Can ISP block VPN?

4 min
young man trying to block connection in a server room

Learning about VPNs inevitably brings up several issues with Internet Service Providers. One such issue is them trying to stop the customers from using VPNs at all. Can they just shut down your VPN? And what for?

Is there a way an ISP can detect VPN usage?

There’s good news for you if you don’t want to be seen using a VPN. Networking protocols running VPNs don’t use any indicators announcing ‘a VPN is in use’. So technically speaking, there is no method to directly detect a VPN. But it can be deduced with pretty good certainty.

Your online connection wholly depends on your ISP company. It manages the equipment and software necessary for the network to run smoothly 24/7. The detailed architecture is complicated. Only experts can deeply understand it. Still, the operating principles can be explained in a simple way. All of your traffic passes through your ISP’s network. Your IP address serves as your identifier, so any traffic can be recognized as belonging to you. The ISP’s software can monitor, log, and store it at will. Or block it, like when you don’t pay the bills. But large parts are incomprehensible, thanks to encryption.

Encryption is very widespread on the Internet. There is likely a piece of hardware inside your computer dedicated only to it. More often than not, it is actually very efficient at it. For example, HTTPS, so popular on the WWW, hides the contents of webpages. The primary task of a VPN is to add an extra layer of encryption to all of your data transfers, regardless of whether it’s already ciphered or not. So it hides everything. But that’s exactly what makes the VPN detectable.

Encrypting all of a device’s data transfer doesn’t happen very often. If your ISP notices a change like that, it can be concluded that you’re using a VPN! But such a way of deduction does not offer 100% certainty. The IP-based method is actually better.

So, can an ISP block a VPN?

Encrypting 100% of any data transfer is impossible. Such data couldn’t be directed to the target. The address and applicable transfer techniques would be unknown to the many intermediate network devices. So, the ISP can always read the destination IP. And a lot of IP-related information is available freely and publicly. That’s why it’s so easy to use an IP to look up someone’s approximate geolocation.

VPN providers have their own pools of IP addresses, which aren’t secret either. There are companies that create and update lists of VPN-belonging IPs. You can check IPs manually for free, but automated usage is typically charged for. This detection way isn’t foolproof, either. The IP assignments are often dynamic.

The point is: ISPs can detect VPNs. It is likely a serious IT company. It has appropriate tools to deduce VPN usage (though with less than 100% certainty). Because it administrates your connection, it can also shut it down in such circumstances. Now the question is: why?

ISP is blocking my VPN – but why?

In principle, a VPN is an innocent tool. The motives behind blocking it are a little complicated and include:

  • Local laws. There are a few countries that oppress VPNs by law. The ISP operating under such jurisdiction might be obliged to prevent VPN usage, if the authorities have issued proper directives.
  • Avoiding throttling. In some cases, the ISPs manage the network congestion (i.e. the traffic distribution) by limiting your transfer. It is achieved by analyzing your data transfer, so VPN usage prevents it. ISP blocking VPN wants to force the throttling anyway.
  • Data collection. Depending on the inside policy, the ISPs might collect your browsing data to sell it, for example to advertisers. VPN prevents that, too. For such a nosy ISP, VPN blocking is a useful tool.
  • Bad fame of VPN. Sometimes people use VPNs to hide nefarious or criminal online activity. An ISP might simply decide it’s not welcome inside its network, despite all the good sides.

How to check if an ISP is blocking the VPN?

There are two basic ways you can check that. One is research. Just try googling your ISP website, reading the FAQs, their terms of service, privacy policy, and agreement details, or simply contacting customer service. The plus side is that you don’t need to risk getting a VPN in vain. The downside is that the information you’re looking for might be unavailable. Even when asked directly, they might evade answering. Informing that an ISP is blocking a VPN connection might look bad, limiting netizens’ freedoms.

The other method is just to get a VPN and start using it. It might not get blocked instantly, so be patient for several hours. The problem is that most VPNs are paid for. Solution? Opt for a free trial or one of the few free ones – like tuxlerVPN! Just remember that some free VPNs tend to be crowded and remarkably slow. Only if they don’t work at all means they’re blocked.

VPN is getting blocked by ISP! What now?

Most VPN servers get blocked by IP addresses. This means it’s enough to switch to an unblocked server. A VPN app should make switching very easy. However, the ISP might detect ordinary VPN servers quite effectively. You don’t wish to be forced to jump between the servers every few minutes! Another blocking method is by port number, which disables the VPN protocol in use. Changing to a different port isn’t always easy, that depends on the specific solution.

The point is, the task of avoiding detection is mainly your VPN provider’s task. Some use obfuscation techniques to make their connections or servers appear anything but a VPN, and therefore more difficult to detect. Many change their IP pools frequently, so they don’t get blacklisted. TuxlerVPN happens to offer an alternative VPN solution which makes it almost undetectable.

Residential VPN doesn’t employ servers located in data centers. Instead, all the users participate in a pool of IPs. Each gets assigned the address of another anonymous user. It typically belongs to a house, hence the name. This is very unlikely to get recognized as a VPN because it really isn’t a VPN server!

Your ISP has a lot of control over your Internet connection. You may not like all of their policies, and you’re entitled to opt for more freedom. VPN is known for increasing online privacy and security, so you shouldn’t be forced to resign from using it at will. Choose a reliable VPN provider and browse safely!

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