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Free Web Filtering Service Taps User Input

OpenDNS to launch new Web filtering service modeled after its PhishTank community site

First it was the community-driven phish reporting site, and now, a people-powered Web filtering service: OpenDNS tomorrow will launch a free, user-powered Web categorization and filtering service in the spirit of its PhishTank site.

“We proved the success of this model with PhishTank. People-powered security is absolutely the best approach to tackling Internet security issues,” says David Ulevitch, CEO of OpenDNS, which also runs PhishTank, an online clearinghouse for reporting and vetting phishing attempts and attacks that is used by the likes of Mozilla and Yahoo. “Similar to the way PhishTank.com works, the new OpenDNS platform uses the intelligence of the community to perform a security function.” (See US: Biggest Phishing Host of All.)

Registered members of the OpenDNS Web content filtering site (they don’t have to be users of the OpenDNS service itself) can submit domains to the system and tag them by category, such as “hate,” “gambling,” or “social networking.” Then other members vote on the tag’s accuracy for the site.

“There's a trust metric built into the system so the more a community member votes, and the more accurate their votes are, the more weight they carry. Once a tagged domain crosses a predetermined threshold, it will be added into that category in the OpenDNS system,” Ulevitch says.

The actual Web filtering service will be part of OpenDNS, so users will have to join the open recursive DNS service, which is also free. Ulevitch says OpenDNS’s Web filtering service is more comprehensive than commercial offerings because it has tens of thousands of people submitting and verifying sites and their categories, and offers a more real-time approach.

“It is faster-moving. New sites publish to the Internet every second, and changes to existing sites are published to the Internet even more frequently than that,” he says. “These changes are caught by the OpenDNS system immediately.”

But DNS services such as OpenDNS’s aren’t for everyone. “I think of OpenDNS as being for users that want OpenDNS's active filtering,” DNS inventor Paul Mockapetris, who is also chief scientist and chairman of the board for network naming and address vendor Nominum, said in an earlier interview on open recursive DNS services. “But I personally would want to use my own servers for my intranet, and don't think it will protect me against future rogue hotspots and the like, unless I encrypt the connection to OpenDNS, and that's asking a lot of the average user.” (See DNS Gets Anti-Phishing Hook and DNS Inventor Warns of Next Big Threat.)

Meanwhile, OpenDNS -- which boasts nearly 4 million users worldwide -- already has created nearly 40 different categories of Websites for its new Web filtering service. Among some of these categories are adware, alcohol, auctions, blogs, chat, drugs, ecommerce/shopping, gambling, malware, P2P/file sharing, weapons, and webmail.

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