Some governments, schools, and businesses try to block websites in order to reduce distractions, conserve bandwidth, or censor content. If you want to circumvent such limitations—and you’re willing to assume any attendant risks—you can try to enlist the aid of a VPN, or virtual private network.
How a VPN works
A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your PC and a server in another location. When you connect to a VPN server, all of your communication travels through that tunnel, so third parties can’t monitor it. In this setup, your online identity—your IP address—becomes anonymized, and you can access blocked websites.
VPNs also offer a high level of security as any data passing through the VPN network is encrypted.
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Try AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield for a free, ad-supported introduction to accessing blocked websites via VPN. But if you want to use a VPN for all or most of your online activity, it’s wise to step up to a paid service, which usually costs a few dollars a month.
Our current overall favorite VPN is Mullvad—but you can learn more about how VPNs work and compare a host of VPN products by reading our roundup of VPN services.
Note: A VPN does require that you download an app to your computer. If your situation makes this impossible, know that most VPN services offer a mobile component, which could allow you to bypass a Wi-Fi network’s IP restrictions from your phone.