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New Web Filtering Approaches

By Christine Weiser | January 2008
Threat analysis report<br />
Threat analysis report

NAME: Jim Culbert, information  security analyst, technology division
DISTRICT: Duval County (FL) Public Schools
WHAT WE USE: 8e6 Technologies

How we use it:
We have separate Internet profiles for students, teachers, principals, and staff, and each has its own varying degree of access. This way, teachers can pre-screen Web sites and present their educational content to students without granting students direct access. Teachers can also visit YouTube, but students cannot. Staff can access external Web mail and principals can use social networking sites; students can’t do either. Before any account is enabled, users must acknowledge our acceptible use policy.

Why I like it:
Our district wanted to go beyond just blocking inappropriate Web sites. Our system of graduated access provides an Internet experience appropriate to each person logged on. Users are also notified that their Internet activity is monitored and recorded, and we find that students make better decisions now than when they could surf the Internet anonymously.

What I wish it could do:
I would like to see the federal government mandate content labeling and require sites that host inappropriate material to block specific users.

NAME: Joel Hames, senior director, information technology
DISTRICT: Tamalpais (CA) Union High School District
WHAT WE USE: Total Traffic Control

How we use it: We use Total Traffic Control to filter Web content, analyze traffic patterns, and provide network security. The software evaluates every packet of information traveling across the network. The result is a system with day-to-day relevance, whether in complying with Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) regulations or reporting on security issues.

Why I like it: The Web-based interface allows a great degree of complexity in an easy-to-use environment. Lightspeed’s Web site provides useful information about its classification of online content.

What I wish it could do: I wish the system had a more robust library of role-based reports.

NAME: Brian Laquinta, director of student technology
SCHOOL: The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School
WHAT WE USE: Net Nanny

How we use it: We are a K–12, cyber charter school. All of our 8,000 students take their classes online from home, and every computer we supply comes equipped with the Net Nanny filter.

Why I like it: Net Nanny is the only product I’ve found that allows remote administration while maintaining compliance with CIPA. Since the product filters content, I can block specific categories as well as individual Web sites. The entire school uses a single Net Nanny account, and any changes I make locally are automatically applied to each remote computer as soon as it is started up.

What I wish it could do:
We’ve had blocking issues and software conflicts, but support has always resolved them quickly.

NAME: Steve Lesniak, technology coordinator
DISTRICT: Fairfield (IN) Community Schools
WHAT WE USE: Fortinet’s UTM System

How we use it: We have two FortiGate 300A units in a high availability configuration, a FortiAnalyzer for log analysis, and a FortiMail for spam and mail AV filtering. We had been using an all-in-one product but did not like having all of our eggs in one basket. Fortinet works just as well as separate products, and at a much lower cost.

Why I like it: Fortinet products are clean and simple. The management tools are easy to learn and integrate readily with Active Directory. All filtering is tied to AD groups, so we can filter as broadly or as narrowly as we want. I can easily manage the filtering for all five buildings from one interface. I also like having one place to go for both hardware and software support.

What I wish it could do:
I would like to see Fortinet integrate the FortiMail spam filter into the FortiGate so I would no longer need a separate FortiMail box. The white/black listing of sites could also be improved.

NAME: James Campbell, director of network maintenance
DISTRICT: East Newton R-VI (MO) School District
WHAT WE USE: DeepNines iTrust

How we use it: We had been using a more traditional blacklist filter, but it was not catching traffic on proxy servers, which let kids download music, go to MySpace, and eat up all the school’s bandwidth. We switched to DeepNines because the program filters by signature. Now every proxy is blocked.

Why I like it:
Not only does DeepNines block proxy servers, but it also has a whitelist option that lets us add acceptable URLs. For example, I have blocked all online shopping, but I can allow those sites from which educators purchase school items. Once you set up and identify Web sites to unblock, the process pretty much takes care of itself. We developed a URL Web unblock request form so we have written copies of all requests. Before purchasing the DeepNines product, we installed it for a week’s trial. At the end of five days, the software reported 107,000 proxy server hits. Since purchasing and installing the DeepNines product, we haven’t had one proxy server hit. The time saved has already paid for the product.

What I wish it could do:
I have found a few URLs that I thought should have been blocked and were not, but whenever I report these to DeepNines, they usually write a new rule for me within 24 hours. I would also like a function that would allow me to see which user is logged on to a machine when a policy violation is detected.



Astaro Security
Integrates 10 security services into one system, including network, Web, and e-mail security.

Keeps track of the content of every Web page a child browses.

All-in-one filtering and security product has a new method of detecting and stopping the use of external proxies.

Restricts access to millions of objectionable Web sites, providing detailed logs of all Internet access, and much more.

Hosted Service
This entry-level Web filtering service provides schools with strict student and/or faculty Web filtering policies.

Microsoft Windows-based content filter has 23 filtering categories.

A dedicated Internet filtering appliance that stops threats at the network’s perimeter.

NetOp Netfilter
Combines 100 percent text, dynamic image, and behavioral analysis for automatic blocking of inappropriate sites in real time.

Spector Pro
Combines Internet filtering with recording, monitoring, and surveillance capabilities.

Websense Enterprise
Protects schools from known and emerging Web-based threats.

Provides content security, including inappropriate Web content and spam detection.

About the Author

Christine Weiser is a writer and editor who has reported on K-12 education technology for more than 15 years.

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