Sep 14, 2008

Friggin' Awesome Free Alternative to Websense Content Filter

I often talk about my school a lot. Thank the lord I only have four more weeks left before I graduate with my dual bachelor degrees in Network Security and Computer Networking. If you are in the San Diego, and looking to get into the IT industry, I highly recommend this program, because it is essentially a two for one.

Anyway, back to the point, so my school used to use their Watchguard firewall to do simple content filtering at school based on keywords, and URLs. They would block sites like Myspace, and Youtube. Us being the savvy computer nerds we were always could find easy ways around it. Well about six or seven months ago, they decided to switch up their content filter to something a little more robust, and better yet...FREE!!

I decided to look into it a little further, and decided to set up the same service for my home network just to try it out. This service is called OpenDNS. Sign up only takes a minute or two, and once you do you have all sorts of free content management tools to help keep your network more productive, and more secure.

A few of the things I like about it are:

  1. Can be customized with your logo or picture
  2. You can block entire categories of websites
  3. The categories are constantly being updated by a vast Open Source community.
  4. You can pull down network usage statistics
  5. You can create "shortcuts" which are keywords that resolve to your favorite sites (Like cname records)
  6. It's FREE

So how does it work? Is it something you install?

Let me answer the second question first... No, you don't install anything. This is a public service on the internet.

For the first question, OpenDNS is just what is sounds like. A group of public DNS servers. For corporate networks, instead of using your ISP's DNS servers, you plug in the two OpenDNS server IP addresses, and use their servers as a forward lookup zone for your internal DNS servers. For home users, just swap out your router's DNS server IP addresses with OpenDNS's. Thats it!

Other than that, you just select how much filtering you think your network needs. You can filter everything from porn and online games, to P2P and gambling. Also, if your users think they are slick by using a public proxy sites, guess what? OpenDNS has those sites categorized and blocked!

Here is a screen shot from my blocked page:

Blocked Websense
If you click on the picture to blow it up, you will see that I blocked Websense. I guess what goes around comes around! Ha ha!

Since my little girl isn't old enough to surf on the internet, I am not filtering anything now, but the minute she starts poking around online, you know I am locking my shit down! For now, I just use it to threaten my wife with. I say, "Honey! You better get me a beer or I am blocking Myspace and your Picasa web albums!" Then Bam! I gets me my beer! (Actually, its more like BAM! she punches me in the face...Did I mention I am a charter member of Abused Husbands of America?)

Anyway, if your company is looking for a content filtering service, you should definitely check it out. Many, many big names are already using this service to maintain productivity, and network security.

Does your company do content filtering? What do you use? How do you like it? Hit me up in the comments.

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