How to surf sites that are blocked by your ISP or a company firewall


This posting will present a number of free options that can provide access and/or allow surfing of sites that are blocked by a corporate firewall or by your Internet Service Provider. Options presented are (1) using a proxy service site, (2) Web2mail (3) getting internet from your home machine via VPN, (4) using an internet anonymizer, and (5) using Google.

Have you ever been in a situation where you where prevented access to certain sites on the internet because you were behind a company firewall or because of a restriction imposed by your Internet Service Provider? If so, you might be able to use the solutions provided below as a workaround.

Although I’ve been asked variants of the question “how do I surf blocked sites from my job” often enough to decide to investigate some potential solutions, let me begin by saying that I present these without experience in a restricted internet situation myself and therefore can not attest to the efficacy of the solutions below.

hidemyass screenshot1- Use a Proxy service site: such as, can’t bust me, or Many of these sites in fact all belong to the same network and work in the same way: they will act as a go-between between you and the sites you want to access.

The easiest way to find these is to search Google for “proxy service sites” or a similar keyword. Once you are able to access one of these sites you will find an address box where you can enter the URL for the site you want and the proxy site will grab the content for you and present it within the proxy site URL, allowing you to surf your desired content while its actual URL is being masked by the proxy site. Note that some of these sites will also provide anonymous internet surfing by disguising your IP address and location info.

proxy service sites list1

Click on the image to the right for a list of some proxy service sites. Bear in mind that your corporate firewall or ISP may have already blacklisted some proxy sites, preventing you from accessing them. In this case you might simply search for some new ones that may have not been blacklisted or considering another solution.

WebToMail Screenshot2- Web2Mail: this is a free service that works as follows: send a blank email to send[at] with your desired site URL as the subject. After less than a minute the Web2Mail service will send you an email that contains the web page you requested in HTML format, which you can read in your email client.

As you might imagine, “browsing” your desired site using this service involves receiving the initial email, clicking on a link on that page that most likely be blocked in your browser but that you would use as the subject line in another email to Web2Mail, and repeating. Not the highest quality surfing experience, but will work in a pinch.

One thing I might add: the Web2mail servers are at times unresponsive and there was a point when I was testing it a few days ago and having my emails sent back to me. Since then the issue seems to have been fixed and it is working just fine.

3- Get internet from your home machine via VPN: this stands for Virtual Private Networking. If you are behind a restrictive company firewall you can in most cases set up a connection to your home PC and get unrestricted internet through your home connection. You might want to signal to your network admin that you are doing this; it should not be much of an issue in most settings (you will not need any technical intervention from your network guy to set a VPN up necessarily).

There are many free VPN software options: OpenVPN (and GUI version, pictured above), UltraVNC, TightVNC, LogMeIn Free, and Windows’ own built in VPN. This post is not intended to be a tutorial on how to set this up, but if you search the internet you will find a lot of further information on this. If you know of a good tutorial or tutorials on this please post them in the comments.

tor onion4- Use an internet anonymizer: for example, using the TOR onion router. This is a network of interconnected servers that essentially arrives at your intended URL through a surreptitious route of multiple servers, masking your IP address along the way. A good freeware that I previously reviewed that can access the TOR network is Vidalia; other options: FoxTor for Firefox and Operator.

Aside for TOR, another option is JAP, which I which operates more or less under the same principle.

Google Cached search results5- Use Google: a very imperfect but quick way to take a peek at blocked sites, as follows:

  • View a cached version of your site. Search for the site and/or webpage you seek in Google and, once you have found it in the search results, click on the “Cached” link which will display a cached version that Google has indexed previously. The drawback: in most cases this will be an earlier version of the site that may not up-to-date, depending on how frequently the site content is updated.
  • Use Google reader: if your target site has an RSS feed you can sign up for a Google account and use Google reader to grab the RSS feeds from the site. Google reader presents a couple of advantages (1) you can add a subscription to the site using only the site’s URL, and Google will find the appropriate feed URL for you, and (2) in many cases it will display more than the 10 or so posts that are contained in the feed itself (Google probably caches earlier feeds). A potential drawback is if your site publishes partial feeds rather than the post of page in its entirety, inwhich case an RSS reader will be of limited value.

Do you know of other solutions to this problem? Let us know in the comments.

  • Frank

    I have to say that none of these work reliably. UNLESS you pay for a proxy service, only browse static sites, are allowed to install programs that access non standard protocols, and are allowed to vpn out.

    Every company I’ve worked with blocks all known proxy sites, anything that isn’t standard internet traffic, google cache, and only grant vpn out access to those that request it.

  • Pazu

    I think some better solutions are available here:

    I’m using Freegate and Ultrasurf, fast and easy.

  • Oh well, I found this useful. I was unable to access my own site from work using anything but remote desktop to my home. The proxy server worked a treat. Thanks

  • Ham

    SSH tunnel?

  • i use notepad to navigate.

  • Ultrasurf works like a charm every time I’ve used it. I would recommend this to anyone who needs to get around restricted sites.

  • blt

    I use my cell phone as a backup net connection for blocked sites. Most Windows Mobile based phones have an internet connection sharing applet for this purpose. Just make sure you have a good data plan! Otherwise the fees rack up in a hurry.

  • Pazu

    Also, if you use Ultrasurf and Freegate with Firefox, you can download a wonderful add-on called GProxy, check the installation guide for Firefox 3 on their website also.

  • xd

    Some of the countries using Internet censorship, Finland for example (I am shamed), use simple DNS blacklisting. Easiest way to get thru this is to change from ISP DNS to some other DNS provider like OpenDNS.

    Tax payers money well spent…

  • Intrinsic

    VNC is not VPN software, it’s a cross platform remote control system, similar to Remote Desktop but can connect to any other OS running the VNC software. IE i’ll use it from home to control the desktops of servers at work if an issue arises and fix it remotely if i can. In most cases you’ll need to establish a VPN connection using either the build in MS one in windows or using CiscoVPN for example.

  • Matt

    Very irresponsible post. Great way to get fired.

  • Carbonize

    No such thing as irresponsible knowledge only people who may to choose to use that knowledge in an irresponsible way.

    In my previous job there were times I needed information and rather than wait the day or two it takes to go through the normal channels it was quicker and easier to just use a proxy site.

  • ThreePea

    Here’s a novel idea: Trust your employees. At my company (a software company with 125 employees) we have no censorship, no blocking, no internet policy, nothing. (Known virus sites are blocked by the firewall, for obvious reasons). Other than that, we’re not in the business of snooping, assuming everyone is guilty, or treating our employees like little kids. We feel giving them their freedom and a great working environment will give us hardworking and loyal employees in return. And guess what – that’s exactly what it’s done.

  • blogward

    Agree with Threepea. Our major (for the UK) TV company used to have a completely unrestricted IT system. In 2004 it took the IT ‘support’ department six weeks to realise that the sasser worm was loose, and then they introduced the managed desktop, whose sole purpose seems to be to prevent anyone from getting any work done. I use ‘TeamViewer’ to access my home PC and its applications and data from work; I use the work PC for Lotus Notes only.

  • Andy

    Thanks geniuses…firewall restrictions are there to protect the organizations. People get fired over s**t like this.

    However, websense takes care of you list, even

    And thanksto our FW restrictions, we get very few successful spyware/malware connections…and never a BOT net. so UP YOURS!!!!

  • carbonize

    Hate to disappoint you Andy but bypassing websense using a web based proxy is simple since you only really need to find one not in the banned list. I made my own proxy to bypass Websense in my previous job.

    Blocking proxies wont stop you getting malware/spyware and in fact has nothing at all to do with it so why even mention it? Proxies do not install malware, nasty sites do.

    Oh and only a couple of months ago there was an exploit in how Windows handled meta image files and a lot of people got infected with bots by some clever sod using this exploit in advertising images hosted on LEGITIMATE sites. How would your wonderful websense/firewall ohelped you then?

    God is it me or do most so called IT admins talk total s**t in an attempt to justify their inflated pay packet?

  • nonpareil

    anything like freegate or ultrasurf for opera?

  • As a libertarian, I believe that information should be free, so I thank you for the post.

    As an admin, well, I’d like to put you in my shoes for a few weeks.

    (I’d also like to force Bill Gates to use his own OS as a punishment, but that’s a different reply entirely.)

  • Doh

    Filter sites via regex .*proxy.* – there’s a ton of them, right there.

    If you want to do this without getting caught, don’t do anything stupid or obvious. If your traffic is not encrypted, a decent IDS at the gateway is going to get you busted (this happens at work monthly). If you do anything that uses a lot of bandwidth, this is going to get you busted (this also happens, more rarely).

    And of course, if you do this on a computer at work/school/etc where you do not have admin rights you are likely going to get busted (assuming the IT staff isn’t brain dead) when they pick up your crumbs on the machine.

    VPN (or tunnels over SSH) and portable apps (portableFF/SSH) are THE best way to go, if you can figure out a good way to make it work. An even better way to go is to tunnel via SSH from within a QEMU (or other virtualized machine) of Damn Small Linux running off a memory stick.

    But generally, it’s not worth all the hassle, unless you’re really bored.

  • app

    I am not sure it will work in blocked situations (I have not tested it for this), but you can try a trick I have been using for surfing with an old slow computer on 33.6k dialup: Use Google’s mobile version of the sites on your desktop.

    Google is presenting their own mobile versions of most pages on the internet. They load fast, no scripting on them (much safer), no flash or java applets, you can turn off images, and all links you click on them go to same mobile format type of pages.

    The only real problem you may have with them is most forms are broken (you can’t comment on blogs or login to sites), you can’t download binaries (you can peek & see file names inside archives, though), but you can still read the content on the pages, and that’s the important part.

    I put a bookmarklet on the sidebar of my blog that will allow you to switch from normal version to Google mobile version quickly & easily, if anyone wants to try it.(just drag it to your bookmarks toolbar and you are good to go)

    I also have an input box for you to type in URL’s directly, to visit the sites, if you just want to test it.

    I originally put it on my site for owners of old slow computers that can’t handle some sites, and people on dialup that just want things a bit faster. But the more people that it can help and the more useful it can be for other situations, the better.

  • [deXter]

    “Aside for TOR, another option is JAP, which I which operates more or less under the same principle.”

    Should have been “which I believe operates more or less…”

  • Paparazzi

    Wonder if the Web2Mail would send an exe (application/zipped) file back to my email id. If it did, that would have been great!

  • app


    Not sure if you have an FTP account you can access and download files from (if they are there), but you could try “transloading” the exe you want to the FTP server and then fetching it from there.

    This is how WebTV users used to save images, since they had no storage in their TV.

    Try this site, if you have FTP access…just enter URL of exe file you want then click the button to Step 2 and enter in the FTP server info. The service will fetch the file & upload it there for you.

  • e-night

    Another trick is to use google’s translation service. You give it the URL of an English page, but tell it to translate from Chinese to English. Anything not in Chinese passes through unchanged.

  • Hi, to those who are using freegate.. I tried it actually because I find it interesting, and am using it now, which is very effective really.. But I have a problem.. I can’t access my Gmail (Google Mail) accounts and anything that has anything to do with (which includes blogger and yahoo messenger)…

    Can someone please help me on this? This is really a helpful site for me. Thanks so much!

  • m25man

    In defence of the sysops fighting the loosing battle against system infections. “Sh*thead” was used by one poster!
    It is usually us that have to work 72 hrs a week to clean up the mess left by “stupid” users who have fallen victim to drive by infections or worse.
    Most of the people posting here appear to be smarter than the average Joe and therefore think it’s your personal right to use your employers equipment, time and resources any way you wish. That may be the case and good luck to you, however it’s the other 99% of stupid users we have to defend ourselves from!

    You must try and see the issues from both sides of the fence.

  • kijok

    My ISP allows me to open only So I can google but not open the sites. When I try to open the sites it redirects me to its payment page where I have to put in a scratch card code to keep me online upto the next 12 hours. I would really like to get past this.
    If anyone knows of anythting please email me at

  • Hi,
    Nice article with a big problem.
    I try a lot of solution and I stopped to use Vidalia software,
    a very useful tool, each click – a different IP 🙂
    Try it.

  • fateswebb

    As a computer security professional, I am amazed at the attitudes that admins take toward security…

    complaining that you are talking about ways to get around measures…

    Shouldn’t that admin, be glad that you gave him this information, so he can test it in his own environment, and adjust or suggest changes be made.

    It is a very irresponsible attitude for an admin to have, to simply complain about the information being made available, rather than see if he can protect against it.

    anyways, thanks for the information, even though I pretty much knew it all, it was fun to see the interesting conversation revolving around it.

  • Peter702

    I’m here in Beijing. Cant access any sites relating to “Ultrasurf” type sites to download them. Where shoud I start and or how do I get around this? Can’t get VPN either.

  • FX

    None of above solutions worked for me.

    I access my gmail (blocked by company firewall) thru

  • FX
    Sorry, missing “s”…

  • bartman2589

    OK, this may be slightly off topic, but I was wondering if anyone knows of a website that will allow you to browse an ftp site and download any files from that ftp site using http file transfer protocols instead of ftp transfer protocols. I need something like this because I’m trying to find a way to download .zip and .exe files from microsofts very own ftp site but the computers I’m using (public library computers locked down so I can’t install ANY software or change any settings like proxy settings etc…), the firewall is set to block .exe and .zip files over ftp, I have no trouble downloading files of these types from http sites only from ftp sites. If anyone can help me I’d appreciate it.



    Hey bro….Our mobile company Isp is provide free browsing there only official site…when we dont charge… but its not possible to surf any other site.i wanna brows any link n site…so how it possible…any one tell me???? mail me

  • yasha


    if you wnat anonymous surfing in the Internet use this VPN Service would be really useful.

  • Adam

    I always use this when I`m in China:

    However I see no need for a VPN or a proxy back home.

  • I agree with those who have posted, here, that the easiest way to do things, for all concerned, is to just let people do what they will, and not restrict anything (other than malware and spam). In a perfect world, that would be a perfect solution.

    Of course, in a perfect world, the employer could afford to pay for all that bandwidth; and to pay for one IT support person per one (to three) end-users to, in effect, follow them around (like the poop-scooper guys who walk behind elephants in circus parades) and undo all the things they do which screw-up their machines and impede their ability to use them for that for which they were hired, or which somehow harm the network.

    And then, speaking of “that for which they were hired,” they’re not being paid to surf to whatever web sites they want, and to allow themselves to become distracted and to lose focus. Their breaks should be REAL breaks… away from the computer, as well as their desk and that for which they’ve been tasked; and so, therefore, there should be no personal surfing, etc., from their company-owned workstations.

    And speaking of “company owned,” end user employees always seem to forget that. They spend so much of their lives at work that they develop a sense of ownership about their computer workstations; and they forget that neither it, nor the network to which it’s connected, belongs to them. They don’t get to use it for whatever purpose they wish; to download and install anything to it that they like; and to access any web site for any purpose that they wish. They can do that with their own computers, at their own homes. But the one provided to them by their employer belongs to the employer. And that employer also owns the network to which the employer-owned computer is connected; and the Internet connectivity part of that network COSTS MONEY… and when we’re talking about a decent-sized company, it’s A LOT of money. If the employer can figure out how to pay relatively little for the Internet bandwidth, it usually means that s/he’s not getting very much of it; and so each end user’s use of it needs to be restricted and confined to that needed to perform his/her job, and no more… else the limited bandwidth gets all clogged-up with all that personal surfing, and emailing, and multi-media streaming… and VPN tunneling and remote desktoping, too, when/if the user knows how to do such things.

    The employer also pays for the IT department to keep the desktop workstations and computers going. I’ll venture that not a single person who has posted here in favor of libertarian-style unlimited employee use of employer-owned computers and bandwidth has never run an IT department… or been in charge of making sure that every person sitting at every desk can get his/her work done without being hampered by machines behaving badly, or both LAN and Internet connectivity being bogged-down by overuse. Believe me, if any of them had, they’d be whistling a different tune.

    When a network is wide-open, with no limits, end-users will download all kinds of crap which ends-up slowing-down their machines, or introducing malware to them (which can still get on their machines even with a company firewall if they download from certain kinds of web sites, or if they download, for example, certain kinds of cursors or screensavers or wallpapers, etc. When a network is wide-open, with no limits, end-users will bring their headphones or ear buds to work, plug them into their machines’ earphone jack, and then stream music all day long from Internet radio stations and/or web sites. End users forget that it only takes ten (10) people in a company simultaneously doing that user-up the equivalent of an entire T-1 circuit. T-1 circuits cost $600 or more per month. Who pays for that? Hmm?

    Then there’s illegal behavior. We can hate RIAA and its draconian methods of keeping people from illegally sharing commercial (and copyrighted) movies and songs, but all the empassioned arguments in the world which assert that it’s not fair, or that copyright holders make enough money, or that we should have the freedeom to do whatever we want won’t influence a Federal judge in front of whom the end-user’s employer is defending himself in an RIAA-initiated lawsuit because of all the end-users who are filesharing using Napster-like or bit-torrent tools. And back to the bandwidth issue: It only takes ONE (1) employee running a peer-to-peer file sharing tool (such as uTorrent) full-time to use-up an entire T-1 circuit’s worth of bandwidth! Who, again, pays for that? Hmm? No… seriously… hmmm?

    End-users don’t stop to think that EVERYTHING (they do) has a cost. Everything. And so, all that libertarian freedom that they want at work is fine in theory, but SOMEONE’s GOT TO PAY FOR IT. Even if some of them would be willing to pay their employers for their personal bandwidth usage, employing tools to ferrit out which is which ALSO has a cost… of both acquisition and implementation, as well as ongoing maintenance… and so the costly IT department just grows and grows.

    Plus, I gotta’ tell ya’… so clueless are most end-users regarding what things actually cost that if their employers ever actually DID deduct from their paychecks what their pursonal both bandwidth usage and personal Internet time actually costs…

    …they’d end-up cashing teenie, tiny paychecks every two weeks. They would, in fact, be SHOCKED what a simple hour of their personal surfing (and other things) costs their employers. They’d be, I tell you, shocked!

    Shame, though, on the IT department for which any of this is even an issue. If each both workstation and the overall LAN (local area network) within the company is properly configured (and by that I mean LOCKED DOWN), then no one, believe me, could “get around” the system…

    …not with proxies, not with VPN tunneling, not with remote desktop, not with pages-by-email, not with an anonymizer, and not by any other means which has been mentioned, here. Believe me, if any of you were end-users at a company where I was the IT Director, three things would be true:

    1) You would not, no matter what you did, or how clever you were, be able to do anything on your computer, or on the Internet, which your employer did not want you to to do; and,

    2) if you DID figure out a way to ursurp those controls, it would only work for a few moments; and,

    3) a few moments after whatever you did to ursurp the controls was locked back down again, personnel would be summoning you to its department to collect your last paycheck and be escorted out of the building (er… well… assuming it was your second offense… I believe in a one-stern-warning type of system).

    I’ve been at this for 35 years. I know every trick in the book. I know how to both block anything and everything which clever end-users think they know how to do without my notice, as well as to actually and immediately notice it. And I know how to so configure their machines that they can’t get at how to change any of its settiings… not even the wallpaper. Nothing. I’m so good at it that I can even stop hackers and others who’ve worked in IT departments.

    And through it all, each user is still able to get his/her job done, unhampered, because what they need from their computer workstation and both LAN and Internet connectivity works flawlessly.

    By setting things up this way, I can operate, even in a huge company, a relatively tiny IT department… one which almost never gets calls to come and undo something stupid which the end-user has gotten himself/herself into, and one which can support a relatively huge number of users on a relatively tiny amount of Internet access bandwidth.

    Employwers love me. Employees hate me. That’s how I know I’m doing it right.

    You wanna’ stream music in view whatever sites you want to view? Do it on your own time, on your own machine, using your own bandwidth. But when you come to work were I’m the IT Director or CIO, you play MY way… and there’s not a thing you can do to get around it… not on MY network, at least. Believe it.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, Californnia USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • By the way… I forgot to add, in my previous posting…

    It’s not censorship if the LAN and its gateway to the Internet is owned by one’s employer. The employer gets to do with his/her own LAN and its Internet connectivity gateway whatever s/he wants… even in America. Again, one is free to do as one wants on one’s own computer and Internet connection, on one’s own time.

    And if one is living in a country where even THAT isn’t true, then one’s living in the wrong country; and one needs to become an activist for freedom in said country — and even die for it, if necessary — rather than spending all his/her time cowardly figuring out how to usurp controls. That said, I understand and acknowledge that if all Chinese citizens, for example, did that, none of them would EVER be able to communicate over the Internet — at least freely — outside their country. So activism, in that case, both can and should include usurping the system.

    But we don’t live in a country like that in the US. Oh, sure, the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act might seem to make that statement less true than most of us would like, but even with those things, everyone is free to communicate whatever they want, however they want in the US… as long as they’re willing to live with whatever are the consequences. In a truly free country (and the Patriot Act, et al, not withstanding, that really is what we have in the US), those consequences may be dire because others have free speech rights, too, and so have the freedome to decry whatever we communicate as part of our freedoms; but at least the government is not censoring or putting anyone in jail over it.

    And when I write that, remember, that even in a free society, there are still things we cannot say or write or otherwise communicate… defamatory speech, for example; or yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is, in fact, no fire. There must be limits even to free speech in certain very narrow circumstances. The trick, as citizens, is to keep knuckleheaded right-wingers from using the “if you have nothing to hide, then…” mentality to broaden said circumstances. They must, in a truly free society, be very narrow circumstances, indeed — such as, for example, defamation and/or yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater — else said society really does begin to have censorship, and/or government-initiated dire consequences for otherwise protected speech…

    …such as in China and many other countries.

    But none of that — and this is important — has anything to do with an employer being able to tightly control what happens on computers and LANs and Internet gateways which s/he owns.

    End-users need to get these concepts straight in their heads; and stop misusing terms like “freedom” and “censorhip” when having these kinds of discussions.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Censorship, either way is a BAD thing. Look at the more extreme cases, like China. I really think that in the next years VPN services and proxies will get more and more popular. I use for some time now, it`s working great, but I would just like to be able to access any site I want without any techie stuff…

  • Anonymous

    use these sites (i use them at school all the time) and

  • soniax

    I use to bypass restrictions made by my local ISP and I am very satisfied how it works.

  • Robert

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  • Mark Ackley

    I am using Hotspot Shield Free VPN to Access all blocked websites. Its Free. Hotspot Shield VPN conceals your IP address and protects your personal data from hackers, including credit card information, online shopping data, passwords, downloads and instant messages from hackers.

    Check it out here:

  • sara

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  • David Ryan

    Simply use VPN for blocked or reagion locked website, I use for streaming and torrenting, it works very well