Governments and Internet Service Providers, thanks to the repeal of Net Neutrality, are controlling what websites and services you can access on the internet. What does this mean? Reasons can range from political interest, "ethical concerns," to geographically restricted content, and it's more important than ever to protect your rights by maintaining as much privacy as you can on the web. While many people can use VPNs to bypass these filters, to access filtered or restricted content, some places, like China, are blocking outbound VPN connections. It makes sense since VPNs are the top way to privately browse and access any website you want without worrying about tracking. Fortunately, there are alternative ways that you can access filtered, censored, or blocked content on the internet without using a VPN connection. We've put together the best VPN alternatives for 2020 so that you can browse any site at any time.
A DNS changer can allow you to access content and websites that are censored by your Internet Service Provider. A DNS stands for "Domain Name System" and is the phonebook for the internet that lives on your ISP's server. When you enter a website into your browser, like "www.google.com," your configured DNS server looks up that domain and returns the IP address for google.com instead, and is how the internet knows where to send you.
Whether you realize it or not, when you use your ISP's DNS server, they can track what websites you are accessing, block them from you, or redirect you to a "safer" website. A DNS changer allows you to use a public DNS instead of your ISP's configured one, which enables you to use a non-filtered or blocked DNS look-up. You'll be able to bypass any DNS blocks or redirects. For example, if your ISP has prevented you from accessing YouTube by putting restrictions or redirecting any request to www.youtube.com, a DNS changer uses a different DNS server - like a public one - thus allowing you to access it. Bonus is that most public DNS servers are much faster, so you'll have high speeds, which is a bonus when compared to using a VPN!
Depending on your device, it's pretty easy to change your DNS manually. If you're using an Android device, click here to get a DNS changer app for secure and restriction-free browsing.
Proxy servers can access blocked sites, as well. Similar to VPNs, using a proxy server changes your IP address to the proxy's IP address, and allows you to browse privately and reach restricted sites. However, they only work with specific programs but are great for quickly accessing blocked content. You can purchase a proxy service or use a web-based proxy like HideMyAss if you can access it. Web-based proxies are websites that are actually "mini-browsers." You navigate on your main browser to the web-based proxy, and then use that website to browse other websites.
There are a few problems with a proxy server. First off, the proxy server may already be blocked itself, so trying to find a way there is a problem. Also, you won't have the best user experience. If you're using a free service or web-based proxy, you'll need to deal with advertisements on the page from the proxy itself. Ads are annoying and can be bypassed by purchasing service, rather than using the free version. But if you want to access a single blocked site without having to change settings in your system or install a program, this may work for your needs.
If you're looking for a way to browse the internet with true anonymity, then Tor is the answer for you. Tor works by routing your traffic through several volunteer-run relays in an encrypted network, making it look like it's coming from exit nodes. Using the exit nodes' IP address blocks your IP address and location, which is typically uncensored and unfiltered, allowing you to access what you want.
Using Tor, not only are you blocking your ISP and local network from tracking your browsing habits and blocking or censoring them, but you're also protecting your location from the sites you are accessing. Tor encrypts all traffic from your computer through the network. When you reach your website destination, the website is getting the IP address of the relay server - not your own.
You should note, however, that there are a few problems with Tor. First, the network itself has access to all your information when you use it, so it's best not to access unencrypted data or sensitive information while using Tor. Also, because of the number of relays that your traffic goes through, Tor can be a very slow connection. However, it's a great way to access any blocked websites on any connection you're on. Unless you're living in a highly-censored country, like Iran or China, don't use Tor for everyday browsing, but only for accessing restricted or censored sites.
It's essential to take action in protecting the privacy of your Internet browsing. Whether it's your government or ISP that is attempting to control what you're able to access and when, or you're looking for a way to protect your data from falling into someone else's hands, there are options to help you. VPNs are the most popular option, and because of that, these services are also starting to see blocking happening. It's essential to have a few options at your fingertips when it comes to privacy, and VPN alternatives like DNS changes, proxies, and Tor are a few of the best ones to have in your back pocket. With this information, you'll be prepared to protect your privacy and browsing rights without relying on VPN in 2020!