I want to cover a topic today that I’m hoping won’t give cause to abuse from some of you. Specifically, I want to talk about HTTP proxies and anonymous browsing. Not because we need any more of us Hooked on the Net … but because from time to time, we need to manage our church web site from behind firewalls, and on rare occasions, surf web sites that may deny browsing from your IP address, including yours. There are also times you don’t want the site you’re visiting to know who you are or where you came from.
* WARNING * I bring this up with great trepidation because some of your employers will reprimand and/or fire you for anonymous surfing – especially if you abuse it. Its not that it is illegal, it is just that all too often, individuals abuse an otherwise good and useful tool. So be careful. If you want to check out some of these links, do it this weekend from home until you know for sure what your employer’s policies are.
I recently had to install such a proxy because a church member was being harassed by a neighbor of his. This neighbor then decided to extend his annoyances to our church web site. I’ve now deployed a series of proxy apps across several servers that I use on a rotating basis to keep an eye on this guy without giving him the benefit of knowing he’s being watched, and by whom.
Another legit reason for installing such an application is the case of my co-webservant at Redland. He works for a company who’s firewall blocks most IP ports. This is a problem when he wants to manage his or the Redland site using an application called “CPanel” which many Linux/Apache we host providers now include as part of their hosting packages. Similarly, this allows my friend to use browser-based email to/from his personal domain over yet another port denied by his company’s firewall.
Finally, I also had a situation where a useful tech-blog has blocked my work IP. Considering the company I work for, I would suspect this is a situation where an entire block of addresses are being denied access due to abuses from someone using the same upstream provider. At least, I hope its nothing personal.
I personally use a PHP program who’s documentation is in German and requires someone who understands pure geek to install it. Those of you savvy enough to do the same probably know where to find such goodies. For the rest of you, I’m going to suggest a very simple Perl-based application entitled CGIProxy, that has the benefit of a third-party online installer program. Word of caution – check with the terms of service defined by your web host to see if such applicatins are permissible. Some get really upset and drop you like a rock for using such programs.
For those who don’t want to, don’t know how, or aren’t allowed install such application, there are a variety of browsing tools usually referred to as anonymous browsers. Come are client-based. Some are browser based. Some that annoy you with ads and pop-ups, others that don’t. Here are some places you can play with:
- Anonymous Browsing Quick-Start Page
- the Cloak
- SendFakeMail.com Anonymous Internet Browser
I generally use the Phoenix browser for such goodies to avoid such annoyances. As always, your mileage may vary.