Not everyone can afford to access any website they want. It may be that your network administrator at work doesn’t want you to go to YouTube or even your government doesn’t want you to see news you don’t approve of. Whatever the case, there are ways to access blocked sites.
Below, we’ll go over some of the best ways you can bypass blocked sites. There is no one way that works for everyone all the time as they all have their pros and cons. However, each has its uses. Let us begin.
The first method is to use a proxy, a lightweight tool, usually operated in a browser window, that redirects your Internet connection and gives you a fake IP address, which is called “spoofing.” By redirecting your connection, you’re tricking the block into letting you through, an effective method that’s the basis for all the methods we’ll be looking at.
However, proxies are pretty limited tools. They’re perfect for unblocking YouTube while you’re at school or work, but other than that, they most likely won’t work. Use them from a country like China that restricts internet activity and you can even get in trouble for using one. Still, if you want to try them out, we like the ones offered by HideMyAss and Hide.me.
Virtual Private Networks
A much better option is virtual private networks. To quickly explain how VPNs work, they’re a lot like proxies in that they redirect your connection and spoof your IP, but they’re better because they also encrypt your connection, making it that much harder to see what you’re doing.
VPNs are great for unblocking sites, no matter if you’re trying to get past Chinese internet censorship or just to see what another region’s streaming services have to offer. In addition to cracking blocks, they also offer a decent measure of protection against anyone trying to spy on you, so they’re a privacy tool to begin with.
However, they come with a big caveat: they cost money, and the best ones, like our favorite ExpressVPN, will cost a lot. Most free VPNs aren’t very good and should probably be avoided, though even good ones like PrivateVPN will limit your use in a number of ways. As such, if you don’t have the money or simply don’t want to spend it, VPNs are a poor option.
A third option is to use Shadowsocks, a protocol designed to tunnel under the Great Firewall of China, but can also be used as a kind of proxy. Unlike proxies, Shadowsocks encrypts the connection, but not to the same standard as a VPN. It is intended to unblock and hide traffic, not to protect it against attacks; you shouldn’t use it to download torrents, for example.
If that sounds like what you need, you’ll be happy to know that setting up Shadowsocks is easy with an open source program called Scheme. It handles everything for you, including setting up a server, and you should be able to crack any block with just 20 minutes of setup. The only thing that costs money is the server, but it’s only $5 per month through DigitalOcean.
Our penultimate option might be interesting for anyone who doesn’t have any money, namely using The Onion Router, or Tor, to pass blocks. Tor rose to fame as a way to access the dark web and the illicit products offered there, but it’s actually a very useful way to access blocked sites, as it does a good job of spoofing your IP, as well as than VPNs.
When you use Tor, you’re bouncing your connection between so-called different nodes, usually run by volunteers, each of which has its own IP address. This makes it extremely difficult to track you, and because the nodes are not commercially owned, it makes your IP look more “real.”
We really like Tor as a way to get around blocks, but the downside is that it’s slow, and we mean slow. As such, it’s not the best option for downloading large files or streaming Netflix shows. It is also a bit more complicated to use and you need to have a bit of knowledge to operate it effectively.
Our final pick may be the best of both worlds, a fusion of the ideas behind VPNs and Tor. Called decentralized VPN, they offer the protocols and security of VPNs with decentralized Tor nodes. This should make them the perfect way to break blocks while staying safe.
However, using a decentralized VPN right now, at least as of 2022, is still a bit iffy. To use one, like Orchid or Mysterium, you have to log into a service, buy cryptocurrency, and deal with a lot of obscure technical terms before you can get it to work. Accessibility doesn’t seem too high on anyone’s list right now.
That said, once it works, it’s great. While there are still some issues, as with any new technology, it’s quite possible that in a few years dVPN will be the method of choice for bypassing site blocking.