What exactly is an obfuscated VPN? And why are they important?
Obfuscated VPN servers are specialist servers that hide the fact that you are using a VPN by making it appear as normal internet traffic. These servers shouldn’t be confused with double VPN, although there are similarities.
The exact definition of obfuscation is ‘the act or an instance of making something obscure, dark, or difficult to understand’ which is almost exactly what this feature provides.
We’ll go through how it works, which VPNs offer this, and much more.
Let’s dive in.
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How does obfuscated VPN work?
In simple terms, obfuscated VPN servers (also known as Stealth or Camouflage modes) work by masking any VPN usage and making it look like HTTPS traffic instead.
The way VPNs go about this will all be slightly different and include alternate processes but the end result should always be the same. Most commonly used with OpenVPN but it is possible to use other protocols that will require a more hands-on approach. Obfuscated VPNs also work to restrict reverse engineering in programs making it much harder for hackers or bad actors to access the metadata.
In more complex terms, in order to get around firewalls that block OpenVPN and Deep Packet Inspection, obfuscation would remove any VPN data from the OpenVPN packet Header thus making it almost impossible to tell that it’s a VPN data packet. Obfuscation also assigns Port #443 which is used for HTTPS traffic which again makes the traffic appear as if it’s normal.
When would you need obfuscated VPN?
In the current age of uncertainty that the vast majority of us have towards privacy, it’s feasible for anyone to use an obfuscated VPN but some have more reason than others.
Several countries such as China, Iran, Russia, and the UAE all have their own internet censorship and restrictions and VPNs are no exception.
However, it’s not just countries that impose limitations on internet activity that may need obfuscated servers.
Countries that have banned VPNs
As mentioned, countries such as China and Russia are constantly looking to ban, block, and restrict freedom of speech and press. How they do that is ever-evolving but even as of this week it’s being reported that China is stepping up its attempts to block connections using safe and encrypted protocols.
This is where obfuscated servers come in and can be hugely beneficial in circumnavigating these imposed restrictions where the penalty can be fines or even an indefinite jail sentence for those using it for journalistic purposes.
A significant irritation, ISP throttling is a technique used in order to intentionally limit bandwidth in the aid of network congestion or data caps, usually during peak times.
ISPs can also throttle VPN traffic which they do by using the signals to track who is using a VPN and who is not. Your speeds are then reduced to put you off from using a VPN which serves as a double hit as your speed will likely already be slower from the VPN use. If you’re experiencing consistent throttling, an obfuscated server can come in really handy.
It should come as no surprise that the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime are always looking to block VPNs from working on their streaming services. Many VPNs work in bypassing the geo-blocks but they could work one day and not the next. Pretty annoying if you’ve just paid for a 3-year subscription.
Again, obfuscated servers can work around these geo-blocks and allow you to stream content not available in your country by tricking Netflix into thinking its normal traffic.
Although ethically questionable, an obfuscated server would also allow you to pay for the subscription service in the cheapest country if you had your target destination set correctly and the prices varied by location.
Work / School
If you want to bypass company or school firewalls to play games then again, an obfuscated server would help. It will bypass firewalls without you having to worry a great deal about the admins interfering.
Some people just want an extra layer of online security and I don’t blame them. From government tracking, criminal activity, or just your ISP, there is usually always someone looking to use what you do online.
Which VPNs offer obfuscated severs?
A number of VPNs provide obfuscated servers as part of their arsenal. Some make it easier to use and others are faster. So, which is the best?
NordVPN provides dedicated obfuscated servers and is consistently reliable in bypassing The Great Firewall of China.
With a wide range of features including dedicated IP servers, double VPN, and P2P servers, there’s plenty to like about NordVPNs service which is why they are our first choice.
Currently offering a 30-day money-back guarantee and prices starting from £2.69 per month.
Reliable and fast. ExpressVPN has a dedicated list of obfuscated VPN servers that are proven to work even against the Great Firewall of China.
With a whole host of additional features and a 30-day money-back guarantee, ExpressVPN is our second choice.
With their very own ‘No Borders’ feature that provides easy access to obfuscated servers, Surfshark comes in at number 3.
Again, another well-priced and user-friendly app that makes masking your IP address easy.