URL filtering is usually used in workplaces, schools, and other institutions where free, unencumbered access to the web should be restricted. The best URL filtering software (opens in new tab) is effective and makes this process simple.
However, there will be times when you need to access restricted URLs for some reason or another. The good news is that you can easily bypass URL filtering with a little basic knowledge. In this article, we outline exactly how to do this and what you need to be aware of during the process.
How to bypass URL filtering: Preparation
Before you begin, ensure your computer has plenty of reserve battery power and is connected to a stable internet connection. Be prepared to download software (if possible), and ensure that what you’re doing isn’t illegal or against company policy.
We also suggest dedicating some time to learning how to bypass URL filtering. If you’ve got an hour or two to spend, it’s time to jump straight into it!
Step 1: Try using a VPN
If you can install and use a VPN, you should be able to easily bypass most URL filtering software and access websites wherever they are in the world. To get started, you will need to install a VPN, and there are many free options on the market. If your employer’s system admin has blocked software installations, you’ll have to try another method.
If you do manage to install a VPN, you can simply set the location to another country to access blocked content. This usually works because URL filtering is performed at the country level, and a VPN routes your traffic through an international server.
For example, if there’s a blocked .com version of a website, you could set your VPN to Australia to access the Australian version instead.
Step 2: Use a proxy
Proxies have been around for years and have long been a favorite of schoolchildren for accessing blocked websites. They can also be quite useful for bypassing URL filtering.
Like VPNs, proxies route your browsing through a different server. They are typically application-specific and work by changing your IP address, so it appears as if you’re in a different region.
The downside is that proxies are not the most secure way to bypass URL filtering. They don’t always use encryption, and free proxies can insert ads and collect user data. If you do decide to use a proxy, ensure you use a reputable option.
Step 3: Access international versions with Google Translate
An innovative method of getting around URL restrictions is using Google Translate. In simple terms, you can trick it into working like a proxy server, routing your traffic to an international version of the website you want to see.
To get started, copy the URL you’d like to visit and paste it into the left-hand window of the Google Translate tool. (You have to use the translate.google.com version, not the one that’s built into the Google search engine.)
Next, change the language in the right-hand panel, hit the Translate button, and click the generated link to visit the filtered website. This method won’t work for all sites, but it’s worth a try if you’re having trouble.
Step 4: Install the Tor browser
If you’re having trouble getting a VPN or proxy to work, the Tor (opens in new tab) browser could be your only option. It enables anonymous browsing via the Tor network, routing your traffic through numerous servers to get around URL filtering.
To begin, install the Tor browser. If possible, use it with a VPN for best results, though this isn’t strictly necessary. It’s completely free to install, and enables you to browse the deep web along with standard sites.
The downside is that you won’t be able to use Tor if you’re unable to install new programs. It’s also slow, which can make it frustrating to use. However, it will work, and if you can install it, it will almost certainly enable you to bypass URL filters.
Step 5: Consider using an SSH tunnel
Using an SSH tunnel enables you to bypass blocked URLs in a similar way to VPNs. However, they can be expensive to set up, require more technical knowledge, and don’t offer any real benefits over VPNs in this context.
However, you may prefer using an SSH tunnel if you’re tech-savvy and already have an SSH server. To get started, you’ll need to connect to it remotely. Set up tunneling to route your browsing traffic. This will enable you to access websites as if you were in the same physical location as your SSH server. By doing this, you can access international versions of filtered URLs.
Although companies, schools, and other institutions usually set up URL filtering for a good reason, there are times when you’ll want or need to bypass it to access specific websites. In this article, we’ve outlined several ways to do this.
Using a VPN is often the simplest option, but it’s not the only one. Proxies are versatile, beginner-friendly tools, and you may even be able to use Google Translate to bypass filtering. Using the Tor browser or SSH tunneling requires a little more technical knowledge, and they should be last resorts for most people. However, they are both effective.
To find out more, read our guide to the best VPNs (opens in new tab), the difference between a VPN and a proxy (opens in new tab), and our list of the best URL filtering software (opens in new tab) on the market. You may also like to read about why your organization should be using URL filtering (opens in new tab).
The techniques used in this article should never be used for illegal purposes or to access illegal content. They all offer legitimate ways to bypass URL filtering, but it’s important to be careful how you use them.