Can VPN be detected? Which VPNs cannot be detected?

Vlad Constantinescu
by Vlad Constantinescu
VPN Expert & Privacy Advocate
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  • A VPN might save you from a lot of headaches, but what happens if you don't want anyone to know that you're using one?
  • The easiest way to avoid detection while using a VPN is to choose a service with obfuscated servers and only use those servers.
  • Check out our best VPNs that can protect your online privacy.
  • Visit our Security Hub to discover more about maintaining your security easily.
Is it possible to detect VPN?

If you’re spending most of your free time online, privacy should be one of your main concerns. There are numerous third-parties out there ready to get their hands on your private data and use it for their own personal gains.

However, if you landed here, chances are you’re already in the know. Or at least you want to discover more about the privacy wonder tool that is VPN. Either way, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve already put to rest some of the most searing questions on end-users’ minds, such as:

However, there are a lot of potential scenarios, and for each one of them, there’s an unanswered question. So we’re tackling them one-by-one until everything is as clear as daylight.

In this article, we’ll focus on whether or not a VPN can be detected.

How does VPN work?

First of all, a VPN isn’t some magic invisibility cloak that you just throw over your router. Helping you get online, while also keeping your virtual whereabouts to yourself is kind of a big deal.

If this is not your first rodeo, you may skip this part, but if you’re not exactly tech-savvy, it’s worth a read.

Your VPN stands between you and the world wide web and helps you access it safely. You install a VPN client on your PC, which encrypts your traffic and routes it through a secure tunnel.

Your traffic gets through the tunnel and into a VPN server, which decrypts it, and sends it to your destination, whether it’s a website, a game, or an Internet service we’re talking about.

The host then sends a response back to you, which gets encrypted by the VPN server, routed through the same secure tunnel, decrypted by your VPN client, and displayed to you.

Now you understand the very basic principles of a VPN.

Can a VPN be detected?

Normally, if you’re not using a VPN, your ISP plays the role of the VPN client, secure tunnel, and VPN server. So everything you send towards the service of your choice gets through the ISP’s infrastructure.

Now when you’re relying on a VPN to secure your traffic, your ISP isn’t yanked out of the picture. Instead, it kind of oversees the whole process, but without knowing what’s happening.

Imagine that your regular non-VPN traffic is a transparent tube that your ISP can see into. Your VPN traffic is like a smaller, opaque tube, which obscures traffic so that your ISP can no longer see it.

With that in mind, let’s get back to the original question: can a VPN be detected? Yes. Your ISP can detect whether or not you’re using a VPN, and the fact that you’re passing encrypted traffic is a strong indicator.

Can they do anything about it? Yes, but it’s not very likely. An ISP could block your VPN, but it would take a lot of time to do so since it involves manually blocking IPs and ports associated with the VPN.

How to use VPN without being detected?

Well, as we said earlier, even if your ISP detects that you’re using a VPN, there’s little they can do about it. Unless you live in a country where VPN usage is illegal and they decide to let authorities know, that is.

However, if you’re really determined, you can start looking for VPNs that cannot be detected. Such VPNs offer obfuscated servers, which make VPN, encrypted traffic to look just like regular traffic.

Here are our strongest suggestions:

Product NameObfuscationCompany Name
NordVPNObfuscated ServersTefincom & Co., S.A.
Surfshark VPNCamouflage ModeSurfshark LTD
VyprVPNChameleon protocolGolden Frog GmbH
IPVanishScramble OpenVPN trafficStackPath, LLC
ExpressVPNStealth serversExpress VPN International Ltd.
TunnelBearStealth VPNMcAfee, LLC
Windscribe VPNStealth VPNWindscribe Limited
VPN UnlimitedKeepSolid WiseKeepSolid Inc.

If you choose either one of these services, you’ll be able to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN from third-parties, including hackers and even your trusted ISP.

However, that’s the easiest way to avoid VPN detection. There are some other ways, such as redirecting your VPN traffic to another port.

Firewalls usually monitor UDP port 1194, since it’s commonly used by OpenVPN. So you might want to redirect all your VPN traffic to port 443, since most HTTPS traffic uses this port, as well, and it’s harder to detect and block.

VPNs can be detected but it’s usually not a big deal

To wrap it up, VPN can and usually is successfully detected without too much effort. However, unless you live in a country where VPN usage is illegal, or try to access a service that blocks VPN users, it’s not a big deal.

There are several ways to bypass VPN detection, including switching your IP address (if possible), changing the port from within the VPN client, and even forwarding VPN traffic to a common port such as 443.

However, if the suggestions above look like gibberish to you, just try using a VPN that offers obfuscated servers. These servers pass VPN traffic as regular, unencrypted traffic, so detecting you is virtually impossible.

FAQ: Learn more about detecting VPNs

  • Can I be detected on WiFi while using a VPN?

Yes, the WiFi network administrator can spot you, even though you’re using a VPN. Using a VPN on WiFi doesn’t turn you invisible, it just encrypts your traffic.

  • If I use a VPN can torrent traffic be detected?

No, the VPN will hide your IP address and encrypt all of your traffic, including torrenting. While torrenting, it’s wise to use a VPN that has a built-in killswitch.

  • How to use a VPN without being detected?

The easiest way to avoid detection while using a VPN is to choose a service with obfuscated servers and only use those servers. They pass VPN traffic as regular, unencrypted traffic, making it harder to detect.