Really, I don’t understand the commotion about instant messaging (IMing) at work –since employees (as well as employers) are still going to waste time if they want. For instance and perhaps not the case where you work and maybe extreme, but in Chillán, Chile bosses are never in their offices, anyway. They’re always “en terreno”, most days of the week and most hours of each day.
I know of one (who incidentally was found of referring to himself as) “head master” (of an English language institute that uses the name of an American trade centre as a buzz word) who spends entire (office) afternoons playing Space Invaders on his office computer, among other 1980s video games. But what should we expect of him, as –to the best of my knowledge– he doesn’t even have a university degree, but fulfills his role as a glorified blue eyed anglophone mascot.
Suffice to say I think he does the mascot bit extremely well –so much so that he got promoted to a national supervisory position. But the fact that he regularly fudged his numbers (percentage of students that successfully finished courses) by having teachers take the exams for them might have helped him get the promotion. And what about being a “wife in every port” sort of guy? Mum’s the word.
What of the institute’s financial director and his frequent infidelities with female employees, not to mention the discrepancies in wages? Well, he also got promoted to a national position. [I just found out he got fired last year, after getting a cushy job for a few years! Apparently, he failed to produce.]
These slackers weren’t alone in wasting company time, though. I recall some teachers at that institute getting annoyed when one teacher in particular needed to use the only work station (the institute had) to research and make lesson plans. What would the scorned instructors use the station for? Well, to watch telenovelas on T.V. Chile online –of course!
There was the time one of the instructors lost his dog. They resorted to a séance with a Ouija board to find the poor ol’ thing –this, literally from within the financial director’s office (while he was away). This instructor is now the dean of the English department of a (disreputable) Chilean university.
Considering this comportment was normative at the place of work pictured above, IMing at work doesn’t seem so evil, does it? I mean, there are worse things, such as photographing your butt on the copier (see below in the non-related video), or printing photographs of young women’s bare butts –which was done at Wall Street.
Now, let’s take a look at various technologies you could use to bypass IM.
Disclaimer: Beware, people have gotten fired for circumventing firewalls. Maybe talk to your admin to see if it’s alright, but then again you’ll just be IDing yourself. Proceed at your own peril. It might be best to ask them to let you through, in which case if you get caught … you had permission. You could play dumb and get them to set it up for you, too! If you have an ass for a boss, he or she might still fire you no matter what or how you go about improving your IM connectivity –in which case I’m certainly not liable for incurred wrath.
Since ports are surely the first thing to be blocked by admin, and some programs are plain blocked or banned from accessing the Internet, the following might be of use.
Option #1 – Meebo & eBuddy
The Meebo domain is usually blocked these days, but you can sometimes get through connecting to the a Meebo server IP address. Less frequently used servers are not always blocked, and there are new servers going up all the time.
There’s many servers so people find out the IP address to one particular server that isn’t blocked and throw it into the url bar. There’s even an extension for Firefox, but if they’ve blocked the default server, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to look around or ask around (the office or school among trusted co-workers/students) for valid working IP addresses. It’s probably best to ask a friend that works in a different office or in an entirely different company.
I’ll warn you, Meebo has gotten very popular and so admins have started to block it since I started to write this article. Some use <http://www.ebuddy.com/> as an alternative.
Option #2 A -IRC client to a Bitlbee server to proprietary IM servers
Although you can use a previous article of mine, <https://mauroandres.wordpress.com/2007/08/23/turn-chatzilla-into-an-universal-instant-messaging-client/>, to connect to an IRC server, its’ subject matter really deals with connecting to a Bitlbee server via an IRC client/program called ChatZilla (that installs onto Firefox). The problem is, IRC is usually one of the first things firewalls block. If you get through, you also have had to make prior arraignments to meet your contact on an IRC channel –or on one of your own making.
Option #2 B – IRC via browser to Bitlbee to proprietary IM servers
This method details a no-install solution but you’ll need to know how to work with a primitive graphical interface with line command. Remember telnet? Well, it’s sort of like that. You connect to a service that forwards your requests to the MSN Messenger service via your browser such as the following,<http://cgiirc.asnetinc.net/>, <http://im.sixxs.net/>, or <http://im.kernel-oops.de/cgi-bin/cgiirc/irc.cgi>.
These sites work with Bitlbee servers. There’s a manual on how to interface with one, <https://mauroandres.wordpress.com/2007/08/23/turn-chatzilla-into-an-universal-instant-messaging-client/>. If you use the portable version, you should leave no tracks of what you did (on the browser [or OS] because it moves with you on a Pen Drive), other than the admin keeping record of traffic packets, where these came from, and where these went.
Option #2 – HTTP & Skype
Some programs will allow you to change ports used. Just use “HTTP” ports (Pidgin has this option). You could also try using Skype’s port (36013) since it seems many Chilean companies are accepting Skype as the IM enterprise solution exclusively (if you can believe it). MSN has been dropped and blocked by a couple.
Option #4 A – Jabber technology
Jabber & GTalk
Now if admin do more than just block ports but sample packets, it may be a little harder, but heck if you’re using Jabber and they let HTTP through (meaning you have Internet access). Even so, you should be able to get through because Internet browsing and Jabber/GTalk use the “same” protocols. Jabber and GTalk are almost impossible to block (without blocking regular Internet access), at least with mediocre admin.
I’ve tested Jabber and have been able to get through IM filtered networks. This takes a little time and planning. For that matter, try a Jabber Pen Drive client by which to connect to a Jabber server with transports to MSN, and voila … You’re connected. You’ll need to set it up from home, as I’ve found office style firewalls don’t let you connect to the service during set up, but it’ll function at the office once configured from home.
Option #4 B – Jabber via Firefox
Get Firefox, and install <https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3633> and <https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3632> firefox extensions, or just install the version found at <http://www.sameplace.cc/download>. It’ll connect to a server via HTTP that’ll connect to MSN Messenger service.
If you do this (as with any browser centered procedure), I highly recommend you use portable Firefox. This way, little evidence is left behind and since admins don’t let you install stuff onto computers anymore –you can run made-for-Pen-Drive programs from a Pen Drive to your heart’s content.
Just set accounts up from home –prior to going to work because registration hasn’t worked for me from workplace scenarios. You can get Firefox portable from <http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable>, among other places, but that one is up to date with the official release at the moment of writing.
Option #6 – GMail via a browser
Lastly, switch to GMail. The GMail web-interface has instant messaging built in. At the time of writing this article, admins can block the instant messenger portion if you log into <http://gmail.com>, but not if you do it via the secure version, <https://gmail.com>. Notice the “s”. Throw it in after logging in, as it defaults to the non-secure version (used to?).
You could also tunnel your way through (Firefox is a favorite for this). They’ll be able to see you passing through, but won’t have a clue what’s being communicated because it’s encrypted. This involves setting up your own server and tunneling out from work to your server/home computer left on –which will forward to where ever you want to go. This involves technical stuff you may not want to deal with –although it’s not hard to get your head around once you get the jist.
This method is usually used for secure browsing, but if you do your IMing from within a browser using HTTPS you might be able to leverage encryption to your advantage.
Which ever method you try from the the list, Firefox –specially configured to run from a Pen Drive to leave as little trace as possible– can work nicely (or any other similarly packaged and developer configured app), although ports can still be blocked and you can still be tracked trying to get through the firewall. Furthermore, remote DNS searches can be traced, too –if I recall. [Running an encrypted DNS server on a Pen Drive may be worth some thought.]
I’m sure there’s other (more) complicated ways to circumvent prohibitive measures, but these are the basics of circumventing IM blocking.
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