What’s the Problem?

Today I’m working on a public wifi. I started my laptop, I connected to the public wifi, and then — as I always do when using a public network — I turned on my VPN. As soon as my VPN started, I lost my Internet connection!

How come? Well, if you use a VPN, you can obviously securely do whatever you want over your secure VPN connection. And maybe you might want to do stuff that the organisation providing the public wifi wouldn’t be comfortable with. Maybe you use it to look at some shifty content, or maybe you want to bypass their quality-of-service controls. That’s not what I want to do… I just want to work. But I could do these things, and the wifi administrator here presumably — for good reasons — wants to limit that risk.

What’s the Solution?

Well, it turns out that if you’re facing this problem, most decent VPN products have a way to work around this challenge. There are two things you can do:

  1. Use the OpenVPN protocol, rather than your VPN’s default protocol. OpenVPN is a tunnelling protocol that encrypts using SSL on top of standard Internet TCP/UDP, rather than protocols like IPSec and L2TP.
  2. Use obfuscated servers. Some VPN providers offer obfuscated servers, such that traffic originating from your VPN client looks like regular Internet traffic.

How To Do This?

On my NordVPN, I configure it like this:

Switch to OpenVPN like this:

Switch from Auto to either OpenVPN (TCP) or OpenVPN (UDP)

Switch to an obfuscated server by selecting “Speciality servers”, then “Obfuscated servers”, like this:

How to select an obfuscated server

And that’s it.

And that’s how I’m now writing this Medium article, over VPN, on a public wifi connection that doesn’t allow VPN.


This blog has also been posted at Medium.



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