Have you ever tried visiting Facebook or Instagram at work, only to find it blocked? Are you tired of the same movies and TV shows you watch on Netflix and you want to try something new? Do you need to access a website that is being blocked by your school network administrator?
Trying to access a blocked website, app, or service can be frustrating. Getting around these restrictions can prove challenging, especially for those who have no technical knowledge. Also, some workarounds may not be completely legal, so you need to consider the consequences if you get caught. You might be given a warning as a lighter punishment or be totally blocked from using that network. In areas where internet usage is strictly monitored, you could be fined or even jailed for accessing blocked websites.
Why are some websites and services restricted and how do they do that? Well, companies, schools, website administrators, and content providers are able to block your access from websites and services through your IP address. The website or service you are trying to access check to see if your IP address has the right permissions. If your IP does not meet the requirements, then your traffic won’t be able to go through. You’ll either get a warning message or see a blank screen with an error message.
When you find your access blocked, there are several ways to get around the restrictions. But the best and safest method so far is by hiding your IP address using a VPN or virtual private network. This guide will explain what a VPN is, how it works, and how it can help you access restricted websites and services.
What Is a VPN and How Does It Work?
A virtual private network or VPN is a technology that enables users to browse the internet anonymously and securely. It works by masking your IP address so that your online activities are untraceable. Above all, a VPN service establishes a secure and encrypted connection between your device and the VPN server to protect your privacy, even when connected to a public hotspot.
When you connect to the internet using your device, a secure digital tunnel is created through which your internet traffic is routed. But before sending your data, it is first encrypted by the VPN to prevent third parties from getting their hands on your data. The end point of the tunnel is the VPN server that you have chosen to connect to.
Once the data arrives at the VPN server, it is then decrypted and assigned a temporary IP address according to the location of that server. So if your server is located in the US, you’ll get a US IP address. Similarly, if your VPN server is located in Singapore or Russia, you will be given an IP address that corresponds to the country where the server is found. To the outside world, what they will see is your traffic that is coming from the VPN server and the IP address that was assigned to you by the VPN service provider. In the example above, connecting to a US server will mean that the internet public will see your traffic coming from the US, and not from your actual location. And this is actually how a VPN allows its users to bypass restrictions and censorship. Other VPNs even bounce the traffic off multiple servers just to make sure that it is untraceable.
How a VPN Can Help Unblock Restricted Websites and Services
As mentioned earlier, a VPN masks the user’s real IP address and switches it to something that is in accordance with the location of the VPN server. Keep in mind that your IP address reveals one crucial information: your location. Just by checking your IP address, it is easy to find out where you are located. But if you’re using a VPN, it is almost impossible to find out where your real location is because it can change all the time, depending on the server you are using. If the VPN server is located in France, your IP address will look like it belongs to France.
This is quite helpful when trying to access websites and services that have geographical restrictions. For example, Netflix US can only be accessed by users located in the US. This is the same for the streaming service, Hulu. Users outside the US cannot access these services because their IP addresses are being filtered according to location. If your IP address is not from the US, you will be blocked. But if you use a VPN and connect to a US server, your IP address will reflect the location of the server and not your actual country. Hence, you will be able to bypass the restriction because the blocked website or service thinks that you are qualified to access it.
On the local level, you can access blocked websites and services on your school or office network by taking advantage of the anonymity provided by your VPN. When you use a VPN, no one will be able to monitor your online activities — not even your ISP provider. No matter what website you visit, what services you access, or what transactions you undertake, everything you do remains private because of the VPN’s encryption technology. So even if you download torrent files or stream videos from a restricted website, nobody would know about it.
Aside from these functions, VPNs are also equipped with different security features to provide several layers of protection for your internet traffic. Some of these features include a kill switch, anti-leak features, proxy services, multi-hop, among others.
Which Blocked Websites or Services Can Be Accessed Using a VPN?
We recommend that you use Surfshark to unblock websites and services. By using a VPN, there is no limit on what you can access, even if you’re located in a country with strict online censorship. Here are some of the websites that you can unblock using a VPN:
Social media websites
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media websites are often blocked in school or at the office. This is to minimize distractions and increase productivity, not only for the employees, but for the students as well. You can use a VPN to get around these restrictions and access the social media website that you like. Just make sure not to post any selfie that would give away the fact that you are accessing social media when you should not be able to.
Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ESPN, Hulu, and almost all other streaming services provide separate content depending on the location of the user. For instance, a user in the US will only be able to access the US content for Netflix. If you want to watch Bollywood or Korean drama that is not included in your list of titles, switch to a different VPN server that has access to the content that you like.
Just like social media sites, messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram are often blocked to allow users to focus on what they are doing and not to waste time on idle chat.
Gambling and gaming sites
Gambling sites, such as William Hill, Bet365, and BetNow are considered illegal in most countries. Even if gambling is allowed, it will still be frowned upon by other people. If you want to try your luck at gaming, use a VPN to make sure no one knows that you’re gambling.
CNN, The Guardian, Washington Post, and other major news outlets automatically offer content that the reader can relate to. For example, if you’re in Australia, news websites will most probably offer you news content from Australia. But what if you want to find out some news about what is happening on the other side of the world? The easiest way to do so is by changing your IP address to the news content that you’re interested in.
Is It Illegal to Unblock Websites Using a VPN?