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Netscape's gatekeeper key

Netscape is finalizing a deal that will help its proxy server security software screen out Web sites.

Netscape (NCSP) is finalizing a deal with Webster Networking Strategy to use its Web site screening software with Netscape's proxy server security software, CNET has learned.

Webster's WebTrack is a standalone application for blocking access to Web sites that may be objectionable. It is sold to schools, primarily to block smut sites, and to corporations worried about employees goofing off or creating a legal liability for the company by looking at certain sites.

The WebTrack Control List is a list of URLs that might be considered worth blocking, which the company sells on a weekly subscription for $1,800 a year. The 16 categories on the list include unsavory content that is sexually explicit or hate speech, as well as cyberloafing categories such as entertainment, sports, investment sites, chat areas, and politics.

The list is currently available as a plug-in for both Unix versions of Netscape proxy servers and Microsoft proxy servers. But Netscape wants to tighten the integration of the Webster and Netscape software in the next release, version 2.5, of its Proxy Server, now in beta testing.

"In the release of Netscape version 2.5 of Proxy Server, for both Unix and NT, the Webster control list and WebTrack code are built into the product," said Richard Viets, president and chief technology officer of Webster Networking Strategy. "We're already seeing a surge in demand because of tighter coupling, and it's only in beta."

Webster is a wholly owned subsidiary of Secure Computing (SCUR).

Netscape is using Webster's URL-blocking software toolkit, which it created to build into Web servers so they can read the Webster list more easily, said Viets. The WebTrack toolkit is already built into Secure Computing's own Sidewinder firewall and BorderWare Firewall Server as well as in CyberGuard's firewall and Internet Middleware's Harvest Cached proxy.

Viets said the Webster control list has more than 300 paying customers.

In a similar development, firewall vendor Raptor Systems today announced it will integrate URL-blocking technology. The company will include Microsystems Software's Cyber Patrol in its Webnot utility for Raptor's firewall.