CIC Web Censorship

The frustration that a KGPian feels on seeing the words “Trend Micro InterScan Web Security Event” displayed on one’s screen is a common trend on campus, especially when it pops up on the most unlikeliest sites. Vague category tags such as “Disease Vector” or “Low Web Reputation” compound this feeling of helplessness and annoyance. It was the intention of letting this feeling be known, that this writer walked into the Computer and Informatics Centre (CIC) to have a chat with one of its engineers but what transpired went very differently from what he expected.

Whenever a KGPian enters an office on campus with a query, he expects to be greeted by a flurry of don’t-knows and talk-to-that-guys. Surprisingly, the folks at CIC were friendly, helpful and quite ready to sit down and have a chat. Anyhow, the next time you come across a site which has been blocked even though it shouldn’t, don’t blame the CIC since it’s not their fault. Well, not directly at least.

Before we actually tell you about the filtering policy, here’s a low-down on what actually transpires behind the scenes of the ever-dependable institute LAN. Internet on campus, as everyone finds out on their first day here, is accessed through a bunch of proxy servers, each of which have their own IP addresses on the Internet. For external servers this is equivalent to all our web-site requests emanating from a single PC. In other words, all our traffic is routed through one server before it is released out onto the web. This server is the proxy server and it is at this point that the web filtering occurs.

For this purpose, the CIC uses a software called Trend Micro (TM) InterScan to monitor and restrict content on campus. This software comes with certain default filter settings and also gives a certain amount of control to the admin as well. Although they could if they wanted to, the CIC hasn’t changed the filter settings from the default mode. In other words they haven’t added any blocking scripts of their own and so any false positives that do turn up is due to an error in the filtering algorithm developed by Trend Micro. So next time you see a website blocked, try not to cuss at the kind people at CIC.

If you can, don’t cuss the people at TM either. Instead of using a real-time filtering system and manually sifting through all web-pages, the developers at TM have crawlers which browse through the entire murky depths of the internet, flag any questionable sites they come across and add it to their database. If a computer within campus requests a site which is on their database, the site gets blocked. These crawlers work on the ‘better safe than sorry’ principle. Add to this that fact that every filter algorithm has a certain degree of error and you find sites with no questionable content get flagged once in a while.

To get rid of this problem, if one does come across a false positive, it should be reported to the CIC. They will give the site a scan to make that it is actually clean and then pass on the information to TM. In due course, the site will be unblocked.

Note: Those of us who are currently hosting websites on external servers know the anguish felt at not being able to use FTP Clients within campus. What we did not know is that the CIC maintains a special FTP proxy just for this. Head over to the CIC website for more on this.

4 Comments

  1. rdr says:

    You can directly submit your request at http://global.sitesafety.trendmicro.com/index.php. I have sent a few successful reclassification requests before. There also has been many unsuccessful ones(but they always respond).

  2. anurag says:

    well there are some websites that bypasses the college firewall.
    you can surf any website you want. m/

  3. Aravind says:

    Some things never change! Here’s an article I wrote on the same topic in the inaugural issue of Schols’ Ave – 8 years ago.

    Check out the section titled “Access Control Configuration prevents…” (that was the error message we used to get back then)

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