Easily Bypass VPN blocks and Reserve Your Right to Privacy

article by Nicky Hoseck
December 23, 2019
When Disney plus launched its new streaming site in the US last month, people around the world were confident they’d be able to access it using a VPN. They were wrong and Disney+ has blocked even the best VPNs, leaving many Europeans disappointed and frustrated.

Disney plus is by no means the only site that makes use of VPN blocks and some governments block access to thousands of sites, either because they undermine that country’s culture or religion, to prevent users from accessing pirated content, or to protect national security.

As internet freedom around the world continues to decline, knowing how to bypass a VPN block becomes increasingly important, especially for those living in countries where the government imposes blocks on news sites and social media platforms.

We’re going to explore how to bypass a VPN block, where and how such blocks occur, and why some authorities and companies impose them.

Image 1: ExpressVPN Gives You Wings

Why Do VPNs Get Blocked?

Some of the most common reasons your VPN might be blocked include:

Copyright Restrictions

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a whack-a-mole type game kick-off between streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, and the best VPN providers. Given that Netflix subscribers in Israel, for example, can only access less than 10 % of the content US Netflix viewers enjoy, it’s understandable that they would be willing to bend the rules and use a VPN to create a fake IP address and give them access to the wonderful world of US Netflix.

The problem is, a streaming site can often detect the encrypted traffic indicative of a VPN connection and will then block the IP address of the server responsible for that connection. These restrictions are imposed, because while a streaming site may have the copyright for distributing certain content in one country, it may have regional contracts with other licensing companies which means they’re forced to restrict access to users in the countries where they hold that copyright.

Similarly, countries around the world are clamping down on piracy sites like The Pirate Bay, requesting ISPs block access to torrenting sites where illegal content is frequently distributed. A report released in February this year indicated that around 4,000 entertainment, torrenting, or piracy sites were blocked in 31 countries, some of which also block VPNs. In fairness, however, that’s just a drop in the ocean, especially when you look at what some governments are blocking.

Image 2: Disney plus VPN Block

Government Censorship

It’s impossible to talk about online government censorship without mentioning the Great Firewall of China – a complex combination of technology and legislative actions that restricts the flow of information in and out of China and within its national borders. There are currently 10,000 domain names blocked in China and VPN users in the megacity of Chongqing face fines if they bypass a VPN block or use encryption technology to leap over the Great Firewall.

A VPN can create a fake IP address in any country it has a server in, enabling people to access information that is banned in their own countries. Countries that have banned VPNs include Turkey, Russia, United Arab Emirates, and Iraq.

In those regions, users will struggle to bypass a VPN block unless they use a VPN with obfuscated servers like NordVPN or, in the case of Surfshark, a No Borders mode which detects the internet limitations of a specific country and uses a special group of servers to bypass those restrictions.

While copyright restrictions are all about the legal side of things, governments are motivated to block sites for a multitude of reasons, including politically-motivated reasons, the protection of its citizens, or the maintenance of public safety and protection of national security.

Governments will utilize pretty much any legislation or technology available to them in their online censorship efforts, and techniques like IP address blocking, DNS and URL filtering are commonly used. Some governments make regular requests to social media sites for content to be removed or corrected as well.

Singapore hit the cybersecurity headlines recently after submitting several requests for posts to be amended or removed from Facebook. This is indicative of the implementation of Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act which means “the government can force Facebook to alter users’ posts by unilaterally declaring news it doesn’t like “false”.

Image 3: False news

Websites that Block VPNs

Some websites, like Craigslist and PayPal, also block VPNs but for very different reasons. While Craigslist has never specifically explained its VPN blocks, it seems most likely that they are simply blocking blacklisted IP addresses.

These are usually addresses that have been linked with some kind of suspicious activity and, as hundreds of different users login in with the same IP address when using a VPN, this can cause websites to suspect them of strange behaviors that could compromise the integrity of the site.

Similarly, some PayPal users have run into difficulties with the online payment company, suggesting that certain VPNs or just specific IP addresses may be triggering fraud detection tools.

VPN Blocks on Public Wi-Fi

Even though cybersecurity experts, like ourselves, will tell you that you should never connect to a public Wi-Fi network without a VPN, some actively block VPN access. Public Wi-fi is notoriously unsecured and potentially dangerous, exposing users to a range of cyber threats and possible infections.

The trouble is, some of those public Wi-Fi networks block VPN access altogether, possibly so they can prevent illegal activity, or potentially so they can secure more income for themselves. The airline Wi-Fi service provided by GoGo, for instance, blocks all VPNs, which may be because they want to prevent users from bypassing geographical restrictions and accessing content on a streaming site so you’ll pay for in-flight entertainment instead.

School and University VPN Blocks

These blocks probably make the most sense out of any of those we’ve looked at so far and are usually designed to protect its students and limit time-wasting. Schools, colleges, and other academic institutions are required to block pupils under the age of 17 access to any material which is “harmful to minors”.

Popular social media sites like YouTube and Facebook are commonly blocked to prevent time-wasting which means any informative videos or topical news stories that may be advantageous are off-limits but so is all the gossip and the latest memes. Most schools and universities will also block torrenting sites and P2P traffic simply to minimize the risk of malware infections.

VPNs are summarily blocked as well, otherwise, pupils could use these to bypass the other network restrictions and access potentially harmful or unsuitable content. Unfortunately, some schools go too far and, according to a report issued by the American Library Association, “over-filtering blocks access to legitimate educational resources”.

Workplace Restrictions

These are very similar to those imposed in educational institutions and are similarly designed to keep employees focused on the job at hand, rather than browsing cat videos all day. With statistics showing that employees usually spend around one hour of each working day on social media, and millennials nearly double-take, it’s hardly surprising that employers want to reduce time-wasting and increase productivity by blocking access to distracting sites.

Whether blocking social media sites and VPNs works or not seems a contentious issue, however, partly because it’s all too easy for an employee to use their smartphone or other mobile devices to access the sites that have been blocked within the workplace. Furthermore, according to some studies, employees with access to social media sites are more productive than those in offices where such access is blocked.

According to Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne, “employees who can reward themselves between the completion of one task and the start of another with a visit to their Facebook or Myspace page are more invigorated and get more done”.

How VPN Blocks Work

There are a lot of different reasons for why VPNs might be blocked, and these are almost as varied as the methods used to block them. Banning VPN access is not as simple as banning web domains. As the software is difficult to spot, and server and provider numbers are always on the rise, a blanket block is difficult to pull off. Instead, a variety of different methods are employed to target as many VPN users as possible, including simply blocking the VPN’s website so users can’t download the software or create an account.

IP Blocks

Blacklisting the IP addresses of each known VPN server is one of the most common tactics for blocking VPNs and one of the most effective, but it doesn’t stop users from just finding a different provider, whose servers are still anonymous. VPNs are also wise to this technique and the best VPNs have thousands of IP addresses that they rotate regularly, thereby staying one step ahead of most IP address blocking attempts.

Port Blocks

A firewall is sometimes used to block a particular port like the 1194 UDP/TCP port frequently used by VPNs operating the OpenVPN protocol. This is a relatively straightforward form of VPN blocking and one that requires little more than a firewall and some basic technical know-how. VPNs are often effective at bypassing port blocks but not when they are designed to block ports used exclusively by VPNs, like 4500 (UDP) or 1723 (TCP).

Deep Packet Inspection

This two-pronged attack on VPN usage is one of the most effective and works by reading the internet packet metadata and the internet packet content to identify usage patterns and determine the nature of the data being transmitted. Although deep packet inspection won’t be able to see the precise nature of the data traveling to or from your device, because it’s been encrypted by your VPN, it will be able to detect cryptography signatures which will flag up a VPN connection and block it accordingly.

Image 4: DPI

How to Bypass a VPN block

Wondering what to do when a VPN is blocked? When it comes to how to unblock a VPN, we have a few tricks up our digital sleeves that could help you out.

1 Switch to Mobile Data

This is only effective if you’re trying to bypass a VPN block on a school, university, or workplace network. It will mean that you must pay your normal data charges but, by browsing using your mobile data, you’ll be able to visit whatever sites you like, including YouTube and Facebook.

2 Try a Different Server

When attempting to bypass VPN blocks like those imposed by Netflix and Disney+, sometimes all it takes is connecting via a different US server. Some VPNs recycle their IP addresses, rotating them to avoid detection by major streaming sites. If one IP address or server isn’t working, you can either try another one or contact your VPN provider to find out what to do when your VPN is blocked.

Inevitably, those VPNs with the most servers and IP addresses have more scope when it comes to the so-called whack-a-mole approach to bypassing VPN blocks so it’s always worth assessing a VPN provider’s network coverage before signing up.

3 Use a Different VPN Provider

If your current VPN bypass proxy isn’t working effectively, you may find a lesser-known VPN provider can fly under the radar simply because it has fewer users and therefore hasn’t attracted as much attention to itself. This can be tricky, especially if you don’t want to end up with multiple VPN subscriptions, although there are still some VPNs that offer free trials and even limited free VPN services.

If you’re trying to find out how to bypass VPN block on an iPhone, for instance, you could try Surfshark VPN for seven days without having to make any financial commitment. Alternatively, you could try ProtonVPN’s free VPN service although you should be prepared for mediocre speeds and limited server options.

4 Use an Alternative Protocol

Customizing your VPN settings can make your VPN traffic harder to detect, thereby helping you to bypass a VPN block and boosting your security at the same time. While most VPNs default to the OpenVPN protocol because it offers the best combination of security and speed, it is possible to switch to a different protocol that is harder to block.

Although some VPNs prefer the IKEv2/IPsec protocol and set this as the default, it doesn’t offer the same level of security as OpenVPN is also more prone to blocking so switching to either an OpenVPN or SSTP protocol could be the solution. In most instances, selecting the less common SSL/TLS should resolve the problem by making your VPN harder to detect. In most VPNs, tweaking these settings is simple and instructions are available online should you be struggling.

5 Connect to Another Port

Some VPNs allow users to configure the port used by the VPN connection. This can resolve the problem of how to bypass blocked VPN ports, especially if you opt for a lesser-known port or a random one. Some of the best options include:

2018 – a handy alternative for bypassing ISP blocks

443 – used primarily by secure HTTPS sites, this port is rarely blocked

41185 – skip past the lower range of blocked ports with this alternative

80 – a default port for encrypted data, this is infrequently blocked

Random ports are used by some VPNs to bypass VPN blocks. Both CyberGhost and ZenMate use this approach which allocates a new randomly selected port every time you connect via your VPN. This option is a great way to avoid bandwidth throttled and bypass VPN blocks but is only available if you’re using the OpenVPN protocol.

6 Opt for an SSL/SSH tunnel

An SSL or SSH tunnel creates an encrypted connection very much like a VPN tunnel but it can also be used in conjunction with a VPN to create a secure connection through a custom port. Although this does require some manual configuration, most VPN providers will be happy to advise, and the result will be a virtually undetectable VPN connection that allows you to bypass government restrictions and internet censorship. Using an SSL/SSH tunnel with your VPN means you can avoid the default ports and configurations that make your VPN traffic easier to both detect and block.

7 Use a Software Combination

As with the SSL/SSH tunnel/VPN configuration, incorporating other kinds of software and using them in conjunction with your VPN can open a whole new virtual world. Some VPNs have servers specifically configured to work with The Onion Router or Tor network which can give users another layer of encryption and the freedom to fly.

Although Tor itself is highly encrypted, its nodes are easy to trace and block. VPNs offering Tor over VPN means you can bypass ISP blocks on those nodes and evade Deep Packet Inspection by using the Tor network to bounce your communications through a network of relays.

If you’re trying to find out how to unblock  VPN in China or another country with widespread online censorship, you could try using Shadowsocks – an open-source proxy tool developed in China to bypass government restrictions. Again, this does require a little more user intervention than changing your port or protocol, but when used in conjunction with a reliable VPN, it can open a whole new world, especially for those trapped beneath a cloud of censorship.

Another alternative is Psiphon which, like Shadowsocks, is a piece of open-source software designed for getting around VPN blocks and bypassing government censors. By using a combination of SSH and VPN technology, Psiphon provides a versatile solution to the issue of how to unblock a VPN.

Bypass VPN Blocks… But Not the Law

While bypassing a VPN block at work might earn you a slap on the wrist or a verbal warning, bypassing government VPN blocks can have more serious consequences. In the megacity of Chongqing in China, for example, using a VPN could see you forced to disconnect from the internet; also, making money while using a VPN could result in fines of up to $2,000.

Few other countries are quite so strict when it comes to the use of VPNs, even if they are blocked. In Iran, for example, VPNs based in foreign countries have been blocked since 2013 and anyone caught selling, promoting or even using an illegal VPN could be charged accordingly. Despite that, few arrests have ever taken place and VPN use remains widespread.

Having said that, the clampdown on VPN usage seems to be infiltrating a new country every other month and last month, in Germany, authorities issued warnings to travelers heading to Turkey, advising them “that VPN use is monitored in Turkey and users of unverified networks could face punishment”.

Governments and other authorities don’t block VPNs for no reason and therefore tend not to take too kindly to individuals that defy those restrictions and bypass VPN blocks which can mean a fine or even a prison sentence in some countries.

Before you travel, make sure you’re aware of the laws surrounding internet usage and VPNs in the countries you’re heading to and, if possible, sign up for a reliable VPN that has servers in or near that country and give yourself the best chance of an unrestricted and anonymous online experience without landing up on the wrong side of the law.

Image 5: I Used a VPN

Why You Might Want to Bypass VPN Blocks

There are all sorts of VPN blocks and all sorts of reasons you might want to get around them. Maybe you want to watch a live sporting event that is subject to geographical restrictions and that has blocked VPNs to protect its legal position. Perhaps you’re visiting colleagues in China and want to be able to chat with your friends on Facebook and let them know how it’s going.

Maybe you already met your deadlines at work for the day and want to indulge yourself with a few cute animal videos or improve your cybersecurity knowledge by watching a YouTube tutorial. Whatever your reasons, just be sure to err on the side of caution and bear in mind that even if a VPN is legal to use, it could mean you access content that has been banned and which could land you in some serious trouble.


There are all sorts of reasons for VPN blocks, from copyright restrictions to social media blocks aimed at increasing productivity in the workplace. While bypassing those VPN blocks is simple enough, it’s well worth taking a moment to consider the consequences before you start. After all, your employer didn’t block Facebook for nothing and nor did China, so the after-effects of bypassing VPN blocks can be mild or very serious depending on the situation.

For most users, knowing how to bypass a VPN block on a streaming site is the most important and the most common reason for them to use a VPN. Unfortunately, streaming sites are getting increasingly adept at detecting encrypted traffic and blocking it accordingly, as Disney Plus recently illustrated, and they’re not the only ones.

As concerns about cybersecurity and national security spread across the world like wildfire, so more governments are looking to increase their security measures and the crackdown on the use of encryption tools like VPNs. A few months ago, Hong Kong joined the list of countries considering a VPN black-out to combat protest action. Singapore is also rolling out an increasingly restrictive internet regime while Russia is trying to ban all foreign VPNs.

The more blocks there are, the more need you have for knowing how to bypass a VPN block. Even if you don’t have a wealth of technical knowledge and expertise, some of the fixes in this article are simple to execute and extremely effective. As 2019 draws to close, don’t just boost your online security by signing up for one of the best VPNs – learn how to bypass a VPN block and make sure you get total protection, privacy, and freedom regardless of where you are or what you’re doing.