Working as a career network security professional and a parent of three, I always figured that the one thing I would not need to worry about is my kids getting into trouble on the internet on our home PC. Porn sites, blocked. Violence and hate sites, no go. Google safe search, turned on. Instant messenger, logged. There is no way that a 13 year old is going to be able to have the know how or resources to trick this old man and be able to reach the internet unfiltered. Not on my watch, right? Well, think again….
I ran into a little app a couple of days ago that changed everything. Its name is “Ultrasurf”. It is developed in China, and is used by Chinese citizens to circumvent the government run internet filters, dubbed “the great firewall of china”. I am sure some of you have heard of this, and I was able to see it first hand on a recent trip to Shanghai. The Chinese government definitely does not believe in the freedom of press, as they try their hardest to deny citizens from the open access to information that the internet provides.
Ultrasurf is an unbelievable little app, that is able to render almost any web security application pretty much completely useless. You can add a proxy server to the configuration if you are in a corporate or educational setting and want to render their security controls utterly useless. In the home PC scenario, this is not needed. The app then launches a new Internet Explorer window that is directing any of your web requests to the ultrasurf program. Ultrasurf then encrypts your traffic and forwards it to one of thousands of seemingly random IP addresses before sending the request to the final destination. At this point, your security software only sees traffic going to random IP addresses that is encrypted (it cannot inspect this traffic) instead of the site that you had requested, making it nearly impossible to detect and block.
I have tested this software on both very expensive corporate proxy server solutions and home filtering software as well, and have yet found something that is able to filter requests that are going through the Ultrasurf application. All this and it is incredibly easy to find and use. If your kids get a hold of this, and lots of kids are already using this in schools, it is game over. The net nanny is dead.
What can you do to block this? At the time that I am writing this, I am only aware of one antivirus vendor that currently will classify this software as a “potentially unwated program”, McAfee. Otherwise, if you are not a McAfee customer, the only thing that you can do is keep an eye out for the application in the screenshot when your kids are using the computer. Happy surfing!