Internet filtering for a harassment free workplace
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Internet Filtering for a Harassment-Free Workplace. John Kinas - MCSE,CCNA District of Columbia Bar for 2003 NABE Tech Show Seattle, WA. Internet Use Policy. Achieving an harassment-free workplace is an important reason for organizations to adopt an Internet Use Policy.

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Internet Filtering for a Harassment-Free Workplace

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Internet Filtering for a Harassment-Free Workplace

John Kinas - MCSE,CCNA

District of Columbia Bar


2003 NABE Tech Show

Seattle, WA

Internet Use Policy

Achieving an harassment-free workplace is an important reason for organizations to adopt an Internet Use Policy.

Other important reasons include:

  • Reducing non-business use of expensive internet connections

  • Security

  • Network reliability

  • Legal liability arising from employee behavior

Internet Use Policy

Adoption of Internet Use Policy must precede selection and deployment of internet filtering solutions.

  • Software and hardware solutions vary widely in cost and capabilities

  • Software and hardware must meet policy requirements

Implementation Tools for Internet Use Policy

  • Web filtering tools

  • IM filtering tools

  • Email monitoring/content screening tools

Implementation Tools for Internet Use Policy

  • Technically skilled employees may be able to disable or circumvent internet filtering software

  • 100 percent accuracy is not realistic

  • Technological advances may make current solutions obsolete

Web Filtering Tools

  • What does web filtering software do?

    • Allows administrators to block and/or audit employee access to specific categories of content addressed in internet use policy

      • Categories provided by manufacturers may include

        • Pornography

        • Gambling

        • Hate group sites

        • Auction sites

        • eCommerce sites

Web Filtering Tools

  • Logs and generates reports on employee browsing activities

  • Provides some method for manually blocking and unblocking sites as needed

  • Methods used by manufacturers vary

    • Most software manufacturers attempt to screen all web content, compiling blacklists sites for each content category

    • Some attempt to filter content as it is requested by users.

    • Many manufacturers include Whitelist features, allowing administrators to specify sites always permitted

Web Filtering Tools

  • Free browser-based filtering tools:

    • Internet Explorer

    • Netscape

  • Some assembly required server-based tools:

    • Web Proxy Servers

  • Rapidly changing web content makes manually configured web filtering ineffective time consuming and ineffective

Web Filtering Tools

  • Desktop-based systems

    • Typically used in home, home office, and small office environments where IT support is minimal or non-existent

    • Pros:

      • Low initial cost

      • Relatively easy to install

    • Cons:

      • Software must be installed on each computer

      • Difficult to maintain consistent policies in large or growing organizations

      • Technically sophisticated employees may disable or defeat many desktop-based web filters using instructions published on internet

Web Filtering Tools

  • ISP-based systems

    • AOL, MSN, and other large Internet Service Providers provide some filtering features.

    • Target market for these products are home users and home offices

    • AOL filtering features require use of AOL’s proprietary browser

    • Corporations typically do not use of ISP-based filtering tools

Web Filtering Tools

  • Server-based systems

    • Typically used in medium to large organizations

    • Pros:

      • Easier to maintain consistent policies in large/growing organizations

      • Little or no software installation on desktop systems

      • Some manufacturers permit logging by both computer and by user, tightening employee accountability for web browsing behavior

    • Cons:

      • Relatively high initial cost for software

      • Dedicated server or appliance may be needed

      • Steep learning curve for administrators

      • Technically sophisticated employees may defeat features by using “Anonymizer” websites

Web Filtering Tools

  • Appliance systems

    • Low- maintenance specialty computers designed solely to filter web traffic

    • St. Bernard Iprizm

    • 8e6 R2000

Web Filtering Tools

  • Appliance systems

    • High initial costs compared with software only products, but…

    • …reduced setup and maintenance

    • Some firewall appliances include content filtering features (Sonic appliance)

Web Filtering Tools

  • Don’t expect too much

    • September 2001 PC Magazine survey: the best products consistently block 85% or more of objectionable content

    • The more aggressively you attempt to block objectionable content, the higher your incidence of false matches

Web Filtering Tools

  • Questions to ask software vendors/suppliers:

    • What method does this product use to ensure that our Internet Use Policy is applied in a rapidly changing internet environment?

    • Will this product be flexible enough to allow different levels of web access for different groups of employees?

    • Will this product accomplish its mission without placing excessive demands on IT and HR professionals?

    • Are the web logging/reporting features for this software consistent with our internet use policy?

Web Filtering Tools: Ratings

Source: PC Magazine - March, 2001

Web Filtering Tools: Costs

  • Costs of deploying software to enforce Internet Use Policy for a 20 user network

    • Desktop software: Cybersitter - $399.00

    • Server software: Elron Software IM Web Inspector $806.95

    • Appliance: iPrism - $2,195 (appliance) + annual blacklist subscription

Source: 1/2003 manufacturers web sites

Internet Explorer Web Blocking

From IE Main Menu, Select Tools

Select Internet Options

Select Content Tab

Internet Explorer Web Blocking

  • Select Settings button

  • Select Enable button

  • Create supervisor password

Internet Explorer Web Blocking

  • Set ratings for each category shown

  • Select OK to save settings

Internet Explorer Web Blocking

  • Select Approved Sites tab

  • Enter the urls for each site you want employee to see, regardless of ratings

Internet Explorer Web Blocking

  • If you want only rated sites (and those specifically authorized by a supervisor), check “Users can see sites…” box

  • If you want to permit supervisors to override ratings, check “Supervisors can type…” box

Internet Explorer Web Blocking

  • Many popular sites are not rated

    • If users are not allowed to see unrated sites, a supervisor must manually authorize it.

  • Weak security on Windows 98/ME computers

    • Anyone with the supervisor password can disable web blocking

    • Installation of another browser (Netscape, Monzilla) will circumvent restrictions.

Email and IM Blocking Tools

Employer interest in Email and IM Blocking software may be prompted by

  • employee productivity concerns

  • virus control

  • security (particularly in financial, law enforcement, and governmental sectors)

  • network reliability considerations

    Harassment-free workplace objectives are likely to be secondary to these objectives

IM Filtering Tools

  • IM services can be considered rogue technologies: designed to resist blocking by firewalls, and web proxies

  • Some IM technologies (AOL, Yahoo) may be blocked by network routers or firewalls, but doing so prevents any communications – including web traffic and email – to these networks

IM Filtering Tools

  • Many organizations can’t decide whether IM should be banned or legitimized

  • Software designers attempt to give employers a range of options

  • It’s up to the organization to match features to its Internet Use Policy

  • AOL, MSN, Yahoo and other IM services change constantly; changes may circumvent filtering

IM Filtering Tools

What does IM Filtering software do?

  • Enforces Internet Use Policy by blocking or selectively allowing IM messages on the corporate network

  • Forces users to replace poorly-secured IM desktop software with more secure versions

  • Audits IM use

  • Translates IM screen names to employee names

  • Restricts IM communications by employees to authorized outside IM users

  • Automatically censors and/or alerts administrators when IM users include key words or phrases in IM messages.

IM Filtering Tools

  • Akonix L7

  • E-Vantage IM Sentry

  • Alternatives:

    • Inspect desktop computers and remove IM software

    • Block Yahoo, AOL, MSN servers at your router

Email Content Tools

  • What does Email Content software do?

    • Company-wide disclaimer

      • Adds uniform corporate disclaimers to all outgoing messages

    • Content auditing/filtering

      • Audits incoming and outgoing email for unauthorized content

      • Automatically quarantines blocked messages for review by administrator

    • Many products in both categories bundle with anti-spam, anti-virus, and attachment control features

Email Content Tools

  • Company-wide disclaimer

    • GFI Mail Essentials

    • Red Earth Software Policy Patrol Disclaimers

    • SS&G Technology SMTP Disclaimer

    • Netal DisclaimIt

  • Content auditing/filtering

    • GFI Mail Security

    • Intellireach Content Inspector / Content Auditor

    • SurfControl Email Filter

    • NMEX Power Tools for Exchange

    • CMS Praetor

    • Trend Micro Scan Mail for Exchange 2000

Email Content Tools

  • Changes in email content rules can have unintended consequences

    • Including “sex” on your content-checking list will, in most blocking software, block “Middlesex, MA”, “famous explorer”, “Jane’s ex-husband”

    • Test content blocking rules with sample messages

    • Log content rule changes

    • Monitor quarantined mail carefully after changing rules.


  • Management must adopt an Internet Use Policy before buying or deploying software to monitor or filter internet traffic

  • Match software purchases to specific needs of Internet Use Policy

  • Educate users about Internet Use Policy and what they need to do to comply

  • Don’t expect 100% accuracy from automated tools

  • Check desktop systems periodically to verify that blocking software hasn’t been disabled or uninstalled.


  • Email Content Tools




  • Web Filtering Tools



  • IM Filtering Tools



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