OpenDNS To Launch Free Web Filtering for Education

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Just what is "people-powered security?" It's how OpenDNS describes its forthcoming Web filtering solution targeted toward education. The service, set to launch later this month, taps into the expertise of IT professionals in schools (and in the private sector) to create a sort of reverse social tagging, blocking potentially dangerous sites based on users' experiences. Like all of OpenDNS' services, this new one is free, including support for deployment and integration in existing campus infrastructures.

OpenDNS provides a variety of Internet services and is widely used in K-12 and post-secondary institutions. (Its free DNS service, for example, is used in more than 10,000 schools.) These services also include adult site blocking, protection from phishing via PhishTank.com, Web proxy blocking, and domain whitelisting.

The new service, currently undergoing final beta testing, uses "domain tagging" to allow individuals to place sites into categories that might be seen as potentially dangerous, inflammatory, counter-productive, or otherwise undesirable to schools, colleges, and universities. Other users then vote on the appropriateness of the tagging. With enough votes from OpenDNS users, a site will pass the threshold of acceptability and be pushed into an active (blocked) status in a given category.

"Communities are better at doing these things than companies," said OpenDNS CEO David Ulevitch, who spoke to us Wednesday. "This will become the most comprehensive database around."

Campus administrators can select from any of a variety of site types to block, and each category will continually expand as more and more sites are voted into oblivion. For example, if a school's policy is to block social networking sites from the WiFi network, the admin can subscribe to the social networking list. And as more and more sites are added to that list, they will become blocked. (There's also whitelisting functionality for those who want to allow certain sites in a category but block others.)

It should be noted that, over time, individual IT professionals will gain status in the system based on the accuracy of their submissions. Those with higher status will have greater weight in voting on sites. Eventually, some users will also reach "moderator" status.

Ulevitch said the company plans to keep its service free. "We're not going to charge for our filtering, especially when it's being generated by our professional IT users."

The new Web filtering service is expected to launch Feb. 20. It is presently undergoing beta testing. Those interested in participating in the beta can contact OpenDNS through the company's site. OpenDNS will also be releasing an API for open source developers who want to tap into the service.

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


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