Internet access has been restored but it seems the lockdown on social media is still going strong and though earlier you could access the social media sites along with YouTube and WhatsApp if you had a VPN installed it seems that government has taken things further by blocking most VPNs as well which means most citizens voices have once again been taken back from them.
Wait they blocked VPNs???
Though VPNs usually made us feel invincible and extremely safe, governments can take extra steps and ban even VPNs. They are not as invincible as we thought after all.
So how exactly do VPNs get blocked? Well, If I’m being totally honest I’m an absolute novice when it comes to VPNs and the ones I use usually only have one simple button prompting me to “Connect”, so I’ve never felt the need to actually understand how it works. Fortunately, the internet has bucketloads of information and it wasn’t too hard to polish my VPN knowledge and now I understand how it works…
VPNs are blocked in the following ways:
- IP Blocking: This is regarded as the most common method for blocking VPNs. Companies (or in this case the hurumend) can build lists of IP addresses associated with VPN servers. In case you’re detected using an IP associated with a VPN service, you will be blocked from accessing.
- Port Blocking: Sometimes, a firewall is used to block the ports (for example, 1194 (UDP), 4500 (UDP), 1723 (TCP), etc.) which are used by VPNs.
- DPI (Deep Packet Inspection): VPNs are sometimes shut down by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). A DPI locates the data that is used by VPN protocols, and it also causes the ISP to tell where the traffic is coming from (YouTube, VPN, Skype, etc.). Even though all VPNs encrypt your data, it is possible to tell what software was used to encrypt the data.
So what can be done in the face of such blocks? Well, there are a number of hacks you can attempt in order to finesse the networks and these include:
Switching to a different VPN
Most paid/popular VPNs seem to offer more “advanced features” that allow you to access the internet from specific locations and some of these have the ability to customise ports and allow you to browse freely. But the popularity of these VPNs makes them easy targets so one of the things you can do is download a less popular VPN in the hopes that it isn’t among the list of blocked VPNs. The problem with this method is that it’s a bit hit and miss and you may download 3-4 VPNs to no avail. What proves that it works, however, is the fact that I’m using the Opera browser for Windows and at the time of writing I’m still tweeting freely if I turn on the built-in VPN in that browser. Downloading Opera browser for Windows might be a good idea right now.
Social media is once again inaccessible in Zim even to people using basic VPNs on their phones. Luckily enough the browser I'm using (Opera for Desktop) seems to have a VPN that's better configured than most so I still have access #SwitchBackOnZW #SwitchOnZW
— Fari (@FariM9) January 16, 2019
Change the port number
According to TechNadu, you can also change the port number:
TCP Port 443: Whenever you access a website that requires you to enter important information, like your credit card account, your Internet connection uses the port 443 (used by HTTPS), which is the standard encrypted protocol. If you change your port number to 443 on your VPN software, you will be able to access most websites very easily. This port is almost never blocked because online shopping or exchanging of important information is not possible without this port. Port 443 is also much harder for websites to discover by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). The option to change port number is available in almost all VPN software.
Most of these methods are pretty difficult but the easiest among all of these for me was just downloading Shadowsock and proceeding. Of course, you can do the more technical bits but even I haven’t figured out how to go about those methods…