How to Get Around Corporate Internet Blocking Policies


ScreenshotSuppose you’re a mobile web worker who depends on constant connectivity to work effectively. You’ve got the dozens of web sites you visit for information, the social networks where you can ask a quick question, the IM services that hook you up with the rest of your team. And then you step into the building with a brand new corporate customer…and discover that paranoid IT policies have blocked off 90% of what you use on the internet.

Such is the situation facing WWD reader LJ, who writes to list some of the problems with these policies:

  • Instant messaging of any kind is blocked. Limits getting a quick answer from a vendor or someone who can advise me.
  • Picada and a couple of other online productivity tools are blocked.
  • Some standard news sites are blocked. Limits research capability.
  • Anything listed as online storage and social media is locked. For instance, I have networking contacts on Ning, Wetpaint, and Facebook, who I might need to contact for a scrap of advice to finish a task, but these are blocked.

We all know the problems. Here are some potential solutions.

Use a Dedicated Email Interface – There are a few companies out there whose business is making the functionality of web sites available via email. MoDazzle, for example, gives you a free email/text message interface to Facebook, LinkedIn, SalesForce, and more. Similar service NutshellMail (currently in closed beta) is designed to automatically send messages from your social networking accounts to your by regular email.

Use a Web-to-Email Gateway – Other services exist that can take just about any web page (so long as it doesn’t require a login) and send it to you via email. Web2Mail and WebToMail are two of these. I’ve had mixed luck with this sort of service, though; it seems that such servers are often overloaded, and so actually getting a message back can be a hit-or-miss proposition.

Use a Proxy Network – Ready to step up a bit in complexity? See if you can get out to the Tor proxy network. If you can, this should give you anonymized surfing to just about anywhere else. We’ve covered some easy alternatives for connecting to Tor, including OperaTor and various Firefox add-ons.

Build Your Own Proxy – If nothing else works, consider setting up your own proxy server. If you have a machine around that you can connect to via SSH, and you put a SOCKS proxy on it, you should be able to tunnel all traffic securely back home and then get to anywhere else via SOCKS. Put your SSH server on a standard port (like 443 or 21) and you’ve got a decent chance that it won’t be blocked. The FoxyProxy site has some good tutorials on setting up your own proxy server.

Skip the Network – You’re mobile, so why are you going through the corporate network in the first place? Use your EVDO or 3G connection, or see if there’s a coffee shop with wireless access within range of your temporary desk.

Deal with the Policy – Finally, we’d be remiss to cover this topic without pointing out that it may be a bad idea to deliberately contravene your client’s corporate policies. You should seriously consider sitting down with whoever hired you to explain why you need access – and to point out that it’s going to cost them more to have the job done if they insist on crippling your work. It’s entirely possible that the corporation already has a procedure in place to open up access for those who truly need it.

Do you have any tips of your own for dealing with corporate internet blocking policies?

photo credit: stock.xchng user valike

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