So the Singapore government is cutting off the Internet (from 100,000 computers). Bring some of it back in 5 steps

By this time next year, all official computers in the Singapore government will be fenced off from Internet surfing. The intiative has also caught the attention of international media.

Common uses of the Internet by public servants for work:

  1. Accessing websites for operations
  2. Accessing websites for research
  3. Downloading documents and other resources from the Internet

Thankfully, if you have a separate computer with Internet access in the office, not all is lost. You can still email screenshots of websites and downloaded files (virus-free, naturally) to yourself to use them on secure machines.

But this mode of file transfer can be automated to make it even more painless. Just follow these simple steps.

1. Set up a Google account

Of course, to make it more secure, use a strong password (or use a password manager to create one) and set up two-factor authentication. I recommend using Google because you get both email and cloud storage services with just one sign-in.

2. Create a folder in Google Drive for file transfers

Anything you drop here will be picked up and emailed to your designated address (more on this in Step 4). Give it a name like Email to Work or Zapier.

3. Log in to your Google account in Chrome

This is to prepare for Step 4. And if the computer is shared, Chrome allows you to switch between users just by clicking on the top right corner of the window.

4. Install the Save to Google Drive extension on the Chrome browser

The Save to Google Drive Chrome extension allows you to capture entire webpages as a image or html file and save it automatically to a designated folder in your Google Drive.

5. Create and configure Zapier for automated forwarding

There are other web automation services out there, but I’ve tried Zapier and it’s very easy to use. (I will leave it up to you to test other options.) Again, choose a strong password when setting up your account. Once done, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Make a Zap at the top of the screen.
  2. Choose a Trigger App: Select Google Drive.
  3. Select Google Drive Trigger: Select New File in Folder.
  4. Select Google Drive Account: Choose Connect a New Account, and grant Zapier access permissions in the pop-up window.
  5. Set up Google Drive File in Folder: Select the folder you set up in Step 2.
  6. Complete the test fetch and move on to the next step — setting up your Gmail.
  7. Choose an Action App: Select Gmail.
  8. Select Gmail Action: Choose Send Email.
  9. Select Gmail Account: Choose the Google account you connected earlier.
  10. Set up Gmail Email: You need to fill in your email address, an email subject (something like New file from Google Drive?), some body text, and most importantly, for Attachment, click the dropdown and select File.
  11. Complete the test email and click Finish.
  12. Give your Zap a name and turn it on.


How to use

After all that hard work, how do you make use of this thing?

  • If you want to capture a webpage, just click on the Save to Google Drive button on your Chrome browser.
  • If you want to send a file to yourself, just drag and drop a file into your designated folder. You can do this either on a web browser or the Google Drive desktop or mobile apps.

Zapier will check your Google Drive folder every 5 minutes for new files and send them to you.

Anyhow, the full implementation of the Internet separation policy will be completed only by May 2017. There could well be changes and tweaks along the way that make the method described here obsolete or even unworkable by then.

So, stay positive and do share any alternative solutions you have!