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Restrictions on Accessing the Web in Companies

For many individuals and companies, the proxy server stands on the front line of security for the network. A proxy server not only hides the IP address but also prevents IP routing between the internet and the internal network, which makes it a great security tool. Today companies basically aim at locking down their network and try to strike a balance between control and flexibility. They analyze the gray areas present in the network along with the employee knowledge level before applying the proxy. The aim is to prevent employees from wasting time on the web.

How are proxy setting applied in companies?

One of the biggest problems which companies face is setting up the proxy preferences on a PC. Going to every individual machine and changing the settings manually is not advisable because all a user needs to do is change the preferences form the browser. The better solution is to lock down the browser values and then administer them centrally.

So, if companies use the Internet Explorer, they could use Group Policies to administer a centrally controlled solution. Opera has a concept of ‘system fixed files’ which allows the company to list down the preferences, which cannot be changed by users. Then companies push this file to the users as apart of the login script. With Firefox, things are a bit more complicated but it can still be done.

Internet content filters

Setting proxy preferences is pretty redundant today and most companies go for filters (which essentially are proxy servers). There are mainly two ways of tackling these filters – you go around them, or you go through them.

If you do not have permission as a user to install programs or change the browser settings, then you have to resort to getting around the filter. The best way to do this is by using browsers that do not need to be installed. Such browsers do not adhere to lockdown settings. Portable Firefox is one such option, which can be run from the pen drive itself and will bypass the filter settings.

However, blocking traffic on specific ports is a great way of stopping portable browsers from working. Another method utilized by companies is to deny forwarding traffic for protocols which are not available for the users.

Going through the filters

The most common method for going through filters is by using web based proxies. But, proxies and filters have evolved and they now scan the content of the page. So even web based proxies and content from cached pages cannot be accessed. Some tools can eve detect proxy sites and prevent you from accessing them.

How companies tackle HTTPS

The HTTPS protocol has been a boon for people for bypassing proxies because content filters are not allowed to scan the content on an HTTPS page. The encryption level for HTTPS is end to end, and as a result companies cannot do anything at the gateway level. In case the clients are using a proxy server, then filtering can be done based upon the destination domain.

Also, HTTPS is usually provided for sites where it is necessary, like e-commerce sites or bank sites. However, most of the research and news sites do not use this protocol. So companies just impose a complete block on HTTPS, allowing only a select few sites through this block. This allows the companies to have an efficient censorship policy without coming off as too restrictive.

Despite the various tools adopted by companies and governments, there are always ways to access the web. Proxy servers are just one such method which allow you to watch unrestricted TV and overcome content filters. All you need to do is find a reliable server and you can bypass any restrictions imposed by the company.

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