ProtonVPN and censorship resistance

From my experience using Proton to bypass GFW it simply doesn’t work. I tried every protocol but still wouldn’t work. I may have it working one or two times but >90% on the times it doesn’t. This is on Android. Also when it worked the connection is far slower than the few seconds of Mullvad and IVPN.

Also from my experience IVPN doesn’t work if you don’t put it as Always-on but that just might be my problem.

My suggestion is that we add a warning about Proton not working great for this.

What is GFW? Oh I think I know what you mean. Great Firewall?

This is too vague, dare to provide more details?

precisely: which protocols have you tried? Please name them.

Wait a minute: supposedly things dont work for you and now you say that you got them working? WTF?

Havent tested ivpn but really doubt this is actually true.

Not working for what exactly?

From my experience (Proton user since 2021; regular since 2023; currently on Unlimited plan) all services from Proton (especially VPN) works like a charm. Every single second. Have it setup the way that connects to specified server at boot time.

The Proton’s Stealth feature encapsulates VPN packets in a TLS tunnel that is quite detectable.

To circumvent advanced DPI methods you need to manipulate and pad the packets with extra data, as they have a learning mode, that’s required in China, Iran, Russia (China exports its GFW to Iran and Russia).

A few providers provide features like this, and I’ll list pros/cons of each

  • Mullvad (not the most user friendlyway).
  • IVPN recently started offering V2ray obfuscation. It is available on desktop and iOS, but not Android (yet).
  • Windscribe offers this feature. Not currently listed on PG as the iOS client is not open source, though this is due to change soon and we will proceed with #PR 1312.
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Please remove this information from the recommendation as it is not true:
" Proton VPN has their Stealth protocol which helps in situations where VPN protocols like OpenVPN or Wireguard are blocked. Stealth works by using an obfuscated TLS tunnel over TCP making it more difficult for deep packet inspection (DPI) to block."
Proton’s VPN doesn’t work in Russia. It’s been almost two years and they haven’t even lifted a finger to make their VPN work properly. Support always responds only with formulaic phrases. But they do charge for their VPN that doesn’t work.

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We might need to re-evaluate what we consider “obfuscation” simply wrapping in a TLS tunnel shouldn’t suffice for that definition if it basically works nowhere.

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Windscribe works in Russia and for this they are very thankful.

Shouldn’t the recommendation just be to use tor if the issue is censorship? In the end, regardless of the obfuscation technique employed, a country or ISP can block any VPN service by harvesting and blocking its servers IP addresses.

There are a few reasons why not, firstly Tor is quite a bit slower, and secondly it’s often not necessary as the person is not trying to really be anonymous.

They may simply want to pipe their connection out of their country with low latency. Maybe one single hop is good enough, Tor enforces multiple hops so that’s definitely going to mean you can’t use VOIP related things or other low latency services.

From a network perspective, the government isn’t going to really see anything different, (and in nations where everyone has to do it to get access to free information), it will be an automated system trying to classify it.

fair enough. my thinking is that, if you choose not to use tor for the reasons you mention you are basically chancing it with a game of cat and mouse. Which is probably a losing game if the government or entity your dealing with has already specifically targeted the service you use.

The governments in these regions generally aren’t specifically targeting people, and even if they were they’d then be more interested in the end point IP address.

From a network level, they may identify you’re using some form of encryption, they know a lot of people do it. Unless they have some specific reason to apprehend you (something else you’re doing they know about), it’s unlikely to make much of a difference.

Their goal generally is to just make it more difficult for citizens to access free information that the government deems harmful (generally stuff that is counter to government narrative) on various issues.

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I’ve made a change Update Stealth Protocol VPN by dngray · Pull Request #2371 · privacyguides/privacyguides.org · GitHub and given it an orange mark, as you’re not the only source I’ve heard of it not working very well.

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Response to @wojciechxtx

Proton :
I have literally tried every protocol available on their android app. This include OpenVPN Wireguard UDP Wireguard TCP and Stealth. So basically I did some testing and it could painfully connect to European servers which was annoying since I’m in China but now it doesn’t work. You should know that the GFW is very sophisticated : if you connect regularly to a server they will send it a package to see if it’s a VPN. So everything need to be obfuscated. This is how Nord, Express can claim their services is working in China. It will work for a few days.
In fact I tried ProtonVPN plus hoping this would solve the problem but it didn’t.
Well Proton doesn’t sucesfully connect in China.
IVPN :
About ivpn, well you don’t have to believe me but that has been my experience. It says connected but it doesn’t display any IP adress meaning it isn’t connected.

I will try to find again this paper on how GFW works.

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About ivpn, well you don’t have to believe me but that has been my experience. It says connected but it doesn’t display any IP adress meaning it isn’t connected.

You should probably contact IVPN about that.

This blog explains how Fully encrypted protocols work.

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From experience they’re more than helpful about that as they like to know what is causing issues.