Update 7/2004: see this HOWTO on setting up a secure web proxy.

Update 5/2004: Remove/redirect dead links.

Sometimes I have to go through a Websense filter to access the web. I am an occasional (ok, more than occasional) slashdot reader, and quite often they feature security-related stories. About once a week or so, I'll click a link on slashdot -- either on the front page or in one of the comments -- and find that I have been blocked.

websense filtering in action

How do I respond to this? Well, the first couple of times I complained, especially since one of them was actually work-related research. The site was reviewed (or submitted to Websense for review, whatever that means) and I heard nothing more. Now I simply go to Google!

For those who aren't aware, Google is the best web search engine (and more) available on the Internet. One of the great features that they provide is cached links. From their website:

Google takes a snapshot of each page examined as it crawls the web and caches these as a back-up in case the original page is unavailable. If you click on the "Cached" link, you will see the web page as it looked when we indexed it.

Searching Google for a particular website is easy. For example, to find an article on code auditing on the blocked website above, I enter: "code audit site:www.hackersdigest.com" in the main Google search box. I am presented with 3 articles:

google search results

Hopefully the page you want to see is listed among the search results. If not, try again with a different set of search terms. When you see the page in the list, click the "Cached" link. You will be presented with the version of the webpage that Google saved the last time they crawled the web, websense be damned!

This technique is not without limitations:

* Frequently updated or new pages may not be in the Google cache.
* Recent changes to a page may not be in the cache.
* If you don't know what's on a blocked page, it may be difficult to
  enter an appropriate search term.
* Google may not cache certain pages (for whatever reason).

Still using hackersdigest.com as an example, I could not find a set of search terms to give me a hit on the front page. I've never actually read the hackersdigest front page ("I just read it for the articles"), so I don't really know what to use for terms (yes, I tried the obvious stuff). And it is possible that either a) hackersdigest.com has marked the front page so that it won't get indexed by Google or b) Google somehow decided not to include that page in their index.

For more info on web censorship in general, visit http://sethf.com/.