The United Arab Emirates and several other countries block access to many websites. In particular, the UAE has made it difficult to circumvent the blocks via traditional means. Etisalat, the only Internet service provider in the UAE, has been aggressive and quick at blocking websites, including those that might be used to circumvent the blocks. In particular, web proxy servers get blocked within days of activation. However, there are still a few ways around the Etisalat blocks with connections outside of the UAE.
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The most popular solution around the UAE block is to configure the browser to use a web proxy server. There are thousands of free proxy servers on the Internet. Use any search engine to look for an updated list of free proxy servers. Unfortunately, the UAE has located nearly all of them and has banned them. Nevertheless, if the UAE has not discovered a specific proxy server, then it can be used for a short time. Keep in mind that proxy traffic is not encrypted and can be monitored by the UAE as well as the owner of the proxy server.
VPN (virtual private network) to another network outside of the UAE. For example, if VPN is done to a network in the United States, web browsing will go through an encrypted tunnel to the network in the United States, where browsing is unimpeded. The problem with this method is locating an organisation willing to let UAE users VPN into their network.
SSH tunnel out of the UAE. SSH (Secure Shell) is a program used to connect to another server at the command line level with encryption, and has the ability to add data tunnels to the connection. This method is similar to the VPN. Doing it with SSH involves creating an encrypted SSH tunnel to a SSH server outside of the UAE for web browsing traffic. The SSH client needs to have a port forwarded from the local machine in the UAE to any proxy server on the Internet using the SSH server as an intermediary. This method has the same disadvantages as the VPN, which is locating an organisation willing to have UAE users SSH into their server.
Connect with Remote Desktop to a Windows computer outside of the UAE. Remote Desktop is a program created by Microsoft that allows one Windows-based system to connect to another Windows system's desktop. This connection is not encrypted by default, but can be configured to be encrypted. Once the Remote Desktop connection is successful, use the browser on the remote Windows system to browse the Internet.
Use VNC to connect to a system outside of the UAE. VNC is a program used to connect from one computer's desktop to another. Once the VNC connection is established, browse the Internet from the remote desktop. VNC connections are not encrypted.
Use the cached version of websites on Google. Search Google for the website and then click on the cached version link.
Appeal to Etisalat to unblock the website. This step is unlikely to work unless the website was blocked as a mistake.
Tips and warnings
- Many of these steps allow voice over IP services, which saves a lot of money over the Etisalat's own offerings. Consider this savings if a paid service is being used to circumvent the block.
- Try to use solutions that are encrypted rather than unencrypted. If data transmission is not encrypted through some sort of a tunnel, it will be logged by the Etisalat and possibly blocked later on.
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