We’ve all been there. Every now and then we log in to a computer that says we can’t access certain websites. It could be an oppressive government or simply an office space that wants to keep you from “wasting time” on Facebook.
It is a common practice in schools and offices to block social media websites. You might have also seen this on YouTube when a particular video is not available in your region.
That’s a bummer no doubt. But the good news is, this is 2020 and a way around such blocks, like this article, is just a Google search away. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of solution. No matter what your level of technological sophistication, there is a way for you to circumvent these restrictions and access blocked websites.
Use a Virtual Proxy Network or VPN
This is software that basically hides your IP address. A reliable VPN will allow you to access blocked websites quite easily. Anyone can do it, whether you’re using a Windows machine or a Mac.
When you choose the easiest way which is using a VPN we highly recommend the VPN Provider NordVPN, we are using this provider ourselves and the benefits are amazing. After testing out almost all VPNs providers NordVPN came out as the best one for us.
Typically, your internet traffic goes through different servers in different locations. A VPN hides your activity from anyone who is monitoring this route. But for that to happen, you must keep in on at all times. It is a bit tricky to install this software on computers at school or office because they are closely monitored. But it’s a piece of cake if you’re using a personal computer using a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Many of these services are paid but some, like Hotspot Shield, provide a free version. It’s not hard to find. You can also learn How To Set Up A VPN Server on your own, might not be for everyone but you will have full control.
Use a Mobile Version
This one is a great hack to access blocked websites, especially when it comes to social media sites like YouTube and Facebook. That might be because the internet service provider in your country or organization places these websites behind a firewall. But these large companies offer mobile versions of their websites which are not taken into account by those blocking the services.
All you have to do is use “https://www.m.youtube.com/” instead of the regular URL which is “https://www.youtube.com/”. Failing that, you can always pull out your phone and access the websites on your personal device.
The internet should be free for all. There are very few circumstances under which it makes sense for anyone to tell you that you can’t access certain websites.
This is for when mobile versions of certain websites are also blocked. Sometimes, video streaming services and even your personal emails can be blocked at work. Some employers have done their homework. But we have a solution for that too.
You fall back on proxy websites. Now, before we get into that, we want to tell you that this is not as secure as using a VPN. But when it is circumventing access just for some harmless horseplay at work, this should be fine. You can access blocked websites using a camouflage that is provided by proxy websites.
These websites morph the URL of the website you are trying to access from your internet service provider or ISP. So find a service like spysurfing.com or smartproxy.com and all you need to do is enter the URL of the blocked website on it.
For example, if you are trying to access YouTube, go on spysurfing.com and enter youtube.com in the URL field. Spy Surfing will take care of the rest.
Use Short URL Services
This is also a solution for benign bypassing purposes. When you’re told you can’t access blocked websites at work, sometimes all they have done is ban that specific URL. So what you can do is use a custom URL shortener like bit.ly to convert the web address of the website you are trying to access. This is basically like changing your name to crash a wedding.
Use an IP address, Not URL
Ordinarily, when you want to access a website, you enter the URL into the address bar of your browser. But, when the website is blocked, there is another way.
Instead of entering the URL, you can enter the website’s IP address and get in. Now, how do you find out the IP address? If you’re on a Windows system, you need access to Command Prompt. If it’s a Mac, you need to open Terminal. If you don’t have access to these, you might want to take out your personal computer. If you don’t have one, well, this is the end of the road with this method.
But if you do, open Command Prompt or Terminal. Let’s do this with the example of Facebook. Type “ping www.facebook.com” and hit Enter. This should give you the IP address you seek. But if the IP is hidden from the source (Facebook or any website you’re trying to access) and not just the destination (your network), this will not work.
If it is not, then it will return the IP address which you can enter into the address bar and gain access. But remember that this is not always a solution because not all IP addresses are available out there. And some services use multiple IP addresses precisely to avoid this.
Sometimes it can also be as easy as changing your IP Address.
Change the Network Proxy
This one is for bypassing college and office networks. Often, these networks have multiple proxies. And if you’re lucky, the ban on certain websites is limited to one proxy. So try to find the other proxies and gain access.
How do you do that? Like this.
Go to the Settings of your web browser and find the available connections or network options. You will need to disable proxy settings on your web browser and find the one which grants access.
For example, if you’re using Google Chrome, here’s how you do it. Go to Settings. Under “network,” click on “change proxy settings”. There is a “connections” tab. Under that, click on “LAN settings”. Under “proxy server” select the one you want to use and you’re pretty much done.
Make Use of Google Translate
This isn’t foolproof and doesn’t always work but it’s worth a shot. Google Translate is not banned almost anywhere simply because it is considered an educational tool. So go to https://translate.google.com/. Type the address of the website you want to visit on the left side column. Pick a language that you understand on the right side (not English because that’s the language of the URL banned on your network) and convert the URL. Paste the converted URL in your browser and see if it works.
Example: If you want to access Facebook, type in https://www.facebook.com/ into the left side column of Google Translate. Then convert it to a language with a different script like Arabic but a language you understand. Paste the result in the right-side column to the address bar.
Find the Right Extension
Sometimes, all the solutions are just a couple of clicks away. It’s like wanting a product, finding it on Amazon, and ordering it. A couple of days later, it’s in your hands.
Accessing blocked websites can also be just as easy if you find the right extension. Websites like Facebook and YouTube are dynamic. This makes it easier to access them using an extension. If you do a simple search, you will find that ProxMate and Hola are some good options. These work on Chrome and a few other browsers too.
If you go for UltraSurf, you can knock out many firewalls while browsing on an encrypted network.
Firefox with an Unblock Proxy Service
The extension trick doesn’t always work because some employers are quite up there with their research. Or maybe they just have a good IT guy. But even then, there are ways to get this done. In those moments, Firefox is one of the browsers that save us. And here’s how you should use it.
Install the browser and get a good unblock proxy service to go with it. Some browsers come with built-in proxies too. While you cannot download them on a restricted computer, you can get a portable version of the browser and save it on your USB drive. Once you connect it to the restricted computer and run it you can access the blocked website.
If you’re doing this at work, you might have to take out your personal computer to download the portable version of the browser. But before you go through the trouble, make sure your restricted computer allows you to use USB drives on it. Otherwise, the portable browser is no good.
Recast the URL
This trick comes in handy for websites that are hosted on a dedicated server. Instead of typing www.websitename.com or https://www.websitename.com, you will have to type https://websitename.com. Notice the extra ‘s’. This is called recasting the URL. This takes you to the website with an unverified Secure Sockets Layer or SSL and gives you a security warning. Click on the “proceed anyway” option or an option to that effect and you’re good to go.
SSL is a networking protocol that is used to secure connections between clients and their servers when the network is insecure. This is a popular option when the website itself is hosted in a virtual proxy network or VPN.
Use a DNS Hack
This is actually an old hack to access blocked websites. What you have to do is change the DNS server on your computer or router (if the change is across a network, especially at home).
This is a hack for when you want to access the same website from a different place. For example, when you want to use Netflix from another country or access YouTube videos that are not available in your region.
What the DNS server does is that it redirects your traffic partially. It fools the server into thinking that you are accessing the website from the country you want to instead of the country you actually are in.
But most of these services have shut down and the ones available for a price are not popular because you can get a VPN for the same price with a lot more features.
Something Like Wayback Machine
This is a popular option. The likes of Wayback Machine store older versions of these websites that you are trying to access. What the software does is takes you to one of those versions without visiting the site itself.
Now, this doesn’t work for social media sites but it is very useful in getting research that has possibly been taken down. How to do this?
Enter https://archive.org/web/ in the address bar of your browser. Then enter the URL of the website you want to access. Click on the “browse history” button and select a date. And voila! There you have it.
Use the Website’s RSS feed
This is not a solution for all websites. Some websites provide an RSS feed that you can subscribe to. Sometimes you can even ask for the contents to be delivered to your inbox. In that case, you can get the RSS feed of the blocked website and get a read and add it there.
You can also try some online services which can create an RSS feed and bring it to your inbox. This is sort of like hit and miss. But it is worth a shot if you are desperate.
Oftentimes, websites are blocked because of an oppressive regime. For example, China bans a host of websites and even discussions when the words ‘Tiananmen Square’ is mentioned. This is a case of political censorship. When you are in such a situation, there is a need to access websites with crucial information. Some of these hacks can be of great help.
Even otherwise, these are simple, harmless techniques that help you out to circumvent the restrictions at your workplace or schools when you can’t access certain websites.
Lorenzo has been using the internet for as long as he can remember. He was there for the early days of message boards, he watched social media take over, and he’s excited to see what comes next.