VPN technology isn’t new. For decades, businesses and individuals have used it to protect sensitive data and to keep their online movements anonymous. Some people consider it a matter of privacy. They just don’t like the idea of anyone, like their ISP or a hacker, being able to track their web traffic.
For other people, using a VPN is a matter of life or death. They are citizens and journalists living within totalitarian regimes that do not allow the free expression of thoughts and opinions. A VPN allows them to take subversive positions and revolutionary actions without risking their life, or quite literally, their limb.
Consider the steps that you might take to secure your home against the outside world. Security cameras on the home’s exterior will alert you to possible intruders, but you only want to get the best and the most reputable camera system that you can buy. It’s simply the only way that you can trust that you’re getting your money’s worth from the system.
The same is true for a VPN. The best VPN will protect you from all sorts of spying, but an inferior one will leave you vulnerable to attack from all angles. How can you know which VPN to trust?
Let’s begin by examining what you gain when you use a VPN before moving into a VPN scams list. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when it’s time to choose a VPN for your home or your business.
The Advantages of Using a VPN
Did you know that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is able to track all of your online activity?
They know when you log on, which websites you visit, what you do while you’re there and how long you spend there. They can see your social media activity. They can monitor as you participate in a forum; even online shopping habits are no secret to them.
Unfortunately, your ISP isn’t the only party that’s interested in what you’re doing online. Companies, such as retailers and service providers, are tracking your movements, looking for opportunities to sell you something.Then, there are the shady operators. They are the ones who are hoping to infect your system with malware, adware and other potentially harmful software. They’d really like to get to know you better. Specifically, any of your personal information, including your credit card numbers and bank account numbers, is of particular interest.
A solid, well-reviewed VPN can protect you from all of this. VPN technology wholly masks your IP address, making it impossible to trace. What’s more, your VPN can make it look like you’re browsing from Sydney when you’re actually in Montreal.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that not enough people are taking advantage of all that a VPN can do.
Your VPN encrypts your web traffic and can potentially hop it around to two or three servers across the globe. No one, not even your ISP, can see what you’re doing online. You enjoy total privacy and anonymity as well as the peace of mind of knowing that you are completely safe when you’re online.
It’s kind of like having the best home security system installed at home; you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you and your family are fully protected.
Is It Ever Dangerous to Use a VPN?
For most people, there is no danger associated with using this type of software; understanding VPN basics and carefully selecting a reputable provider with a track record of offering perfect security and anonymity online is key.
Some people may be in danger simply through using any VPN. These individuals live in oppressive countries where VPN use is outlawed because the government wants to monitor all of their online activities
However, this is a different kind of danger from the one that’s being discussed here. It also may be dangerous to use a VPN when it is a fake VPN that does not actually offer the services that it advertises. It may be dangerous when a VPN chooses to infect your system with all sorts of spyware and viruses. They may even track and record your movements online, selling the data to the highest bidder.
Isn’t that the exact opposite of what a VPN is supposed to do?
That’s what is frightening about the dozens of VPN providers that are operating today. Some are highly reputable, striving to offer reliable services that keep you safe online no matter what.
Then, there are the VPNs that take your money but give you nothing in return. Just as bad are the ones that are “free.” You can bet that most free VPNs are offered at that price because you are being sold.
A savvy consumer can avoid these VPN scams. The more you know about the typical ploys used by these nefarious providers, the easier it will be for you to steer clear of them.
Typical VPN Scams to Avoid
The following list of VPN scams isn’t theoretical. Each of these scams has been tried and proven successful through the entrapment of unwary consumers. Don’t let yourself fall victim to any of these cons.
This is critical information because studies show that people are increasingly concerned about online privacy and about how companies are using their data.
No one can afford to put themselves at further risk by ignoring this list of VPN scams.
1. Free VPNs – It Costs You More than You Might Think
Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? It kind of does makes you feel like you’re getting away with something, doesn’t it? Or so you’d think. But you see, when it comes to free VPNs, it’s usually the service provider that’s getting away with something.
A handful of reputable VPN providers do offer a free version of their services. Typically, these no-cost tiers are quite limited as far as bandwidth, and there aren’t many bells and whistles associated with it. The free version is offered with the hope that you’ll try the service and become a paying customer. If you must choose a free VPN, then avoid what’s on our list below.
Unfortunately, there are many “free” VPNs that could end up costing you a tremendous amount in terms of time, money and headaches. Some of these services restrict you to an outdated VPN protocol like PPTP, which isn’t considered reliable by any security professionals. You won’t get any kind of strong encryption with this protocol, leaving you vulnerable to a world of problems.
Any VPN that is provided at no cost to customers must drive revenue somehow. If they don’t take money from the public, then they must get it elsewhere. With this business model, the profits usually come from selling the browsing habits of their users. Essentially, the VPN shares user data with firms in the marketing world.
Some of these disreputable VPNs will give your email address to business partners or unknown third parties. These other companies can then use your email address for all sorts of nefarious purposes like cryptojacking, ransomware, phishing and sending spam emails.
Still other VPNs will insert things like web beacons, tracking pixels and cookies in your system. This makes it possible for the VPN, and the companies that pay the VPN to insert these trackers, to track your web traffic and use it for advertising purposes.
Just look at this disclosure from the VPN called Betternet:
Remember, you get what you pay for. If you want to protect your passwords, then you look for the best password management software you can afford (they’re all pretty cheap). If you want true privacy and anonymity online, then you look for a reasonably priced VPN.
2. Fake VPNs – Claims that are Just too Good to Be True
Some companies advertise themselves as a VPN service, but they don’t actually provide even the basics. Of initial concern is that they frequently don’t bother to encrypt your Internet traffic. This means that everything you do online is exposed to your ISP, third parties, the government and hackers.
In addition, a VPN that’s a fake may inject malware into your system. With this software in place, the VPN is able to use the data they collect from your online habits to send you targeted ads and spam email. They could hijack your accounts, lock up your computer with ransomware or steal your banking information and other private data. It pays to review the cyber security risks existing today; be on the lookout for any new attack vectors that hackers or bad actors use to infiltrate systems.
When a VPN isn’t genuine, they may make your computer part of a botnet. A “botnet” is a series of devices that are Internet-enabled. Each is infected with malicious software and can be used and controlled by a third party without the owner’s knowledge. This means that the VPN can now sell your bandwidth to any buyers.
A VPN that’s run by crooks may also keep all of your personal data so that they can sell it to someone else.
Wait a minute. Aren’t you using a VPN to prevent your ISP and others from tracking your online movements and selling your info? Don’t fall for a VPN that’s really a con.
3. Lifetime Subscriptions – It’s not Your Lifetime, It’s Theirs
A handful of VPN providers offer a “lifetime” subscription to their services. The cost typically is surprisingly low. When projected over a “lifetime,” it certainly sounds far less expensive than paying for a VPN in one- or two-year increments.
However, many of these lifetime subscriptions just aren’t worth the cost. Untrustworthy VPNs frequently cancel these contracts after just one or two years. Others will collect your data and sell it to advertisers and unknown third parties.
Sometimes, people who sign up for a lifetime subscription find that they are bombarded with ads whenever they go online. Moreover, they frequently are redirected to third-party websites that they don’t want to visit.
Keep in mind that a VPN promising a lifetime subscription is likely referring to their company’s lifetime, not yours. Some of these nefarious VPNs exist only for a couple of years, collecting as many subscriptions as they can before disappearing into the night.
View all lifetime offerings with a grain of salt.
4. Five, Nine and 14 Eyes Surveillance – The UKUSA Agreement
You may have heard of the international surveillance alliances known as the Five Eyes, the Nine Eyes and the 14 Eyes on the news. Essentially, the member nations of these alliances have agreed to work in concert to amass and share surveillance data. It’s a bit like having a global spy agency looking over your shoulder every time you log onto the Internet.
When a VPN is headquartered in a country that is a part of one of these alliances, then it is reasonable to assume that anything that users do online while using that VPN is going to be subject to government spying. While the Canadian government may be prevented from taking certain spying actions against its own citizens without due process, the same may not be true for the U.S. or Australia. If American or Australian spies get their hands on some interesting data, they’ll share it with the Canadian government. That could put Canadian citizens in hot water.
Basically, VPNs that are located in these jurisdictions may be legally required to record certain logs and to share this information with authorities. It makes sense to choose a VPN that is not headquartered in a 14 Eyes country to ensure a true “no logs” experience.
Infamous VPNs That You Shouldn’t Trust
Certain VPNs have made names for themselves for all of the wrong reasons in recent years. While some have since folded, others continue to operate. Learning about some of these VPNs and the scams that they used may help you to identify other nefarious players in the marketplace. We’d leave you a link to their sites for reference—but they are just terrible 😟. So we’d rather not.
With malicious software embedded in the code, tracking libraries and leaks of IP addresses, Betternet certainly does not live up to its name.
Betternet is offered for free. For people who have been paying attention to this article, that is a huge red flag. When customers notice strange things happening on their system after using Betternet, they contact the company for customer support or technical advice, but they don’t receive the assistance they are looking for. That’s because Betternet isn’t really there to provide reliable VPN services. They exist simply to gather your data and sell it to the highest bidder.
Archie VPN is infamous for its tendency to spread malicious software. Many users have even gotten a virus while using Archie. Once again, this is a purportedly free VPN, and it still appears on the Google PlayStore sometimes. Don’t take a chance if you see it.
Advertised as a free, unlimited VPN, using this service could cost you big time. It’s known to infect systems with a nasty Trojan in addition to malicious software, viruses and spyware. It’s still possible to download CrossVPN, but it is definitely not recommended.
Flash Free VPN
On the surface, this seems like a pretty good deal. You get unlimited bandwidth for free. However, this purported VPN wants total access to your phone, going well beyond what it reasonably needs. The ads are incessant on this service too, which is annoying. It’s important to note that this app is flagged as malicious software in numerous jurisdictions.
WiFi Protector VPN
Plagued by accusations of failing to adequately protect the consumers who choose their service, WiFi Protector is a bad gamble. Customers have made accusations of spyware and adware. If you want to keep your online experience anonymous, look elsewhere.
How to Avoid VPN Scams
It’s vital to do some sleuthing to find out where the VPN is headquartered. Get beyond the 14 Eyes countries to ensure that your privacy is fully protected.
Additionally, look for a VPN that is upfront about using top-quality VPN protocols like OpenVPN. That way, you can be certain that your web traffic is being properly encrypted.
It’s also critical that you be willing to pay for a VPN. Maintaining high-quality servers takes money, but you want a VPN that uses great servers. In this game, you get what you pay for.
If you want to protect yourself online, then it’s essential that you use a reputable VPN service like NordVPN. Unfortunately, nowadays, many VPN providers are more interested in selling your personal data than they are in protecting it.
By identifying the scams on this list, you can avoid them and make a wise decision. Just always remember, if they don’t have a product they can actually make money from, then you probably are the product.
Q: Can you trust a free VPN?
A: Rarely. A free VPN is not offered by a charitable organization. They must make money. This means that you’ll be bombarded by ads and be at risk for having your data and online habits being sold to the highest bidder.
Q: Can a VPN provider see traffic?
A: It’s possible that VPN providers could see your web traffic, but the good ones have no interest in doing so. In fact, they take pains to avoid seeing your online activities.
Unfortunately, nefarious VPN providers not only spy on your web traffic they also infect your computer with viruses and malicious software. Your data gets sold to third parties, and you can never be certain who else might be using your bandwidth. Only use reputable VPNs to ensure that these problems don’t arise. For extra protection, consider browsing using private search engines.
Q: Can VPNs steal data?
A: The reputable providers won’t, but many free or otherwise untrustworthy VPNs will. The people who operate these companies are only out to make a profit, and they don’t mind stealing.
As we will discuss, governments are concerned about their image. At the same time, those in power want to protect their power. So how do they strike the balance? They do so by playing with semantics. How so? The terms filtering, shut down, blocking, and censorship mean the same thing from the point of view of the end user.
Basically, the idea is that there’s some part of the Internet that you cannot access. However, to governments, policymakers, and activists each term carries a different connotation. The term “filtering” seems gentle and mild. In reality, the term “censorship” seems more Orwellian in nature as you will soon find out in this article.
Throughout this guide, we will use the four terms intermixed. But for the sake of this guide, they all mean the same thing—a part of the Internet cannot be accessed.
Governments Want to Keep their Glory
The list of countries that ban websites is a who’s who list of authoritative regimes. Prominent on these lists feature names like North Korea, Yemen, Turkey, and Iran.
While the majority of the world enjoys unrestricted access to the Internet, including the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the above mentioned countries are so concerned that their citizens might say something negative about the government that they prevent them from using social media and visiting other sites that the government deems dangerous.
These governments are suspicious of their citizens. Something as simple as using a GPG signature for encryption is seen as a threat to the state.
Unblocking Websites – #1 Solution, Get a VPN
Simply put, a VPN creates a connection between your electronic device, be it your computer, tablet, or smartphone, to another computer in a different part of the world known as a server. This encrypted connection allows you to surf the Internet while your IP address is hidden, using the VPN server’s IP address as a mask. So, if you are in China, but you are connected to a VPN in London, it appears as if you are in London. This gives you access to content that you would not usually be able to access.
There are a number of VPNs on the market. Many of them offer their services for free. Some free VPNs can be dangerous because they either lack proper encryption and VPN protocols, or they are used as a tool to gather your personal information and then sell it to marketers. Remember, the encrypted connection, or the secure tunnel that allows you to pretend like you are in a different part of the world, is also the same VPN tunnel that all of your Internet traffic is going through. If the VPN that you use is not trustworthy, they could do whatever they want with your private information.
We have reviewed countless VPNs and have selected two that we feel are hands down the best of the bunch. They are NordVPN and ExpressVPN.
Our Number One Pick: NordVPN
NordVPN is our top recommendation. This VPN gives you access to more than 5,200 servers around the world. You have the ability to connect six devices simultaneously. NordVPN offers additional features, including leak protection as well as obfuscation to get around software designed to block VPNs.
Their specialized servers, including double VPN servers and tor-over VPN servers, improve your anonymity and make getting around geo-blocking a snap.
- Double hop VPN servers
- Live chat support
- 30 day money back guarantee
- Provides access to geo-blocked streaming services like Netflix
- Connection speed sometimes fluctuate
NordVPN is a touch more expensive than some of the other paid VPNs. However, they offer a considerable amount of value for what you get.
- On a month by month basis, you will pay $11.95.
- If you pay for one year at a time, you will pay $83.88 a year, the equivalent of $6.99 per month.
- If you pay for two years at a time, you will pay $95.75, the equivalent of $3.99 per month.
- Their most popular plan is a three-year plan. You pay $107.55. This breaks down to $2.99 per month for three years.
All of their plans come with a 30 day money back guarantee. You can pay using credit cards, cryptocurrencies, as well as other forms of payment.
NordVPN is one of the few VPN services that has been verified to have absolutely no logs. They have been audited by accounting firms that verify their no logs policy. They do not store IP addresses, Internet activity, or traffic logs.
We strongly feel that NordVPN is the best VPN service for getting around geo restriction blocks and other techniques used by governments to prevent people from accessing the Internet. Check out our full NordVPN review.
Our Number Two Pick: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. As such, it is protected by the privacy laws designed to cover businesses and individuals operating there. This means your privacy is protected. ExpressVPN has more than 3,000 VPN servers. They offer their clients 160 VPN server locations spread across 94 countries.
A short while ago, ExpressVPN updated their apps for all of their platforms. The result was improved connection speeds, improved reliability, and a better layout.
- Fastest VPN service that offers superior encryption
- Secure connection
- Works in China
- A large number of servers and server locations
- Allows P2P
- Three device limit
Price is a big factor to watch out for when choosing a VPN, ExpressVPN markets itself as a premium service and as a result, is offering their services for a lot more compared to another premium service like NordVPN.
- $12.95 per month if you pay per month
- $8.32 per month billed at $99.95 per year
- $9.99 per month with a six month contract billed $59.95 every six months
ExpressVPN allows you to pay with credit card, PayPal, cryptocurrency, as well as a host of other forms of payment.
All of their plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Time and time again, ExpressVPN has proven itself trustworthy when it comes to keeping customer’s privacy. As such, their logging policy is one that is often sought after by many people looking to get released from the eyes of the goverment.
One of the better-known examples took place in December 2017. Authorities in Turkey seized ExpressVPN’s servers. They wanted to get customer data. Authorities were not able to obtain any customer data from ExpressVPN’s servers because they had no logs.
ExpressVPN will not store:
- Browsing history
- DNS queries
- Traffic destination
- IP addresses
If for some reason NordVPN does not work for what you want, ExpressVPN is a quality service that has proven itself to be trustworthy. We give them our full recommendation. Check out our full ExpressVPN review.
Other Ways to Unblock Websites
Although a VPN is the most effective solution, it may not be for everyone. Here are some other ways to unblock websites (All of the solutions here may work, but they all fall out on a few major things that a VPN service provides).
A proxy is going to work a lot like a VPN in that it will give the appearance that you are surfing the web from a different location. What proxy servers do not offer is encryption. So while you may get around geo-blocking, there is no guarantee that your traffic is safe from prying eyes. In fact, the site most likely knows that you are using a web proxy, specially if you are using one without encryption.
Take for instance, Netflix. They have developed a system to block your access to their streaming service when their system detect that you’re using a proxy to bypass restrictions. This is when the dreaded Netflix proxy error shows up:
This is another case of why proxies can’t really always solve the problem. For a few websites only filled with text information, proxies could work. But in the case of streaming sites like Netflix, it is best to use a VPN to gain access to them.
Replacing Your DNS Server
If you’re using Open DNS, you may be able to bypass attempts to filter out certain websites. To do this, use of following instructions:
- Go to Control Panel
- Find Network and Sharing Center
- Click the name of the Network Connection you are using
- When the next window pops up, click Properties
- Highlight Internet Protocol Version 4 TCP/IPV4
- Select Use the Following DNS Address preferred DNS 22.214.171.124 alternate DNS 126.96.36.199
Since the use of Internet Protocol Version 6 – IPv6 is becoming more popular, you may want to make the same changes there. Perform all the same steps as before, but highlight the Internet Protocol Version 6 and click properties.
Change your Computer’s DNS server addresses:
- Preferred DNS server: 2620:0:ccc::2
- Alternate DNS server: 2620:0:ccd::2
There are a number of reasons why governments prevent their citizens from having free access to the Internet. The following are the four most popular.
Why Do Governments Censor Websites?
There are many reasons why governments censor content on the internet. Often, these reasons are summarized by saying: “to preserve the state of national interest“. Essentially, it’s a way for these powers to remain in control, keep the local population ignorant and prevent any revolution from starting with a single idea (After all, everything big starts with a single idea). It’s a state of mind where the only God that you know is a
5-inch 5-foot fat man who talks a big game, but leads a country using hunger and fear as the driver.
Of course, not all nations operate this way. While their reasons may be different, in the end, it still inhibits a nation’s freedom of speech and freedom of opinions. Take a few minutes to go through the main reasons why censorship still occurs in the 21st century,
Afraid of Revolution
The “Arab Spring” that started in northern Africa and spread through much of the Arab world was able to grow as quickly as it did thanks to the Internet.
When repressive governments see these types of things happening, they become afraid. They realize that unhappy citizens can use the Internet to quickly organize riots and mobs. So these governments will block social media networks, hoping to prevent people from communicating with each other during times of unrest.
Protecting a Country’s Image
All countries are concerned about their image. They guard their image better than the best home security system guards the home of a rich man. They recognize that their image impacts the way they are treated by other nations. Even countries that are now thought of as beacons of freedom, like the United States, tried to control their image during times of unrest, such as during the civil rights movement. Image-conscious countries today like China and North Korea strictly control Internet use as a way of protecting their reputations and hiding the reality of internal conflicts.
Politicians Want to Keep Power
Regardless of the country, incumbent politicians want to stay in power. Recently, in Benin, the Internet was severely throttled in what many felt was an attempt by the incumbent power to rig the elections.
In many cases, this is done with the goal of preventing minority groups from organizing counter movements or preventing minority groups from showing evidence of brutality aimed at preventing them from voting.
Grounds of Morality
A number of countries around the world block websites that the government deems to be immoral. For example, just a few years ago, India ordered their ISP to block more than 850 adult websites with the goal of protecting moral decency. On the same grounds of morality, India tried to ban social media sites Facebook and Twitter because they felt that the sites refused to take down offensive content.
What Are the Tools That Governments Use to Block Websites
There are a number of tools and tricks that governments use in order to “protect” their citizens from dangerous sites. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
The Great Firewall of China
There are approximately 800 million people in China who are online today. These individuals are unable to access YouTube, Facebook, the New York Times, or Google. If they try to investigate the 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square, events are presented in a way that is favorable to the government. Believe it or not, there was even a time when Winnie the Pooh was not able to get around the Great Firewall of China.
The Great Firewall of China is an effort between government monitors and telecommunication companies designed to enforce the state’s rules. Because of its success at banning the Internet, China has become a model for repressive governments around the world.
The Golden Shield Project is a database surveillance system that allows China to record the Internet actions of each one of its citizens. The government employs 50,000+ people whose sole job is to bar websites the government disapproves of and filter out content that the government deems harmful.
China controls all eight of the ISPs in the country. They also control the 10 international Internet gateways that connect China to the rest of the world.
A favorite tool of the Chinese government is IP blocking. This is an easy technique to implement. Routers in China are given a list of undesirable IP addresses. Routers will drop any packet that is going to one of the blocked IPs. This way, users cannot establish a connection. The downside of this, aside from the obvious censorship issues, is that there could be other websites that have the same IP address that will get blocked if it is on the same server.
If IP blocking is relatively easy to implement, keyword filtering is sophisticated. It uses an Intrusion Detection System, inspecting all traffic that goes through the ISPs that handle China’s incoming and outgoing traffic. If the traffic has a predefined keyword that is blocked, then the traffic is suppressed and the TCP connection is reset. The reset happens on both endpoints, which force a connection to close. Then the connection is blocked for up to one hour.
The Great Firewall of China is constantly evolving. There are probably a number of tricks and techniques that China is using to censor the Internet that are not known to the public at large. What we do know for a fact is that many of China’s methods have been borrowed by other countries, which have adopted these techniques to suit their own purposes.
Brazil Bans WhatsApp
In 2015, WhatsApp did not give the Brazilian government data that it wanted about an investigation it was doing. So the Brazilian government responded by banning WhatsApp’s IP address. The court ordered the blackout for 48 hours. The effect was immediately felt since over 90 percent of the country’s population uses the messaging service. It is especially popular among poor individuals who can’t afford to pay the ridiculous fees for phone services.
How did the Brazilian government accomplish this feat? Well, when you look at the Internet traffic, you see that all packets are lost for one node that has a private IP address of 10.223.238.77. With a simple IP block, the Brazilian government was able to get the routers armed with an IP backlist to drop all of the packets going to WhatsApp’s IP addresses.
Pakistan Creates an Internet Black Hole
There are two primary ways of censoring the Internet. You can emulate what Brazil did and configure the access control list to drop all the packets from a blacklisted IP. Or you can divert the traffic that’s going to the forbidden site to a black hole location by creating a more specific route that literally points to nowhere.
This is what Pakistan did. In February 2008, Pakistan was upset with YouTube because it did not take down what they felt were anti-Islamic videos. So Pakistan created a /24 routing table for YouTube. What this means is that instead of advertising its usual route of 188.8.131.52/22 in Pakistan, it was advertising the route 184.108.40.206/24. This is a little bit more of a specific prefix than the one that YouTube usually uses. So all Internet traffic that was supposedly directed toward YouTube in Pakistan got directed to nowhere.
Unfortunately, the/24 routing advertisement was leaked by mistake to an ISP that is in Hong Kong. Since the prefect announcement was not validated, the ISP in Hong Kong saw it as a preferred route and began spreading the information to its neighbors. In short order, two thirds of the Internet around the world was affected by this leaked routing table for YouTube’s IP.
The Tools Governments Use to Block the Internet
There are five common tools that governments use to block the Internet. Each one of these tools has distinctive features that control how they operate. The five tools are:
- IP and protocol based blocking
- Deep packet inspection based blocking
- Platform based blocking
- URL based blocking
- DNS based blocking
IP and Protocol Based Blocking
As we discussed with the Great Firewall of China, IP based blocking blocks all of the traffic to a set group of IP addresses. With protocol based blocking, low-level network identifiers, such as TCP/IP port numbers, will be used. Really, this type of blocking doesn’t block content, but it blocks IP addresses. This can be done by installing software on a computer. In many cases, it’s done for network security.
Another option is to throttle the traffic from a particular IP. If the government opts to do this, they are not completely blocking the traffic. They are going to make the speed of it go up and down. The goal is to get users so frustrated or to make the service seem so unreliable that the user walks away.
Whether we are talking about IP blocking or protocol based blocking, the device that does the blocking is in between the user and the content. For this reason, the entity that is doing the blocking needs to have complete control of the Internet connection between the source and the Internet user. Users who use the best VPNs, a technology designed to conceal the true destination of Internet traffic, would not be affected by this form of blocking.
Deep Packet Inspection Based Blocking
This is a more comprehensive form of blocking. There are devices between the end-user and the Internet that filter the content based on a set of criteria, including application types, the type of content, or certain patterns. This is an expensive form of blocking because all of the content that comes in has to be compared to the blocking rules of the DPI.
In order for DPI blocking to work, there has to be some signature information about the content available. It could be traffic characteristics, including transmission rates or packet sizes. It could also be keywords, file names, or the information that is specific to the content that one wants to block.
This makes DPI blocking an effective way of pinpointing certain types of content as long as the content can be identified using signatures. An example of this would be blocking all VoIP traffic. DPI blocking does not work as well when the goal is to block a particular file or documents that have particular keywords.
Also, DPI blocking is invasive because it requires examining all of the traffic that is sent to an end-user. Deep packet inspection blocking has worked well in countries like China when the goal is management and security enforcement. It does not work as well when the end goal is to create policy based blocking.
URL Based Blocking
A popular way of censoring the Internet is URL based blocking. This blocking can happen on an individual computer or can be set up in on network devices between the computer and the Internet. URL based blocking works with web-based applications. However, non-web-based applications, such as VoIP, are not affected by this form of blocking. With this process, a filter is put in place to intercept HTTP traffic. The URL of said traffic is then checked against a database that is stored locally or a service that’s online. Depending on the response, the filter will either block the connection or allow it.
When URL based blocking is used, the user is either completely blocked from visiting the banned site, or the user is redirected to a site that has a warning or a policy statement emphasizing why said site was blocked. In order for URL blocking to work, the ISP or the party that is responsible for the blocking needs to have the ability to control and intercept the traffic that travels between the end-user and the Internet.
This form of blocking will require that the platform owner and the entity that is requesting the blocking, in this case the government, work hand-in-hand. When an individual sends out a query and they live in a country where certain websites are banned, they will receive a different set of results as compared to the rest of the Internet. Content that is considered objectionable will be blocked.
Search engine blocking is only going to impact people who use said search engine and who are living in a geo location where the filter rules apply. It’s important to understand that this type of blocking does not filter out the content. It just filters out the pointers to the content. In other words, Google is not going to direct people to pages that are deemed inappropriate by the government, but all a person needs to do is switch their search engine or use other methods of finding content to gain access to the prohibited materials (Read more: Private search engines)
DNS Based Content Blocking
DNS content blocking is designed to control and examine DNS queries. The DNS resolver has two primary goals. The first is to perform DNS look ups. The second is to compare names against a blocked list. Imagine that a computer attempts to use a blocked name. After examining the computer’s DNS address, the server is going to return information that’s incorrect
It might redirect someone to an IP address that displays a notice saying that certain content has been blocked. Or the server might tell the computer that the content does not exist. Whatever the technique used, the effect is the same. The user is impeded from gaining access to content that the government feels is dangerous.
Really, there are a number of ways to try to get around geo-blocked content. Some of them require little bit more work than others, and some of them are little bit more consistent when it comes to the results that they produce. For our money, the best way to unblock websites is to use VPNs, like NordVPN or ExpressVPN. Both of these products have a stellar track record when it comes to removing restrictions on the internet imposed by the government, a school, or other institution.
We would love to hear from you. Tell us about the tools that you use to successfully unblock sites. Let us know in the comments section below. Also, check out our FAQs section for more information.
Q: How do I unblock site at work?
A: Your employer is understandably concerned about safety and how their employees make use of their time. Part of providing good security is seeing to it that employees use the best password manager. Part of seeing to it that employees make good use of their time may be blocking certain websites that are deemed time wasters or dangerous. However, if you have a valid reason for wanting to get around the restrictions your employer has put in place, we recommend that you use a VPN. VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN will allow you to get around blocked sites.
Q: How do I permanently block a website?
A: If you want to do this on your computer, you can set up a block at the operating system level. This is not difficult to do, and it will work for both average browsers and secure browsers.
- To do this, you will need to have administrator access to your computer. Then go to C:WindowsSystem32driversetc
- Find and double-click the file named “Host”
- Next, open Notepad. You are going to see the last two lines on your host file read: # 127.0.0.1 localhost” and “# ::1 localhost At the end of the file with 12 220.127.116.11 add the name of the site you want block. For example, if you want to block Google, you would do 12 18.104.22.168 www.Google.com. Repeat this step until you have added all of the sites you want to block.
- Close the host file, click Save, and restart your computer.
Q: Can schools block VPNs?
A: Yes they can. One of the most common ways is for system administrators to close ports that are most commonly used by VPN tunneling protocols.
Q: Does my internet provider know what sites I visit?
A: Yes. They absolutely do. Your ISP serves as the mediator between you and the Internet. Unless you are using a VPN like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, which not only make your traffic anonymous but also encrypts it, everything that you do can be monitored by your ISP.
One of the best ways to watch video content on the internet is to browse through the offerings on YouTube. It’s not just a viewing platform. It’s also the second largest search engine on the internet after Google, drawing more than 1.5 million logged in users per month, and an exponentially larger group of casual visitors. The video giant releases an estimated one billion hours of video feeds every day.
It’s a great way to see news broadcasts, opinion vlogs, and TV shows from any era or country, and you can get your daily fix of music or cute cat videos from thousands of sources. So, why do some governments, localities, and organisations block YouTube, and how can you get around this annoying habit of geo-blocking vloggers and video channels?
Unblocking YouTube: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
The internet was meant to be an open platform where people can freely share content and exchange ideas. The beauty of the internet is that there’s always a way for technology to get around unfair or oppressive practices and censorship. This is the same reason why many websites are also blocked.
If you want to unblock videos, here are four of the safest and most reliable ways to get around the restrictions. Nearly all of them operated by making it appear that your IP address is originating from another location outside of the restricted zone.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
One of the best ways to unblock videos and shield your activity is by using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs route all of your traffic through an encrypted tunnel to hide your location, IP address, and other identifying information. By tricking ISPs and networks into thinking you’re in another physical location, you can get around restrictions. Similar to how you can unblock streaming sites like Netflix.
This is a preferred choice because VPNs offer more than privacy. You go out of your way to find the best home security system, so why not protect the information that travels through your computer network or mobile device? The best VPN services harden their networks with military-grade encryption and have a strict no log policy. That means they have no data that governments or administrators can use to pinpoint your identity, activity, and location if even the VPN service is ordered to hand it over.
Nothing good is free. It’s worth investing in a paid service, as free VPNs still log user data, and many sell it to third parties to pay the bills. You can find a solid VPN by comparing prices, availability, and features.
What should you look for in a private network?
- Favorable location
- High number of servers, locations, IP addresses
- Good connection and download speeds
- No logging or data retention
- Good price/feature ratio
- Money-back guarantee
- High-grade encryption
- Compatibility with most platform and protocols
- Streaming/torrenting support
- Access to YouTube and other restricted platforms
- Killswitch for immediate disconnection
Need a few recommendations? We present two great VPNs that offer the best security, price, and features for private video viewing, anonymity and online safety. NordVPN and ExpressVPN.
NordVPN – #1 Pick for Speed and Security
NordVPN offers very high levels of security and privacy technology. The company is located in Panama, and offers outstanding protection and distance from intrusive government oversight and regulations.
Considered to be the best in security and encryption, NordVPN offers amazing speed and offers a 7-day free trial. NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- DNS leak protection
- Unblocks YouTube
- Advanced leak protection and obfuscation
- No log policy
- Mobile app
- Double-hop availability
- TOR-over-VPN availability
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- 24/7 live chat support
- CyberSec ad blocker
- User-friendly interface
- SSL authentication, military-grade encryption, supports AES-256, OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2
- Built-in killswitch
- Allows up to six devices
- Supports all major devices, browsers, and operating systems
- Speeds vary from region to region
Price: Nord’s monthly service is slightly cheaper than ExpressVPN at $11.95/mo. They also offer more options for long-term contract, with an annual plan for $6.99 per month, and two-year contract for $3.99 per month, and a three-year contract for only $2.99 per month. All subscriptions are payable up front, and they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Credit card
Number of servers: With NordVPN, you can gain access to YouTube through more than 5,100 servers located in 62 countries.
Speed: NordVPN was tested under similar testing criteria and uses. The top speed attained was 95.02Mbps with a server located in the UK. The slowest was a dismal 3.87Mbps from a server located in NY. The average was about 65.53Mbps.
ExpressVPN – Great Speed, More Expensive
This network is constantly vying with Nord for market dominance, and the two providers run next-and-neck on many fronts. Where it edges-out NordVPN is in speed.
The company is based out of the British Virgin Islands, a place that’s known for it’s lack of intrusive surveillance and data retention laws. It’s also out of the way of 5/9/14 Eyes nations oversight, spying, and information sharing.
- Unblocks YouTube
- No logging or data retention
- Large number of servers and locations
- Military-grade encryption, supports AES-256, OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2
- Fastest network
- Free trial
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- SSL authentication
- Mobile app
- Double-hop availability
- TOR-over-VPN availability
- 24/7/365 live chat support
- DNS leak protection
- Built-in killswitch
- Supports all major devices, browsers, and operating systems
- No phone number or physical address listed on website
- Higher price compared to other providers
- Only allows three devices
Price: This VPN offers a monthly pay-as-you-go plan for $12.95, and two contract plans. One is a six-month contract for $9.95 per month, and the other is an annual contract for $6.69 per month. Both subscriptions are billed the total contract amount up front, and the annual plan comes with three months of free service, for a total of 15 months.
- All major credit cards
Number of servers: ExpressVPN offers connections through more than 3,000 servers across 93 countries, with more being added every day.
Speed: Speed tests conducted on a range of servers in various location showed connection of 83.11 Mbps on the high end from a server in Amsterdam to 30.26 at the slowest out of Hong Kong. Test were conducted with a 100Mbps connection using simple browsing, gaming, streaming, and video playback.
Whichever you choose between the 2 heavyweights, you are guaranteed to enjoy the experience and safety of having a great VPN. Both companies are also considered the best VPNs for Netflix and the best VPNs to work with routers. So if you go with either one, you’re not just unblocking Youtube, you’re unblocking everything.
2. Use a Proxy Server
One of the more common ways of bypassing restrictions and unblock YouTube is by using proxy servers. Proxies route traffic through themselves when you sign in through the nearest server from the network you choose.
While this allows you to bypass blocks, most aren’t encrypted. That means the entity that denied your access can still monitor your activity. If you choose this route, make sure your webproxy has encryption included.
3. Download Direct
If you can access the platform, but you’re restricted from watching videos, you can always download them to your computer and view them offline. This can be done by using a browser extension like Download Helper (for Firefox), following one of these procedures, or selecting the built-in download feature on your YouTube mobile app. However, the mobile app requires you to buy a premium subscription to download video, and downloading video doesn’t solve the issue of the YouTube search engine itself being blocked.
You might also want to visit websites that offer Youtube downloads, as long as you have the full URL link to the video. It’s worthy to note that when browsing for viable downloading sites like this, you might need to shield yourself from prying eyes, from ISP and government oversight, as this is seen as something similar to torrenting, you might want to think about using the most secure browsers for such activities, and go to private search engines to anonymize your searches.
4. Install The Onion Router (TOR)
The Onion Router (TOR) is both a network and a browser that offers a lot of benefits. This platform is most infamously known as the only way to access the Deep Web and Dark Web, which makes it ideal for accessing other blocked or restricted websites. TOR is totally free and allows you to use anything the internet has to offer with anonymity. It works by routing your data through a series of nodes located in locations around the world rather than through encryption. Your activity is completely hidden while you’re logged onto the network, but it becomes visible again once you leave, even if it’s only long enough to check your email.
It will allow you to access restricted or blocked content, but the speeds are slower and depend on the quality, location, and number of the nodes routing the traffic. It’s generally not a good platform for streaming. For the best speed, just use a VPN. If security is your main concern, then use it in combination with a VPN, and install both directly on your mobile device or router.
5. Modify the URL
This procedure only works if you’re using a network that puts the main YouTube URL, Youtube.com, on a blacklist of restricted websites. It will not work on geo-blocked or government censored content. Simply use the secure https when you type the URL rather than http. Quite a simple solution, but it doesn’t work all the time. It’s still worth a try.
Why Do Governments and Others Block YouTube?
Sometimes, bosses and school administrators don’t want employees or students to watch videos while they’re supposed to be working or studying. It’s also a distraction if others can hear your video. Some content may not be appropriate for the viewer due to their age or the nature of the content. That’s why YouTube places age restrictions on adult content that you need to sign into an account and be over the age of 18 to view some videos.
Then, there’s the case of oppression and censorship in countries that tightly control what people within its borders can view or say. This extends to YouTube due to a large amount of political or religious video channels and commentators who use the platform to educate, inform, organize, or even offend. There are also a number of how-to videos that teach subjects or provide instructions for activities that might be considered dangerous to people or institutions.
It isn’t just bosses and oppressive regimes that block content. Popular TV shows and movies are also blocked due to licensing issues or to protect copyrighted materials. In Canada, they even block YouTube music and sports channels.
Through passive analysis, it’s possible, though not easy, for your ISP – or government spies – to discover that you’re watching videos related to:
- Certain medical conditions or health problems
- Specific political candidates or parties
- Videos related to resistance movements
- Videos related to substance abuse or addiction
This problem can be eliminated by accessing YouTube through a mechanism that masks your IP address, location, and other information that could be used to identify you and your location. You guessed it, through a VPN.
How Does Geo-Blocking Work?
Every computer or mobile device that accesses the internet has a unique IP address that’s used to identify the device and location. When you attempt to access YouTube from a location that places restrictions on it, like your office or school, or when you want to view video in a country where the platform is banned, the internet service provider used to access the internet detects that IP address and block your access (Read more: hide ip address).
There are also databases that map and collect IP addresses by country or region; this is how streaming platforms like Netflix sometimes know you’re using a VPN to watch blocked content by location and give you the dreaded Netflix proxy error. The access restriction can be set by an organization, service provider, government body, or by the content creator.
There are other methods that governments and others employ to block YouTube that go beyond geo-blocking users in certain locations.
Port blocking: Computer ports are numbered 1 – 64435, and act in the same manner as TV channels or radio stations. Port blocking is used to prevent network access by restricting access to certain ports. For example, network administrators routinely block TCP port 25, which is a preferred entry point for hackers.
Deep packet inspection (DPI): This is also called information extraction (IX) or complete packet inspection. It utilises software to analyzes headers and portions of packet data as they pass through inspection points to determine where the packet originated, where it’s going, and what’s in it. Through this technology, a government can even figure out if a packet of data has been re-routed from another location.
The protocol is part of a firewall configuration at the application layer, and it works like this:
- Packet contents are examined as the move through checkpoints
- The contents are evaluated using criteria set by the DNS server, ISP, or network
- If the packet meets the pre-determined criteria, the computer’s DNS request is rerouted away from a particular network or online service like YouTube.
- An error message will appear telling the user that the request is denied.
By performing this type of analysis, the filter can determine if the packet violates compliance protocols, detect spam or viruses, prevent intrusion, or block websites.
Name server seizure: When a company or government has control over the top-level domain server (TLD), which assigns the .com, .net, or .org at the end of a URL, they have control over your DNS address and domain name. They can use this power to block any domain name requests.
Autonomous system number (ASN) blocking: ASNs are a range of numbers assigned to internet service providers that relates to the corresponding range of IP addresses assigned to the service. Governments seeking to block certain websites can order or trick the ISP into assigning a smaller or larger number that falls outside of the parameters granted to that provider. This fools the network into identifying it as an illegitimate address and denying access.
What Countries Block YouTube?
Although this list can change as political climates and licensing requirements change, this infographic shows the countries where popular content sharing and social media platforms are banned or restricted.
Although there is more than one way to solve the problem, the best way to get around these geographic restrictions is still by using the best VPN around like NordVPN and ExpressVPN.
If it has ever been put on film, chances are good that there’s a YouTube video evidence somewhere. Whether you live in an oppressive country, your boss keeps you on a tight leash, or you can’t access content while travelling, there’s always a way to get around unfair restrictions, government censorship, and geo-blocked content.
The above solutions don’t just provide you with a way to watch your favorite content creators or video channels. Some also protect you by shielding your privacy and giving you a greater level of security. This isn’t just a convenience, it can also preserve your freedom.
Need a few quick answers? Here’s a brief FAQ regarding YouTube blocking and restrictions.
Q: Should I use a proxy server to unblock YouTube?
A: You can use this method to access YouTube, but it’s not the best solution. Not only do some proxies offer less protection than a VPN, the protection is only available while using that server. You also have to access proxies first to get to the blocked web content, and not all websites are accessible this way. VPNs and TOR are types of proxies that allow you direct access regardless of the restriction or location. You can gain additional protection from hacking or snooping by creating secure passwords for each account and installing the best password manager you can find to keep track of them.
Q: Are proxies safe?
A: Proxy servers offer you privacy by masking your IP address, but they don’t offer the security and encryption that you’ll get with a VPN. They also go through random servers, so you can never be sure about the security of each session. If you’re going to use one, make sure that you also have good security software and encryption on your computer or mobile device.
Q: Can I disable restrictions on the YouTube app for iOS?
A: The short answer is yes. But, the restriction must be disabled on each browser or device you use. It remains disabled until you enable it again, even if you sign out and someone else uses your device. If you’re concerned about kids viewing some content, turn the restrictions back on before giving your iPad or iPhone to your children to use. You can also use filters to block specific types of content.
Here’s how to disable restrictions:
- Locate your account icon on the top right of your screen and tap it.
- Select “Settings”
- Select “Restricted mode filtering”.
- Toggle restricted mode on or off
Some websites post YouTube content. To disable the restriction on your website, follow the same procedure after accessing the account admin settings.
Q: Do ISPs know the videos I watch on YouTube while using a proxy?
A: YouTube encrypts their content URLs to protect user data, but there are ways that ISPs can detect specific viewing patterns if not specific videos. This is partially due to how your web browser loads and replays video content.
- An encrypted channel is opened between your browser and YouTube to transfer data.
- Your browser requests and receives data packets of video that play at the speed and quality determined by the content uploader or viewer preference. Even if your information is encrypted, there’s enough information available for someone who’s looking for it to figure out what you’re watching.
Pop-ups, banners and auto-play video commercials seem to bombard people with increasing frequency these days.
In fact, it’s virtually impossible to browse the Internet without being constantly annoyed by ads.
You may have to watch a video advertisement before watching a video that you actually want to see on YouTube.
Pop-up ads seem to follow you wherever you go, and banner ads can be incredibly annoying as they may cover the content that you’re trying to view. In fact:
People find online ads annoying for many reasons
It can be frustrating enough to make you want to give up on the Internet forever. As that is not a particularly realistic solution, then a more sensible compromise must be found. That compromise is an ad blocker.
Some browsers come with an ad blocker now, but these are not always robust enough to eliminate most online advertisements. This means that you must find a plugin or other app that can do the job for you. The best ad blockers will vary based upon the online environments that you most frequently use. For instance, some ad blockers are more effective in YouTube than they are in Facebook.
This makes it necessary to determine the best ad blockers for Google so that you aren’t troubled by scripts as well as the best ad blockers for YouTube so that you can watch your favorite videos in peace.
Let’s take a closer look at what ad blockers are and how they work.
What Are Ad Blockers?
Like a reputable VPN, the best ad blockers are designed to help you preserve anonymity online. An ad blocker is essentially software that prevents advertisements from popping up or automatically playing on your browser. Some ad blockers are independent programs while others are an extension of a browser or operating system.
All ad blockers are designed to limit the number of advertisements that distract you online. However, some are more successful at this than others. Similarly, it may be helpful to know that some ad blocking software is only available on certain operating systems. Ad blockers that are appropriate for Windows aren’t necessarily compatible with Mac, and the same can be said for iOS and Android. This means that you must choose an ad blocker carefully.
How Do Ad Blockers Work?
Much like the way that a good VPN is capable of filtering out your IP address so that it’s not visible to prying eyes, an ad blocker shuts out certain content on websites based on specific filtering rules. Some of this ad blocking software allows users to create their own rules to filter out some ads while allowing others. For instance, users may be able to whitelist certain ads or advertisers.
Ad blockers typically filter two kinds of content. Communication blocking prohibits communication with ad servers. When an HTTP request is made, it is matched against the ad block filter list. If an element of the request matches the filter list, then it is blocked.
Ad blocking software also may use element hiding, in which certain content is hidden from view though it may have been loaded with the rest of the content.
Now that more and more Canadians are getting informed about their privacy rights, more are using the best VPNs to protect their privacy online. It’s about time to make that online experience less cluttered and distracting. Before your next marathon browsing or streaming session, take some time to uncover the best ad blockers for some popular websites.
Best Ad Blockers for YouTube
A Google subsidiary, YouTube is massively popular across a broad spectrum of the population. Estimates suggest that some 1.8 billion people use YouTube every month.
Most people search YouTube to find instructional videos, reviews or entertainment. Whole episodes of television shows may be found there, and it is possible for people to create their own YouTube channel to showcase their own talents and viewpoint.
Men mainly use YouTube in conjunction with gaming as this chart shows:
Women, on the other hand, are more interested in health and beauty, music and dogs:
The downside to using YouTube is the advertisements. You may not have to watch a commercial before every video, but it does seem pretty excessive. Fortunately, the best ad blockers for YouTube make it possible to watch videos for hours with nary a commercial to slow you down.
AdBlock is a browser extension that has really been making a name for itself in recent years. Compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari, AdBlock is easy to configure and it has preset filter lists. These lists make it incredibly easy to block the majority of online ads.
Users also will appreciate the convenient social media buttons and the malware filter. You additionally have the option of whitelisting certain websites or advertisers to help them keep their operations profitable.
AdBlock is one of the few blocking extensions out there that can successfully block ads on YouTube as well as a variety of streaming services. If you love viewing content online, then this could be the ideal solution for you. For the record, I personally have AdBlock.
AdLock is different from AdBlock in that it is not a browser extension. Instead, it is independent software that is designed to be installed on individual devices. This means that AdLock not only prevents advertisements from bothering you on YouTube and other websites but also keeps out ads on any apps that you use that connect to the Internet.
Accordingly, you can say goodbye to advertisements on Skype, BitTorrent, dozens of online games and a variety of other mobile apps. AdLock costs a bit more than $20 per year, and a 14-day free trial lets you figure out if it’s right for you.
Best Ad Blockers for Facebook
California-based Facebook is a giant in the social media world. People across the planet use this social networking website to connect with family, friends, co-workers and complete strangers. Most people have at least heard of Facebook, and upwards of one billion people use it on a regular basis.
In fact, Pew Research found that many people use Facebook several times every day:
With so many consumers using Facebook on a continuing basis, it comes as no surprise that businesses are anxious to advertise there. This can become an incredible nuisance for regular users, making it necessary to find the best ad blockers for Facebook.
An add-on for browsers like Opera, Safari, Chrome and Firefox, Ghostery blocks out advertisements and social media trackers. Of course, there are many extensions and plugins that will do this, but Ghostery manages to set itself apart from the competition thanks to its particularly robust database.
Moreover, Ghostery links users to privacy policies for individual websites and points them toward the available opt-out options. This makes it even easier for users to ensure that they are never troubled by ads that they do not want to see.
One of Ghostery’s newest innovations is their mobile-friendly Ghostery Privacy Browser. It’s available for Android and iOS devices so that people don’t have to be bothered by social media trackers no matter what device they use.
StopAd is one of the best ad blockers for Facebook because it is a system-level program that provides head-to-toe protection on all websites and apps. This software is not a browser extension. Accordingly, it is compatible with all browsers and systems, including Linux. StopAd actually is a perfect choice for people who just want to block all ads, all the time.
Right out of the box, users will find that everything unnecessary is blocked from their system including auto-play commercials, video ads, pop-ups and banners. StopAd also comes with a robust menu of options for online security and protection, something that is vital for any kids spending time online.
These protections include malware blocking and measures to halt data tracking. You also get coverage against cryptojacking and cryptomining. With 24/7 customer support, this is an excellent security package that also blocks ads.
Best Ad Blockers for Google
Based in Mountain View, California, there are few people in the 21st century who are not aware of Google. Of course, it likely is the most well-known search engine on the planet, but it also is a technology company that has a finger in many pies.
From email to navigation, Google is ubiquitous in modern life. Of course, all of that popularity translates to a great deal of ad revenue. The good news is that the best ad blockers for Google make it possible to take advantage of all of this technology giant’s services without having to be irritated by constant ads.
Stands Fair AdBlocker
Made by a company called Stands, Fair AdBlocker is limited in that it is only available for Chrome. Given how many people are using Chrome these days, this shouldn’t be too harsh of a limitation.
The developers behind Fair AdBlocker do not intend for it to block all ads, all the time, though you may configure it that way. Instead, they feel that certain ads should be allowed through, but only the ones that are specified by the individual user.
As you can see, it is possible to eliminate search ads from your online experience with Fair AdBlocker along with Facebook ads if you choose to do so. Fair AdBlocker further is a good choice because it protects your browser from malware in addition to several security and privacy threats. This enables faster streaming while using a VPN ensures that you do so securely.
Whether you use Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, Safari or Opera, Ad Muncher can help you to enjoy an ad-free online experience. This program is one of the oldest in the marketplace, having first launched for download in 1999. You can protect all of your browsers in just one easy download, successfully blocking ads and pop-ups in Google and beyond.
Ad Muncher does not perform so well with YouTube. Accordingly, it’s only recommended if you aren’t a fan or regular user of this platform. If Google is your main concern, then this download will perform like a champ. If you’re technologically savvy, you could probably adjust your settings until Ad Muncher works on YouTube as well.
In fact, Ad Muncher is a pretty solid choice for the tech-savvy individual who likes plenty of customization options. You’ll find prevention toggles for when you want to reload a webpage, and families may appreciate the program’s ability to censor adult content.
Adware and malware can be effectively nipped in the bud by Ad Muncher too, making it a smart choice for all-around privacy and security and one of the best ad blockers.
Choosing the Right Ad Blocker for You
All of the ad blockers mentioned here are effective and reputable. As noted, some of them perform better with certain platforms than they do with others.
Still, many of them are solid, all-around performers that work well across a variety of applications. Not only do they keep pop-up ads from annoying you but also they provide trustworthy protection against malware and various security and privacy threats.
When most people consider getting an ad blocker, they are doing so for reasons of convenience. However, the best ad blockers feature numerous robust protections.
They may prevent social media platforms from tracking your every online move or protect you from malicious software that intends to harm your system or steal your data. When seen in this light, it becomes clear that the best ad blockers are almost as fundamentally necessary as a well-regarded VPN like Surfshark or NordVPN.
When it comes to ensuring your family’s online security, an ad blocker is an absolute must. Choose one of the options available above to protect yourself and your data.
Are ad blockers illegal?
Ad blockers are not illegal, nor is it illegal to look for a way to block ads. The law holds that the computer belongs to the individual, and that this individual has the right to limit which scripts or other content appear on and have access to the system.
Do ad blockers slow down browsers?
Some people who use ad blockers do notice a bit of a slowdown when it comes to browser speed. This is mainly because the software must compare HTTP requests with the blocked list, which requires a bit of memory.
Still, the most reputable and effective ad blockers won’t slow down a system very much. It’s also worthwhile to note that speed issues may be evened out by the system not having to take the time to load fussy, bandwidth-jamming ads.
Is AdRemover legitimate?
A major story circulated through the media in 2018 regarding a number of fraudulent ad blocking software programs that became available through Google Chrome. You can read a synopsis of the issue at Newsweek.
AdRemover is definitely one of these suspicious apps that may do more harm than good by leaking your private information. Avoid AdRemover if you want to safeguard yourself. If your system already has AdRemover, delete it immediately and find another ad blocking software.
Is there an adblock for Android?
Android users have several options when it comes to blocking ads. These include Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, AdAway and AdGuard.
How do ad blockers work?
Ad blockers work by filtering specific content according to rules set by the program itself or by the user. As examples, the software may be told to prevent any Flash animation from loading or it may be instructed to block audio and video files from Microsoft Word. Some ad blocking extensions are included in default browser packages, but stand-alone software also is available.
Many of the most sophisticated versions of ad blocking software today contain blacklists of items that are blocked and whitelists of items that are permitted. Additionally, they may have filters for regular expressions that block anything that is labeled “ad.” This means that pop-ups, banners and auto-play ads will not be seen by the user.
Everyone likes free stuff. Free food samples at Costco or those tiny free perfume or cologne samples you get at the department store.
Free is good because well.. it’s free. So why pay for a VPN when you don’t have to?
With over 1000+ free VPNs on the Android store you’d think that there must be a giant lineup of companies looking to give away their services totally for free. What a nice bunch of companies.
Why would any app or company hire developers, pay for proxy servers, build and host a website to give you a 100% free product? We’re going to look at what is really going on and hopefully provide some clarity on why we never recommend 100% free VPNS.
✅ HINT – most of the products we talk about in this review offer free 30 day trials. ✅
Free vs. Paid VPNs 🕵️
What you pay for is what you get in most scenarios. If you want a free experience in anything there is usually a catch. For the best paid VPNs you get more for what you pay for and the risk of a data breach is lower.
In general – the actual features you get on a paid service will be better. A premium plan usually gets you more gigabytes and bandwidth to start. On top of that you will get easier to use interfaces, intrusion detection, prevention, and other fun features.
The costs involved in selecting a VPN are relatively low. Below you can see the actual cost of purchasing a VPN and it is very affordable.
Free VPNs go beyond not having as many features. They can put you at serious risk.
When you use a free VPN – you become the product.
They use you as a product in a few ways:
- They can install malware that can track your activity and steal your data. (Source)
- Most free VPNs will gather your data and then sell it. This includes all of your financial data. (Source)
- Seventy-five percent of all the Android VPN apps use third-party tracking software. (Source)
- 82 percent requested access to private data, such as user accounts and text messages. (Source)
This is the reason we didn’t include and free VPNs. There is no way to verify that they are reliable and trustworthy. Instead, we opted to show you the best cost-effective VPNs that can provide high level service. All of these VPNs also include a nice free trial to get your feet wet in the VPN world.
Free VPNs are not worth saving a few dollars over. You have an high chance of encountering negative consequences. Rather than going that route it is best to take advantage of free trials offered by regular VPNs. The best option, especially if you’re looking to save a little bit of money, is NordVPN.
The other option you have is bouncing between free trials on all of the different VPN services listed here. We don’t recommend this as it will be a headache and it is easier to just pay a few bucks to a reputable VPN service.
10 Best VPNs FREE VPNs in 2019
Rather than ranking the VPNs that will steal your information and take advantage for you we decided to outline the positives and negatives of different VPN services that offer free trials.
Below you will find information about features, servers, and how easy the service is to use.
1. Surfshark – The Best Free VPN
You may never have heard of Surfshark and that’s okay. The reason for that is because they’re the newest VPN service that we have reviewed on this website. For all intents and purposes, it looks like Surfshark is gunning to take over the VPN world.
Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- The best protocol for streaming with IPv6. Rarely get blocked out of Netflix due to using a VPN
- Able to torrent and P2P share unlike some other VPNs on the market
- No logging which means you never have to be worried they are selling your information
- Unlimited everything including connections, servers, IP addresses, and bandwidth
- Located in the British Virgin Islands which means no prying eyes from the government
- Best security and encryption available with IPv6, 256-bit AES encryption, 2048-bit DHE-RSA key exchange, and SHA512 authentication hash
- Kill-switch and other security features
- Accepts crypto and other mainstream versions of payment
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- WebRTC leak and DNS protection throughout the network
- Great pricing with long term plans only being $1.99 per month
- Speeds can vary from server to server
- Newer company so server base is still growing
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use Surfshark?
Anyone who can commit to a two-year plan that wants the best security and streaming options. (Read our full Surfshark review.)
2. NordVPN – Massive Network and FBI-Level Security
NordVPN is one of the most used VPNs today. There is a good reason for that as it is also one of the most highly regarded VPNs. It’s tough to have a conversation in general about the best VPN on the market without mentioning NordVPN.
NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN comes with P2P capability, a kill switch, Tor over VPN, smart DNS service, a dedicated IP, and SOCKS5 proxies. Their customer support is also fantastic at dealing with any issue that may come up with any of the features you want to use.
A few other features including CyberSec, which automatically blocks suspicious websites so that no malware or other cyber threats can infect your device. Additionally, no flashy ads will come into your sight and obfuscation which scrambles your traffic, preventing ISPs from throttling your speed when browsing on an encrypted channel.
With more than 5,000 servers worldwide in every major country, there is almost nowhere you can go with a server out of reach. On top of that, you can connect to six devices and use the service for Netflix.
At $2.99 per month, if you want to commit to a three-year, it becomes hard to justify the risk in using a free VPN. You spend a little over $100 and stop worrying about your VPN for three years.
The pricing structure is wacky and really leads you to a three-year plan. A one month plan comes in at $11.95.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use NordVPN?
Anyone who can commit to a three-year plan that wants a high-end service for a small amount of money. (Read our full NordVPN review.)
3. ExpressVPN – Fast Speeds and Complete Anonymity
At current count, ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries. It is almost impossible to go into a country with internet and not have access to one of their servers. ExpressVPN is a premium VPN service that delivers one of the fastest and most reliable VPN services around, they are one of the most trusted VPN solutions on the market with over 10 million satisfied customers.
ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee.
With unlimited data, 24/7 customer support, easy to use apps for all devices, split tunneling, speed tests, and no logging ExpressVPN really brings it with their features. ExpressVPN also gives you access to Kodi.
Residing in the British Virgin Islands is a major positive as they will never have to legally share data with the government.
ExpressVPN is a pricier option than the rest of the list but you do pay for what you get. One minor problem is that you only get three connections at once which can be limiting for a household.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is for people who don’t mind paying a little more for their VPN service to get top-notch performance. (Read our full ExpressVPN review.)
4. Windscribe – Strong Security with Ad Blocker
Reddit has raved about this service, noting its generous monthly bandwidth and user incentives (If you send a Tweet @WindScribe, you automatically receive an additional 5GB).
Try out the service completely free and if you love it and want to upgrade, you can with affordable plans. Currently, the cost sits at $4.08 per month if you purchase for a year.
Windscribe is free in USA, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, and Romania. They also offer a 3-Day Money-Back Guarantee or 10GB of Usage, whichever you hit first.
Since they’re nice enough to let people use their service for free, it comes as no surprise that Windscribe is a Canadian company.
Their free version of the software is pretty good and rather than making you their product they hope that you’ll love the service so much you will upgrade it.
Windscribe has some great features on their free service such as built-in firewall, ad blocking, and P2P capabilities.
You can only have one connection at a time which can be severely limiting.
Even though it is awesome that Windscribe is in Canada and even though they say they don’t log activity – the government can force them to hand over customer data.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use Windscribe?
Windscribe is for people that need a VPN for free and are open to upgrading. (Read our full Windscribe review)
5. TunnelBear – Unrestricted Streaming Support
One great thing about TunnelBear is their marketing. There are a lot of promos all over their social media that can be taken advantage of. One example is you receive a free gig if you @TunnelBear. Their mascot is also an adorably vicious bear.
Tunnelbear allows you to dip your hand into the honey for free if you use under 500 MB of data per month.
Obviously, the fact that they have a free plan is awesome. Take advantage of it to see if you would like to use TunnelBear long-term.
TunnelBear has over 900 servers and fast speeds. The best part of TunnelBear is that they are top-notch at circumventing geoblocking. It can let you watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere.
Since they only give you 500 MB per month to work with you will have to upgrade if you plan on using a VPN a lot and speeds tend to be low depending on your proximity to a server.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use TunnelBear?
TunnelBear is great for people who need to get around all geoblocking as well as want the opportunity to try the service for free. (Read our in-depth TunnelBear review.)
6. VyprVPN – Proprietary Security Features
VyprVPN has a unique plan that gives users two simultaneous connections, a variety of protocols, an encrypted messaging app and NAT firewall that blocks unrequested inbound traffic when you’re connected to VyprVPN. All this, totally free of charge.
VyprVPN offers a 3-day free trial when you purchase the service and a 30-day money back guarantee as well.
VyprVPN offers multiple protocols such as L2TP/IPsec that works by L2TP packets between endpoints being encapsulated by IPsec, OpenVPN that uses all of the encryption, authentication, and certification features of the OpenSSL library to protect your private network traffic as it transits the internet, PPTP and their very own Chameleon protocol which has been proven to get past most blocking attempts.
The biggest con against VyprVPN is the fact that they have been blocked by Netflix. If I can’t watch The Office then what has this all been about? What am I working toward?
Another big negative with Vypr is that it only lets you have two connections at a time which can be annoying when trying to access the internet and you want to do multiple tasks at once on different devices.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use VyprVPN?
VyprVPN is another great geoblocking VPN. While they have been blocked by Netflix in the past they do have a good reputation for getting past geoblockers. (Read our full VyprVPN review)
7. ProtonVPN – From the Makers of ProtonMail
ProtonVPN is one of the newer VPN solutions around, but they’re also one of the best when it comes to free VPN service. Proton AG is a group composed of Harvard scientists and die-hard advocates for privacy.
ProtonVPN offers free service with lower speeds in three different countries as well as a 30-day money back guarantee.
ProtonVPN was created by a group of Harvard scientists – whether that adds a stamp of approval or disapproval, we’re not quite sure. They have some of the faster free speeds on their free trial when compared to other free trials even though they are marketed as lower speeds against their paid service.
ProtonVPN has native clients for Android, Windows, macOS, and iOS. They also offer a command-line tool for Linux and support for routers.
The free service has no geoblocking optimization of P2P functionality which means you won’t be able to torrent.
Speeds aren’t as great on other options and as their free plan is available longer speeds will slow down further as more and more users jump on the service.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use ProtoVPN?
Only people looking for a short-term and free service.
8. Trust.Zone – Reliable, But…
Trust.Zone’s system-wide hardware isolation makes them one of the most reliable free VPNs of 2019. Their strict no logs policy is just one of the things that makes them a worthwhile solution.
Trust.zone offers a 3-day free trial. We wish this was longer.
Great features are available such as AES-256 default encryption, OpenVPN, L2TP over IPSec with 256-bit AES encryption, anti-virus, 200 IP addresses, a kill switch, P2P, and they accept Bitcoin. They also have system-wide hardware isolation which makes them more reliable than other services.
No chat or phone support so you will have to rely on their ticket system. Even though a ticket system isn’t ideal they do a good of responding to and helping users. C’mon Trust.Zone, this is 2019… chat support is mandatory customer service.
Free users can only use one device at a time and when you do pay you can only use three devices at the same time.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use Trust.Zone?
Trust.zone has high-level security and DNS leak protection which makes them one of the safer free options on the market. (Read our complete Trust.Zone review.)
9. Private Tunnel – Multiple Device Support
Private Tunnel is the commercial off-shoot of OpenVPN Technologies. With affordable plans that provide 100 to 500 GB, Private Tunnel has proven that they can roll with the big dogs and protect your anonymity online with their 128-bit AES-GCM encryption.
Private Tunnel offers a 7-day free trial.
Private Tunnel branched off from OpenVPN technologies making them industry veterans. This can provide peace of mind when using a free trial.
Their free trial gives you complete access to their software with data restrictions (which is not the case for all free VPN services on this list.)
Private Tunnel has known data leaks on their Mac version and a low number of servers.
They do have servers in Canada so the service can still be used by Canadians. Other countries aren’t so lucky.
Private Tunnel is also based in the US which means that Private Tunnel could be forced to give up user’s data.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use Private Tunnel?
Private Tunnel can be used for free by anyone, anywhere. But, it can only be used securely by PC owners — not Mac users, unfortunately.
10. Vanished VPN – Netflix Optimized Service
Vanished VPN is an Australia-based VPN service that’s ideal for those who are looking to access lots of Netflix content, particularly those who want access to Netflix libraries.
Vanished VPN offers a 3-day free trial.
Besides the coolest logo out of the bunch and my personal favorite name, Vanished VPN allows you to stream a lot content unavailable to Australians, and generally all non-Americans. Their geoblock optimization and cheaper plans are their best features.
Vanished VPN has slow recorded speeds and the signup and setup process can be confusing and difficult. There is a manual process involved that seems silly to go through with other options.
Ways to Save and How to Pay
Who should use Vanished VPN?
There isn’t much of a reason to use Vanished as the speeds are so slow.
Who Are You Going With?
There is never a good reason to use a free VPN. You may be itching to watch season 12 of Teen Mom through a VPN in some random country that has it but using a free VPN is never worth it.
Picking a VPN can be daunting but luckily there are a bunch of free trials and money back guarantees to take advantage of. A good strategy would be testing out a few and seeing how speeds are for you personally as well as making sure you like the interface.
Instead, there are many affordable options that come with free trials. Surfshark is our pick and it serves all of its users well. It will provide you with everything you need.
Which is the best free VPN?
No VPNs that are completely free should be used or trusted. Rather than risking your cybersecurity and all of your data you should take advantage of using a free trial with a reputable company. The best cheaper option is NordVPN.
What is the fastest free VPN?
A lot of free VPNs will boast fast speeds but none of them are going to have as solid of infrastructure as one you pay for. If you do find a fast one that compares to a regular VPN service it won’t compare in pretty much every other way. There are many cheaper speedy options.
Is there a free VPN?
It seems like there is a new free VPN every single day. Why is that? They want to get you on the VPN service and use your data to make money. They can sell your information to the highest bidder and just like that, you have become a product.
Are free VPNs safe to use?
Yes and no. Generally speaking, the VPNs we listed here are okay. However, most people looking for totally free VPNs are asking for trouble. As it turns out, nearly half of all supposedly-free virtual private network applications are owned by Chinese companies.
So no – they are not safe. Free VPN services still need to make money somehow. The way they do that is by taking advantage of you and this can be done in multiple ways without you even knowing. Some of the methods can be truly harmful.
What is the best free VPN for Netflix?
The best VPN for Netflix are many of the choices listed above. Our first choice is NordVPN. The service does have a free trial but you will have to pay after the trial. The good news is that NordVPN is relatively cheap and signing up won’t cost you much money.
What is the best free VPN for torrenting?
The best VPN for torrenting is similar to our answer for Netflix. Any regular VPN will allow you to do this and our rankings above can provide options such as NordVPN and Surfshark.
Are VPN services legal or are they illegal?
Yes, except in a few exceptions such as Iran. You can use a VPN in most places around the world. A few governments like China does not necessarily ban VPNs, they simply block the domain so you can’t download the VPN client and subscribe to the services.
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