January 30, 2009

How to get around the web filter at Work/School

One of the things I am constantly asked by friends is how to get around the filters companies put on their Internet connections. So after much internal debate, I have decided to explain a couple simple methods.

But First, the disclaimer: As a professional courtesy to all of my fellow Corporate IT colleges, I feel obligated to inform you that if these filters are in place, it is for a reason. If you decide to get around these filters, I can pretty much guarantee you are in violation of your employment agreement (or school rules) and are doing so blatantly. If you do this, and get in trouble, it is your fault, as you chose to break the rules.

Now, for the good part.

Remote Desktop

My method of choice for getting around filters at work has always been remotely connecting to my home PC. Why you ask? because then you are using your home Internet connection to browse the Internet, all your bookmarks are in place, and there is far less evidence left behind on your work computer. You also don't risk downloading a virus onto your work computer, which will almost always lead into investigating how it got there, which will pretty much guarantee they see what you were doing.

My preferred software for this is Microsoft's Remote Desktop Client, which comes with Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2000, 2003, 2008 and Windows Vista for Business and Ultimate. (Sorry XP home users, this one isn't for you) The reason I use this is because most companies use it for managing servers, so the ports are rarely blocked on the firewall (and you use an open port if you know how to configure this) and because the software needed to connect is probably installed on your work computer already.(Its also free) All you need to do to get it going is configure your home computer to accept the connection (Right click on My Computer, go to properties. Go to the remote tab, select "Allow users to remotely connect to this computer) and then forward port 3389 on your home router to your computers internal IP address. When you do this, make sure you have strong passwords on all of your computers accounts. Then get your external IP (I like to use www.whatsmyip.com) and when you get to work, Click on the start button, select run, type in MSTSC and press enter. A window will come up asking for the computer name, just put in the external IP you got from home, and you will be connected. Simple.

There are also several other methods for doing this like gotomypc, find the one that works for you and you will be all set.

Web Proxy

The next Method is called a web proxy. This method is a bit more work, less reliable, and riskier, which is why I don't use it. Essentially what a web proxy does is allow you to connect to their web site and then enter the real web site you want to go to. They can then router the web site you want through their web site so it gets around the filter.

Why I don't like this method:

  1. Even when using a proxy, you are still browsing the Internet from your work computer, which means things like temp files and cookies get left behind.
  2. It is hard to find good working ones which aren't blocked by the filter you are trying to get around.
  3. A lot of proxies contain Malware that downloads to your computer while you are using it.
  4. They are slow.
  5. Good ones cost money (and still might get blocked)

So why would I list it if there are so many flaws? Mostly so you know not to use them. I have a lot of friends who find these and think they are great...until I explain what is really happening or can happen.

Your best bet really is to use your home computer remotely, its safer, faster, and much less of a hassle. You are also less likely to get caught.


Bonus Method:

Use Google. This method wont usually work if you are trying to shop, browse forums, or check out myspace, but it works well when you are looking something up online and the site happens to be blocked. Go to google, enter the URL for the site you are trying to get to, and then click the cache button. This will bring up a copy of the page that Google has saved onto their server.

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