As we find ourselves on our computers more and more when we’re traveling, I’ve tried to keep up on protecting our data. Connecting to WiFi networks is one of our actions that carry with it a high risk, so we try to always use a VPN when on a public connection. We use TunnelBear VPN for our needs as it has a simple-to-use interface and provides the security we need. Given that the work we’re doing isn’t anything top secret, having any level of protection makes us a less attractive target.
I had a frustrating time using TunnelBear VPN on a recent flight that used GoGo as the wireless internet provider. When I connected to the WiFi and turned on my VPN, I was disconnected from the network. When I turned off the VPN, I reconnected. If I turned the VPN back on, I instantly get kicked off the network. EVERY SINGLE TIME!
This wasn’t a problem with not being able to log into the WiFi network. I’ve covered what to do if that happens in this post.
I couldn’t do any troubleshooting during the flight so I left the VPN off and didn’t do anything online that I’d worry about anyone seeing. That’s not a long term solution to the problem, so I did some research and found out this is a real issue with public WiFi networks.
Here’s how I think I can fix it the next time.
With a basic Google search, I found an article “What to do if your VPN is Blocked.” It quickly goes into techspeak about DPI, ports, and proxies but the thing I found interesting was that it’s still possible to use a VPN even if the network doesn’t want you to.
But here’s the key: If you can disguise your VPN traffic as regular web browser traffic, you can make it impossible for a network to block your VPN (unless they’re willing to block all https browser traffic. Not likely).
If that’s true, can I do this with TunnelBear or would I need to look for a different provider? (again)
I went to the TunnelBear help page and I found an answer to my problem. It doesn’t go into the tech talk of how it works, but it seems to be precisely what was mentioned in the article above.
What is GhostBear?
GhostBear makes your encrypted data less detectable to governments, businesses, and ISPs. It does this by making VPN traffic less detectable on your network, making it harder to block. GhostBear is currently available on our Windows, macOS, and Android apps. GhostBear is not available for iOS due to restrictions in the way iOS is designed.
Little did I know that hidden in the Settings>Preferences menu of TunnelBear were options I never knew existed.
Right there is the option to turn on GhostBear. They advise not to turn on this option unless you have to, because it will slow down your connection. I’m not sure how much slower we’re talking about, but if it’s the only thing I can do to stay protected while on a public network, it’s worth the hassle.
I did a search of the several major VPN products out there (NordVPN, PureVPN, CyberGhost VPN, ExpressVPN, personalVPN) and found that all of them offer some sort of stealth mode that gets through network VPN blocking firewalls.
It was nice to see that the problem I was having with staying connected to a WiFi network while using my VPN was a known issue. Even better was that the solution is as simple as checking a box. Well, I hope it’s that simple. I won’t get to try GhostBear until the next time I have this problem.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary