Product Reviews

There’s a New (Web) Marshal in Town

NetIQ’s content tool keeps an eye on your Web surfers.

A few years back, a fellow employee asked me to recover a document that was open when his laptop shut down. Since his software stored temporary files in the temp directory I poked around, trying to find his missing file. I found some files alright—mostly pornographic! That’s when I knew we needed monitoring software. What we got was good, but I sure wish we had something of WebMarshal’s caliber back then.

WebMarshal is Internet Management software that applies and enforces Internet access policies. In other words, you use this software to allow or deny access to content.

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The WebMarshal Console manages TextCensor scripts that can block content such as sports, gambling, pornography, or even stock trading and Web mail. (Click image to view larger version.)

WebMarshal is easy to use. I’m sure you hear that a lot, but I’m not kidding. I had this software installed and working in less than 20 minutes. Here’s how to make it work: After installing the software you can import user and group accounts from Active Directory or Novell Directory Services. Once imported, add these users to groups in WebMarshal that have pre-assigned permissions (or you can add permissions to your own imported groups). Depending on the permissions, WebMarshal may not block access right away. Restricted Users, for example, can’t go to any site not listed in the URL categories, while Trusted Users can go to any Web site by default. To start filling in the categories, you can either start typing like a madman or turn on the TextCensor scripts.

The scripts are based on a complete batch language designed to monitor downloaded content and act on that content. I enabled the Gambling script as a test. The script monitored my downloads and blocked anything associated with gambling. And it did it pretty fast, too—I didn’t notice a difference in speed between filtered and non-filtered access. You can even write your own scripts; the language looks similar to VBScript, so it should be simple to start writing and using your own custom scripts.

You can also add virus scanner plug-ins. I added two of the trial plug-ins and started scanning downloads right away; again, there was no noticeable performance penalty. I was able to download just as fast after the scanners were in place as before.

Of course, to really enforce Web policy you have to monitor usage. To do that you must install the WebMarshal reporting software, which comes with the product. This is easy to work with; just open the Reports console, double-click the report you want to see, and tell it how much data to retrieve (i.e., this week, this month, today). This worked well when tested with reports like Web Usage by User Group and Blocked Requests by Rule. You get 31 reports out of the box.

There was only one thing I found a little odd. There’s a TextCensor script used to detect and block Web mail content. When I had that script enabled, it detected everything as Web mail. But I’m sure with a little tweaking it would work just as well as the other scripts.

So, in conclusion: Wow. And you can quote me on that.

About the Author

Joseph L. Jorden, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, CCDA is Chief Technical Officer for Dugger & Associates (www.Dugger-IT.com). He was one of the first 100 people to achieve the MCSE+I and one of the first 2,000 to become an MCSE under Windows 2000. Joseph frequently contributes to books from Sybex and various periodicals.

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