Since the beginning of Virtual Private Networks, one of the most common doubts is if a VPN can be blocked. There are many debates about this topic and who may be trying to do it.
The ability to block a VPN is possible, and some entities and even countries are famous for doing it. This happens for different reasons, it could be for profit, to fight against privacy and even to avoid foreign influences.
Who is Trying to Block VPNs?
The most common scenario is when services have restricted content in some countries. As you know, a VPN is the best way of circumventing that issue. If certain content is restricted in your country, a VPN will allow you to use an IP from another country and those restrictions disappear. Naturally, those services try to fight back and block the usage of VPNs and proxies to keep their content restricted in some locations. But there’s more than that, let’s have a look at the usual suspects.
- Streaming Services: This situation happens a lot with streaming services that have deals and licenses to show content is some countries only. In 2016, Netflix made public its VPN ban. They are still trying to block users that access the streaming platform when connected to a VPN.
- Public Wi-Fi: This is a common situation where the VPN ban usually happens. From libraries to coffee shops, these spaces have many possible reasons not to want VPNs running on their Internet connection. Maybe someone will do something shady, or download big files that take a big dent on their bandwidth. Every time there are more spaces that try to forbid it, but public Wi-Fi is the easiest VPN block to avoid. A couple of tweaks and it can be bypassed.
- Authoritarian Countries: Another case is when certain countries restrict VPN use because they want to have control over their citizens. A famous example is China. The Chinese Government makes sure the population only has access to national content. That being said, VPNs or any other ways of accessing foreign information are absolutely forbidden.
Detecting and Blocking a VPN
The best VPN providers usually have one disadvantage when comparing to other less known VPNs. The IP addresses are easily identified and associated with a specific VPN provider, and blocking them becomes possible. One provider will most likely use very similar IP addresses, making easy to detect those VPNs and block all the traffic coming from them.
But there are more ways of doing it, like blocking ports that VPNs generally use. And, of course, deep packet inspections are another resource that can be successful to achieve the VPN blockade.
Is it Easy to Block a VPN?
The good news is that blocking a VPN is not that easy. As we mentioned, services and websites try to block IP addresses they believe to belong to a VPN, among other techniques. But VPN providers always come with new ways of outsmarting them. A good example of that is the streaming platform Hulu. They tried to block VPN traffic because they wanted to restrict their content and have it available only for US users. Long story short, it was a big failure. You have to keep in mind that providers have thousands of IP addresses and when they have most IPs blocked, they just get new ones.
But it’s Different With Countries
When you have a government trying to do something, the effort is obviously going to be much bigger. If a country wants to forbid the usage of a VPN, they will actually take some actions to accomplish it. Countries like China have expert teams looking for VPN traffic and stopping it.
Many VPN companies actually removed their servers from such countries. But there are VPNs that use tools, such as VPN obfuscation, to be able to fight censorship and be undetected in countries like China or Turkey.
Although it’s possible to block a VPN, it doesn’t mean it’s an easy task. Websites and even big companies do their best, but VPNs have proven to be capable of avoiding bans.
Users in authoritarian countries have a more difficult task, but new features in VPN softwares are giving them a lot of hope.