According to their advertisements Websense offers a server-based, Internet content-screening system, to allow organisations to monitor and/or block network traffic to inappropriate Internet sites. Here is how they say it works:
- Requests for URLs are compared with the Websense database (over 1 billion webpages)
- Database is classified into 80+ categories, turned on/off by sys admin
- If the site requested is in the Websense database, in a category chosen by the sys admin for screening, the user receives a screen display stating access is denied
- Web traffic, both allowed and blocked, is logged & reports generated
- Consumers pay a monthly fee, depending on proxy server or ISP solution.
They offer products for the following platforms:
- Websense for Windows NT: standalone server on LAN; can configure as single-port server behind firewall, or act as two-port gateway
- Websense for Microsoft Proxy Server
- Websense for Netscape Proxy Server (NT, Solaris)
- Websense for Check Point FireWall-1 plug-in (NT, Solaris)
- Websense for Milkyway SecurIT FIREWALL plug-in (NT, Solaris)
- Websense for IBM AS/400 firewall plug-in
There may be others. Since some of this information was gathered from old advertisements. I could not get access to their site unless I registered.
Websense make a pitch to schools and parents who might be concerned about what their youngsters might be viewing on the Internet.
I get the impression that Websense are now focusing on the Corporate sector, and offering services that limit employees' Internet access.
Apart from being a less lucrative market it would seem that the domestic market has some potential flaws. The effectiveness of the solution would be dependent on the supervisor (parent/guardian) being a more sophisticated and informed computer user than the person who is being supervised (child/youngster). From my own observations of many households this is not often the case. Or if it is, it is only a temporary state of affairs.
Nevertheless when I went through their 80+ categories it seemed they have not given up on the domestic market.
The only way I could get a look at these categories was to sign-up and give them my e-mail address.
The Websense site uses IIS version 5.0 with PHP version 4.3.7, and ASP. The webpages are prepared with the aid of software from WebSideStory. It is not W3C.
The list of categories is remarkably long. It seems hard to believe that a single company such as this would have the resources to categorise these sites accurately.
They may have quite a few schools amongst their clients.
Out of curiosity, I ran the following sites through Websense:
|http://block.blars.org||Personal Web Sites|
The last one (Sex), comes from the PGTS agent_string database. It was attached to an agent_string that pretended to be "grub-client" (or it may actually have been a "grub-client", with a customised agent string). There were HTML tags embedded in the string which pointed to a porn site. Unfortunately it was during a period that the database was neglected, and I did not discover it for a while. I have since updated the software to suppress display of tags.
I also pondered "Network errors". It seems that for some reason websense are not happy with the site www.danbyrnes.com.au. Nor are they happy with www.biblegateway.com. But the DNS entries for both these sites appear ok. And both the sites rate well in Google. More about this later ...
For those who would like to know what the categories are, there is list displayed below. These are the categories that were on the Websense site as of 2005-01-20. I should warn you now that it is quite a long list ... so those that want to skip past it, click here.
Sites with neutral or balanced presentation of the issue.
- Pro-Choice -- Sites that provide information about or are sponsored by organisations that support legal abortion or that offer support or encouragement to those seeking the procedure.
- Pro-Life -- Sites that provide information about or are sponsored by organisations that oppose legal abortion or that seek increased restriction of abortion.
- Adult Material
Parent category that contains the categories: Adult Content, Lingerie and Swimsuit, Nudity, Sex, Sex Education
- Adult Content -- Sites that display full or partial nudity in a sexual context, but not sexual activity; erotica; sexual paraphernalia; sex-oriented businesses as clubs, nightclubs, escort services; and sites supporting online purchase of such goods and services.
- Lingerie and Swimsuit -- Sites that offer images of models in suggestive but not lewd costume, with seminudity permitted. Includes classic 'cheese-cake,' calendar, and pinup art and photography. Includes also sites offering lingerie or swimwear for sale.
- Nudity -- Sites that offer depictions of nude or seminude human forms, singly or in groups, not overtly sexual in intent or effect.
- Sex -- Sites that depict or graphically describe sexual acts or activity, including exhibitionism; also sites offering direct links to such sites.
- Sex Education -- Sites that offer information about sex and sexuality, with no pornographic intent.
- Advocacy Groups
Sites that promote change or reform in public policy, public opinion, social practice, economic activities and relationships.
- Business and Economy
Sites sponsored by or devoted to business firms, business associations, industry groups, or business in general.
- Financial Data and Services -- Sites that offer news and quotations on stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, investment advice, but not online trading. Includes banks, credit unions, credit cards, and insurance.
Parent category that contains the categories: Abused Drugs, Prescribed Medications, Marijuana, Supplements/Unregulated Compounds
- Abused Drugs -- Sites that promote or provide information about the use of prohibited drugs, except marijuana, or the abuse or unsanctioned use of controlled or regulated drugs; also, paraphernalia associated with such use or abuse.
- Marijuana -- Sites that provide information about or promote the cultivation, preparation, or use of marijuana.
- Prescribed Medications -- Sites that provide information about approved drugs and their medical use.
- Supplements and Unregulated Compounds -- Sites that provide information about or promote the sale or use of chemicals not regulated by the FDA (such as naturally occurring compounds).
Parent category that contains the categories: Cultural Institutions, Educational Institutions, Educational Materials
- Cultural Institutions -- Sites sponsored by museums, galleries, theatres (but not movie theatres), libraries, and similar institutions; also, sites whose purpose is the display of artworks.
- Educational Institutions -- Sites sponsored by schools and other educational facilities, by non-academic research institutions, or that relate to educational events and activities.
- Educational Materials -- Sites that provide information about or that sell or provide curriculum materials or direct instruction; also, learned journals and similar publications.
- Reference Materials -- Sites that offer reference-shelf content such as atlases, dictionaries, encyclopedias, formularies, white and yellow pages, and public statistical data.
Sites that provide information about or promote motion pictures, non-news radio and television, books, humour, and magazines.
- MP3 -- Sites that support downloading of MP3 or other sound files or that serve as directories of such sites.
Sites that provide information about or promote gambling or support online gambling, involving a risk of losing money.
Sites that provide information about or promote electronic games, video games, computer games, role-playing games, or online games. Includes sweepstakes and giveaways.
Sites sponsored by branches, bureaus, or agencies of any level of government, except for the armed forces.
- Military -- Sites sponsored by branches or agencies of the armed services.
- Political Organisations -- Sites sponsored by or providing information about political parties and interest groups focused on elections or legislation.
Sites that provide information or advice on personal health or medical services, procedures, or devices, but not drugs. Includes self-help groups.
- Illegal or Questionable
Sites that provide instruction in or promote non-violent crime or unethical or dishonest behaviour or the avoidance of prosecution therefore.
- Information Technology
Sites sponsored by or providing information about computers, software, the Internet, and related business firms, including sites supporting the sale of hardware, software, peripherals, and services.
- Computer Security -- Sites that provide information about or free downloadable tools for computer security.
- Hacking -- Sites that provide information about or promote illegal or questionable access to or use of computer or communication equipment, software, or databases.
- Proxy Avoidance -- Sites that provide information about how to bypass proxy server features or to gain access to URLs in any way that bypasses the proxy server.
- Search Engines and Portals -- Sites that support searching the Web, news groups, or indices or directories thereof.
- URL Translation Sites -- Sites that offer online translation of URLs. These sites access the URL to be translated in a way that bypasses the proxy server, potentially allowing unauthorised access.
- Web Hosting -- Sites of organisations that provide hosting services, or top-level domain pages of Web communities.
- Internet Communication
Parent category that contains the categories: Email, Web Chat
- Web Chat -- Sites that host Web chat services or that support or provide information about chat via HTTP or IRC.
- Web-based Email -- Sites that host Web-based email.
- Job Search
Sites that offer information about or support the seeking of employment or employees.
- Militancy and Extremist
Sites that offer information about or promote or are sponsored by groups advocating anti-government beliefs or action.
Parent category that contains the categories:
- Content Delivery Networks -- Commercial hosts that deliver content to subscribing Web sites.
- Dynamic Content -- URLs that are generated dynamically by a Web server.
- File Download Servers -- Web servers whose primary function is to deliver files for download.
- Image Servers -- Web servers whose primary function is to deliver images.
- Images (Media) -- URLs ending with image filenames.
- Network Errors -- URLs with hosts that do not resolve to IP addresses.
- Private IP Addresses -- IP addresses defined in RFC 1918, 'Address Allocation for Private Intranets.'
- Uncategorised -- Sites not categorised in the EIM Database.
- News and Media
Sites that offer current news and opinion, including those sponsored by newspapers, general-circulation magazines, or other media.
- Alternative Journals -- Online equivalents to supermarket tabloids and other fringe publications.
- Racism and Hate
Sites that promote the identification of racial groups, the denigration or subjection of groups, or the superiority of any group.
Parent category that contains the categories: Traditional Religions, Non-Traditional Religions
- Non-Traditional Religions and Occult and Folklore -- Sites that provide information about or promote religions not specified in Traditional Religions or other unconventional, cultic, or folkloric beliefs and practices.
- Traditional Religions -- Sites that provide information about or promote Buddhism, Bahai, Christianity, Christian Science, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Shinto, and Sikhism, as well as atheism.
Sites that support the online purchase of consumer goods and services except: sexual materials, lingerie, swimwear, investments, medications, educational materials, computer software or hardware, alcohol, tobacco, travel, vehicles and parts, weapons.
- Internet Auctions -- Sites that support the offering and purchasing of goods between individuals.
- Real Estate -- Sites that provide information about renting, buying, selling, or financing residential real estate.
- Social Organizations
Parent category that contains the categories: Professional and Worker Organizations, Service and Philanthropic Organizations, Social and Affiliation Organizations
- Professional and Worker Organizations -- Sites sponsored by or that support or offer information about organisations devoted to professional advancement or workers interests.
- Service and Philanthropic Organizations -- Sites sponsored by or that support or offer information about organisations devoted to doing good as their primary activity.
- Social and Affiliation Organizations -- Sites sponsored by or that support or offer information about organisations devoted chiefly to socialising or common interests other than philanthropy or professional advancement.
- Society and Lifestyles
Sites that provide information about matters of daily life, excluding entertainment, health, hobbies, jobs, sex, and sports.
- Alcohol and Tobacco -- Sites that provide information about, promote, or support the sale of alcoholic beverages or tobacco products or associated paraphernalia.
- Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest -- Sites that provide information about or cater to gay, lesbian, or bisexual lifestyles, including those that support online shopping, but excluding those that are sexually or issue-oriented.
- Hobbies -- Sites that provide information about or promote private and largely sedentary pastimes, but not electronic, video, or online games.
- Personal Websites -- Sites published and maintained by individuals for their personal self-expression and ends.
- Personals and Dating -- Sites that assist users in establishing interpersonal relationships, excluding those intended to arrange for sexual encounters and excluding those of exclusively gay or lesbian or bisexual interest.
- Restaurants and Dining -- Sites that list, review, advertise, or promote food, dining, or catering services.
- Special Events
Sites devoted to a current event that requires separate categorization.
Sites that provide information about or promote sports, active games, and recreation.
- Sport Hunting and Gun Clubs -- Sites that provide information about or directories of gun clubs and similar groups, including war-game and facilities.
Sites with content that is gratuitously offensive or shocking, but not violent or frightening. Includes sites devoted in part or whole to scatology and similar topics or to improper language, humor, or behavior.
Sites that provide information about or promote travel-related services and destinations.
Sites that provide information about or promote vehicles, including those that support online purchase of vehicles or parts.
Sites that feature or promote violence or bodily harm, including self-inflicted harm; or that gratuitously display images of death, gore, or injury; or that feature images or descriptions that are grotesque or frightening and of no redeeming value.
Sites that provide information about, promote, or support the sale of weapons and related items.
Websense Enterprise Premium Groups (available at additional cost)
- Websense Enterprise Productivity PG
Parent category that contains the categories: Advertisements, Freeware and Software Download, Instant Messaging, Message Boards and Clubs, Online Brokerage and Trading, Pay-to-Surf
- Advertisements -- Sites that provide advertising graphics or other ad content files.
- Freeware and Software Download -- Sites whose primary function is to provide freeware and software downloads.
- Instant Messaging -- Sites that enable instant messaging.
- Message Boards and Clubs -- Sites for online personal and business clubs, discussion groups, message boards, and list servers; includes 'blogs' and 'mail magazines.'
- Online Brokerage and Trading -- Sites that support active trading of securities and management of investments.
- Pay-to-Surf -- Sites that pay users to view Web sites, advertisements, or email.
- Websense Enterprise Bandwidth PG
Parent category that contains the categories: Internet Radio and TV, Internet Telephony, Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, Personal Network Storage and Backup, Streaming Media
- Internet Radio and TV -- Sites whose primary purpose is to provide radio or TV programming on the Internet.
- Internet Telephony -- Sites that enable users to make telephone calls via the Internet or to obtain information or software for that purpose.
- Peer-to-Peer File Sharing -- Sites that provide client software to enable peer-to-peer file sharing and transfer.
- Personal Network Storage and Backup -- Sites that store personal files on Internet servers for backup or exchange.
- Streaming Media -- Sites that primarily provide streaming media content, such as movie trailers.
- Websense Enterprise Security PG
Parent category that contains the categories: Malicious Websites, Spyware, Phishing and Keyloggers
- Malicious Web Sites -- Sites that contain code that may intentionally modify end-user systems without their consent and cause harm.
- Spyware -- Sites or pages that download software that, without the user's knowledge, generates http traffic (other than simple user identification and validation).
- Phishing and Other Frauds -- Sites that counterfeit legitimate business sites for the purpose of eliciting financial or other private information from users.
- Keyloggers -- Sites or pages that download programs that run in the background recording all keystrokes, and which may also send those keystrokes (potentially including passwords or confidential information) to an external party.
End of list ... (whew!) ... Now I was going to send them an email asking about "Network Errors", but with the workload they have set themselves, they probably won't have time to answer emails ...
It seems rather ambitions for Websense to expect that the entire Internet could be categorised in such a manner and even if it could, it is hard to believe that an organisation of their size would have the resources to achieve such a herculean task.
I could be wrong of course ... maybe the Internet is a more shallow pond then we all thought ...
Note: Since this was written, I have found out more about websense. To read this report click here.