Students who know how to circumvent blocked websites at school have a valuable commodity. While the freedom to do whatever you want is appealing, is it entirely safe?
Let’s take a look at how to get around a school firewall and why you might not want to.
How to Bypass a School Firewall
There are several methods for circumventing school restrictions. It depends on how the firewall is configured; some will monitor what you type in the address bar, while others will actively monitor traffic. Give these a try and see which one works best for you.
1. Use a Proxy Site to Get Around School Restrictions
Proxy sites are services that process your requests on your behalf. These servers are useful when attempting to bypass a firewall because the proxy handles all of the browsing for you.
If your institution restricts access to a game’s website, it will most likely look for you to type the URL into the address bar. A web proxy server avoids this because you are not visiting the game’s website; rather, you are visiting the proxy’s page and instructing it to go to the page instead. The game’s website is then displayed, while your school firewall only sees the proxy’s URL.
For example, if you wanted to play Minecraft in your browser for free, your school may already have blocked the minecraft.net domain. As a result, when you go to play it, the firewall detects that you’re visiting the Minecraft website and prevents you from doing so.
If you access the website through a proxy server, the firewall will not recognize that the traffic is coming from the Minecraft website. Instead, it will only see the details of your proxy server, which happens to be sending you data from the Minecraft website!
The best part is that you do not need to use or install any special software in order to use one. If your school’s computers don’t like it when you install programs on them, you can easily get around this restriction by using a proxy in a browser.
Be cautious if you intend to use a free web proxy. There are numerous reasons why you should avoid free proxy servers; keep these in mind if you want to try a free proxy site.
Companies like ExpressVPN, on the other hand, provide a special SOCKS5 proxy service that you can use to get around a firewall. “SOCKS5” may sound complicated, but it is simply the name of the most recent proxy server technology. It should function similarly to any other proxy service.
2. Use a VPN to Encrypt Your Traffic
VPNs, on the other hand, encrypt your traffic and allow you to bypass school firewalls. Proxies work around restrictions by redirecting you to a whitelisted website, but a VPN protects you by not allowing the firewall to see your browsing in the first place.
It accomplishes this by encrypting all of the information your computer is about to send out, preventing prying eyes from seeing what you’re sending. The computer then sends this encrypted data to a VPN server, which decrypts it, reads where you want to go, and takes you there. It sends its traffic back encrypted, avoiding the firewall.
VPNs are useful for more than just avoiding school firewalls. Check out these reasons why you should use a VPN, all of which have an impact on your life outside of school.
If you’re not sure which VPN to use, why not save money and get ExpressVPN for 49% off? It’s one of our favorite VPN services for beginners because it doesn’t compromise on privacy.
3. Type the IP Address of the Website
When you enter a website’s name into your browser, it is converted into an IP address. This happens because computers have no idea what names are, so they must be converted to IP addresses using a Domain Name Server (DNS).
This knowledge is useful if the firewall is looking for domain names rather than IP addresses. You can visit the webpage without informing the firewall by entering the number into the address bar.
Unfortunately, the IP address of each website is not visible. You can look it up using WhatIsMyIPAddress’s lookup tool.
4. Use Google Translate as an Impromptu Proxy Server
Surprisingly, Google Translate can be used to get around a firewall! To use it, you must use Google Translate’s “translate page” feature. When you translate a page with Google Translate, it loads the page on the server, translates it, and sends the result to you.
Does this sound familiar? It should—it serves the same purpose as a proxy server. If all proxy websites are blocked, this little trick makes Google Translate an inconspicuous choice.
5. Use a Smartphone Hotspot on Mobile Data
If you can’t figure out how to get around the school firewall, you could try setting up a hotspot on your smartphone. You can connect to the internet without going through the school’s system this way. It will consume the phone’s data, but it will save you the trouble of circumnavigating the school firewall.
For more information, see how to connect mobile internet to a PC or laptop.
The Repercussions for Bypassing a School Firewall
As much as you despise the school firewall, it serves a purpose. It not only reinforces the notion that a school is a place of learning, but it can also protect both you and the school from illegal or malicious content.
1. You Could Have Your Personal Information Stolen
When you use a proxy server, your traffic is routed through a third-party server before arriving at its destination. The question is, how confident are you that the server hosts aren’t monitoring all of your traffic?
This is one of the main reasons why you should wait until you get home. When you use free services, it’s often because the developers make money off of you in some way. This could be due to advertisements, or they could be harvesting your personal information to sell on.
2. You Could Get a Virus
Worse, free services may not be as picky about which advertisements they show you. This could result in your computer being infected with a dangerous virus, which could then spread to other computers in the school.
Virus outbreaks in schools are not uncommon; ItemLive reported on how a virus shut down Lynn Schools’ internet for a week. Before you get any ideas, the school did not close for the week; it was business as usual, just without the internet!
3. You Could Get Suspended or Expelled
It’s very likely that your institution has a computer usage policy. These explain what you can and cannot do with them, as well as what to expect if you are caught doing so.
These terms may state that if you violate the security, the school may bar you from using the computer network. If you are banned, you will no longer be able to use the internet for recreational purposes. Worse, you won’t be able to use them for studying, which is a huge disadvantage for your future work!
4. You Could Face Legal Action
While the methods described above are not illegal, they can be used to access illegal content. If you are caught accessing illegal content, your school may decide to report you to the authorities. If this occurs, you will face legal consequences for your actions.
Workarounds That Don’t Bypass the Firewall
Of course, there are ways to perform specific actions without violating school rules. These are safer (and sometimes school-sponsored!) methods of using the internet that avoid the issues listed above.
Chatting With Google Docs
Hopefully, your school allows you to use Google Docs for work purposes. Google Docs also has a chat feature that allows you to collaborate on the same document with other users.
Of course, you can use the chat feature to discuss productive topics like homework and studies, but you can also use it as an impromptu messaging service. Who knows, maybe you can do your homework within the document while chatting!
Play Educational Games
While educational games may not be as entertaining as Fortnite, they are a good alternative. Why should a teacher stop you from doing something that is helping you learn?
You can always play typing games if you can’t find any games that teach you what you want to learn. This improves your words-per-minute rate, which is useful in this digital age. For example, the 10 Fast Fingers game pits you against other players in a race to type a passage.
Learn a Useful Skill
If you’re bored and none of the game websites are working, why not spend your time learning a new skill? There are many websites that offer free online computer programming courses, for example, so you can learn to code in your spare time. Not only are these websites useful, but your teacher will not be offended if you learn in your spare time!
Using Technology Efficiently at School
Firewalls are not put in place to annoy you; they are there to promote learning and keep you safe from harmful and illegal content. Skirting them isn’t impossible; however, given the potential consequences and alternatives, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
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