At the VPN Guru, we are all about access to a free unrestricted Internet. However, in certain circumstances, it would be best to put restrictions on the kind of content one would be able to access online. This could be to prevent children for instance from accidentally surfing websites that can be deemed inappropriate for their age. Content filtering is important especially if you’re looking for a way to prevent people like your children from accessing pervasive content, or if you’d just want to place a limit on the kind of sites that your employees should be able to access. There are a number of tools that you can use to limit what can or cannot viewed online, and through this review, we’re going to take a look at five of the most popular that we could find, as well as a classification of the type of tools available for use.
Classification of Content Filtering Tools
There are various types of content filtering tools that exist. They include:
Keyword & Content Filters
These filters filter out sites that contain specific words within their content. An example would be in the case of a home Internet filter, that’s configured to restrict access to pornographic material. Its software would run a basic scan over the site in search of words that would point to content of pornographic nature, and deny access based on that.
Client-Side & Server-Side
Client side filtering occurs when content blocking software is installed on the user’s computer, while server-side is content blocking software that operates on a company server.
Black & White List Filters
As you might probably guess, blacklist filtering involves entering website addresses whose content is considered inappropriate, and therefore automatically, access to such sites will be denied. On the other hand, a white list filter operates based on the opposite principle, where only the sites included in a particular list will be accessible.
The Best Content Filtering Tools
Having acquired an understanding of the different types of filtering tools available, you’ll now be able to make an informed decision, with an idea of what to expect. Here are five tools that you could consider for your content filtering needs.
K9 Web Protection
Chances are high that if your content is being blocked and you’re based in a school or organization, they’re probably using K9 web protection to restrict your access. K9 is one of the most used content filtering clients in the world, and this is probably due to their high level of content categorization through which they allow administrators to classify what content is accessible, and what content is not. Their list includes more than 60 categories of content, all set up to include the many types of content that you should be able to find on the Internet. This client is mainly meant for use on a desktop or laptop, and will only work out if used on either. The software is also only compatible with Windows and Mac, and is available for free download.
Another filtering tool relied upon by many Linux users is Dansguardian. Users especially like it because it allows them to configure so many aspects of use, such as completely blocking all images, filtering advertisements across your home network, regulate the effects of content filters, prevent the download of files through their extension type, and a whole lot more. The client is able to run on a host of platforms, including OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Mac OS X, HP-UX, Solaris and Linux. It is surely the best platform to turn to if you’re looking to filter content on all the computers within a home network. The various forms of filters that you can deploy can be based on the domain, user or IP in use, and this helps regulate the extent of filtering, so that you have different extents applying on different computers. The one thing you’ll need to do before you get it to work is pair it with a proxy.
If you don’t want to get too technical in setting up your content filtering tool, then OpenDNS is one solution you might find worthy of your use. OpenDNS works by replacing your current DNS server, thereby allowing you to filter every connection emanating from your home or office, as long as you’ll be able to alter the DNS settings at the router level. You’ll be able to preset your own filters that’ll place certain sites on your black or whitelist, and this should allow you to control what sites can or cannot be accessed. This form of filtering is great for imposing limits throughout your wireless network. Getting it to work is also a very brief process, and you’ll be able to use the service on whatever platform your device is running on.
SquidGuard is a popular content filtering tool that most users will find familiar especially if they rely on the Squid proxy when connecting to the Internet. The service provides a wide variety of options regarding what you can filter, thereby allowing you to very closely control what is accessible and what is not. The only problem might be the fact that you can only use it on a Linux platform.
For more advanced users, there’s the option of logging onto the hosts file directory of you computer, where you can manually input a list of IP addresses and what they should be resolved to. Incase you still don’t have a full understanding of how the hosts file is meant to work, maybe this brief illustration might make things a bit more clearer. Say you’ve gone ahead and logged on to your computer’s hosts file, and made an entry for 127.0.0.1 pointed to www.google.com. Every time you’ll have someone search for something on google through that computer, the web browser will only refresh the page, and refuse to gather the results that you might expect from that search.
If you’d rather have an application make the configuration process much easier, then you might want to consider Hostsman as your preferred client. All in all, making changes to your hosts file is easy, though one particular problem you might come across is having a blacklist where you’ve partly captured the site or string you want blocked. In such a case, you won’t really have blocked the site you intended to.