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Allow only certain site access FOR FREE

Posted on 2004-09-13
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Last Modified: 2010-04-09
I work for a company that manages apartment complexes. We have a bunch of offices that only have 1 or 2 computers at each. They are not networked together (in the office they are, but not inter-office). We don't have a server (except one we rent from hostdime and people like that). I need to know a FREE way to restrict access to only sites we specify. Basically we have like 50 sites we want to allow access to and deny everything else. Problem is: It has to be FREE. The owners refuse to spend money on this. Even a router or something gets expensive b/c we have to put one at every site. I suggested using IE content advisor, but I don't want to manually enter 50 sites in over 100 computers. Anybody have any ideas? If I didn't make something clear, please ask and I'll clarify. Thanks for the help in advance.
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Question by:dtiproperties
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LimeSMJ earned 200 total points
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With IT, the closer you get to something for free... the more work you end up doing :)  

This suggestion is an unproven one but on paper it looks like it may work.  What you'll need is a proxy server - a public one at that (which is unfortunate because it might get hacked if you don't have enough money to put it behind some sort of firewall).  Setup the proxy to only allow access to those 50 sites.  Then force the clients to use the proxy server that you have setup.

Another route is to create a HOSTS file with the IP addresses of those 50 sites and place that file in the client machines.  Then set the DNS of each computer to 127.0.0.1 - so if it's not in the hosts file, the page cannot be found.  This method is more work than the first as there is no central managability of the sites allowed (everytime a new site is needed/deleted, you have to change all the HOSTS files).

Both suggestions can be defeated by someone who knows something about computers and networking.  In my opinion, this project may not be feasible with zero dollars to work with - but fellow experts have proven me wrong before :)
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by:ahoffmann
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1. > It has to be FREE.
2. > Even a router or something gets expensive b/c we have to put one at every site.
3. >  but I don't want to manually enter 50 sites in over 100 computers.

ok, the common way to do this is to use a router and/or proxy (probably on that router). This violates 2. above.
Another solution would be a (packetfilter) firewall which allows access to your sites only. You either need a router/firewall --> violates 2., or you need a firewall on each PC which violates 3.
Then you can write a proxy configuration to be used in your browser, but beside that it can simply be disabled by the user it violates 3. (cause you have to configure at least this proxy configuration file) and 1. 'cause you have to write something.
Or simply handout a paper containing all 50 sites where you allow access to and instruct users to only key in these sites, damn .. violates 1. too (paper is not free;-)

Either you forget at least on of your restrictions 1., 2. or 3., or forget about a solution to your problem.
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by:dtiproperties
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Ok, so when I said free, I didn't mean including things like paper. I don't trust giving our employees a list of sites that they can go to (cause I know they won't just stick with those). We have a router at every office already, but they're cheap (D-Link 604 and a home Linksys). They don't have a "real" firewall that I know of. If you can set it up using home, cheap routers then that would be a solution as well. I appreciate y'all sticking so closely to what I asked. I also don't mind writing the 50 sites down (or keying them in) once, but I'd like to avoid having to do that at EVERY site. If that's the only way then we can nix that one. Let me rephrase my objectives a little: It needs to be cheap (under $100 to set every property) that means like $100 total for all 30 properties or whatever...not $100 per property. I'll key it in at every site if that's what I have to do. It'll take some time, but if that's what it takes then that's ok. We can't buy a new router for every property, but if the versions we have will work, that'd be great too. Let me know if that changes anything. Thanks
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by:ahoffmann
ahoffmann earned 50 total points
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> .. avoid having to do that at EVERY site.
ok, then a solution might be as follows:
  1. write down the sites into a proxy configuration file
  2. save file on floppy or whatever
  3. copy file to each PC
  4. configure each browser on each PC to use that proxy configuration file

Sorry, I can't give you hints or more on 1. 'cause I've never done it, but AFAIK most common browsers (mozilla, IE) understand the same file.
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by:dtiproperties
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we're going with the HOSTS file. Thanks for the suggestions guys. I really appreciate your help
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