If you’re a parent who’s either bought or considered buying internet filtering software, then you probably know the many dangers that are lurking online. From violent media and internet porn to cyberbullying and online scammers, there is no shortage of reasons to be wary of how your children spend time on the internet. This is one of the driving forces behind internet filtering: keeping kids away from unwanted or inappropriate content.
Yet children have grown increasingly tech-savvy, with kids these days being far more knowledgeable of the internet than their parent’s generation was. The downside here is that while internet filtering software will ensure that kids won’t accidentally stumble upon age-inappropriate content if they’re actively seeking it out, they might know some of the tricks that can allow them to bypass internet filters.
If you’re concerned about children trying to get past your internet filtering software, then it is important to know how they try to get around them. Being aware of these strategies makes it easier to address them and counteract these sneaky strategies!
1. Changing the Password
The most obvious way to get around an internet filter is to find out the password. Obviously, a parent should make the password something hard to guess and not keep it written down anywhere their child could find it. Still, that won’t stop a determined kid from sneaking around looking for it or just trying to brute force their way to the right password.
VPNs (or Virtual Private Networks) allow you to establish a protected network connection when using public networks. When using a VPN, you can navigate as if you were using a different device in a different geographic location, which keeps your connection secure for cybercriminals and your internet service provider. Yet they can also be used to bypass internet filtering software in some cases.
3. Connect to the Neighbor’s Wi-Fi
This one is difficult to control. If you have a careless neighbor who either keeps their Wi-Fi open or has given you their Wi-Fi password, your child can simply log onto the internet using their connection. This can easily get around many internet filters, so if you want to avoid that, make sure your child is strictly using your Wi-Fi connection.
4. The Tor Browser (and other “Portable Browsers”)
While a computer always has at least one internet browser installed by default, you can actually have a “portable” internet browser loaded onto a USB flash drive or another storage device as well. This includes Tor, a browser designed to reroute web traffic through different international locations, making it hard to know what content a user is viewing while using the browser. This focus on privacy and anonymity can bypass many internet filters.
5. Free Proxy Websites
A proxy server is a machine that translates traffic between networks or protocols, acting as an intermediary between users and the internet itself. There are websites that can act as proxies, which often provide an extra layer of anonymity while browsing that can get past many internet filters.
6. Google Translate Proxy
A more unusual proxy method, Google Translate can often allow users to access URLs that have been blocked. You simply have to select a language you do not speak in the text input field, enter the URL you’re trying to access, and wait for Google to automatically translate it. The “translated” URL then becomes a link, which the site will open inside of Google Translate, often bypassing internet filters.
7. Using the IP Instead of the URL
While it depends on how the internet filter works, blocked websites are sometimes stored as a list of URLs rather than IP addresses. This means that if you have the IP address of a website, it is possible to ping the domain from the command line at the command prompt. This method can easily bypass internet filters unless it specifically blocks IPs.
8. Viewing “Accidental” Images
You might already know that many web browsers have “incognito” or “hidden” modes, which don’t save certain information like passwords or browsing history. Though they don’t automatically bypass internet filters, searching through the “Images” tab of Google while incognito can allow you to search without content restrictions, making it possible to see pornographic or otherwise inappropriate content that would otherwise be filtered out.
These are just some of the most common methods for bypassing internet filters that kids might try. Of course, none of these are foolproof: some filters are able to detect and deal with these, and even those that can get around filters are often easy enough to notice if you’re paying attention. You simply have to know that you NEED to pay attention!