Knowledge on how to bypass blocked websites at school is a valuable commodity amongst students. While the freedom to do whatever you please is tempting, is it entirely safe to do so?
Let’s break down how to get past a school firewall, as well as some reasons why you may not want to.
How to Bypass a School Firewall
There are several tricks to getting around a school firewall. It depends on how the firewall works; some may monitor what you type in the address bar, while others will actively monitor the traffic. Give these a shot and see which one works best.
1. Use a Proxy Server to Get Around URL Restrictions
Proxy servers are services that handle your requests for you. These servers are handy when you’re trying to circumvent a firewall because the proxy handles all the surfing for you.
If your institution blocks a game’s website, it’ll likely look for you typing the URL into the address bar. A proxy server circumvents this because you’re not visiting the game’s website; you’re going to the proxy’s page and telling it to go to the page instead. It then shows you everything on the game’s website, while your school firewall only sees the proxy’s URL.
2. Use a VPN to Encrypt Your Traffic
VPNs, on the other hand, allow you to bypass firewalls by encrypting your traffic. Proxies get around the restrictions by giving you the banned website via a whitelisted one, but a VPN protects you by not allowing the firewall to see your browsing in the first place.
It achieves this by taking all of the information your computer is about to send out, and encrypting it so that prying eyes can’t see what you’re sending. The computer then sends this encrypted data to a VPN server, which unscrambles your data, reads where you want to go, and goes there. It carries its traffic back encrypted, which skirts around the firewall.
VPNs are good for more than skirting around school firewalls. Check these reasons why you should be using a VPN, all of which affect your life outside of school.
3. Type the IP Address of the Website
When you type the name of a website into your browser, it gets converted into an IP address. This occurs because computers have no idea what names are; it has to convert them to an IP address using a Domain Name Server (DNS).
This knowledge comes in handy if the firewall is looking for domain names instead of IP addresses. By typing the number into the address bar, you can visit the webpage without informing the firewall that you’re going there.
Unfortunately, it’s not apparent what each website’s IP address is. You can use WhatIsMyIPAddress‘s lookup tool to find it.
4. Use Google Translate as an Impromptu Proxy Server
Funnily enough, Google Translate is useful as a way to circumvent a firewall! You have to use Google Translate’s “translate page” feature to use it. When Google Translate translates a page, it loads the page the server, translates it, and sends the result to you.
Sound familiar? It should—it’s doing the same job as a proxy server. This little trick makes Google Translate an inconspicuous choice if all of the proxy websites are blocked.
5. Use a Smartphone Hotspot on Mobile Data
If you can’t figure out how to bypass the school Wi-Fi, you could try turning your smartphone into a hotspot. That way, you can connect to the internet without needing to go through the school’s system. It will eat away the phone’s data, but it removes the hassle of bypassing the school firewall.
If you want to learn more, be sure to read how to connect mobile internet to a PC or laptop.
The Repercussions for Bypassing a School Firewall
As much as you hate the school firewall, it’s there for a good reason. Not only does it enforce the idea that a school is a place of learning, but it can also protect you and the school from illegal or malicious content.
1. You Could Have Your Personal Information Stolen
If you use a proxy server, your traffic is going through a third-party server to reach the destination. The thing is, how confident are you that the server hosts aren’t looking at all the traffic you’re sending?
This is one of the bigger reasons why it’s safer to wait until you get home. When you use free services, often they’re free because the developers make money off of you, somehow. This can be due to ads, or they could harvest your personal information to sell on.
2. You Could Get a Virus
Even worse, free services may not be too strict on what advertisements they show you. This could lead to your computer catching a nasty virus, which could then spread to other computers in the school.
Virus outbreaks in school aren’t unheard of; ItemLive reported on how Lynn Schools had their internet shut down by a virus for a whole week. Before you get any ideas, the school didn’t close down for the week; it was school as usual, just without any internet to spend time on!
3. You Could Get Suspended or Expelled
It’s highly likely your institution has a use policy for their computers. These detail what you can and can’t do with them, as well as what to expect if you’re caught performing said actions.
These terms may state that, by circumventing the security, the school can ban from the computer network. If you’re banned, you can’t use the internet for fun browsing anymore. Even worse, you can’t use them for studying—which is a huge disadvantage for your future work!
4. You Could Face Legal Action
While using the methods above aren’t illegal, you can access unlawful content using them. If you’re caught accessing illegal content, the school may decide to pass the information onto the authorities. If this happens, you’ll be facing legal ramifications for what you’ve done.
Workarounds That Don’t Bypass the Firewall
Of course, there are ways you can perform specific actions without having to bypass a firewall. These are safer (and sometimes school-supported!) ways of using the internet without the above issues.
Chatting With Google Docs
Hopefully, your school lets you use Google Docs for work. Google Docs also has a chat feature that allows you to collaborate with other people on the same document.
Of course, while you can use the chat feature to talk about productive things such as homework and studies, you can always use it as an impromptu messaging service. Who knows—maybe you can do homework within the document while you chat!
Play Educational Games
While they may not be as fun as Fortnite, educational games are a solid choice. If a teacher catches you playing something that’s helping you learn, why would they stop you?
If you can’t find any games that teach you what you want to learn, you can always play typing games. This helps improve your words-per-minute, which is handy in this digital age. The 10 Fast Fingers game, for instance, puts you in a race against other people to type a passage.
Using Technology Efficiently at School
Firewalls are not installed to annoy you; they help promote learning and keep you safe from dangerous and illegal content. Skirting around them isn’t impossible; however, with the potential repercussions and the alternatives available, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
If you’re always surfing the internet during class, it’s time for the busy student’s guide for finding more time at school.