Help me find a personal email venue that my employer can't block.
October 26, 2005 6:53 PM   Subscribe

My employer blocks access to webmail-based email like yahoo and gmail. Is it possible to get around this?

Really, I just want a personal email address that I can access at work. There is no set policy against personal email at work that I can find, but they seem to block every webmail portal I can think of (gmail, hotmail, yahoo, anything with "webmail" or "mail" in the URL). I know why many employers choose to do this (security, productivity), but I really just want to check mail at lunch. Suggestions?
posted by Haize to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My employer does this too. I haven't found a way around it. On My Yahoo! (not blocked by my employer) you can get a message preview and see the subject of messages without going into Yahoo mail.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:06 PM on October 26, 2005

If you have a PC at home that is always on, you could probably install a proxy server on it and set up an SSH tunnel from your work to that machine. Some info here.
posted by sanko at 7:16 PM on October 26, 2005

Try VNC, or learn how to set up your own HTTP tunnelling. That might work, or could potentially be blocked (if they're smart and motivated). Chances are they're just using a stupid URL filter or a corporate proxy solution.
posted by dhartung at 7:18 PM on October 26, 2005

Use a free (or cheap) Web proxy server. There are lots out there, some of which require accounts and some of which don't. There's a big market for this, of course, since there are entire countries where access to lots of Web sites is capriciously blocked.

Hide My Ass is a free Web proxy that was linked on Digg recently.
posted by killdevil at 7:22 PM on October 26, 2005

Buy a laptop and find a wifi hotspot.
posted by mischief at 7:34 PM on October 26, 2005

I am doing what you speak of right now.

I use

It runs a little slow though. As it is an internet tunnel to my own computer at home. Its perfect for checking and postin Hotmail ect though.

Also megaproxy do a web based proxy avoidance service. However this is blocked at my place of work.
posted by gergtreble at 7:39 PM on October 26, 2005

How much do you like your job? I hope their heavy-handed Luddism doesn't reach into other spheres...
posted by electric_counterpoint at 7:40 PM on October 26, 2005

Try, free mail hosting, no ads and I haven't encountered blocking with it yet.
posted by Mitheral at 7:48 PM on October 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

get a cellphone with internet capabilities.
posted by any major dude at 7:50 PM on October 26, 2005

My employer does the same thing. There are two ways around this for Gmail users. Well, one real way and one half-way.

1. If you're able to download programs to your computer, download Google Desktop and use the Gmail function. This will allow you to access your email without alerting the company's servers (usually).

2. Go to and personalize a homepage which includes a space for your Gmail account. Edit the Gmail area so it shows 9 messages. You won't be able to click on the messages but you will at least be able to see your 9 most recent messages and if you hover over them you'll see the complete subject line. This is useful enough for me as there's an Apple Store across the street from my building. If I see a message I feel like I need to read, I hop across the street and take care of it.
posted by ryanhealy at 8:11 PM on October 26, 2005

Or you may be able to use GMail and then access it via GMail Lite.
posted by davidmsc at 8:19 PM on October 26, 2005

You could also try the ever-useful Tor; it has the side effect of anonymizing all your internet browsing, so aside from your browser cache & cookies your employer can't tell what you're looking at.

Note that using Tor is a bad idea if you are in an environment where installing programs on your work computer is a no no.
posted by AaronRaphael at 8:22 PM on October 26, 2005

You could modify your gmail settings to forward a copy of incoming gmail to your work email address.
posted by whatisish at 8:29 PM on October 26, 2005

Or you could take a cold rack of Full Sail down to the IT dept. on friday afternoon 'round 4:30. We are quite reasonable in that regard.
posted by Triode at 8:54 PM on October 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

You can get around it, but should you? Circumventing company policy is a great way to find yourself out on your ass.

Talk to your manager instead, and ask him what can be done about the situation.
posted by secret about box at 9:06 PM on October 26, 2005

In my school, they block webmail. However, I noticed an anomaly in IE 5 and 6, where if you type "" in the address bar, without the ".com", It gives an MSN resdirect page (one of those "Did you mean to go to one of these sites?" pages). If you click the "Google - Gmail" link on this page, it bypasses the security and there you go.

Works in my school at least. We use N2H2 sentian filtering.
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 9:20 PM on October 26, 2005

Try ContactOffice ....Excellent suite of free services including email....They've been around for years and I have high praise for them. There's no "mail" in the url and my guess is it's not blocked. Be sure and check out their Online Demo - it's truly an impressive service.

posted by Independent Scholarship at 9:53 PM on October 26, 2005

Can you get to these sites via their IP addresses? They're probably blocking text in the URL, but I'd think the numbers might get through.
posted by willnot at 10:23 PM on October 26, 2005

For awhile I was annoyed that my work blocked (or is it But then one day I realized that loads fine. Have you tried all variations?
posted by gluechunk at 10:51 PM on October 26, 2005

You could also try Scribe which is a POP email client that you can use from a USB drive. Here's the screed from their website:

Scribe is a small and fast email client with an intergrated contact database and calendar. It supports all the major internet mail protocols and uses international standards where possible. Scribe doesn't required installing or uninstalled and can be used from a removable drive without reconfiguration. It comes with a highly accurate bayesian spam filter and translations to many different languages. Updates are published regularly to respond to problems and to add features. Because Scribe runs on Windows, Linux and BeOS you can take your mail with you when you change operating system. And don't worry about viruses, Scribe protects you from the usual security holes in other email clients with it's own virus safe HTML control and executable attachment lockout.
posted by mule at 12:59 AM on October 27, 2005

My employer blocks all webmail and all the anonymizers, translators, and public proxies it knows about. I've found a copy of CeCID working out there they haven't discovered yet. That'll generally let me read MeFi--although I can't post from work--but doesn't help with webmail accounts. It doesn't do well with https in general.

However, for as little as about $4/mo, you can set up your own web domain and forward your gmail there. The IT facists haven't noticed my site, presumably because of the 120K employees, I'm pretty much the only one that ever goes there, so it doesn't bubble up in their logs.

(For cheap providers, stay away from P4Host. It's pretty stable until something goes wrong, but then you can pretty much assume any problem you run into is permanent. I have a P4Host site on which the email forwarders have been broken for months.)
posted by phrits at 4:11 AM on October 27, 2005

I can access my .MAC email account at work. Though it does have an $85 fee for web site, syncing & storage too.
posted by UncleHornHead at 10:01 AM on October 27, 2005

I telnet into my personal email address. No problems. I actually telnet (ssh really) when I use my email at home too. Simple and straightforward. Once a week I download my mail to my home computer.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2005

Set up squid at home. Alternately, run an X server (Hummingbird products are good, but Cygwin's xserver works too), and remotely use firefox on your computer at home as a native window on your machine at work. The only disadvantage is that you probably won't get AA text, because (in my experience) that sends remote X to a CRAWL.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:35 AM on October 27, 2005

I'm saving this thread as IT Exhibit #1 for the next time some busybody bean counter at work suggests spending a lot of time and money on filtering software so I can point out how useless it is.
posted by Mitheral at 12:00 PM on October 27, 2005

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