What Are Obfuscated Servers? 5 VPNs with Obfuscated Servers
The obfuscation feature is an advanced tool that lets you harness the full power of your Virtual Private Network. In simple terms, VPNs with obfuscated servers can hide the fact that you’re using a VPN service. This is an excellent feature in many situations, especially if you live in an authoritarian country or experience heavy online censorship.
If you want to learn more about how to use obfuscated servers and how VPN obfuscation works, I’ll cover everything you should know. I’ve also prepared the five best VPNs with obfuscated servers in 2023. Read on to find out everything about VPN obfuscation!
What Are Obfuscated Servers?
Obfuscated servers, as the name suggests, refer to servers that have been intentionally obscured or disguised to conceal their true identity and purpose. These servers employ various techniques to mask their network traffic, making it challenging for third parties to identify or block the data being transmitted.
An obfuscated VPN server is able to bypass censorship, access sites, or go around VPN-blocking firewalls. This tricks your Internet Service Provider, the government, and any other site and service into thinking that your VPN connection is just normal web traffic.
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How Does VPN Obfuscation Work?
VPN obfuscation involves employing obfuscated servers within a VPN infrastructure. By leveraging obfuscation techniques, VPN providers can hide VPN traffic and make it appear as regular Internet traffic.
When you connect to an obfuscated server, it deletes the VPN signature from the data packets. When this obfuscated traffic reaches the firewall software, it passes as a regular connection.
To better understand how obfuscated servers work, I should go over the various methods used in obfuscation. Here’s a closer at the most popular VPN obfuscation methods that help circumvent VPN blocking:
OpenVPN over SSL/SSH
One popular method of VPN obfuscation is using OpenVPN over SSL/SSH. This technique encapsulates OpenVPN traffic within the SSL or SSH protocol. This makes it harder for network monitoring systems to recognize and block VPN traffic, and the connection passes as regular HTTPS traffic. SSL encryption adds an extra layer of protection and disguises the true nature of the data packets.
SOCKS5 Proxy or Shadowsocks
Another approach to obfuscate VPN traffic is through the use of SOCKS5 proxies or Shadowsocks. These protocols act as intermediaries between the user’s device and the Internet, relaying traffic in a way that obscures its origin and destination. They offer enhanced privacy and bypassing capabilities, as the traffic resembles regular web traffic.
OpenVPN Scramble is a feature that transforms VPN traffic into unidentifiable, scrambled packets. It modifies the handshake and payload of the VPN protocol to appear as random data, making it difficult to distinguish from regular traffic. This technique helps evade deep packet inspection (DPI) and detection systems that try to identify VPN usage by filtering your data packets. The OpenVPN Scramble method is also known as XOR obfuscation.
Obfsproxy, short for “obfuscation proxy,” is a tool that conceals VPN traffic by adding a layer of obfuscation to the communication. It transforms the network traffic into a format that resembles innocent-looking data, such as HTTP traffic or DNS packets. This disguising technique enables users to bypass network filters and access blocked content.
Obfsproxy differs from the above methods in one more way. Its handshake doesn’t have any recognizable byte patterns. This difference can sometimes be a drawback, as the handshake’s randomness could seem suspicious, and the VPN-blocking software might not let the VPN connection through.
Why Should You Use Obfuscated Servers?
Using obfuscated servers within a VPN infrastructure offers several advantages and benefits for users seeking enhanced privacy, unrestricted access, and protection against surveillance. Let’s explore some of these benefits:
- Bypass VPN Blocks — Many network administrators, ISPs, or organizations employ methods to detect and block VPN traffic. By bypassing VPN blocks, users can unblock streaming websites and access services that would otherwise be unavailable.
- Bypass Internet Restrictions and Censorship — In countries with strict Internet censorship, access to certain websites, social media platforms, or online services may be restricted. Obfuscated VPN servers enable users to overcome these censorship measures by disguising VPN traffic as regular Internet traffic. This empowers individuals to avoid Internet restrictions and express their thoughts without fear of censorship.
- Protect Yourself From ISP Snooping — Internet Service Providers can monitor and log users’ Internet activities. By using an obfuscated VPN server, users can encrypt their Internet traffic, preventing their ISPs from snooping on their browsing habits, online communications, or sensitive data.
- Hide From Government Tracking — In regions where government surveillance is prevalent, obfuscated servers can play a crucial role in maintaining anonymity. By concealing their traffic, individuals can prevent government agencies from tracking their online activities, ensuring their privacy and freedom of expression are safeguarded.
- Bypass Strict Internal Networks — In corporate or institutional environments, network administrators often impose strict restrictions on internet access. Obfuscated servers provide a means to bypass these limitations, allowing employees or users to access blocked websites or services while still maintaining the integrity of the corporate network.
- Avoid ISP Throttling — ISPs sometimes employ bandwidth throttling, deliberately slowing down your Internet connection speed. By using a VPN with obfuscated servers, users can bypass such throttling measures, ensuring they receive optimal internet speeds and an uninterrupted online experience.
The Best VPNs With Obfuscated Servers
After testing and comparing the top services with this feature, I’ve found NordVPN to be the best VPN with obfuscated servers in 2023. It offers an obfuscated server option that enables you to pick from 16 server locations.
NordVPN obfuscated servers aren’t available with the provider’s in-house NordLynx protocol. You can only run it when using the OpenVPN TCP/UDP protocol. This reliable VPN is the fastest and best-performing service out of the five on my list.
Moreover, NordVPN is the best service for circumventing VPN-blocking firewalls. It can unblock any site on the Internet and is also one of the few VPNs that still reliably bypass the robust VPN blocks in China. Plus, NordVPN comes with features many of my other picks lack. This includes tools like Threat Protection, Onion over VPN, and a DoubleVPN feature.
- Able to bypass the great firewall of China
- The fastest VPN with obfuscation capabilities
- Audited no-logs policy and privacy-friendly headquarters (Panama)
- Includes many advanced settings and features
- Supports only six simultaneous connections
- Obfuscation is only available at a handful of VPN server locations
As one of the top VPNs in the industry, Surfshark offers a VPN server obfuscation tool for all major platforms. The service branded this tool Camouflage mode. What I especially like about Surfshark’s obfuscation tool, is that it automatically utilizes its Camouflage Mode feature when you select the OpenVPN protocol.
This makes it a more intuitive VPN usage experience compared to using NordVPN’s obfuscated servers. You don’t have to choose between using a VPN server with obfuscation or one without it. All of its 3,200+ servers can run this feature.
Surfshark also offers better value for money overall. It supports unlimited simultaneous connections and has more affordable plans than NordVPN across all subscription lengths. It is a solid alternative to NordVPN and a great all-around pick.
- Obfuscation supported across its entire network
- Great Bypasser feature to combine with obfuscation
- A more affordable VPN than NordVPN
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Apps include a lot of advanced settings
- Based in the Netherlands
- Smaller server network than NordVPN
ExpressVPN is known as one of the most secure VPNs in the industry. In the context of using a VPN with obfuscated servers, it’s also one of the best picks. However, there’s not much information on its obfuscation tool, and you can’t find any related settings or features in its apps.
After more research and back-and-forth with the VPN’s support staff, I’ve found that ExpressVPN’s obfuscation triggers automatically on all servers when the app detects DPI. This is convenient for casual users and beginners but doesn’t provide much input more advanced VPN enthusiasts might look for.
ExpressVPN also works in China, although its performance is inconsistent. Additionally, it’s a premium-priced service, even on longer plans, while only supporting five connections per subscription. This is why it’s a notch below Surfshark, which edges it out in these key categories.
- Obfuscation activates automatically when it detects DPI
- Fast servers and in-house Lightway protocol
- Based in the British Virgin Islands
- TrustedServer technology
- Pricey while offering only five simultaneous connections
- Unreliable performance in China
4. Proton VPN
Proton VPN puts an interesting twist on VPN obfuscation. Instead of offering specific servers or covering its entire network, this VPN service has created an entire protocol focused on VPN obfuscation. The service calls it the Stealth VPN protocol.
The VPN’s obfuscation tool is available on Android, iOS, and Mac devices. Unfortunately, Proton VPN still hasn’t rolled it out for Windows and Linux devices. Another great thing about Stealth is that it’s available with its free plan. This means you can utilize it without any data limitations on one of Proton VPN’s three free servers.
And, if you decide to upgrade to a premium plan, you can unlock over 2,900 servers worldwide. Plus, the premium plan includes features like Tor over VPN, P2P support, and high-speed streaming support.
- Stealth protocol can bypass most firewalls and VPN blocks
- Obfuscation is even available on the free plan
- Double Hop, ad-blocker, and malware protection
- Based in privacy-friendly Switzerland
- Stealth obfuscation is not yet available on Linux or Windows
- Fairly expensive even on long-term deals
IPVanish offers an obfuscated VPN tool called Scramble. The Scramble tool is available for Windows, Mac, Android, and Fire Stick devices. This obfuscation tool shuffles VPN metadata, enabling data packets that would otherwise be blocked to pass through the blocker.
I’ve extensively used IPVanish’s Scramble feature and found that it can easily bypass VPN blocks almost every time. The only issue I found with this service is that there are some VPN connection drops during longer usage periods.
Thanks to its obfuscated server feature and streaming-optimized servers, this VPN provider excels in accessing streaming services. Additionally, IPVanish doesn’t impose any limits on how much traffic you can use or how many simultaneous connections you can have per account.
- Obfuscation is available for Windows, Mac, Android, and Fire Stick
- Over 40,000 VPN IP addresses in its network
- No-logs policy independently audited
- Great VPN provider for streaming services
- Support unlimited simultaneous connections
- Based in the United States
- Even with obfuscation, it can’t bypass the great firewall of China
How to Connect To Obfuscated Servers?
Connection to obfuscated servers is a straightforward process, so you don’t need much technical knowledge to use these specialty servers. That said, to ensure this process goes without a hitch, I want to share simple setup steps, using NordVPN’s obfuscated servers as an example.
Here’s how to connect to obfuscated servers step-by-step:
- Open the NordVPN app and click on VPN Settings in the bottom left corner.
- Go to VPN Protocol Settings in the Connection tab.
- Select OpenVPN protocol (You can choose either UDP or TCP).
- Go to the Specialty Servers list.
- Select the Obfuscated server from the list.
- Now you’re connected to an obfuscated server!
If you’ve followed the six simple steps above, you can start using a VPN obfuscation tool. If, by some chance, the app couldn’t establish an obfuscated VPN tunnel, try connecting to a different obfuscated server.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an obfuscated server?
An obfuscated server is a server that has been intentionally disguised to hide its true identity and purpose. It is typically used within a VPN infrastructure to obfuscate VPN traffic, making it difficult for network monitoring systems to identify or block it.
What is double VPN vs. obfuscated servers?
DoubleVPN, also known as multi-hop VPN, routes the user’s internet traffic through two or more VPN servers before reaching its destination. On the other hand, obfuscated servers utilize various obfuscation techniques to mask VPN traffic.
How do I enable obfuscated servers?
Enabling obfuscated servers depends on the VPN client or application you are using. Typically, VPN providers that offer obfuscated servers have an option within their application settings to enable or activate obfuscation.
Are obfuscated servers safe?
Yes, obfuscated servers are designed to enhance the safety and security of traffic. They employ techniques to hide the true nature of the data packets, making it difficult for network monitoring systems to detect and block VPN services.
How to know if a server is obfuscated?
Many VPN providers typically do not disclose specific details about their obfuscation techniques or which servers are obfuscated to maintain the effectiveness of their methods. However, some services, like NordVPN, transparently list this in their apps.
How can I make my VPN undetectable?
To make your VPN undetectable, you can utilize obfuscated servers provided by certain VPNs. Obfuscated servers employ various techniques to make VPN traffic appear as regular traffic, making it harder for network monitoring systems to identify and block.
Can a VPN connection be detected?
Some network administrators or ISPs employ deep packet inspection techniques to identify a VPN connection based on its characteristics and patterns. This can sometimes be effective for detecting certain VPN services.
Are obfuscated servers slower?
Using obfuscated servers within a VPN infrastructure will have a minor impact on Internet speed. The additional obfuscation techniques employed by these servers can introduce a slight overhead due to the VPN encryption and disguising processes.
Can a VPN blocker really block VPN traffic?
A VPN blocker uses various methods to block you from using a VPN. This includes DPI or traffic analysis, to detect the characteristic patterns associated with VPN usage. Some blockers gather known VPN IP addresses or ports and block VPNs based on this.
Cybersecurity and VPN researcher