VPN Detected Here's EVERYTHING you need to know

These days, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) play a crucial role in providing online privacy and bypassing geographical restrictions. 

According to Surfshark, 31% of people now use VPNs. Yet, as technology evolves, so do methods for detecting VPN usage, leading some websites and services to implement blocks. 

If you’ve come across a “VPN Detected” message, understanding the reasons behind it is essential. 

In this article, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about VPN detection, why it’s happening, how it’s happening and how you can get around it. 

Why do VPNs get detected and blocked?

There are several reasons why a website or streaming service may block a VPN. But the main reason is almost always concerning content licensing agreements and regional restrictions. 

These agreements stipulate that specific content can only be accessed from some geographical regions. Because a VPN allows users to bypass these geo-restrictions, they could access content in locations where the providers of that content don’t have the rights to broadcast it.

This can lead to severe implications in which the streaming service or website could get fined for making its content available in a location where it isn’t allowed to. To prevent that from happening, websites and streaming services block VPNs.

Another concern is the potential for fraud. With VPNs masking the user’s true location and identity, online platforms, especially e-commerce and banking websites, block VPNs as they can potentially be used to conceal fraudulent activities or breach terms of service. For instance, some promotions or pricing might be region-specific. Using a VPN to access these promotions from outside the intended region goes against the intent of the offer.

Furthermore, websites and services might block VPNs to ensure accurate advertising and analytics. Regional advertising and tailored content delivery are crucial for many online businesses. When users connect via a VPN, it can distort website analytics and undermine targeted advertising strategies, as the actual location and preferences of the user get masked.

VPN Detected Here's EVERYTHING you need to know

How do VPNs get detected?

With the increasing use of VPNs, many platforms and services have started detecting and sometimes blocking VPN traffic. They do it using a number of different methods:

  1. IP Address Blacklisting: The most common method. VPN services use specific IP addresses for their servers. Once these IPs are recognised as belonging to a VPN, they can be blocked. Popular streaming services, for instance, maintain and regularly update a list of known VPN IP addresses and block access from those IPs.
  2. Deep Packet Inspection (DPI): DPI involves analysing the data packets sent over the network to determine their nature and origin. By examining the data packets, advanced firewalls can distinguish between regular web traffic and VPN traffic. Once identified, these packets can be blocked or throttled.
  3. Port and Protocol Analysis: VPNs typically use specific ports and protocols, like OpenVPN using TCP or UDP on port 1194. Monitoring for these particular ports or protocols can hint at VPN usage. Some platforms may choose to block or throttle traffic on these ports.
  4. Traffic Analysis and Timing Patterns: Regular browsing and VPN traffic sometimes exhibit different data flow patterns. By analysing the volume, frequency, and timing of data transfers, it may be possible to infer the use of a VPN, even if other detection methods fail.
  5. DNS Leak Detection: If a user’s DNS requests (which help translate domain names to IP addresses) are not routed through the VPN, it can “leak” the fact that they’re using a VPN. Some websites can detect where the DNS request came from and compare it with the user’s IP address. If there’s a mismatch, it can indicate VPN usage.
  6. WebRTC Leak Detection: WebRTC is a protocol used for real-time communication apps in web browsers. However, it can be exploited to detect a user’s real IP address, even when using a VPN. Sites can use this method to determine if a user is hiding behind a VPN.
  7. Account Behavior Monitoring: Platforms like Netflix or online banks might monitor account access patterns. If an account frequently switches between vastly different geographic locations in a short span of time, it can hint at VPN usage.

How to fix VPN detected

When you encounter a “VPN Detected” warning or restriction, it means a website or service has identified and blocked your VPN connection. This is common with streaming services, banking sites, and geo-restricted platforms. However, several methods exist to bypass these detections and continue using your VPN seamlessly.

One easy fix is to change your VPN server. Think of this like changing lanes on a highway. If one lane is blocked, you can often move to another one to keep going. VPN companies have many servers in different places, so if one is blocked, another might work.

Also, the type of VPN you use can make a difference. VPNs have different “styles” of connecting, called protocols. Some of these are easier for websites to spot than others. Switching to a different protocol in your VPN settings can help you get around “VPN Detected” messages.

Sometimes, small bits of your real connection info, or “IP,” might leak even when connected to a VPN. These are called IP leaks, and online services can spot these little mistakes to figure out you’re using a VPN. There are tools online to check for these leaks, and if you find any, contact your VPN provider for advice.

We recommend considering a Premium VPN when going online. While free VPNs can be tempting, they often use shared servers that many websites/streaming services have already blocked. Premium VPNs usually have more servers, better technology, and are often more reliable at getting around VPN blocks. Here’s the best VPNs we’ve tested:

Our Pick 🥇

ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN Favicon
  • TrustedServer RAM-only servers for extra security
  • Servers in over 100 countries worldwide
  • Specialised Lightway protocol

Buy now for $6.67/month

Highly Recommended 🥈

NordVPN
NordVPN favicon
  • Enhanced Double VPN encryption
  • Proprietary NordLynx protocol
  • CyberSec Ad and threat blocker

Buy now for $3.99/month

Runner Up

PureVPN
PureVPN Favicon
  • Dedicated/optimised video streaming
  • Ozone data protection service
  • Option for a personal dedicated IP address

Buy now for $1.96/month

Robust encryption

Private Internet Access
VPN Logos Small 0000 PIA Logo
  • Install on an unlimited number of devices
  • Independently audited no-logs policy
  • Dedicated IP options

Buy now for $2.03/month

Unlimited connections

Surfshark
Surfshark Favicon
  • NoBorders mode provides services in restrictive regions
  • Supports simultaneous connections on multiple devices
  • Camouflage Mode hides VPN use even from your ISP

Buy now for $2.49/month

Consequences of using a detected VPN

As VPNs grow in popularity, many online platforms and organisations have begun detecting and sometimes penalising VPN access. If your VPN gets detected, there are a number of potential consequences that you could face.

  1. Blocked Access: One of the most immediate consequences of using a detected VPN is that the service or website may block your access entirely. For instance, some streaming services like Netflix or Hulu have systems in place to detect VPNs and will not allow users to stream content if they’re detected using one.
  2. Account Suspension: Some platforms might not just stop at blocking your access for a particular session. They may suspend or even terminate accounts that are frequently found accessing through VPNs, especially if their terms of service prohibit VPN usage.
  3. Slower Internet Speeds: In cases where VPN usage is detected but not outright blocked, the service provider might throttle the user’s internet speeds, making activities like streaming, gaming, or downloading much slower.
  4. Loss of Anonymity: The primary purpose of using a VPN is to maintain privacy and anonymity online. If a VPN is detected and compromised, your online activities can potentially be linked back to your real IP address, negating the VPN’s primary purpose.
  5. Legal Repercussions: In some countries, the use of a VPN to bypass geo-restrictions or access banned content is illegal. If detected, users might face legal consequences, including fines or even imprisonment in extreme cases.
  6. Compromised Security: If a VPN is detected and targeted by a malicious actor, there’s a chance they could attempt to exploit it. While good VPNs are secure and have measures in place against attacks, there’s always some risk involved, especially with less reputable VPN providers.
  7. Financial Implications: For those using VPNs to access cheaper deals or prices in different regions (like cheaper flight tickets or software licenses), detection can lead to the cancellation of the transaction or even blacklisting by the vendor.
  8. Limited Features: Some online platforms, when detecting a VPN, don’t block the user entirely but restrict access to certain features or content. This can be frustrating for users who rely on these features.
Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.

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