Web filter evasion part 2: Out of band

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A lot of times, you kind of want access to your favorite content, even if it's just to read it, while at work or school. Some places with more draconian Internet access policies block pretty much everything "cool" and paint their restrictions with a very wide brush. In this series, we'll uncover a few ways around these restrictions.

With each article, I will delve into techniques that are progressively more advanced and difficult to implement. Keep in mind that this is a thought exercise in evasion. Implementing this stuff could get you expelled from school, fired from your job, or banned from public-access computers in a library or coffee shop. With a little bit of wisdom, you can often get around the restrictions set in place without getting yourself into hot water.

In Part 2, I'll cover out-of-band communication. Why spend time trying to trick the web filter when you can simply not go through it at all? Creeping into our list at number two, this trick is somewhat obvious and well-documented. Most computer users can manage to connect to a wireless network or follow the instructions that come with a mobile data service plan.

Personally, this is what I do most of the time. I'm using my own laptop and my own internet connection. Where I work, I'm not breaking any rules at all, so long as the content I'm browsing doesn't offend my peers. If I'm not disturbing anyone and I'm getting my work done, my boss doesn't mind.


  • Cost. To properly implement something like this, you'll likely need a laptop computer, Wi-Fi enabled PDA, a smartphone of some sort, or other expensive equipment.
  • Totally uncontrolled access. Neither IT Departments nor managers are often comfortable when you have 100% unfettered access to whatever you want. This could get you in trouble.
Advantages that will work in your favor
  • The fact that you'll be avoiding connecting through the work or school network means that anything on your computer is NOT on the work or school network. This is sometimes a sigh of relief for netadmins.
  • What you do out-of-band can't be monitored by the network, either.

The cheapest and easiest way. If there are networks in range, fire up your Wireless Ethernet (IEEE 802.11, Wi-Fi, etc.) and join an open network that you can surf freely from. Most operating systems will display a list of open networks you can try connecting to. Obviously, you should try to access ones that are blatantly set up for public use. Maybe there's a cafe across the street. Failing that, you can TRY to access networks that are left unsecured by accident. This can get you into legal trouble, though. HiR doesn't advocate that.

If you feel like getting a little bit more advanced in your search for a public network to piggyback, install wireless scanning software (KisMAC, BSD Airtools, Kismet or Netstumbler), pick up some high-gain antennae and a high-power wireless ethernet card. The widespread deployment of privately-operated, free Wi-Fi makes this a viable option in dense urban and business districts.

Mobile Data plans (Wireless broadband)
Sprint and Verizon (among others, probably) offer data plans with mobile data cards that you can plug into your laptop via PCMCIA, USB or Express Card connectors. These plans can be costly, but will work anywhere you can get a signal on your phone. Using these services is as simple as paying for it and following the instructions. If you have trouble getting it working, you can even call your provider for free technical support.

Also in the same vein are smartphones. Gadgets such as the iPhone offer feature-packed browsing via the phone's data plan. You can also get on AIM/MSN/Yahoo or check many websites and mail providers through the built-in WAP Browser on less advanced mobile phones.

Mobile Phone Tethering
This is a little more shady, and could get your account terminated with your wireless carrier. By plugging in a cable between your laptop and mobile phone (or using bluetooth to make the connection) you can "tether" and use your phone's built-in data connection to access the Internet. HowardForums is a good place to learn about this stuff in more detail.

Next in this series, we'll dive head-first into web-based anonymous proxies -- a sure-fire way to get your IT guys angry at you, should you be caught in the act.

View entire series: Web Filter Evasion

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