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I use OpenWrt and by default all outgoing traffic is tunneled through Wireguard VPN endpoint (provider from the list of privacytools.io recommendations).

Often I get an "Access Denied" or the page does not load (timeout). Famous local sites, which block legal VPNs (example Zalando). As a workaround I use the integrated Opera VPN, which has never been locked out.

Why do site operators block legal VPNs? Often sites that block VPNs are overloaded with ads. Are they so greedy for the location info associated with the provider IP?

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  • Are they blocking the VPN or the proxy endpoint you used?
    – schroeder
    Jul 2 '21 at 15:02
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There are various reasons why (some) VPN are blocked. These reasons are usually connected to protecting a business model, but are not that much related to ads. They are also not explicitly directed against privacy-sensitive users, this is more an unintended side effect:

  • Some sites block VPN because they are used to bypass geograhic restrictions. This is relevant for sites which offer content, which should only be available in specific geographic locations, typically because of license or copyright issues.
  • Some sites block VPN because a disproportional portion of malicious users are using a VPN to attack the site or grab contents with bots, while hiding their real origin. That innocent users are affected by such a blocking is an unintended drawback. But since this only affects a small part of users and maybe mostly users which wont bring any business (like clicking on ads) anyway, the loss is acceptable.

There can be exceptions for specific VPN or proxy services which are known to play nice, like help to block malicious use or don't allow bypass of geoblocking. Or widely used VPN which are known to have mostly innocent users and where accidentally blocking such users is not considered acceptable loss of business.

... VPN services that serve privacy

There might be a misconception here what VPN actually offers. It (partially) hides your real IP address, but that's all. The majority of the privacy problems are not coming from knowing the clients IP address, but from profiling the users using a variety of techniques - and IP address is usually not one or not the major one of them since it will often change for most users.

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Well try to think how a security sysadmin of a commercial site could think. Their site receives a number of connections, most of them are fully legitimate, but some may not be. If they are just providing info at no cost using advertising as their main business model, they generally do not care much about VPNs.

But when they expect the peer to buy something at a moment, things become different. If they accept a command without carefully identifying the client their responsability will be engaged if things later go wrong. Let us imagine a (not so uncommon) scenario:

  • (evil) Bob could get informations for Alice's card
  • Bob buys something and pays using Alice's card
  • Alice notices that she was charged for buying something when she did not and asks her bank to get her money back - in most European countries she will succeed because the contract was not signed in a legal way
  • the bank (as all banks do) hates losing money and explains the seller that they have to prove that the command was passed by Alice - how could they?
  • the seller does not like either to lose money and starts a legal action to identify Bob
  • if Bob had genuinely opened a connection to the site without hiding behind a VPN, his internet provider could have tell the police where that connection came from, and Bob would have easily been identified. But as they have willingly accepted a connection while being aware that it will be impossible to later securely identify the source, they have accepted the risk, the legal action is closed and their money is definitely lost.

Can you now imagine why some merchant sites are reluctant to accept connections hiding behind a VPN?

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