WinProxy Enhances Security for SOHO Networks
WinProxy 3.0 from Ositis is a practical system for connecting a network of PCs to the Internet. Suitable for the SOHO user, this system supports all connection types, including dial-up, broadband, and wireless. The server is installed on one computer on the network, and provides all of the others with transparent Web access. New features in this version include, a firewall, antivirus protection, and site filtering.
WinProxy's "hybrid" firewall provides two levels of protection against hackers. First, the header of each incoming packet is inspected to determine whether the packet will be allowed to pass through. Admittance is based on the address and port of both the destination and source, taking into account traffic history. This low-level protection operates between the network card and TCP/IP stack. The application-level firewall makes decisions at the session level based on a number of rules, including packet contents.
WinProxy's antivirus protection works in conjunction with the firewall. Daily updates of virus definitions combined with an antivirus presence at the lowest firewall level detect viruses as soon as they enter the system.
WinProxy also offers a feature called "SmartFilter" that enables enterprises to screen sites from an extensive list of such categories as sex, drugs, and hate speech. Thus, it avoids common key-word screening techniques that let offensive pictures slip through the cracks and be downloaded, yet do not allow users to access sites containing terms like "breast cancer." A six-month subscription to SmartFilter's updates is included with each WinProxy purchase. It can be used in two ways: A blacklisting feature blocks access to specified URLs, and a white-listing feature allows access to only sites that the enterprise specifies.
Setting up the WinProxy server is straightforward. Installation should take about a minute, followed by network configuration (i.e., tying all of the computers on the network to a single internet connection), which is another 16 screens and should take roughly 10 minutes. Once installed, the system requires little maintenance and can be managed through a Web browser. No setup is necessary for individual applications, and the system is transparent to client users.
Network configuration requires specifying internal and external IP addresses, registering the software with Ositis, and software verification of the network configuration. Features like the antivirus screening and site filtering must also be custom-configured. Advanced settings can be specified in the configuration process, including client access method, the degree of firewall protection, and mapped ports to add proxies that support additional services like AOL or streaming video.
While this is a practical alternative to more expensive alternatives offered by Netscape and Microsoft for the SOHO market, the latter may be preferable for enterprise-level customers or for more usage-intensive sites. In addition, as competitively priced as WinProxy is, it may be more cost-effective for really small organizations to do without a proxy server, especially if they are not already networked. As a Windows machine is required for installation (though client computers can run on other platforms), an all-Mac or all-Unix shop must either get a new computer or change operating systems. Finally, the firewall protection, although adequate for most SOHO users, is not all that state-of-the-art for a commercial packages.
Several versions of WinProxy are available, ranging in price (including technical support) from $59.95 for a three-user license to $999.95 for the unlimited number of user licenses. The unlimited user addition also includes capabilities for administering, monitoring, and analyzing Internet usage across an entire organization. Overall, all versions provide a practical, low-cost proxy solution.
Pros: Simple set up, Easy, browser-based maintenance, Site screening and firewall capabilities, Relatively inexpensive
Cons: Not optimal for larger or more intensive sites needing an enterprise-level proxy server, Cannot run on non-Windows platforms
Version Reviewed: 3.0
Date of Review: 3/5/01
Last Updated: 3/21/02
Reviewed by: Eric Schayer