This is becoming a more and more important question as we spend an increasing amount of time online. What exactly is internet filtering and should we learn to live with it or try and bypass it at every turn?
It’s probably best to start with some background, and define some of the types of filtering you’ll find online and who enforces them. All sorts of people could potentially be filtering your internet access, largely dependent upon your location and situation. Governments often filter extensively – places like China, Thailand and Iran heavily restrict what you can see or do online. More worryingly many places monitor rather than block which has led to many bloggers for instance being imprisoned for merely expressing an opinion online.
More democratic nations are also starting to increase the amount of filtering they engage in. Australia seems very keen to introduce an extensive filtering system whilst Iceland are proposing to block internet porn completely from their country.
There are also more understandable filtering which takes place in your workplace, schools or colleges generally to prevent individuals accessing inappropriate sites or spending their working days on Facebook!
Surprisingly though all this filtering is usually obtained through very similar methods. Your local college is liable to be filtering your internet feed using the same methods as the Sudanese Government. If you decide you do want to beat internet filtering – then here’s two of the main methods used;
Filtering TCP/IP Headers
Every TCP/IP packet consists of two main sections, the header and the data. Inside the header you’ll find the destination IP address effectively where the request is being sent to. A simple but popular method of internet filtering is to maintain a list of ‘blocked IP addresses’ any request sent to these addresses is either dropped or blocked. It’s nto a very effective method though and means spending a long time keeping an up to date list of IP addresses and servers. It also often ends up blocking legitimate sites by mistake.
Filtering Based on Content
A more sophisticated method which involves looking at the data in the packet and not simply the address from the header. It usually involves an investment in new hardware to enable content filtering. This method is much more configurable and will allow blocks on inappropriate content such as porn, gambling etc without the reliance on maintaining a static list of sites.
It’s not perfect and there are still ways to beat this method of internet filtering too, it can also heavily impact the speed of the connection as well.
There are many variants of these methods and of course you’ll find lots of different security configurations employed as well in many organisations. For example many companies will only allow outgoing web requests out through a single server address normally a controlled proxy server. This is to stop people using the free basic web proxy servers that you find over the internet.
So Can You Beat Internet Filtering?
The simple answer is that you normally can. Evading the simple TCP/IP header filters is relatively straight forward – just finding a proxy server which does not have it’s IP address listed will normally do the trick.
Obviously it’s more difficult if you’re faced by a sophisticated content filter like BT Clean Feed, Websense or Optinet. These are actually looking in the data for both web addresses and specific keywords or patterns in the content itself. The simplest way to stop these content filters blocking you is to make your browsing unreadable by encrypting it. Encrypting your data means that the filters can’t actually see what is in the data in order to make a decision, when combined with a proxy server you can normally beat most internet filters.
Take a look at this video, which demonstrates how Hide IP Software actually works.
If you need a product that does this and more – then take a look at Identity Cloaker, it has the technology to encrypt and cloak your protection plus access to an extensive network of proxies all over the globe – servers in the United States, Britain, France, Canada and many more across the world. You can use it for complete seclusion, to circumvent web filtering,censorship or even just to watch Hulu, BBC Iplayer or any media site you enjoy. The proxy will shield your IP address and the encryption will protect your data from logging and content filters.