You’re at work or school, but you want to check on Facebook, or watch something on YouTube. It’s blocked. Surprise, surprise.
We’ve all been faced with it, and subsequently got annoyed.
Now, you’ve two options: be productive instead, or try and bypass the filter. Let’s face it, most of us would choose the latter, particularly if you need to view Twitter for research purposes (wink, wink). But how would you do that? Here are some of your options…
1. Use a VPN
Your best bet is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). You’ve probably heard a bit about them, but they’re not as complicated as they initially sound.
VPNs are best known for adding a much-needed layer of security and privacy using encryption — that’s useful if you’re entering sensitive information and are worried about hackers, or, as in this case, bypassing blocks. These networks connect you to a website via an encrypted “tunnel”, which scrambles data travelling through it either way. Though it’s certainly not fool-proof, you can generally rely on this level of encryption.
Similarly, this is a dependable way of visiting blocked sites, but can require a bit of effort to install. The TOR browser, however, is easy to download and run. The reason it works is because any software trying to keep an eye on your browsing instead only sees that you’re using a VPN. Without considerable work, no one will be able to monitor URLs: cybercriminals might put in the effort to view your data, but it’s doubtful your employer or educational institution ever will.
It might also be worth downloading a VPN app onto your smartphone or tablet, if you plan on using it somewhere access is often blocked.
2. Bypass Firewalls Using Proxies
Most treat VPNs and proxy servers as interchangeable, but the latter lacks the encryption software that protects a lot of your data. That’s not to say it’s useless or a massive threat to your privacy though! Quite the opposite in fact: proxies hide your Internet Provider (IP) address — which anyone can trace back to your computer — making your searches anonymous by instead displaying the proxy’s IP.
There are literally thousands of proxy sites on the web. There are also sites that list proxy servers. Do a quick search online. You’ll be bombarded with free services, and, of course, plenty of paid-for ones. The former should be acceptable if you’re just bypassing a site now and then, but if you need a proxy on a regular basis, and are looking for something more secure (and anonymous), consider whether it’s worth paying.
Don’t be put off. It’s not very difficult to set up a proxy server, no matter what browser you’re using, to get past restrictions. Read our introduction to proxy servers for more info.
This is a seriously popular tool for bypassing blocked websites — except you’ll initially be put off because it uses Internet Explorer as default. That’s in its basic form, with no installation required, so download the EXE file onto a USB drive and run it whenever you need it.
It will open Internet Explorer with the UltraSurf homepage. From there, the web is your oyster.
Fortunately, you can use it on most browsers; notably, an add-on for Chrome and Firefox, but you can manually install it elsewhere. Though it’s only available on Windows right now, Mac and Linux trials are taking place.
The good thing is, it’s fast, because it routes you through a possible three servers so you get highly reliable speeds. You might initially be put off using Internet Explorer, but this, too, can be a benefit, as it’s what you have on IT lockdown. Therefore, it doesn’t look suspicious and you don’t need to have two different browsers open at the same time. Once you close UltraSurf, it erases your history and cookies.
Its main purpose is altruistic. UltraSurf was developed to get around the so-called Great Firewall of China. However, many have complained about pop-up ads, and some security suites take issue with it. You also have to make sure you’re using the authentic version: otherwise, “exe” files are often used by hackers to add malware to your device.
4. Remote Access
The idea of remote access might have negative connotations — either you immediately think of hackers, or you recall the last time you’ve had to phone a computer helpline to get someone else to sort out an infuriating PC problem.
But it’s not all bad.
When your remote access to the uni's supercomputer is so slow you have to resort to MS excel…
— Heidi Thiemann (@heidi_teaman) January 31, 2017
Essentially, remote access is taking control of your computer without actually sitting in front of it. To do so, you’ll need to download a handy bit of software: it doesn’t really matter whether you use popular remote connectivity programs like LogMeIn, or opt for one of the lesser-known ones.
The important thing is that you can now browse the internet at your leisure — by using your own computer remotely!
It might lag a bit, but it works brilliantly!
Of course, you’re then not confined solely to the web; you can use remote access to use any software on your computer, too.
5. Use RSS Feeds
There used to be a great way of getting any web page direct to your email address: in response to a URL in a subject line, WebToMail emailed you the contents of a webpage.
Sadly, that no longer works. Fortunately, you can still get articles and the like in your Inbox using RSS feeds. These are syndicated editions of pieces regularly collated and distributed to email addresses and RSS Readers, saving users the time spent visiting individual sites. It also affords some privacy by not forcing them into subscribing to email newsletters.
Not every site has one, but that’s okay because you can easily create one!
There are limitations, naturally — you won’t be able to scour YouTube, for example. Still, you definitely shouldn’t discount the usefulness of these feeds for other sites you frequent but don’t have access to otherwise.
How Do You Bypass Restrictions?
Don’t forget: you’ll likely get in a heap of trouble if you’re caught bypassing a block. That could mean a warning or monitoring at work, or expulsion from class detention at school.
so social media sites are now blocked in our computer lab… my heart broke
— ? (@getusedtoj) January 31, 2017
But how do you bypass blocked or censored websites? Have I missed the best? What do you think?
Image Credit: one photo via Shutterstock.com