About Web Filter
Web Filter monitors HTTP traffic on your network to monitor user behavior and block inappropriate content. Web Filter also appeals to customers who require an added level of protection or are subject to regulations, for example Web Filter helps libraries comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act). Need to block Pornography or Hate Speech on your network? Web Filter is your answer.
- Real-time classification and updates: When your users visit a site, Untangle sends the URL to the cloud to be categorized. When the data is returned, Untangle keeps a temporary local cache of the site and category to speed up the process the next time the URL is requested. This data is then used to block or allow users access to the site they have requested, all without any appreciable increase in load time. If a site is not categorized upon request, it is autocategorized by our partners at zVelo and put into a queue to be verified by a human. Because this is done dynamically, new sites and updated URLs are allowed or blocked according to your settings without additional intervention, plus you have the option of requesting recategorization of sites.
- HTTPS Filtering: Web Filter has multiple techniques to deal with HTTPS, SSL-encrypted HTTP. HTTPS traffic is encryted so only some information is visible and this information is used to categorize the session. More information on how this is down below.
- Detailed categorization: Web Filter offers over 140 categories and over 450 million categorized sites. The Web Filter database is over 100 times larger and mor accurate. With over 10 times the numer of categories it also has better granularity. The abundance of categories means that you can narrow your scope - maybe you want to block websites related to Sex, but allow sites dealing with Sexual Education or Pregnancy. With Web Filter Lite you would have to block 'Pornography' category and allow any specifics sites through, while with Web Filter you could set the separate categories appropriately and not worry about manually unblocking anything.
- Additional features: Youtube for Schools support, the ability to force SafeSearch on search engines that support it, and more!
This section reviews the different settings and configuration options available for Web Filter.
Block Lists are used to block content that you do not want users to have access to.
- Categories: The Categories section allows you to customize which categories of sites will be blocked or flagged. Categories that are blocked will display a block page to the user; categories that are flagged will allow the user to access the site, but will be silently flagged as a violation for event logs and Reports. These block/flag actions operate the same way for all of the different Web Filter options.
- Blocked Sites: In the Sites section you can add individual domain names you want to be blocked or flagged - just enter the domain name (e.g. youtube.com) and specify your chosen action. This list uses URL Matcher syntax.
- File Types: The File Types section allows you to block files by file extension - just select (or add) your chosen file extension, check your preferred action, and save. This list uses Glob Matcher syntax.
- MIME Types: The MIME Types section allows you to block files by MIME types - just select (or add) your chosen file extension, check your preferred action, and save. This list uses Glob Matcher syntax.
- Process HTTPS traffic by SNI (Server Name Indication) if present: If this option is enabled, HTTPS traffic will be categorized using the "Server Name Indication" in the HTTPS data stream, if present. More details in #HTTPS Options.
- Process HTTPS traffic by IP address when SNI information not present: If this option is enabled, HTTPS traffic will be categorized using the IP address when the SNI information is not present. More details in #HTTPS Options. This option is ignored if Process HTTPS traffic by SNI (Server Name Indication) if present is disabled.
- Enforce Youtube for Schools: If enabled, this option will inject your youtube indentifier into all youtube web traffic so youtube will enforce the appropriate policy for computers on your network.
- After creating an account a unique identifier will be supplied (Example: Jvagw05BzSxAntTLKwUw1w). Take the supplied youtube identifier and save it in your settings and Web Filter will rewrite all youtube URLs with this identifier.
- After doing this you will need to configure your desired settings on the Youtube for Schools configuration page under "Account->Settings->Manage School" on youtube.com. This pages allows you to create a list of blessed videos and blessed "teacher accounts" and more to enforce proper youtube usage on your network.
- If this is configured it may also be necessary to block all HTTPS youtube traffic using Application Control to prevent access to youtube from an encrypted channel where the URL can not be rewritten.
- You can read more about how to setup Youtube for Schools here.
- Enforce safe search on popular search engines: When this option is enabled, safe search will be enforced on all searches using supported search engines: Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Ask.
- Block pages from IP only hosts: When this option is enabled, users entering an IP address rather than domain name will be blocked.
- Unblock: This section can be used to add a button to allow users to bypass restrictions on a case-by-case basis.
- If Unblock is set to None no users will be allowed to bypass the block page. If Unblock is set to Temporary users will be allowed to visit the site for one hour from the time it is unblocked. If Unblock is set to Permanent and Global then users will be allowed to visit the site and unblocked sites will be added to the permanent global pass list so it will always be allowed in the future.
- You also have the option of setting a password to Unblock; it can either be the existing Administrator password for the Untangle or you can set a new, separate password only for the Unblock feature.
- Clear Category URL Cache: This option will clear the local cache of categorized sites and URLs. After clearing the cache all new web visits will be looked up fresh using the categorization service. The cache automatically cleans itself as entries become old or stale, so this is mostly for testing.
Pass Lists are used to pass content that would have otherwise been blocked. This can be useful for "unblocking" sites that you don't want blocked according to the settings is the block lists tab.
- Passed Sites: Any domains you add to the Passed Sites list will be allowed, even if blocked by category or by individual URL - just add the domain and save. Unchecking the pass option will allow the site to be blocked as if the entry was not present. This list uses URL Matcher syntax.
- Passed Client IPs: If you add an IP to this list, Web Filter will not block any traffic from that IP regardless of the blocked categories or sites. Just add the IP and save. Unchecking the pass option will have the block/pass lists affect the user as if they were not entered into the Passed Client IPs list. This list uses IP Matcher syntax.
- If you have a few users that need to completely bypass Web Filter controls, consider using pass lists. If you have users that simply need different Web Filter settings, you should set up a separate rack using Policy Manager. When using this feature, please remember that DHCP IPs can change, so you'll probably want to set up either a Static IP or a Static DHCP Lease for the machine in question.
The event log provides a view of all web events and how they are handled by Web Filter. It can be used to view traffic on the network in real time or as a debugging tool to view how Web Filter is operating.
The columns of the event log:
|Timestamp||The time the event took place.|
|Client||The IP address of the client that made the request.|
|Username||The username of the client that made the request, if available.|
|Host||The Host portion of the request.|
|URI||The URI portion of the request.|
|Blocked||True is the site was blocked, false if it was not.|
|Flagged||True if the site was flagged, false if it was not.|
|Reason For Action||The reason the action was taken.|
|Category||The category of the site visited.|
|Server||The IP address of the server that received the request.|
The queries of the event log:
|All Web Events||Shows all scanned web requests.|
|Flagged Web Events||Shows all flagged web requests.|
|Blocked Web Events||Shows all blocked web requests.|
|All HTTP Events||Shows all unencrypted HTTP requests.|
|All HTTPS Events||Shows all encrypted HTTPS requests.|
|Unblocked Web Events||Shows all "unblocked" web requests.|
IMPORTANT: These options should be disabled if HTTPS Inspector is installed and running in the same rack/policy as Web Filter. In this case HTTPS Inpsector actually fully decryptes HTTPS traffic and it is processed as regular HTTP traffic. This means these features are unnecessary and will likely interefere with the proper handling of HTTPS. If HTTPS Inspector is not running and you do not wish to use it, these options provide some tools to deal with HTTPS.
As described briefly above, there are two HTTPS options.
- Process HTTPS traffic by SNI (Server Name Indication) if present.
- Process HTTPS traffic by IP Address when SNI information not present.
If Process HTTPS traffic by SNI (Server Name Indication) if present encrypted port-443 traffic will be scanned by Web Filter. Most modern browsers on modern OSs will send the hostname of the server in cleartext - this is called "Server Name Indication" or SNI. SNI is an optional cleartext field in the HTTPS request that shows the hostname of the server. If this option is enabled and the SNI information is present in the HTTPS request, this hostname will be used as the URL for this request and all categorization, block lists, and pass lists, will be processed as if this were a regular HTTP request to that URL.
If the SNI-based categorization determines the page should be blocked the session is reset. If the SNI-based categorization deteremines the page should be passed (and/or flagged) then the session is allowed and the appropriate event based on the SNI information is logged ("https://example.com/").
For example, if the user visits "https://wellsfargo.com/welcome" in the browser, Web Filter will see "wellsfargo.com" as the SNI information. If enabled, the request will be handled exactly like "http://wellsfargo.com" would be. If "Banking" is blocked it will be blocked, unless "wellsfargo.com" is in the pass list or the client IP is in the client IP pass list. If "wellsfargo.com" is blocked it will be blocked, unless "wellsfargo.com" is in the pass list or the client IP is in the client IP pass list.
If Process HTTPS traffic by IP Address when SNI information not present is disabled and no SNI information is present the session will be allowed as there is no information available to process the traffic. If Process HTTPS traffic by IP Address when SNI information not present is enabled and no SNI information is present the session will be processed and categorized by IP address. If the IP-based processing and categorization of the web requests determines the session should be blocked, the session is reset and no more processing of this session will be done. If the IP-based processing and categorization determines the page should be passed (and/or flagged) then the session is allowed and the appropriate event based on its IP is logged ("https://22.214.171.124").
For example, if the user visits "https://wellsfargo.com/welcome" in a non-SNI enabled browser, then there is no SNI information for Web Filter to use. In this case if Process HTTPS traffic by IP Address when SNI information not present is enabled Web Filter will use the IP address instead. So it will process/categorize this web request as 'http://126.96.36.199' if 188.8.131.52 is the IP of wellsfargo.com. This will still often result in correct categorization for dedicated web servers, but does poorly when using generic cloud computing servers that offer a wide variety of websites.
Note: When blocking HTTPS traffic, block pages can not be shown. The HTTPS encryption prevents man-in-the-middle spoofing of data required to display the block page. The connection will simply be reset and the browser will display an error.
Note: Neither HTTPS process (IP-based nor SNI-based) can read the URI information as it is not sent in cleartext. As such the URI will not be used as part of the categorization and the URI is assumed to be "/" when evaluating block/pass rules.
To see the HTTPS categorization in action use the "All HTTPS Events" query in the event log.
Web Filter FAQs
How do Web Filter and Web Filter Lite work?
Web Filter and Web Filter Lite both transparently scans HTTP traffic in order to block or log specific activity. Websites can be blocked or logged based on Category (Pornography, Social Networking, etc.), URL (facebook.com, youtube.com, etc.), MIME Type or File Type (.exe, .mp3, etc..). Web Filter has a more robust feature set that is explained in a FAQ entry below.
Can I use both Web Filter and Web Filter Lite?
We do not recommend running both Web Filter and Web Filter Lite at the same time - if you have access to the trial or full version of Web Filter, we recommend using it rather than Web Filter Lite.
Is Web Filter really better than Web Filter Lite?
Web Filter is the same as Web Filter Lite except it is based on SiteFilter technology. Web Filter is better than Web Filter Lite in many ways:
- HTTPS Filtering
- Many More categories (141 vs. 15)
- Larger database (450+ million URLs vs ~1 million)
- Dynamic categorization of new sites
- Youtube for Schools support
- SafeSearch enforcement
- Password option for the Unblock feature
Can I install Web Filter/Web Filter Lite on a single computer to use as Parental Control software?
No - Untangle is designed to operate as a gateway or transparent bridge for an entire network and is not meant to filter the computer it is installed on. Installing Untangle will wipe out all existing data on the PC it is installed to. For filtering a single PC, other Internet filter/Parental Control software can be used.
Why is a site not being properly displayed even though I added it to the Pass List?
It's common for a web site to display links, banners and content from other web sites as part of their web pages. There are two easy methods to re-integrate the content while maintaining your access controls. A good example is Facebook - when you go to 'facebook.com', much of the site is loaded from 'fbcdn.net', which also must be put on the pass list for it to display properly. To fix these problems, just look in the Event Log for domains that are still being blocked when you load the site.
Can I block all web sites except certain ones?
Yes, simply block all categories (including "Uncategorized"). Then add whatever sites you'd like to pass to the Pass List. Please be aware that the complex nature of the web and the fact that many applications communicate over HTTP can make this approach difficult.
Why block both MIME Type and File Types?
In an ideal world, both pieces of information would always be present for every web request. However, some sites use incorrect content types or extensions. The behavior of operating systems (Windows vs. Mac) is also different when given only file extension or content type. To be safe, both lists should be used.
What kind of reporting features do Web Filter and Web Filter Lite offer?
Web Filter and Web Filter Lite provide network- and user-based reporting. Data from these apps is fed into Reports to show high level trends such as peak network usage hours as well as allowing administrators to drill down to the individual user level for activity monitoring.
Can I grant privileged access to some users while still blocking sites for everyone else?
There are several ways to accomplish this:
- Policy Manager can be used to create multiple racks, which allows you to have separate filtering settings for individuals or groups of users. The easiest example is a school, where you would want Teachers to have more relaxed internet filter settings than the students. Different settings can be applied to any individual or group in your organization such as CEOs, Administrative Assistants or Accounting Departments.
- The Passed Client IPs List allows you to exempt specific users from all filtering inside the Web Filter/Web Filter Lite applications.
- The Unblock option displays a button that, when clicked, will allow users to bypass the block page. Web Filter has an additional option to require a password for this.
Can I let users access certain sites during lunch?
You can leverage Policy Manager to set up specific filtering settings for different days or time periods, such as allowing Facebook during breaks or after work hours.
Windows Vista/7 computers showing "No Internet Access" but everything is fine. Whats going on?
Make sure you're not blocking access to the domain www.msftncsi.com; this is part of a test that Microsoft runs to see if there is an active internet connection. Once you've verified this domain is not blocked, simply restart the PC and that should take care of it.
How do I submit a mis-categorized or uncategorized site?
You can go to zvelo and submit the correct (or new) categorization. It will be reviewed immediately by a human. Once the new categorization takes effect you may need to flush your category cache in Web Filter to see the new categorization.
Does Web Filter use a lot of memory and CPU?
If your Untangle Server is operating well without Web Filter, then you won't see much of a difference if you run Web Filter. Web Filter doesn't use much memory, and its cloud-based architecture adds very little to CPU utilization.
How do real-time updates work?
When a client first vists a site, Web Filter accesses the zveloDB to get the categories the site is under to make a decision to block or pass based on your configuration. The category information is also written to a local cache so it doesn't have to be checked the next time a user visits that site.
How long does Web Filter cache category information for sites?
Several days. Web Filter flushes non-frequently used cache. The website that you visit daily will not be cleared from cache.
Can I add additional categories?
Custom categories are not available, however we provide over 140 categories for granular control over what your clients can access. If you feel there are categories that we can add to make it even better, just let us know.
How should I handle false positives?
While the fastest way to allow clients to access a site that is currently blocked is to add the site to your pass list, you can request recategorization of sites here - the turnaround time is usually less than two days.
Can I use Web Filter to block HTTPS/SSL sites?
Yes - because Web Filter has access to a separate database of IP addresses, it can categorize HTTPS traffic based on the destination IP address. This is not done by individual domain, but by category - for example, if you simply block 'facebook.com'. Please note that this does not mean Web Filter can parse HTTPS as it is encrypted. Categorization is done via IP address. This means other forms of blocking like URL, file-type, mime-type, etc can not be done on HTTPS as the stream is encrypted and these require parsing of the HTTP protocol.
Why can i access a site using HTTPS when I've added it to the block list?
Web Filter scans and categorizes HTTPS traffic by IP address because the session itself is encrypted and cannot be scanned. As a result, if you add "example.com" to the block list and go to "https://example.com" it will not be blocked because Untangle can only see the IP address. However, if you block the category "example.com" is in, then go to "https://example.com" it will not connect and you will see a block event in the Event Log.
Why is Web Filter still blocking an HTTPS site even after I added it to the pass list?
This should only be a problem with older browsers that do not provide SNI information in the HTTPS stream - if your browser provides SNI information, adding the domain to the pass list should allow the site to load. Older browsers that do not provide SNI information can run into this problem, however. If this is the case, it is because Web Filter does categorization of HTTPS traffic by IP address. HTTPS encrypts the hostname and request, so all we can see is the destination IP. This means if https://example.com/ is getting blocked, adding "example.com" to the passlist will have no effect because HTTPS is categorized by IP address. If you add the IP address of example.com to the passlist then HTTPS traffic to example.com will be allowed.