Data as an asset is becoming increasingly important. You may have noticed that you have to block countless trackers and cookies to maintain your privacy. And while using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be a shortcut to maintaining your privacy and security online, it can be the reason that you can’t access the Internet on some networks.
But besides monitoring geo-restricted content, why would anyone block a VPN?
Can ISPs Block Your VPN?
All a VPN does is encrypt the data traveling to and from your device. It does not connect you to the internet. That is still the job of your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Under normal circumstances, your ISP can easily spy on your web activity, even if you stick to HTTPS websites, as that only encrypts the data packets being transferred, not your actual online activity. HTTP websites allow your ISP to have full visibility of everything you do.
A VPN, on the other hand, encrypts everything before it even gets to your ISP, preventing them from collecting any kind of data about your browsing activity, except maybe your VPN brand if it’s known.
Why should your ISP block VPNs?
At first glance, it may seem absurd that your ISP would want to block VPNs. But the closer you look, the more ISPs have reasons to block VPN use:
- Legality: If VPNs are banned in your country, ISPs across the country can be legally forced to block all VPNs.
- bandwidth control: VPNs allow you to bypass your allocated bandwidth and consume more data than they want.
- Data collection: If your data is encrypted, the ISP cannot collect and sell it to advertisers.
Of course, your ISP may just hold a grudge against VPNs and block them on their network. But that’s getting harder and harder as VPNs grow in popularity with geo-restricted content and privacy awareness. So unless it’s a legality issue, most ISPs don’t block VPNs.
Still, you may have noticed that your connection behaves when you are on a public network. Internet costs money, and ‘free’ Internet rarely exists. They are usually a scheme to collect huge amounts of user data. While that’s not the case for every store that offers free Wi-Fi, free connections offered in malls, events, and public areas are rarely secure.
A VPN can protect your privacy if you use it on a secure network, but when it comes to public internet networks, using a VPN is essential not only for your privacy, but also for your security.
How can your ISP block VPNs?
There are multiple ways an ISP can block your VPN connection.
One of the most common and easier approaches is to block the VPN server’s IP address. This is the same method that websites, especially streaming sites, use to block VPN users.
If your connection is encrypted and goes from your personal IP address to a data center IP address instead of a website, they interpret that as using a VPN and block the connection.
Another way they can block VPNs en masse without targeting servers one by one is by blocking specific ports. Each virtual tunneling protocol uses a specific port that your ISP can block. For example, port 1194 blocks OpenVPN and port 1702 blocks L2TP.
For more targeted VPN blocking, your ISP can use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and analyze your traffic. VPN protocols leave a signature when encrypting data packets that network analysis tools such as Wireshark can detect.
Some ISPs go a step further and block VPNs at the source by banning as many VPN login pages and websites as possible. For some, that’s easier and faster than countless VPN users trying to intercept.
what can you do about it?
Even if your ISP provider takes every precaution to prevent you from using a VPN, chances are you can still find a way around the restriction and enjoy your online privacy and security.
Access blocked VPN websites
Banning websites has been used in censorship for centuries. And while you can try your luck with free online VPNs until you find one that your ISP hasn’t blocked, it’s risky, especially if you’re handing over your payment card details.
You can try to access the VPN website directly using their IP address. In some cases, using live Google translation can get you past the blockage. However, the easiest way is to switch networks, using your mobile data or a friend’s internet to sign up and install a VPN.
Bypass blocked VPN servers
There’s not much you can do with a blocked IP address except switch to another server. The average VPN provider has thousands of servers that they update regularly to get around blocking and censorship.
So if one server is blocked, just switch to another and hope for the best. It’s likely your ISP didn’t get them all.
Bypass blocked VPN ports
You don’t have to worry about some ports being blocked. There are countless ports and your ISP cannot block them all.
Just switch to a regular port that your ISP would never want to block, such as the 443 port used in an HTTPS connection.
Bypass Network Analyzers
Network analyzers are powerful tools and can be difficult to get around on your own. The only solution is to mask your encrypted VPN traffic as regular, unencrypted traffic.
If you’re tech-savvy, you can go the DIY route and use obfsproxy, a Tor subproject to mask your traffic. Fortunately, many VPN providers, such as Surfshark and NordVPN, now have a similar masking feature. All you have to do is turn it on in the app’s settings.
There is always a way to block
Whether it’s censorship, privacy violation, or security concerns, there will be a resource to help you on your way to a safer and freer internet. Still, not all solutions are created equal and you should stay up to date with the latest apps, tools, and tricks that help you bypass data collection and website blocking.
You are at work or at school, but want to view a blocked website? Here are several methods you can try – no proxy or VPN needed.
About the author