Web sites can be blocked for many reasons. Employers block web sites to protect productivity. Parents block web sites with violence, pornography and illegal activities to protect to their children. Internet Service providers block web sites with child pornography because of the law. Some nations block certain web sites with opinions that dissent from those of the predominant political powers. Unfortunately, whether it is through the proposed “Internet kill switch” that the federal government has proposed or a deployment of government Internet censorship as China and Iran already employ, there is a possibility that those in the “free” world will find the government censoring web sites.
These blocks can be bypassed through changes in web site references, connections to anonymous proxy servers, Google redirects and changes in web site connection. All of the methods described here require either no technical skills to very little skill. The last section gives advice and resources for those who have servers and would be interested in creating the work around web sites and servers that others would value should a web of silence fall.
Accessing the Blocked Site Through Address Work-Arounds
Enter the IP address of the blocked web site into the browser’s address bar. This may allow the web site to open via the IP address without triggering the block that is tied to the web site URL or web page name. For example, an IP address could be accessed using the address format: http://18.104.22.168/
Ping the web site name by going to the command line prompt. Then enter the command:
The response by the ping command will include the IP address of the web site.
Users can also use an IP address lookup based on the web site name. An example site for this is:
In the URL of the web site, change the HTTP to an HTTPS without changing the remaining web site name. For example, http://example.com would be entered as https://example.com. The browser will then treat the web site as a secure site, in some cases bypassing the web site block.
Bypassing the block of secondary web sites when the main web site was accessed via HTTPS or IP address may be necessary when the secondary web site is blocked because of key words in the web site. For example, a news web site is accessible but linked pages are blocked due to controversial material, references to politically incorrect views, or subject matter meta-tags. Bypass this block by selecting the “e-mail this story” option offered by some web sites. Send the story as text or html to an e-mail account. Then access your e-mail to read the material.
Nations and ISPs that block forbidden web sites do not apply the same filters to e-mail. One work around is to have an associate with access to these sites to e-mail desired web site articles to you. This can be done by copying and pasting material into an e-mail. It can also be done by saving the web site page as a PDF, Microsoft Word document, or filtered HTML document and then e-mailing the web site as an attachment.
One could imagine services by those in “free” areas creating e-mail mailing lists, e-mailing news articles and information to those who do not have access to blocked sites that could include FoxNews.com, SurvivalBlog.com or other politically incorrect web sites.
Connect to an Unblocked System
Access an anonymous proxy server. These are often called anonymous web proxies. If you do not know of one, search for the key words “anonymous proxy server” for many such web sites. Then access the anonymous proxy server. From the anonymous proxy service, a search window will appear. Enter the key words or web site name in the search window of the anonymous proxy server. The anonymous proxy server will then serve up the web site in a lower portion of the browser session, bypassing the block. Examples of anonymous proxy web sites include youhide.com, kProxy.com, proxify.com, bypassthat.com, and anonymouse.org.
As a warning, avoid any anonymous proxy server web site that requires payment for use. If the intent is to remain anonymous while surfing blocked sites, payment information creates a record that is traced back to you. And unlike web site viewing history that can be deleted off a computer by a system administrator, payment records are both impossible for the user to eliminate themselves and the most likely to be kept by the system administrator. Payment records are also at high risk of review by others, such as accountants and tax officials. So it is safest to never use an anonymous proxy server web site that requires payment for usage – because that defeats the user’s desire to be anonymous.
Users should also avoid any anonymous proxy server web site that requires installation of any additional software. Even if the software is not malicious, it could provide a trail from software source to your computer that is available to network administrators.
Access another server via a VPN secure location. This secure access connection bypasses the blocking instituted by some firewalls. Users can then surf the web, only limited by the web site controls that the connected computer has installed. This does require the ability to set up a VPN connection as well as knowledge and permission to access a server that is not bound by the same access restrictions.
View the Internet through a cell phone. Many web site blocks managed on a national level are done through ISPs and telecommunication company routers. Using cell phone networks can sometimes bypass these blocks. If used in conjunction with disposable phones with Internet access, it also provides more privacy.
This is an expensive option, since Internet access will be charged to the cell phone bill at data plan rates. The cost can be reduced by requesting web sites be viewed in text instead of HTML format. However, this option can bypass the web site filters in some nations that are based on the computer network.
Go satellite Internet. Just as satellite television bypasses the local television programming by allowing viewers to select from a wider array of television shows, satellite Internet connections can bypass the Internet restrictions based on the local network. Hughes Satellite Internet is the largest but not the only provider in this area. This option is more expensive than surfing through a cell phone. It is also easier to be tracked down to the specific user, since a satellite dish is allowed. However, the proliferation of satellite dishes for television can provide cover in this regard.
A future form of speakeasy would be a sports bar with Internet satellite connections providing web sites that are not available on the consumer’s home computer. Or Internet cafes could simply have private rooms that provide broader access than those in the main area would have. The constant flow of customers also provides anonymity. If the computer does have software to track usage and sites visited, the turnover of users makes it harder to determine which individuals were viewing which web sites. Visiting different Internet cafes or sports bars with the unrestricted Internet access also provides more opportunity to not have one’s own computer searched and then seized due to illegal viewing of politically incorrect material.
Let the Block Think It is a Harmless Page – Bypassing the Block
Go to Google or another browser. Search for the web site name in the search bar. Instead of clicking on the web site link, select the “cached” option below the web site description. This will be seen by the browser as viewing a web page from Google or the search engine, not the blocked site.
Open up Google. Enter the URL in the format below, but with the blocked web site’s URL in place of www.showme.com: http://www.google.com/translate?langpair=en|en&u=www.showme.com
Translations through Google are read by web site filters as coming from Google, thus the web site is visible even though the original content is brought up through this command.
Search for the blocked topic in a search engine. If the web site summary is visible but the web site is blocked, copy the web site URL. Then e-mail it to yourself for viewing on a less restricted system. For example, if a web site appears interesting but the computer on which you are working may be monitored, simply copy the URL and e-mail it to yourself to view on an unmonitored system later.
If the computer has software used to prevent illicit digital copying of material (as is used by some companies today to prevent users copying company data and pasting it in e-mails to send to others), a simple work around is to paste the URL into a text document like Microsoft notepad. Then perform several other transactions. At a later point in the session, after the copy and paste buffer has something else stored within it, cut the link in the text editor. Then paste the link in to an e-mail to send to yourself or others.
For Those With Advanced Computer Skills
Option 1: Set up a personal server. Then install an anonymizing web http proxy like PHProxy. In many cases, this creates a searchable web site. The safest location to get this software is through sourceforge.net, an open source software consortium.
Option 2: Alan Huang, the founder of UltraReach Internet and the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, does distribute his simple software through e-mail to allow anyone to bypass web surveillance. Contact his organization to install his software, currently used by many in Iran and China to get the rest of the story their own nations do not want them to see. Do NOT install software claiming to be his application from any other site; there is a high risk that software from any other source is likely malicious software.
Note: All techniques listed in this article are presently legal per the laws of the United States. Bypassing blocked sites using these methods may be illegal in the nation in which you reside.
For further reading on these topics or more advanced reading, refer to the books in the following list.
- “Access Denied: the Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering”; Ronald Deibert; 2008
- “Self-Regulation and the Internet”; Monroe Edwin Price, Stefaan Verhulst; 2004
- “The Internet and Its Role in Global Politics”; Simon Plaickner; 2009
- “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Internet Privacy and Security”; Preston Gralla; 2002
- “Current Security Management and Ethical Issues of Information Technology”; Rasool Azari; 2003