Getting around Web filtering

* You may need a proxy service to watch real life ninja turtle video

Yesterday I sent a friend an amusing link to a video of a tortoise that is hell-bent on attacking cats (honest!), but he couldn’t access it because his company’s Web filtering determined it was adult, high-bandwidth content. It was definitely the latter (though not particularly high) but the former? Makes me wonder how many companies use such over-reaching filtering.

Anyway, I started to wonder if there was a free public proxy that would allow him to access the content. I found an interesting article on O’Reilly’s Google Hacks about using Google’s translation service, as a proxy service.

The idea is simple: Ask the service to retrieve a Web page and forward it to you translated from English into English. This what the URL becomes: [www.google.com/translate?langpair=en|en&u= www.break.com/index/a-real-ninja-turtle.html].

This works … sort of. The problem is that Google optimizes its translation process so elements that aren’t text are sent as URLs that point to the original site. Thus any filters that block that site in the first place will still block the content.

I tried some other proxies such as Scobbiedoo and Unlockweb.org which rewrite and redirect URLs so that filters don’t get triggered but nothing I’ve found so far can deal with streaming content.

These experiments (that’s a $10 name for hacks) raise a few questions. First, what is the value of strict filtering for entire corporations? Sure, there are departments where there is no reason to allow workers to access anything but my friend is a senior staff member and filtering him seems counterproductive.

Using the various free proxies can allow just about any level of access to get to blocked site content with the exception of streaming video and audio.

I may just have found the proxy that does get around this limitation and, on the other hand, if it doesn’t exist yet you can be pretty certain that it will in the very near future. While most of your users won’t know enough to use them there’s the problem that in any reasonably large organization you’ll have one or two technically proficient users who will most likely share their knowledge and in no time at all your filtering will pointless.

So, what kind of filtering and for that matter logging does your company have in place and do you and or your co-workers use any of these free public proxies to circumvent them? If you are on the IT management side, do you attempt to block these proxies?

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