Internet Filters Internet Filter
Internet Filter Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
 

Q. What is an internet filter?

A. An "Internet Filter" is a piece of hardware or software that restricts access to specified undesirable areas of the internet, for the computer or network that the system is installed on.

Q. How does an internet filter work?

A. A filter can operate by a) comparing browser requests with a list of known unsuitable URLs and then blocking access if they are not listed, b) by scanning incoming data and blocking it if it contains undesirable keywords, file types or other parameters. Sometimes parents (if used in a home environment) can control or create the list of keywords or sites filtered, sometimes not.

Q. How does an Internet Filter compare with a parental controlled Children's Browser?

A. A children's browser is a special browser somewhat similar to Internet Explorer or Netscape which allows access only to websites that are suitable for children. Generally the browser operates with its own list of known good sites, and will not allow access to any others. They also frequently have email \ chat filtering ability or dedicated email\chat facilities that do not allow 'rude words' etc. They often have some parent-defined password facility or access control that prevents the child from exiting and using a normal browser, or reaching the desktop or other software.

By comparison, an internet filter allows general 'surfing' to take place with the exception of the filtered sites. This becomes more important for older children and parents when access to purely child-safe sites would typically be too limiting. As it is not possible to maintain a database of all sites that are unsuitable, and 'unsuitability' is largely a subjective determination, the internet filter becomes useful where general, but filtered access is necessary.

 

Q. Will an internet filter be able to block all undesirable sites?

A. NO internet filter is 100% effective. Occasionally an unwanted site may appear to the user if they make a concerted effort to find one that does not trigger the filtering mechanism, and sometimes even if they are not.
Also, there are many sites that border on obscenity depending on your perspective; for example, a medical gynecology site may be considered essential for research by some, but offensive by others. A religious site may be perfect for one person but offensive to another. There are many times when people's interpretations vary from one another, and for this reason internet filters frequently err on the side of caution - if a site may offend somebody then it is made inaccessible. Much debate surrounds the effectiveness of internet filters for this very reason.

Q. What are Client-Based and Server-Based filters?

A. A client based filter is generally a software product which runs on the user's machine at the same time as the browser that is used for internet access. The filter is responsible for rejecting inappropriate materials before they are handed to the browser.

A Server based filter provides the filtering component remotely to the user machine, via the internet or a network. In other words, the filtering is done before the data is sent to the client (end user's) machine. In this way, the filtering component cannot be circumvented, as the actual incoming connection has data that has already been filtered. It is sometimes possible to bypass a client-based filter with advanced network skills.

A server based filter is usually more expensive and complicated and often incurs an ongoing cost for use of the remote filtering service, whereas the client based filter is usually a stand-alone product requiring no maintenance fees.

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