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How to Bypass Blocked Sites: 5 Methods to Try | MakeUseOf

You're at work or school, but you want to check social media, check out adult activities (e.g. gambling), or watch something on YouTube.

Unsurprisingly, everything interesting is blocked. But you're not out of options. You just need to learn how to bypass blocked sites at work, school, or home.

Note: Sometimes, sites are blocked for security purposes, i.e. they pose a threat to your device. Research the content you intend to access thoroughly before attempting to get past the blocks.

1. Bypass Blocked Sites With a VPN

The best thing you can do is use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). You've probably heard a bit about them, but they're not as complicated as they initially sound.

VPNs add an additional layer of security and privacy using encryption. That's useful if you're entering sensitive information and are worried about hackers. In this case, however, VPNs can be used to bypass blocks. These networks connect you to a website via a "tunnel", which scrambles data travelling through it either way.

Some security suites offer VPNs as part of a bundle. Some are free. And others cost. It's worth shopping around, of course, but we've got plenty of VPN recommendations on MakeUseOf.

Related: The 5 Best VPNs With a Free Trial Period

Any software monitoring your browsing activities only sees that you're using a VPN. Individual URLs can't be tracked without considerable work. There's a chance that cybercriminals will put in the effort to view your data, but it's doubtful your employer or educational institution ever will.

VPNs are great when you need to access region-blocked media on your device too.

2. Bypass Firewalls Using Proxies

Most treat VPNs and proxy servers as interchangeable. But proxies lack the encryption software that protects a lot of your data. That's certainly not to say they're useless though!

Proxies hide your Internet Protocol (IP) address---which anyone can trace back to your computer---making your searches anonymous by instead displaying another server's IP.

There are literally thousands of proxy sites to help you bypass firewalls. Search online and you'll be bombarded with results for free services and paid-for ones. The former is acceptable for occasional use. But if you intend to use it regularly (and want something more secure and anonymous), consider whether it's worth paying.

Don't be put off. It's not difficult to set up a proxy server to get past restrictions, no matter what browser you use.

3. Use Cached Pages to Bypass Blocks

Search engines cache content when indexing websites. Think of it as a carbon copy of a webpage.

Just enter the page you're looking for into a search engine and click on the downward arrow by a site's name, then on Cached. Alternatively, type cache: into the search box then the URL you want to access.

There are limitations: formatting is generally lost and videos might not play. Nonetheless, this is a good way of getting around blocks.

Instead of a normal URL, cached content will be listed as something like "https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache", followed by the website name.

This won't work on all blocked sites and many admins will have also restricted cached material from questionable sources. However, it might work to get around blocks in schools, for instance, when conducting research. Some institutions use automated blocks which might pick up content through normal addresses but not necessarily related URLs.

4. Access Blocked Content With Remote Access

Remote access has negative connotations. Often you immediately think of hackers, taking control of your device for malicious purposes. Or you may recall the last time you've had to phone a computer helpline to get someone else to sort out an infuriating PC problem. But it's not all bad.

Remote access means taking control of your home computer without actually sitting in front of it.

To do so, you'll need to download a handy bit of software: it doesn't really matter whether you use popular remote connectivity programs like LogMeIn or one of the lesser-known ones.

Related: The 13 Best Screen Sharing and Remote Access Software

The important thing is that you can now browse the internet at your leisure---by using your own computer remotely! You might experience a lag, but it works, and means you can further use any software on your computer, not just your browser.

5. Use RSS Feeds to Bypass Blocks

RSS feeds send web pages directly to your email address.

These are typically syndicated editions of pieces regularly collated and distributed to email addresses and RSS Readers. They save users the time spent visiting individual sites: you get the best content sent directly to you.

So if a site you frequent is blocked, you can either subscribe to an RSS feed or create one. You bypass blocks because you're looking at RSS apps, not the sites themselves.

It used to be the case that you couldn't view videos through RSS feeds. Fortunately, most services have amended this issue. That's not always the case; some have issues with images too, but will should allow you to get around blocked sites.

If you can't find a way to easily subscribe to a feed, check out some of the free services that allow you to create one:

Similarly, signing up to newsletters or following blogs via WordPress, Blogger, and similar platforms means you get curated content sent straight to you. However, you do surrender some privacy by submitting your email address to sites when joining newsletters. It may be worth the relatively small risk.

How Do You Bypass Restrictions?

You'll likely get in a heap of trouble if you're caught bypassing a block. That could mean a warning and enhanced monitoring at work. If you've attempted to get around a school firewall, you could face detention or in more extreme cases expulsion from class.

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Need a Disposable Email Address? Try These Great Services

You need an email address to use almost every website these days, but you probably don't want to use your real email all the time. Perhaps you don't trust a site, want to avoid spam, or need to make a second account on a service you already use.

We'll show you services that let you access temporary email addresses to let you send and receive email without using your real address. Keep in mind that most of these sites don't promise any kind of security, as anyone can access an inbox by name. Also, many websites block these domains, so they might not work everywhere.

While some throwaway email address providers look like they haven't updated their site in a decade, Maildrop.cc provides a clean aesthetic and a simple service. Simply enter any address ending in @maildrop.cc (or pick a suggested username) to access a throwaway inbox.

To protect from dangerous messages, Maildrop discards all email attachments. In addition, messages must be under 500KB in size. Each inbox holds a maximum of 10 messages, and any address that isn't active for 24 hours gets reset.

Finally, Maildrop also employs powerful spam protection, so even if you enter a Maildrop address on a shady site, most of the junk won't find its way to your temporary inbox. And for more security, you can use an alias address for your Maildrop inbox so others can't easily open it up in Maildrop themselves.

Overall, Maildrop provides a clean, simple interface when you need a fake email to sign up for something. It can't send mail and it's not meant for permanent use, but it's a solid tool for getting a quick confirmation message or similar.

Mailinator is one of the longest-running disposable email services. While its homepage now promotes its paid business plans, you can still use it to access a public temporary inbox for free.

Simply enter a username @mailinator.com at the top to check an inbox. You can make up a name on the spot when browsing a website and messages will make their way to that Mailinator address without you having to create it ahead of time.

You can't send email through Mailinator, and the service deletes all messages after a few hours. It also blocks all attachments in incoming messages. While Mailinator doesn't offer much for free and is blocked on many sites due to its well-known status, it's still worth a try today.

Mailsac provides some basic features for free, but offers extra features at additional charge if you need a "permanent" throwaway address.

Like the above, all inboxes are public and available without signing in. You can also use an alias address to disguise the true email address. Emails received in public inboxes stick around for four days. With a free account, you can hold 50 messages in an inbox.

Signing up for a free account gives you some additional perks, including the ability to star messages to keep them from being deleted, unify several inboxes in one place, and more.

If you want to compose a large number of outgoing emails, store more messages, or set up a private inbox nobody else can use, you'll need to pay for those perks.

While creating an account might go against the idea of getting a disposable email address, having a collection of addresses where you can save emails is great. Try it for testing projects, keeping track of which sites are spamming you, or just playing an email prank.

If you need an email to sign up for something and never use again, 10 Minute Mail is for you. This service doesn't offer anything fancy; when you open it, the site simply generates a nonsense email address for you (we got oroatzxyazisaibjth@tsyefn.com). You'll see how many messages have arrived in the Inbox section at the top-right.

A timer counts down 10 minutes, at which point your inbox is destroyed. In case you need more time, click the Get 10 more minutes link, which you can use as often as necessary.

If you close the browser window or let time run out, you can't go back to that temporary inbox again. Because of this, 10 Minute Mail has a bit more security built-in, since nobody else can see the inbox you have open. This also means that you shouldn't use the service for an ongoing secondary address.

GuerrillaMail isn't much to look at, but is a powerhouse for disposable email address users. To help get around blocking, it provides several domain names (like @sharklasers.com and @spam4.me)---plus you can change your randomly assigned email address at any time.

Addresses are permanent, but the service deletes all email after an hour. Unlike other services, GuerillaMail doesn't filter any incoming messages, so you're free to open attachments and view spam messages.

With GuerillaMail, you can send as many messages as you like, including attachments. The maximum size of emails/attachments is a whopping 150MB, and they expire after 24 hours. Because you can't sign in, anyone can potentially access the inbox you've chosen.

Blur is a little more involved than the above temporary email services, but it's worth a look if you often disguise your email address across the web. Blur is a suite of privacy tools that includes a password manager, form auto-fill, and email masking.

Essentially, Blur gives you the option to mask the information you give to websites. If you're signing up for a website and don't feel comfortable giving your email address, clicking Mask my email supplies a made-up email address. Whenever that site sends you an email, Blur forwards it onto you, preventing the site from knowing your real email address.

Blur makes it easy to obfuscate your address on many sites instead of using a temporary service all the time. And if a site abuses your address, you can just tell Blur to stop forwarding that mail.

If you like what Blur does for free, the Blur Premium plan lets you mask your credit cards and phone numbers, as well.

Disposable addresses are an easy way to quickly create a new email address for yourself. No matter your reason for using a disposable email, one of these services should suit you perfectly.

In case you're not sure which one is best for you:

  • Maildrop and Mailinator are great for quick usage, such as one-off confirmation emails.
  • Mailsac is the best if you don't mind creating an account and want a more "permanent" throwaway address.
  • 10 Minute Mail provides (relatively) the most privacy, as nobody else can access your current inbox.
  • GuerillaMail provides unfiltered access to email, including attachments, and lets you send email without signing in.
  • Blur is great if you want a total security solution and rarely give out your real email address.

Email aliases definitely come in handy, so don't forget to use them when you don't trust a site.

Image Credit: Lolostock/Shutterstock

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7 Sites Where You Can Download Free Music (Legally!) | MakeUseOf

Music streaming services are not without their problems. The biggest turnoff being the lack of ownership. If you use Spotify, you don't own any music---you've merely been granted a license to listen to it.

But not to worry. There are still ways you can get hold of free music. They are entirely legal, and the music will be yours to keep forever. Here are the best sites to download free music legally!

The YouTube Audio Library is mainly aimed at people who need royalty-free production music to use in videos. However, anyone with a YouTube account can access the library via YouTube Studio and download as many songs as they wish.

According to the library's terms and conditions, you can use the tracks in any content you create; it's not just limited to videos. You can also use the songs in monetized videos on the YouTube platform.

Each song has a sample available, which you can listen to by hitting the small Play icon. If you like what you hear, click the adjacent Download button.

In addition to free music tracks, the YouTube Audio Library also includes sound effects. Again, they are free to use across your creative works.

The Free Music Archive has been around for many years, but it remains as popular as ever.

WUFM---an independent freeform radio station in New Jersey---curates the content. Most of the available songs are from lesser-known artists, but occasionally you will see a famous name pop up.

You don't need to worry about legality, as all of the tracks on the site are free for personal use. However, if you're planning to use the songs in a commercial setting, you need to check the license associated with each individual recording.

Jamendo is a platform that allows unsigned independent artists to easily distribute their music to their fans. It currently has more than 400,000 tracks from 40,000 artists.

The music is built around "Communities". Navigating to a particular community (for example, #Rock) will introduce you to its leading tracks, albums, and artists. You can sort the music by all-time popularity, what's trending, and latest releases.

If you want to test the waters before you commit to a download, you can tune into one of the site's themed radio stations. By the way, check out the best music download apps for Android and iOS if you want to your music to go.

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch. And if you use NoiseTrade, that's partly true.

The artists who have listed their music on this site want something in return for the free download, typically a postal address or an email address. The idea is for the bands to easily connect with people who like their music---perhaps to advertise an upcoming tour or highlight the launch of a new album.

The flipside is that you're more likely to find artists you recognize. Sure, you're not going to find The Killers' latest release, but most of the bands are already signed to a record label and have albums available.

What if pop, rock, and the other mainstream genres aren't your thing? Well, if you're more into classical music, you're in luck.

Musopen has recordings from some of the most famous classical musicians of all time. You'll find everything from Bach and Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and Holst. You can search by composer, performer, instrument, period, and form to locate the content you want.

The site extends beyond music downloads. You'll also find lots of free sheet music and even some educational resources.

Many people don't realize that Amazon has a vast repository of free music downloads. At the time of writing, more than 6,000 songs are available for download.

Unlike some of the other free music download sites, you can frequently find famous bands. Right now, you can find music from the Foo Fighters, Boy George, Lisa Loeb, Boyz II Men, and Carole King, and many more. The artists do change occasionally, so if you find any music you like, grab it while you can.

Anyway from famous names, the collection also does a surprisingly good job of covering niche genres. Sadly, Amazon has removed the feature that allowed you to filter the free music by genre (though it's still there for paid music). As such, you'll need to do the digging yourself.

Did you know that the Internet Archive is useful for a lot more than only laughing at how bad the web looked in 1999? It's also a fantastic free audio library.

For a music lover, the best part of the site is the Live Music Archive. It was built in partnership with etree.org, and features shows and concerts from a range of leading artists. All the bands in the collection are "trade-friendly", meaning they've granted fans the right to freely trade some of their music for non-commercial means.

The library doesn't just cover music; you'll also find old news and public affairs talks, radio shows, audiobooks, and poetry readings.

Almost all of these sites specialize in helping you download music from unknown and upcoming artists rather than current stars. It's largely inevitable, as bands who have already made it big have no need to give their music away for free.

As a rule, if you see a site offering you a free copy of the latest album by Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, it'll probably be illegal to download it. In which case you should proceed with extreme caution.

One such illegal example is FreeAllMusic. Like The Pirate Bay, it has been taken offline many times, only to rear its head at a new domain. A rebooted version persists to this day. Our advice is to steer clear.

Although it's nice to be able to grab free music downloads legally, there are plenty of ways to pay for the biggest and newest releases.

Before you get your wallet out, however, it makes sense to check whether you like the music first.