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Why Do Websites Get Blocked and How to Bypass it

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Posted on August 1st, 2019 by Natalia Diatko in Guest Posts

Access denied to a website

Censorship appears to be increasingly severe not only in countries, which we traditionally view as authoritarian (Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, etc.) but in Western ones as well. It is not uncommon anymore for users from around the globe to find themselves unable to access their favorite resources.

This happens because:

  • some governments do not want citizens to access resources from some countries for political and/or economic reasons. For example — The Great Firewall of China;
  • some businesses restrict Internet use for employees to make them concentrate on work;
  • there are parental control services that limit access for some age groups.

However, there are always ways around any obstacle. This post focuses on the most common, effective, and legal means of how to get access to blocked websites.

The access to a website got restricted

If you realize you cannot visit your favorite website anymore, please, control your feelings and try to find out what exactly is wrong.

  • First, address an uptime monitoring service and check if the website is down or up.
  • If it is down, it may be dealing with technical issues, and it will get back on its feet in a couple of days.
  • If the service is not detecting a downtime, most likely, the website administration or your government/company has just limited access to it.
  • Ask your friends, colleagues, and associates: if they cannot access the websites, and users outside of your organization can, this has to be due to corporate control.
  • If you have friends from different countries, ask them too. If users who live in your country cannot open it, and users from abroad can, most likely, it is blocked by your home country’s or host country’s government.

How and why websites are being blocked

Geoblocking

This is one of the biggest threats to the freedom of the Internet, as blocking users from certain countries is increasingly common.

It is an approach used to limit access to Internet content based on users’ geographic location.

Governments, companies, and websites apply geolocation techniques, which help them define a user’s location by IP-address, connection delay, etc.

Governments use geoblocking for political and economic purposes, as they restrict various companies, media groups, social organizations, etc. that are subject to political and economic sanctions. For example, governments may blacklist retailers from given countries and limit the sale of their products in their countries to comply with their protectionist policies.

Private companies and individuals may resort to geoblocking too. They do it for various reasons. The most common are compliance with economic sanctions for not wanting to fall under restrictions themselves.

Companies may block some websites

To make employees work more efficiently, company leaders use different ways to control their activities.

  • They legally buy and use corporate surveillance software, such as Spytech, WorkExaminer, etc. With the help of this software, they carry out real-time monitoring employees’ work and address each staff member if necessary.
  • Also, companies can use bandwidth controlling software, which responds to changes in the speed of corporate networks. These changes often result from downloading/uploading media files, playing online games, and other activities that are not related to work.
  • Other companies prefer to restrict access to specific categories of websites with the help of keywords. There are ways to set hardware to respond to words, which refer to websites blacklisted by the company and prevent employees from accessing these websites during work time (online stores, dating sites, games, etc.)

How to view blocked websites

There are quite a bunch of methods on how to access blocked sites.

Use VPN services

VPN service

VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows you to connect to a server located in any part of the world on a peer-to-peer basis and bypass the central server. As you connect to a server outside of your home country, your IP-address will be located outside of it too. VPNs encrypt data flow and allow users to build channels, which cannot be decoded by a third party. There are lots of affordable VPN services online, through which you can connect to a server located half the world away from you. VPN is one of the safest ways around restrictions.

Become Anonymous: run your browser through a proxy.

Run your browser through a proxy

Connecting to a proxy is another way to circumvent restrictions. A proxy service will hide the restricted website from your ISP and will not let they track your activity. However, proxies do not code traffic as VPNs do, so they are less safe.

Use IP instead of URL

IP instead of URL

If you have discovered that a website is blocked, you can try accessing it through its IP, because the blockers could have hidden the URL. It is possible to get the IP by pinging it using a free PING tool or in Command Prompt. Run the program, type in the web site's URL, hit Enter, copy-paste the IP-address into the browser’s address bar and select the needed site from the list. Please, note that this method won’t work if the blockers have chosen to hide the IP-address too.

Choose between proxies in your browser

Choose different proxy

Some organizations use more than one proxy. As restrictions are directed via particular proxies, there may be ones, through which the blocked website can still be available. Use the Connection Settings option in your browser and switch to another proxy, which is likely to be unrestricted.

Use browser extensions

Use browser extensions

If you use dynamic websites regularly, and your organization or government is blocking them, they still can be accessed via browser extensions like UltraSurf, ProxMate, Hola, etc.

Replace your DNS Server

Replace DNS server

Now it is possible to switch between DNS servers and have a safer and more reliable connection and bypass censorship. You can address GoogleDNS and/or OpenDNS, as well as the just-launched 1.1.1.1 DNS, which is believed to be the most advanced and privacy-oriented one.

Use Wayback Machine

Use WayBack Machine

Realizing that your favorite site is no longer accessible is frustrating. However, Wayback Machine has chosen an interesting strategy. It copies different past versions of websites and presents them to the audience. Users can choose any available previous version of a favorite site, view videos, and listen to audio, which would not be available otherwise.

Use RSS feed

Use RSS feed

RSS (‘really simple syndication’ or ‘rich site summary,’ whatever you like!) feed is a unique solution, which helps you to grab content from blocked sites and broadcast them to a reader. You can use the website’s feed or, if it is not there, create your own, and view all types of content that come in from the source in a simple text format.

Use IP Anonymizer (i.e., TOR)

Use IP Use Anonymizer (TOR)

Tor, “The Onion Router,” gets its nickname from the layered encryption pattern, which it uses when transferring data. It is a kind of browser, which ensures safe encryption and anonymity. With this browser at hand, users can access blocked websites and media resources without being tracked by any surveillance.

Use portable FireFox

Use FireFox from USB

Some organizations go pretty far in restricting employees’/students’ access to websites and may forbid them to use web browser extensions. A good way out is installing a browser on a USB drive and synchronizing it with an unblock proxy.

Final Words

As follows from the above, there are a variety of ways to access blocked websites, and they are all quite so available. However, each one of them is effective in its way, and what is suitable for some users may be less suitable for others. Nonetheless, the scope of options is pretty extensive so that any user can choose the most appropriate one.

Natalia Diatko is a project manager for HRank. Natalia helps with content publication and reviews about the latest trends.

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