There are many different reasons why someone would want to block access to certain websites on a computer. But perhaps the main one is stopping children visiting certain sites whether they are of an adult nature or places such as social networking, music or video download sites. There are many scary places out there in the world wide web that are not suitable even for adults let alone youngsters.
There are several ways to block websites from loading in browsers such as editing the Windows Hosts file or using the restricted sites option in Internet Explorer or a similar Chrome/Firefox extension. There are usually settings in your router that can block selected domains and also online services such as OpenDNS offer parental controls. The Windows 7 parental control feature is also an option.
Another option is to use a piece of software to control website access and the people over at the security website NoVirusThanks have decided to release a freeware utility to do exactly that. Website Blocker allows you to set up a blacklist to block sites or only allow certain sites and block everything else, which can be done by either entering the domain or with the use of wildcards which can block a number of sites with a single keyword.
The features don’t stop at simple blocking by name, things like https blocking to restrict logging in to secure sites, firewall like inbound and outbound blocking, restricting site access on only certain browsers and allowing the recording of all sites visited not just blocked ones are all included.
Unfortunately, at the moment the software is listed as 32bit only although it is quite new so hopefully a 64bit bit version will follow shortly. Website Blocker is only a small 1.4MB download and when running only uses around 4MB of memory so isn’t going to cause any resource issues. Administrator Privileges are required.
When the main window is opened, the tabs are all pretty easy to work out. In the ‘Blacklist‘ tab simply enter any domains to be blocked by right clicking and selecting ‘Add‘, then enter the name in the box. It is a similar procedure in ‘Whitelist‘, but enter the places you want to allow access to, all others will be blocked. The ‘Wildcards’ tab can be used to block a range of sites by simply entering a keyword. Anything that contains the word or words will not be accessible.
The ‘Settings’ tab offers a range of options for making things even more secure and protecting the Website Blocker process. ‘General’ has some important options such as the logging of allowed sites as well as blocked ones which is more of a spy mode and can give an idea if certain sites need to be added to the blacklist. If you don’t want to allow access to secure connections or want to stop traffic completely, there are boxes available. The ‘Block unknown websites’ makes use of the whitelist and will block everything apart from what is in the whitelist.
The ‘Targets’ tab is where the programs are added or removed that will be affected by Website Blocker. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari are all included but you can remove or add more programs to the list by using the right click menu.
Perhaps the most important tab is ‘Stealth’ because it will give you the ability to hide Website Blocker from the system tray so the average user will not know it is running. It can then be sent into or brought out of stealth mode by use of a pre-defined hotkey. Stealth mode can also be protected with a password, don’t forget to press the save button for both options. The password mode could easily be bypassed though as you can end the process in task manager. NoVirusThanks have thought of this and the program has an option to disable the Task Manager when in stealth mode. The more experienced users will know Process Explorer or a similar program can still be used to kill the process and remove stealth mode, but for normal users, this is more than enough. A couple of other options are disabling the command prompt and locking all CD-Roms.
The other settings tabs have options for enabling and the duration of the blocked site popup, the location of the log file and setting up a custom proxy etc.
When Website Blocker has been configured sufficiently, it will sit in the background until someone tries to access a blocked website, when a message will be displayed.
If you want to see the log of what sites have been blocked and also those that have been accessed if the option was enabled, have a look in the ‘Events’ tab. Information such as the Date/Time, website, rule, program used, the site IP Address, port and what action was taken is displayed.
The last things worth a mention are, the ‘Utilities’ menu has some shortcuts to various system functions like Control Panel, Regedit, Security Center and System Restore. While the leftmost ‘Menu’ has quick options to enable or disable Task Manager, Command Prompt and lock the Rom drives as well as a choice to ‘Reset Settings’.
I quite like the look of this program and for the initial release, seems to work well. While it is easy to use, Website Blocker has enough features for most people and can protect itself from all but the most determined users. The only thing it really could do with now is a 64bit version which will hopefully be available sooner rather than later.
Compatible with Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, Server 2008 and Windows 7 32bit only