VPN Gate: Free Public Access VPNs
March 8, 2013 marks a milestone in the advancement of global open internet access. That is when the VPN Gate project went live. It has an academic purpose, according to the Graduate School of University of Tsukuba, Japan: to "expand the knowledge of Global Distributed Public VPN Relay Servers." What it really does is provide, at no cost to the user, a large network of volunteer operated VPN servers. The servers are located around the world, offer wide bandwith / fast connections, and provide security, anonymity, and unblocked access with the same quality as many commercial VPN services.
VPN Gate provides, as a VPN, the following features for internet connections:
- Security: Strong encryption protects user's internet connections. ISP and government observers only see an encrypted data flow to and from the user's computer.
- Anonymity: The user's IP address is from the VPN server and not his or her computer. Adversaries do not see the user's actual identity or location.
- Unblocked Internet: Users can evade national firewalls or censorship by using VPN servers in other countries.
- Resistance to VPN blocking: VPN Gate's servers use a dynamic DNS system to regularly change server IP adresses, thereby evading blockages by the Chinese and Iranian firewalls.
- Multiple VPN Protocol Support: VPN Gate servers support SSL, L2TP/ IPsec, OpenVPN, and MS-SSTP connections. Any PC, MAC, Iphone, or Android phone should be compatible with so many protocols supported.
- Fast Connections / High Bandwidth: Most servers seem to be lightly loaded, with just a few users, but a capacity often over 50 Mbps and as high as 150Mbps. No problem with streaming video!
- Many servers: At any given time, more than 400 servers are available, and the number is sure to increase as the service becomes more well known.
- SoftEther VPN Server enables anyone with a computer to operate a VPN server and provide access to others on the internet.
- An Active Support Forum: Anyone with a question regarding the VPNs can ask in the forums and get answers from server operators and other users.
SoftEther VPN Server is Windows software which sets up a VPN server on the host computer. It does not require administrator priveleges or special skills to run. Just install it, adjust a few settings, and let it run! It shows up on the VPN Gate server list and allows others to use the host computer as a VPN gateway to the open internet. It offers much higher bandwidth and stronger encryption than TOR, the well known onion routing network.
VPN Gate works well. The South Korean and Japanese servers are particularly fast, and gave the smoothest access to youtube. For streaming radio stations and television in the USA, the American servers were adequate, but sometimes limited in bandwidth when multiple users were connected. Connecting to the VPN servers from inside the Great Firewall of China (GFW) allowed some testing of VPN Gate's resistance to blocking by a hostile government. Using the DDNS server names was mostly a waste of time, but things worked much better using the servers' actual IP addresses.
VPN Gate users in China should consider these hints to save time and connect more easily:
- Subscribe to the VPN Gate mirror emails. The main website is blocked, and email is a good way to get access to fresh server lists.
- OpenVPN servers, without protocol obfuscation, will be accessible for merely a few hours from within China. Be prepared to routinely go to the VPN Gate mirrors and find the newest servers. Select the ones with less than five hours of uptime!
- L2TP/IPSec servers seem to last longer, but may somehow be compromised by the Chinese censors. There is a reason they let more L2TP/IPSec remain functioning, and they do block them sometimes!
- Find working servers by pinging the servers' IP address before trying to connect. If the server responds, it is accessible for VPN service.
- Be flexible and attempt to connect through different countries. If servers in the USA are blocked, try the United Kingdom or South Korean servers, etc
- Never ever quit and let the GFW win the connectivity war.
VPN Gate Mirror Sites
Shortly after going live, VPN Gate was blocked by Chinese, Iranian, and a few other governments. No problem! VPN Gate is available via mirror sites, which are regularly changed in order to evade blocking. Below is a regularly updated list of the mirrors. Use these to get fresh VPN server addresses as the older ones are blocked!Note: Mirrors Checked: 2014/04/24 09:30 UTC
VPN Gate OpenVPN Configs
Below is a list of popular VPN Gate servers located in various countries. Click on a "hot link" to obtain the servers' ovpn files. It is more convenient than clicking through several pages to get them. OpenVPN as implemented with VPN Gate is easy, since the encryption keys and certificates are contained within the config file. Just download, import, and connect!Note: Some mirrors do not allow hotlinking, and instead take you to the VPN server list.
Note: OpenVPN Configs Checked: 2014/04/24 09:30 UTC
OpenVPN Servers in the United States of America
OpenVPN Servers in the Republic of Korea
OpenVPN Servers in Australia
OpenVPN Servers in the United Kingdom
OpenVPN Servers in Japan
What could be improved in the ambitious VPN Gate project? Two things pertaining to their implementation of OpenVPN servers. First, the servers should be configured to use a large number of ports (i.e. ports 1025 to 64000). Linux servers can be configured easily with iptables to listen on any port and forward it to OpenVPN on port 1194 and vice versa, and there must be a way to do it on windows servers. Second, protocol obfuscation would reduce the blocking of VPN servers by the GFW. Stunnel and Obfsproxy are useful tools for making OpenVPN more stealthy. There has been work on building protocol obfuscation directly into OpenVPN, but it is not yet officially deployed.
All in all, VPN Gate is a good thing to see arise on the internet. It is easy to use, free (as in freedom and beer), and expanding in size and scope. It marks the arrival of broadband VPNs that are robust and volunteer based. The service is a free VPN and much better than networking with no protection.