Net Nanny 1
This photo gallery is also available in the TechRepublic Five Apps Blog.
I am not one to advocate a Big Brother-esque environment for business as that does little for morale or instilling a two-way sense of trust. But there are companies out there that must lock down machines, for whatever reason, and need the tools to do so. Home use, of course, is a different story – where young children are susceptible to falling into the clutches of the wealth of mature content the web has to offer.
When you need to block content, it's a relief to know there are plenty of tools out there that do the job. I have identified five such tools that I believe can do the trick for anyone willing (or needing) to take the time to get these products set up and running properly. Some are a bit easier than others; but, in the end, they all do a great job of protecting you, your company, your employees, or your children.
Images by Jack Wallen for TechRepublic.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for Techrepublic and Linux.com. As an avid promoter/user of the Linux OS, Jack tries to convert as many users to open source as possible. His current favorite flavor of Linux is Bodhi Linux (a melding of Ubuntu and Enlightenment). When Jack isn't writing about Linux he is hard at work on his other writing career -- writing about zombies, various killers, super heroes, and just about everything else he can manipulate between the folds of reality. You can find Jack's books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Outnumbered in his house one male to two females and three humans to six felines, Jack maintains his sanity by riding his mountain bike and working on his next books. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website Get Jack'd.
You should review Qustodio. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised. Have been using it for a good four months now and realize that this is the probably the best in the league of free software. Ease of use and features such as real-time blocking, comprehensive reporting, and tracking of downloaded stuff simply put it among the best in the ranks of even the paid software.
K9 has worked very well for my family over the years, even on underpowered systems where other solutions crashed and burned. It's not designed to be a spy tool like some products, but instead allows a parent to walk away from a family computer with peace of mind that most inappropriate content, unsafe search engines, and certain site categories are blocked. And, if you think a blocked site is appropriate for school, you can enable it temporarily with the admin password. If there's any question of trust in your mind, you can still poke around and see what sites were browsed even if browser history was cleared.
Untangle's basic offering is free, is business oriented, and does exactly what you're writing about. www.untangle.com
There are two ways of doing this. Either protect every device in the household separately which, depending on the tech in your house, can be a nightmare. Second way is to filter at the router or use a 'redirector' site as previously described or have a router that uses a listing method. The first method will require someone in the house to manage the SW on each device and ensure that it's up to date and that it actually works. Symantec, McAfee and Kaspersky all do products that will cover most machines whether it's IOS, Android, or MS based. It'll work wherever the devices go as long as these 'pesky kids' don't meddle with the SW, disable it or uninstall it. Second method allows two options. 1. Use a site like opendns.com and allow them to check where the DNS requests are headed then dis/allow based upon the policy in force. Works reasonably well but like all filtering solutions will require tweaking at times. 2. Use a proxy filter on the router. This method may allow you to run different policies for different users/devices within the household but generally will have one policy that applies to all. Which one should you use? Depends on your preference, knowledge and number of devices. Personally I go for the opendns option as it works well, is simple to manage and means that all devices are covered whilst in the home. What I strongly recommend to all is that you have regular talks to kids about the ins and outs of the internet and the dangers that are out there. An open culture will allow them to come and talk to you rather than be worried about what they may find.
any content filter can be bypassed - moreso if the filtering software in question runs per-machine as opposed to on an edge router/firewall. To top it off, some/most/all (I'm only really familiar with BlueCoat software enough to make this claim) work on http host-header filtering (ie: take the hostname from a given url, check it against a registry of categories, filter appropriately) - so if a given site hasn't been categorized, has multiple names, and/or can be accessed by using http://ip, then filtering just won't work (unless you're extremely paranoid and have blocked everything except an implicit/explicit whitelist). Of course, the more you restrict someone, the more likely they are to try to probe the restrictions for holes - and when they find one, they are going to get their money's worth out of that hole.
If I have a wireless system setup in my house will these also filter what is being transmitted over my wireless internet? In other words will it block the content that my kids can view on their IPods?
There is a downside once shared by all these filtering systems: either they allowed unrestricted web access through "redirector" sites, or they blocked everything not on an implicit whitelist (most filtering sites chose the latter approach). Has this improved any? Either way, the point warrants discussion. There is also the issue of "political" bias in what gets blocked, though this is perhaps not as crucial in the workplace.
As was said, more information would be helpful, cost, etc., but TR is somehow locked into this screenshot slideshow format and it is a pain. In future I will avoid articles built just on this.
We use Net Nanny on some public access machines and it does a pretty good job. One of the major issues that I have found is people will use web proxy's to bypass filtering. Blocking web proxies should be one of the major tests for how well a solution will work. Bill
A discussion (or comment) of the cost of each of these solutions would be helpful. I believe OpenDNS is free; I don't know the others.
I too find the screenshot slideshow format useless and only read the alternate top 5/10 blog entries - when available. Too bad, it looked like an interesting topic.