November 14, 2003

Access denied

Filed under: tech,work — Twilight Fairy @ 2:47 pm

Ever come across this all-pervasive message on your computer screen? Well I have, coz I access the net mostly from office and of course Big Brother always has eyes on my activities. Gone are the days, when barring porno sites nothing else was ‘access denied’. Gone are the days when Yahoo, MSN, ICQ all used to be ‘accessible’ all the time to everyone. Gone are the days when all greeting card sites were a quick means for anyone to wish someone. It was perfectly fine to be downloading MP3’s, checking your web mail and surfing the net for whatever you can imagine (ok, don’t imagine too much now). It was perfectly fine to be receiving and forwarding huge attachments (at times MP3’s and MPEGs too) and everyone had infinite space in their mail account. The bandwidth of the company network was able to take all this load and still survive.

But then comes a day, in every organization’s network-congested-life, when it grows larger and as that happens, the top mgmt, finally realises that “Khulee Chhooot”..umm err.. i dont know how to spell it now..this gives it a very ‘access denied’ meaning.. ok “Full freedom” for its employees is certainly not beneficial for the organization. Moreover in this era of the post-IT-boom-gone-bust-days, one needs to cut down all kinds of unnecessary costs. Obviously all these things classify as luxury for a normal employee.. so the ‘normal’ employee is imposed with certain restrictions whereas the top mgmt, still has Khullee..ok Full freedom.

The new rules are defined in such a way, so that the employee is able to take in the shocks bit by bit.
Round 1 – the chat clients are blocked..but wait, all is not lost, only for certain hours..the working hours. Then greeting card sites are blocked, but again, they are accessible after working hours. Then MP3’s are blocked and of course the same time limitations. (How can they block them totally, after all they also listen to the same music that we download, on the intranet!). Then size limitations are put in for mail accounts. All popular sites like cricket sites, joke of the day sites are blocked.
Round 2 – Restrict the kind of attachments one can receive or send. All mp3’s, mpegs, exes, jpgs, gifs are blocked. Non office hours? Does that mean all hours out of the 24 except the working hours? No, from now on they mean only 6-9 in the evening.
Chat? Cards? oh everything is ok only from 6-9 and no not even on sunday is this timing changed.
Round 3 – No chat at all. New proxy mechanisms make sure that URLs are blocked on basis of the words entered. Now almost the whole internet gets blocked, except for good old google of course. Size of mail box reduced to an iota.
Round 4 – Impose policies of all kinds, which bar the employees from any recreation on the net. Did I mention that the top mgmt has different policies and even different internet links?

These are some of the strategies that organizations follow. Some of it is definitely needed but not to the dictatorial extent of every site being blocked without reason! Of course it’s not as drastic as having no internet connection at all at your desktop, so that the cause itself is done away with. I find it difficult to imagine how ppl in Infosys or ST Microelectronics survive! I mean block all you want, but you do need the net for official work also.

Anyhow, in situations like these, it’s always the employees vs the Big Brother. The BigB forgets that the employees are after all in the IT field and come what may, would find out alternate ways and means to access the ‘access denied’ stuff. So after some time, it really is no real saving of bandwidth or manhours coz those who have to, will do. And those who don’t, anyway won’t. But you know that the restrictions are way too wrong, when almost all employees are finding out new ways and means to access the denied.

So for all you bandwidth starved ppl out there, here are some tricks of the trade. Of course try them at your own risk coz Big B is *always* watching.
Anonymous proxies: you surf the net using these proxies. They act as a buffer between your proxy and the final site. There are various kinds. Ones which encrypt the URL, ones which dont, ones over SSL etc. Depending on the type, you can access sites without anyone (not even BigB) knowing which sites you visited. Of course you need to keep your database updated coz someday BigB is gonna realise that almost all employees seem to be visiting anonymizer.com for some reason.
Use software which sends your data over socks proxy or SSL – You can visit http-tunnel.com or htthost.com for more details. All you have to do is install the software, make some settings and voila! you can say bye to BigB’s ‘access denied’ web page. And did I mention that you can chat, download (music too) through this? But again, BigB is listening to all ports that you are using and before you know it, the ports for these softwares would be blocked.
There are a few sites which take the URL of the download you want, change its extension and give it back to you with a decent extension that the firewall won’t block. Or they offer you ways to access ftp via http, if your firewall blocks ftp.

Wonder why the corporate networks, still can’t control spam the way they impose these restrictions!

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