Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


'Fight Club' Aims to Test Pornography Filters

Last year, it proved that antivirus products don't stop all viruses. Now Untangle prepares to show how much porn can escape 'safe' content filters

Untangle next week at the RSA conference will conduct a "fight club" to see how well six leading Web content filters really are at stopping pornography from reaching the user.

Untangle, an open source gateway provider, conducted a similar shootout among antivirus products last year and generated some surprising results. Only three of the AV products in the test stopped all 25 viruses; one product stopped fewer than 10 percent. (See Antivirus Tools Underperform When Tested in LinuxWorld 'Fight Club'.)

This year, Untangle will test some of the best-known content filters, which are used by both enterprises and parents to prevent users from accessing objectionable material. Products from Barracuda, Fortinet, Scansafe, SonicWall, Watchguard, and Websense will all be included in the test.

Although such filters are capable of screening all types of objectionable content -- including gambling sites, hate sites, and other material that may offend users or inhibit productivity -- the Untangle test will focus exclusively on pornography. In the test, operators will use PCs protected by the various filters to search for 5,000 popular porn URLs, and then find out whether the PC is able to access them.

"We chose porn because it's the most visceral of the content that these filters need to screen out and because porn sites are becoming an increasingly popular platform for launching malware," says Dirk Morris, CTO and founder of Untangle. "Allowing porn in your enterprise can not only create legal and moral issues, but it's rapidly becoming a real threat to security."

Untangle officials declined to comment specifically on the results of their early tests of filtering products, but anecdotally, they have seen some significant shortcomings in content filters.

"Most of these filters work by creating large databases of disallowed material, but not all of these databases are complete," Morris says. "Plus, there are new sites popping up all the time."

If the tests prove that content filters aren't completely reliable, some companies may choose to change their strategies toward filtering, Morris suggests. "Some organizations are taking more draconian approaches, such as keyword filtering or whitelisting," he observes. "That can be problematic because you're going to get false positives. But it might make sense for organizations like schools, where it's critical to keep the objectionable material out."

Content filtering probably will never be 100 percent effective, Morris says. "There will always be ways for the content to get through, and there will always be users who try to get around the filters."

"Really, these types of products are only part of the solution," he says. "You need to tell your employees that their Web surfing is being tracked, and you need to tell them that these sites can be a source of malware. And they need to be asking themselves whether surfing porn is really a proper activity for the workplace."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Untangle Inc. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    A Startup With NSA Roots Wants Silently Disarming Cyberattacks on the Wire to Become the Norm
    Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  5/11/2021
    Cybersecurity: What Is Truly Essential?
    Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  5/12/2021
    3 Cybersecurity Myths to Bust
    Etay Maor, Sr. Director Security Strategy at Cato Networks,  5/11/2021
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Cartoon Contest
    Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
    Latest Comment: Google Maps is taking "interactive" to a whole new level!
    Current Issue
    2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
    We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
    Flash Poll
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-18
    An Improper Access Control vulnerability in the logging component of Bitdefender Endpoint Security Tools for Windows versions prior to allows a regular user to learn the scanning exclusion paths. This issue was discovered during external security research.
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-18
    Uncontrolled Search Path Element vulnerability in the openssl component as used in Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security allows an attacker to load a third party DLL to elevate privileges. This issue affects Bitdefender GravityZone Business S...
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
    Cross Site Scripting (XSS) in emlog v6.0.0 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code by adding a crafted script as a link to a new blog post.
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
    Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) in Pluck CMS v4.7.9 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code and delete a specific article via the component " /admin.php?action=page."
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
    Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) in Pluck CMS v4.7.9 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code and delete specific images via the component " /admin.php?action=images."