Websurfing policies and safe practices

Posted on 2007-07-23
Last Modified: 2008-05-29
I manage IT for a small company (2 locations - 7 servers - 45 users).   When I came here a year ago the company was in midst of rapid growth, much computing infrastructure had been added with little precautions taken towards security.  There were resident viruses throughout the network - everyone in the organization was operating and websurfing with admin rights on their computers.
I have some training and experience in a broad spectrum of IT - I am no security or Information technology guru -
I get 2 newsletters dealing with the latest security issues, viruses, malware, patches etc.  They very effectively alarm me.
 I have established a policy of "If it's not business related, Don't do it on company computers".  I get users complaining every now and then that the policy is over heavy handed & I still have users periodically websurfing sites (No real surprise) that have no bearing on our business.  
I am making headway (all users are off admin accts and on limited rights user accts - AV is installed everywhere - ISA is firewalling in one location and a hardware firewall in place in the other - all external laptops connecting have a software firewall installed.
Every time (and there have been several) that I research the potential danger in users surfing to the wrong site, I come away alarmed.
I believe that ISA 2004 can effectively be set up with different url lists that would effectively allow complete management of Blacklisted and Whitelisted websites for different users or user groups.  This would then require all of our users to submit a request to have any website they need to visit added to the approved list.  
Here's my question - Is this overkill or overbearing?? - OR is it actualy good practice that is recommended and in limited or widespread use in the corporate world?  Ramifications and/or consequences??  All responses appreciated!  Thank You
Question by:tometh
    LVL 8

    Accepted Solution

    Well, whitelists  are a surefire way of keeping everyone limited to sites that are approved and work related, however it increases the IT workload quite a bit, along with those outside of IT that have to decide if a site is "work related" or not.  In my experience with whitelists, considering a site to be work related can sometimes cause grey areas and eventually politics kick in and the president wants to check his bank account every now and then... and then someone gets wind of that, and they want to do something "every now and then" and you end up with a lot of work.  Now if your upper level management, including the TOP of the food chain, is completely supportive of this approach, then it can be successful, but expect more work approving and adding sites.  Although it is not foolproof, it is most common for larger corporations to open all and have a blacklist based on content (which can also be a lot of work).  There are great sites out there that effectively manage many blacklists, but it can sometimes be network intensive for your server to update the lists depending on how you set it up.  Good luck with your efforts.  It is a tough battle.

    LVL 18

    Assisted Solution

    Adding a web content filter to ISA can be a better solution then trying to mangae white- or blacklists.
    They can manage access to sites based on groups and also contain active malware filters.
    Reputed examples are:
    - Websense:
    - Surfcontrol:

    LVL 4

    Assisted Solution

    This is a very interesting area.  Surf control and websense are both very effective products.  The key thing is to have your policy clear and signed off by board level management.  The staff need to know that this message comes from the top.  Before switching this stuff on and recieveing a raft of user complaints make sure that the policy is effectivley communicated.  When the users know what the boundries are and why they are there they will be more likley to suppot your aim.  

    In addition to this you need to provide the users with a mechanism to ask for sites to be "opened" if they are inadvertanley blocked which does happen.  

    Good luck with this, the products are there but this really is an issue of education,
    LVL 51

    Assisted Solution

    by:Keith Alabaster
    ISA can do all of what you are asking out of the box. Many scripts have been written that will import pre-created scripts but is is up to you to keep this updated and it is a manual task.

    Jim Harrison provides a number of these on his site ( for example.

    If you want to be able to manage the lists in the sense that they receive automated updates etc then the top four are:

    LVL 51

    Expert Comment

    by:Keith Alabaster
    Thank you

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