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Avast Academy Privacy VPN How to Unblock Websites at School, Home, or Work

How to Unblock Websites at School, Home, or Work

Have you ever tried to visit a website, only to find it blocked? The block could be because your school or work prevents you from accessing certain sites, or perhaps a content provider blocks visitors from outside a geographical area. Learn how to unlock your favorite websites and bypass access restrictions with our top tips, including using a
virtual private network (VPN).

How_to_unblock_website_with_a_VPN-Hero

Where do content blocks come from? Businesses, schools, and content providers are able to restrict your access from sites and services by checking to see if your IP address has the right permissions. So when you find your access blocked, one way to get around the restrictions is to hide your IP address using either a VPN, a Proxy, or Tor. Beyond those solutions, there are also some quick and dirty methods that can help you out with a one-time unblocking. Read on for all the details on the best ways to unblock your favorite sites.

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    Method 1: Use a VPN

    The easiest and best way to unblock forbidden websites is to use a VPN, a virtual private network that secures your data with end-to-end encryption. When using a VPN, you connect to a remote VPN server and it then connects you to a website, hiding your real IP address and allowing you to bypass many restrictions on the sites you visit.

    Avast SecureLine VPN works on Macs, Windows PCs, Android, and iOS devices. Below, we show you how to use Avast SecureLine VPN, but the process of setting up a VPN is similar no matter which brand you choose.

    1. Sign up for Avast SecureLine VPN at its website, or download it right here:

       

    2. Download the VPN and launch the application on your computer or mobile device.

    3. Click on Change Location to see all the locations you can choose to appear from, and select one where your desired content will be available.

      Avast SecureLine VPN is one of the best ways to unblock content.

      When you first launch the app, it will show that your privacy is not yet protected. 

       
    4. If you want to stream content, select Streaming on the bottom-left to see the server locations that offer the most reliable streaming. From these options, choose a server location from which your blocked content will be accessible.

      Avast SecureLine VPN gives many location options for the most reliable streaming.

    5. Connect to the server and enjoy the blocked content you want, while letting Avast SecureLine VPN do the hard work for you!

      img_03-1

      You can now stream content from your preferred location. Plus, your connection is encrypted for online privacy.

    The specifics of VPN setup vary depending on your operating system or device manufacturer. And as with other technology, there are ways to improve a VPN’s performance once it’s installed and running. 

    It’s easy to use a VPN to unblock websites on your personal computer or mobile device, but it may not be the best option when you’re on a public computer at school or in a library.

    Method 2: Use a proxy

    Another way to unblock websites is to use a public web proxy. It's not as fast or secure as a VPN, but public web proxies are a good option when you use public PCs that don’t allow you to install a VPN. Proxies hide your IP address and route your internet traffic through different public servers and addresses.

    There are a few more differences between VPNs and proxies. VPNs encrypt your traffic, while proxy servers don’t — that’s why proxies may be faster. However, a VPN service protects you from ISP tracking, government surveillance, and hackers. Proxies don’t, so they should never be used to handle sensitive information (such as your online banking or other personal info).

    Further, VPNs work on the operating system level and reroute all your traffic, while proxies work on the application level and only reroute the traffic of a specific app or browser.

    One of the most popular public web proxies is HMA. To use it:

    1. Go to the HMA website.

    2. Enter the website URL that you want to visit anonymously.

    3. Click on the More options dropdown menu, and select Encrypt URL and Disable Cookies for more protection.

    4. Click Agree & Connect, and you're on your way.

      With the HMA proxy, you can unblock some sites from home, school, or work.

    5. HMA will now display a toolbar at the top of the page.

      the HMA toolbar allows you to choose a location right on the top of a web page.

    6. This allows you to choose a location to appear from when you visit a site, which removes content blocks.

      The HMA web proxy allows you to disguise your location to one of several options to bypass content restrictions.

    You can also use a browser extension proxy, such as HMA’s Chrome proxy extension or their extension for Firefox. These extensions have the same functionality as the proxy website, but it’s conveniently located right in your browser. Here’s how to use it.

    1. Go to the Chrome or Firefox web store, and click to download the extension.

      HMA!VPN Proxy

    2. When a pop-up appears, click Add extension to confirm installation. 

    3. Click the donkey hat in the top right of your address bar. A box will pop up.

      The HMA chrome extension allows you to change your location and disguise yourself.
    4. Select Turn on, and then click Disguised as to get a selection of locations.

      he HMA Chrome proxy allows you to choose out of several locations.

    5. Choose the location that will let you access the content you want, and you’re good to go!

      With the HMA Chrome extension you can appear to be in a different location.

    Method 3: Use Tor

    Tor (The Onion Router) is an open-source project comprising the Tor browser, based on Firefox, and the Tor network. Tor browser places multiple layers of encryption on your traffic, which is then randomly directed through the Tor network to hide your IP address before reaching the blocked website you want to access. This multilayered system of protection is where Tor gets its name, and with it, you can anonymously unblock access to most websites.

    While you can get to almost any site using Tor, your web browsing will be slow. That's because the Tor network is maintained by volunteers and performance isn’t the top priority — anonymity and privacy are.

    If you’re on a school or company network, you might be blocked from downloading Tor. But give it a try and see if you can. Here’s how to use Tor:

    1. Go to the Tor browser site.

    2. Select the device you’re using and follow the instructions to install Tor.

    3. When Tor first launches, it will give you some configuration options, depending on what country you’re in and what your internet network settings are.

      The Tor browser offers several configuration settings when you launch it.

    4. Once you’ve configured Tor (if necessary), go ahead and connect.

      Here is the Tor browser, which opens to the Duck Duck Go search engine by default.

    5. Ta-da! You’re in the Tor browser and you should be able to access whatever blocked site you were trying to reach.

    Which is best for you: VPN, proxy, or Tor? It depends on what type of network you’re on and what content you’re trying to access. All can be good options.

    Method 4: Quick-and-dirty ways to get around basic website restrictions

    If you just want a one-time bypass at school or work, here are some fast methods to unblock basic website restrictions.

    These tips may help you want to unblock a website without a proxy. Sometimes they work, sometimes not, but they’re worth a try.

    Switch between http and https

    Most sites now offer both secure (https) and insecure (http) versions. You can sometimes trick a school or work firewall into unblocking a site by using the http version of an address. So if https://www.example.com is blocked, you may be able to get to it by using its insecure address (http://www.example.com) or vice-versa. However, http is an insecure protocol, and we don’t recommend using it if you can avoid itespecially if you plan to enter any personal details into the website.

    Try the IP address

    Some crude site-blocking software only targets domain names — but not the site’s IP address. Find your site's IP address using the Whois lookup tool. There, you'll find a lot of information about a site, such as who owns it, and what its IP address is. Then, armed with this information, you may be able to get to the website.

    For example, instead of accessing the site using the blocked Facebook domain name, e.g. https://www.facebook.com, you may be able to get to Facebook by using the site's IP address, 31.13.71.36. So you’d type in https://31.13.71.36, and this might work, depending on the type of site-blocking software that’s being used.

    Use the Google cache

    Google keeps local copies of sites to speed them up when you visit them. This technique is called caching.

    If you're blocked from the original version of a site, you may still be able to reach its cached version. To do this with Chrome, use the following syntax for the address:

    cache: www.example.com

    To find a cached version of the website:

    1. From your browser, do a Google search for the page you want to find.

    2. Click on the down arrow to the right of the site's URL.

      Here's how to view the cached version of a blocked site.
    3. Click Cached, and if you’re lucky, it’ll open.

      Sometimes you can unblock a website from school or work by going to the cached version of a site.

    Try a URL shortener

    You may be able to bypass unsophisticated site-blockers by using a URL shortener service such as Bitly, TinyURL, or ls.gd. These services replace a website's URL address with a shorter domain name. If your school or business blocks YouTube, the Bitly shortened version might just unblock the video for you. 

    To use this technique with Bitly, take the following steps:

    1. From your browser, do a Google search for the page you want to find, and copy the page's URL.

    2. Go to the Bitly website and paste the URL into the “Shorten your Link” window

    3. Copy the resulting shortened URL.

    4. Paste the shortened URL into your web browser's address bar. With luck, that will take you to the page you want.

      Bitly, and other URL shorteners, don't always unblock sites, but they can sometimes and you can use them from any work, school, or hotel computer

    How to unblock sites in different places

    All the above methods can help you get to the sites you want, but some work better than others depending on if you’re at school, work, or abroad. Let's go into more detail on what works best in different situations.

    How to unblock sites at school

    You probably can’t install a VPN on a school computer, making it a bit trickier to unblock websites at school. Nor should you install the Tor browser on a school computer. Schools frown upon Tor's use, because it can be used to access the dark web. 

    The best way to unblock sites at school is to use a proxy, such as the HMA web proxy or browser extensions described above. The quick methods above, like using a URL shortener, may work as well.

    How to unblock sites at work

    If you're using your own PC for work or have administrative rights on your work computer, a VPN is your best answer to unblock websites at work. But if you don't have the authority to install software on your PC, or you're hot-desking, a VPN may not work.

    Many companies use their own proxy servers as content filters to prevent employees from accessing certain websites and apps. You can try to circumvent your company’s proxy with a public web proxy — if your company hasn’t blocked these as well. If you can connect to a public web proxy, it should allow you to access the websites you want, despite your company’s best efforts to the contrary.

    Your company almost certainly would prefer that employees refrain from installing Tor Browser on company equipment, so avoid using it.

    If there’s a website you really want to access and you can’t get around company restrictions, you could open the site on your personal phone (using your mobile data, not the company’s network).

    How to unblock sites from different countries

    If you are traveling or you want to access a website that blocks access by geolocation, the best way to unblock the website likely is a VPN. VPNs are both fast and effective. If you're dealing with particularly aggressive restrictions, try using Tor.

    Some countries, such as China and its Great Firewall of China, make it especially difficult to access the open internet. While some VPNs work, they often have trouble. In addition, some VPNs are completely blocked; Tor won't work at all in China.

    How to unblock sites on your phone

    Most of the options listed above should work equally well on a mobile device. However, in this case, VPNs really are the easiest option. 

    Fiddling around with slow web proxies on a 3G network can be a nightmare. Public proxies don't lend themselves to unblocking websites over the phone. That's because every time you move your phone, it has to reconnect with the proxy. In addition, a poor connection can make the already slow public proxies unbearably slow.

    You can try Tor, but it's only available on Android phones. A third-party browser, Onion, uses the Tor network, but it's not nearly as secure as the Tor browser.

    Why are websites blocked?

    There are many reasons why websites are blocked. Here are the most common ones.

    School and work restrictions

    Both schools and businesses block some websites for productivity reasons. For example, many schools ban porn, gaming, and gambling sites. And your employer wants you concentrating on work, not sharing cat videos on Facebook.

    Another reason schools and business block websites is that they don't want their bandwidth used for high-demand services. That's why most block you from watching videos or sporting events. Whether it's a YouTube video or a football match, both consume bandwidth the provider would rather use for official purposes.

    Geo-restricted content

    Entertainment services like Netflix have different content available from one country to the next. This usually is because of content licensing agreements. For example, you can watch Star Trek Discovery on Netflix in Europe, but not in the United States. That's because CBS All Access has the rights to stream in the US, while Netflix has the show’s international rights.

    Censorship

    Some countries, such as China, Russia, Iraq, and North Korea censor a wide variety of content for political reasons. China has famously blocked many global social media platforms — you can't use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or even WhatsApp in mainland China without a VPN.

    Is it legal to unblock sites?

    It depends on your country. Most countries, even China, allow some degree of VPN use. In the west, VPNs tend to be completely legal. There are some caveats.

    1. Streaming, sharing or viewing illegal content — for example, torrenting copyrighted materials — is still illegal. 

    2. While it's not illegal to use streaming services such as Netflix over a VPN, it may breach their terms of use. These services have, on rare occasions, banned users.

    3. Most VPNs promise to not log your use of their service, but VPN providers have shared user information with law-enforcement agencies at times.

    Unblock sites with ease

    The freedom and security that comes with using a VPN to unblock sites far outweigh many of the possible problems. The other methods to unblock sites may work in a pinch, but nothing can beat the ease of use of a VPN. Whether you simply want to unblock a website, access your home content service while traveling abroad, or protect your online privacy, a VPN usually is your best choice.

    Avant SecureLine VPN has servers in 55 locations across 34 countries. With no bandwidth limits and top-tier speeds, it's got everything you need to unblock and stream video pretty much anywhere. In addition, Avast allows torrenting on some servers. 

    For security and privacy purposes, Avast doesn't keep logs of your use. It also supports a kill switch. When your network connection closes, Avant automatically kills your VPN session as well so none of your personal data leaks out. To get started, why not try it out for free?

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