websites can sometimes detect VPN traffic on port 443, so they have come up with a method called “Stealth VPN.” Stealth VPN puts a cloak over your VPN traffic and disguises it as normal traffic, thereby allowing you to surf websites on port 443 without getting detected. Stealth VPN can rewrite the data packet headers to that the VPN traffic does not get detected by the website. Some VPN providers who use Stealth VPN are Proxy.sh, Torguard, APN.ac, VyprVPN, IPVanish, etc. etc.
- SSL Tunneling: Through a program called Stunnel, it is possible to create SSL or TLS tunnels. SSL or TLS tunnels are used by HTTPS (online shopping, for example). When you connect to a VPN server using SSL or TLS, it becomes hard for websites to tell if you are on HTTPS traffic or VPN traffic. The best part about this method is that OpenVPN has an additional layer of SSL and TLS which makes it even harder for Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to detect the VPN traffic. To create SSL and TLS tunnels, you have to talk to your VPN provider because they must be installed on both the client’s PC and the server. AirVPN is a famous software which lets you create SSL and TLS tunnels easily.
- SSH Tunneling: SSH Tunneling is a lot like SSL Tunneling. It also creates a tunnel, only it uses an SSH (Secure Shell) tunnel and not SSL or TLS. SSH is a big deal in the business world, where it is used to access shell accounts on UNIX systems. It is not as widely used as SSL, but it is still a good way to access blocked websites. To make it work, you have to talk to your VPN service provider.
- Obfsproxy: Obfsproxy was created when China blocked Tor nodes. It has now become a part of the software Tor which we discussed above, but it can also be used in OpenVPN. Obfsproxy has to be installed on both the VPN server and the client’s PC (for this article, we are going to use the port 1194 as an example) to work. Once it has been installed on the client’s PC and the server, type the following lines on the server: “obfsproxy obfs2 –dest=127.0.0.1:1194 server x.x.x.x:5573”. Once you have entered this line, Obfsproxy will connect to port 1194 and send the data to the server. Do not forget to write your IP address in the x.x.x.x. The best thing to do here is to talk to your VPN provider and create a static IP address so that the server knows which port it needs to connect to.
Bypass VPN Blocks – Additional Considerations
We want to answer all your questions, which is why we’ll provide additional tips and tricks. So, keep on reading this article to learn what you need to know about bypassing VPN blocks.
Be Careful When Using a VPN in UAE
All of these methods will easily work, and they will help you get past the VPN block found on most websites. But in some places (the United Arab Emirates, to be specific), even these techniques will not be enough to bypass Internet censorship.
UAE is spending a lot of money on trying to curb the use of VPNs, and they are developing new and advanced ways to stop people from accessing banned websites with VPNs. United Arab Emirates has a vast library of most VPN IP addresses which is why it may be very hard to bypass VPN blocks. Having a list of VPN server IPs at hand can easily tell anyone if you are using a VPN. It is not known how serious UAE takes its laws regarding VPN ban, but it is not likely that you will get arrested if you get caught using VPN unless the content you are trying to access is bad enough to hurt the sentiments of the government. Nevertheless, it is still advisable that you remain careful while using a VPN in United Arab Emirates.
How to Select The Right VPN Provider?
Websites that block VPN users can be hard to access. You can either use a VPN that is not very well known or you could switch to a VPN provider that recycles its IPs on a regular basis. You will have to try a lot of different VPNs before you can settle on one that works for you. Almost all VPN software provide free trials for a short period of time. To find out which VPN works the best for you, you will have to use the trial versions, and when you feel you have finally found a VPN which lets you access all the websites you want to surf, you can buy the full version. But the authorities are almost always on the lookout for VPN software, and there’s no telling whether the VPN you are using today will get blocked tomorrow. For this reason, it is advisable that you buy only one month of subscription. It will cost you more than paying per year, but at least you will not have to worry about the VPN getting blocked after using it for one day!
We’d also like to say that our editorial team at TechNadu has been using ExpressVPN for a long time now. This is one of the most powerful VPNs money can buy, providing highly advanced protocols. It’s capable of unblocking blocked websites and encrypting your traffic in the most secure way possible. So, make sure to check out ExpressVPN.
It can be hard to access websites that use VPN blocks, but you can get past them using methods like SSL tunneling, Obfsproxy, SSH tunneling, changing ports, etc. If you still feel these methods require too much work, then you can just take a VPN software with you to the country where websites use VPN blocks.