The Ridiculity of Firewalls

Taken off an Internet Blog… Enjoy…

With the recent installation of a high-speed Internet connection, my parents were a little concerned about the security of their home computer. First of all, they had the standard security concerns associated with any high-speed, always-on connection to the Internet (hackers, worms, etc). But my Mom was also concerned that the increased access/speed might increase the chances of one of the grandkids wandering into one of the seedier neighborhoods in cyberspace.

So, a few weeks ago I purchased Norton Internet Security and installed it on their computer. In addition to Norton Personal Firewall and Norton AntiVirus, the suite includes Norton Parental Control which provides basic URL-based content filtering.

“URL-based content filtering” simply means that Symantec maintains a giant list of naughty sites. Whenever you try to access a Web site, Norton Parental Control checks the requested URL against its list and, if it finds a match, blocks access to the site. While this isn’t a perfect solution by any means, it will keep most young kids from inadvertently stumbling upon displays of livestock in situations never imagined by the local 4-H Club.

A few days after I installed the content filter, my niece was helping her boyfriend look for a new apartment and every site she tried to access was blocked. I popped open the hood to see what the problem might be and started going through the different categories of sites that were blocked by default:

  • Alcohol/Tobacco
  • Drugs/Advocacy
  • Gambling
  • Occult
  • Sex/Nudity
  • Violence
  • Weapons
  • Real Estate

Real Estate?

“Dear, before you go out on your date with Russell tonight, I’d like to have a little talk with you. I’m sure that Russell is a fine young man, but you need to understand that there are some young men out there who might not have the noblest of intentions. They might try to pressure you into a 30-year adjustable rate mortgage with a low initial rate, but they’ll charge you points on the back end. Or maybe they’ll try to get you to sign a lease that you’re just not ready for. You need to understand that it’s O.K. for you to say, ‘No.’

“I also read the other day about some poor young girl whose date slipped some sort of drug into her drink and when she woke up she owned a timeshare in Lake Okeechobee, Florida. Just be careful out there and use common sense.

“Now, where are you two going tonight? The Home Show? Well, don’t get any ideas…and I want you back here no later than 10:30. And if he starts talking to you about ‘fixer-uppers’ or ‘starter homes,’ give us a call and we’ll come pick you up. No young lady should have to put up with that sort of thing.”

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