Product Reviews

iPrism Filters the Internet

Decrease your worries by implementing the iPrism Internet filtering device to control where your Internet users can and cannot go.

In today's Internet-driven society many concerned parents and teachers have worried about the material being viewed by their children. In addition, employers have been highly concerned about loss of productivity related to inappropriate usage of Internet resources on the job. To combat this problem, the networking industry has developed a wide array of Internet filtering applications and appliances. Which one fits your needs? Can you feel comfortable that the filtering application you install will really do what it claims?

In late October of 1999, Internet Products, Inc. announced its release of the iPrism Internet filtering appliance. In December of 2000 St. Bernard acquired Internet Products, Inc. and chose to continue the iPrism product line. St. Bernard's proprietary I-Guard database creation system is the driving force behind the iPrism appliance, providing end users with real human judgment behind its "blacklist" rather than the programmatic content filtering used by many filtering applications.

Targeted at the education community, the I-Guard database offers approximately sixty sub-categories organized into ten master categories such as sports, business, sex and recreation. In addition to this extensive breakdown of website categorization, the iPrism system also enables end users to customize their own categories, filtering websites that may have been overlooked by St. Bernard's staff.

Implementation of the iPrism product takes very little effort, requiring little more than a willingness to read and a web browser. Despite glaring problems with the product documentation, the GUI interface provides a very user-friendly guide to aid in configuring your iPrism. Supporting bridged, proxied or router-based modes, iPrism offers your organization many choices in the method of implementation. Administrators should be aware that the iPrism device only supports static IP addressing on its local interfaces, increasing the complexity of cheaper broadband connections, such as DHCP based cable or PPPoE based DSL. After installation, the product automatically handles firmware and database updates by utilizing your connection to the Internet. Pay attention when restoring the product to "factory defaults" as this will keep the IP address, user name and password that are currently configured on your system.

After the product has been installed, the administrator has a wide range of options to select what categories to filter for whom and at what time or day. Groups of users based upon IP address or user name and password can be created to simplify this process. Administrators can grant individual users the right to override certain blocked sites for a specified period of time. Canned reports offer a quick review of what has occurred with your new filtering device in a very easy to read format. The java-based GUI for management often presents improperly sized windows, but this serves as a minor annoyance in an otherwise thorough and user-friendly interface.

iPrism Internet appliance provides a highly customizable Internet filtering solution. (Click image to view larger version.)

Unfortunately, the database driving the iPrism product leaves much to be desired. The real human decision involved in the I-Guard system causes very few occasions where a site is inappropriately categorized. However, when taken as a whole, approximately 15 to 25 percent of the sites that should have been blocked were not. When filtering out all religious sites, defined as "any site that pertains to mainstream religion, religious activities or participation" by St. Bernard, a simple search from produced a high degree of viewable Christian, Jewish, Baptist, Pagan and Satanic sites. A very will known hacker/cracker search engine,, was listed as questionable material and not as a computer hacking site, even though St. Bernard defines the computer hacking category as "any site promoting questionable or illegal use of equipment and/or software to crack passwords, create viruses, gain access to other computers and so on." To its merit, high profile categories such as adult oriented or sex related sites only permitted an average of 5 percent of the sites that it should have blocked.

If budgetary restrictions prevent your organization from being able to purchase or maintain more thorough filtering applications, the iPrism device can provide a very low impact, user-friendly Internet filtering solution. Although the database behind the device is less than thorough, it serves as a substantial frustration that can deter a large amount of time wasted in the corporate environment. However, educational facilities should understand that the iPrism filtering device, like most Internet filtering applications, is less than absolute when deciding whether or not to implement this device in their schools.

About the Author

T. Brian Granier, CCNA, MCSE, MCP+I, A+, has been working in the computer industry since 1995. After receiving a degree in computer engineering technology from the University of Houston in 1999, Brian worked with Zebec Data Systems Inc. where he currently serves as the information security architect. His current projects involve major infrastructure revisions and technical security improvements in accordance with federal HIPAA regulations.


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