I remember when I was a kid set loose on a computer. It seemed like I could find my way around anything my parents or school set up to keep me out. It just just a matter of understanding how the system worked and you could work around it.
Systems are much more complicated and secure these days. Things like Internet content filters are centrally managed outside the reach of users so we have to do very clever things to bypass them. Most of the time even these clever things are blocked (most of them) and in general our users can’t access the things we don’t want them to access. I personally can usually bypass anything I want and access whatever I want wherever I want to access it. But that is a function of having decades of experience.
I was just having a conversation with my son who attends a public middle school in our town. He told me that “kids are using cash to get to anything they want on the internet.” I assumed he meant cash, like maybe they had some sort of pay-per access web proxy account. Not the case though, he meant “cache” and its as simple as clicking a different part of the blocked site’s hyperlink in the Google search engine.
That’s right, Google has a cached copy of the whole Internet and you can look right at it with no special tools at all. I have no idea what a “dorkmaster” is but I know that school administrators don’t want kids browsing Urban Dictionary.
By clicking on the little green down-arrow next to the hyperlink, some other options come up. In this case cached is the only one. Clicking on the Cached option, I am taken to a cached copy of the Urban Dictionary site where I learn that a “dorkmaster” is pretty much the same thing as a “dungeon master” in table top RPG gaming.
From here I can click “Browse” and have a quick gander at the “popular” things my kids can learn at school these days.
Here is what Google has to say about it’s cache.
Here is the URL of the Google Cache Service
Looking at this URL, I have no idea if “googleusercontent.com” may be a requirement for other Google services that schools make use of. Is it needed for Google Drive, Goolge Docs, gMail? It is probably safe to block webcache.googleusercontent.com though.
I don’t know so I’m not sure that blocking this URL is the right thing to do. But this is definitely something I am going to look into and discuss with some of my customers who operate public computers with filtering requirements. A quick search seems to indicate that these cached sites are properly categorized so a good content filter or NGFW should be able to block them if configured properly. This approach would not prevent Google Cache from working where appropriate. A little more digging and then I should probably have a chat with the school’s IT department.
Thoughts, comments? Do you have a good solution to this problem?