Long gone are the days when employees and students could access what ever web sites they wanted. The past ten years there has been a growing number of so called web filters blocking access to websites, everything from the obvious adult content sites to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Employees and students are fighting back and are using home based CGI proxies, Flakka unblocking service and free proxies access their websites of choice.
It is constant cat and mouse game between the users who like to access their favourite website and schools and employers blocking that access. This article explore some of the techniques used to block and unblock websites at work and school.
The main reason why schools and workplaces block web sites is to prevent employees and student from using computers and bandwidth for private purposes, such as staying in contact with friends and family using web mail or social networking sites. There is a strong case for stopping such activities. But in some cases it is fair to talk about censorship.
Bennett Haselton from Peacefire reports that Amnesty Intercepted (about human rights groups whose sites were blocked by blocking software) and Blind Ballots (about candidates in the 2004 elections whose sites were blocked). Amnesty International Israel and “Lloyd Doggett for Congress” were among the sites that we found blocked by Cyber Patrol, one of the first web filters on the market.
Many believe schools and employers are fighting a losing battle. There are a number of ways workers and students can unblock the web filters using different form of proxies. It is also becoming common place to have Internet access on everything from cellphones to PDA:s Some companies even prohibit the use of such devices on their premises, especially at companies that handle sensitive personal information such as banks and hospitals.
So what are some of the techniques used to unblock web filters? A few years ago it was very popular to use Google to get past web filters by viewing thumbnail images or “cached” links to look at inappropriate material. Users could also fool filters by typing in misspelled words. Translation sites like Google or Babelfish can deliver sites translated from another language. These days most web filters can easily block these techniques.
There are millions of of so called free proxies on the internet. They basically function as a middle man between the blocked site and the users browser. Unfortunately these proxies are blocked within a few days. Rob McCarthy at Lightspeed Systems explains how their web filter detects new proxies. Lightspeed System have software that continually search the Internet looking for sites which contains the word proxy in the URL or on the actual site. However it takes a few days for a new proxy to get the detected, so it is a constant cat and mouse game.
Another alternative is to use a service called Flakka. It is a system which makes it virtually impossible to detect the unblocked games. The Flakka unblocking service also have the advantage that there is nothing to install or download and it generally performs better than the free proxies when it comes to unblocking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and other social networking sites. The Flakka unblocking service was developed with the average internet user in mind.
The best alternative to circumvent web filters is to set up so called CGI proxy on your home computer. Using this method it is possible to access websites via your home computer. Setting up server and the CGI proxy is very easy, it just takes a few hours. Peacefire has detailed instructions.