Monday, 22 October 2012


While it is true that pirated material can be found on a number of file sharing and Torrent sites, blocking them entirely robs web users of access to a wealth of legitimate content and, frankly, interferes with basic freedoms and rights. Blocking specific pages would serve the same purpose, but blocking entire websites is a lazy overreaction that is sadly becoming the norm. Hundreds of people who used file hosting sites for personal backups or self-made content have lost access to their work. These sites and technologies themselves are not and cannot be called illegal—no more so than photocopy machines or video cassette recorders. The onus lies with individual users. If people commit crimes, they should be penalized, but outlawing common tools should not be the default course of action.
                At this point, anyone can get away with blocking anything claiming “offense” or “piracy”—a dangerous, slippery slope. Politically, financially or self-righteously motivated censorship is getting out of control, to the extent that anything can be taken offl ine without even confirming that there was malicious or criminal intent behind posting it. When faced with such a situation, it’s important to understand how the technology works and how it’s being blocked. The methods described below will help you restore access to blocked
parts of the Web.
                  This should not be taken as a free license to commit crimes or pirate copyrighted material. As it stands the currently imposed website restrictions are extremely rudimentary and can be bypassed using the simplest of methods, ie bypassing the DNS system. ISPs have simultaneously gone too far and not deep enough. These instructions will help you overcome the inconvenience of overzealous blocking, and should there ever be a question of arbitrary and restrictive Web filtering for the purpose of restricting the free fl ow of information at any point in the future, these instructions will help you stay ahead, at least in a limited way and for a limited time. The responsibility to use them within the bounds of the law is on you.


A proxy server, as the name suggests, allows you to access websites by passing through someone else’s Internet connection. It means tunneling through the Internet, into another PC somewhere in the world, and accessing websites or downloading files using their connection. The browsing and downloading speed depends on their Internet connection speed and the number of people accessing the service at any given time. Proxy servers are usually profit-driven, but some are hosted by ordinary people who simply wish to help those trapped by oppressive censorship. These are commonly used to circumvent blocks by offi ce administrators, ISPs, and governments. You can of course be tracked for visiting the proxy itself, though expensive paid services will encrypt your communications. Most of these websites themselves get blocked, but there is a constant cat-and-mouse game with new ones popping up till they are discovered. Proxies themselves can make money by displaying additional ads and inserting popups in the pages you visit. They are absolutely unsuitable for banking and accessing secure websites, since they can manipulate anything you access through their lines. Many have unusual names to avoid raising red flags when administrators go through their logs.


Proxies also come in the form of browser add-ons. Those using Firefox might already be using them, since they’ve been around for a while. The method is pretty easy and can be set up in two or three minutes. Simply search for proxy add-ons, download and install the one you want, and restart the browser. Once it’s done, search online for available recently updated proxy server IP addresses and port numbers and feed these into the add-on. You will thus be browsing through the proxy server located elsewhere in the world, allowing you to access restricted websites. Proxy add-ons are available for Opera, Chrome and Internet Explorer too, but Firefox is the most versatile.


Google’s caching server often hosts recent copies of websites. This does not actually take you to the website itself, but to a copy of it that Google uses to speed up searches. To try it, simply log on to Google and enter the search term ‘Cache:’ along with the address of the website you need to visit. If you are lucky, you will get a recently updated copy. Take for example the blocked Chinese shopping website www.focalprice.comwhich can be accessed using the Google cache. The Google translation service also helps load blocked foreign websites.


Using an alternate DNS server is also an option.A DNS server is like an index, with a list of domain names—such as,,,, and pretty much every other website on the Internet. When you type a website address into your browser, your computer sends a request to the DNS server, which then connects you to the IP address for that site. One of the easiest ways that ISPs can block access to a particular site is by removing the IP address entries for those sites from their DNS tables. ISPs can even choose to redirect the URL to a different IP or display a notice instead. There are free, fully open and fully legal third-party DNS services run by organizations and other ISPs. The most popular ones are run by Google and OpenDNS. All you need to do is change your DNS server settings to theirs. Simply change the primary and/or secondary DNS server address in your network configuration settings (on your PC/device and router).


A third-party utility called TOR can help you access blocked websites with minimal effort. Using it is pretty simple, but it is definitely slower than your Internet speed, since it uses multiple hops between volunteer hosts around the world. It securely creates a tunnel through multiple countries and Internet service providers before picking up the desired website and bringing it to you. It can also keep varying its routes and channels to help deter anyone trying to track your usage. To use TOR, download the utility from www.torproject.organd run the executable fi le. The downloaded fi le does not need installation, but it extracts itself and a few required files to a folder on your desktop. Once done, execute the file ‘Start Tor Browser.exe', and it will bring up the Vidalia control panel which connects anonymously and automatically starts a secure (portable) copy of Firefox, using which you can access blocked websites. Tor makes it diffi cult but not impossible for your Internet activity, including visits to websites, online posts, instant messages and other communication, to be tracked back to the user. It is intended to promote personal freedom and privacy, but it will not protect you abuse its services.


Certain online services exist to let users download Torrented files over regular HTTP channels when such traffic is blocked at your end. It is pretty simple. Websites such as or download the Torrents for you at very high-speeds and store them for later retrieval. For example, a 4 GB torrent download which would ordinarily take anywhere between 24 and 48 hours on a standard 1 Mbps Internet line, would take less than two minutes for them—but then you still have to download them yourself using your regular line. Paste a link to the desired .torrent fi le (you don’t even need to download it) or specify a Magnet link. The sites’ backends will download the files for you and off er you a standard HTTP link. While offers a free service (with limitations) and a paid option too, off ers a 3 GB of online space starting at just US$ 5 (approx Rs 272) per month.


Virtual Private Networks allow you to run your PC as if it were connected to a network anywhere in the world. The system channels data to you through your own ISP, but it’s encrypted and highly secure, and paid services thrive by offering unfiltered Web access. Using a commercial VPN, you should be able to access the web with no restrictions on sites, keywords, services, etc. VPNs are a bit complicated to set up. Free services such as Hotspot Shield are commonly used to bypass geographic blocks on certain services. Free software such as ProXPN and XyberGhost also allow you to set up your own VPN, perhaps tunneling through to a friend or office in another country. Hotspot Shield installs a routing driver automatically on your PC during installation, creates the necessary routes, and gives you access to the open Internet using various open VPN services around the world. Once enabled and running, you will be able to access any website, but will be disturbed by ads littered around your screen.


There are a few websites that cannot be used outside their home countries or within certain foreign territories, for example, works only in the US and some other countries, and its services are not accessible in India. VPN utilities such as Hotspot Shield or Tor allow you to access these websites. Registration can be done using US zip codes which aren’t too diffi cult to find. We launched Hotspot Shield, accessed Pandora, registered ourselves with a US based zip code and created a free account. BBC’s iPlayer ( is another website that doesn’t support viewers in India, and you need to be in the UK to access it. Hulu, Netflix, Vevo, and many others are examples of services which aren’t available in India. You can also use DroidVPN on your Android handhelds to access them without much difficulty


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