Porn and malware used to go together like chocolate and peanut butter — except in this case the peanut butter had expired and could kill you. Finding a website that would offer up the goods without covering your display with obnoxious pop-ups that could effectively kill a computer was hard. It was much safer — if not easier — to block all pornographic websites and find your jollies somewhere else.
Things have improved, but there’s still some correlation between visiting a pornographic website and being infected by some malware or another. That’s why MetaCert, an Internet safety company that promises to block porn with a variety of products, has expanded its DNS service to include malware and sex-related websites in addition to their pornographic counterparts.
MetaCert CEO Paul Walsh says that the company originally released its DNS service because they wanted to showcase their technologies. It wasn’t even able to charge the people and organizations that used the service. Now that the company is larger (and is seeking funding) it makes sense to expand the service into something that businesses might be willing to pay for. That’s where the relationship between porn and malware comes in.
“Some companies wanted a DNS service just to block malware; then we had some people that wanted to sell that they were using the DNS service to block malware but really wanted to block pornography; then there were people who saw some correlation between the two,” Walsh says. “It sat well with people if we combined pornography, sex, and malware.”
The DNS service is more limited than MetaCert’s other products. It can’t be easily switched off by someone who’s mature enough to decide if they’d like to visit an explicit website. It can’t be used to block pornographic sites but not sex-related sites, which differ in their content but might both be disallowed in certain places. And it can only restrict specific websites, not searches or sub-domains that might host questionable materials.
Walsh is upfront about the DNS service’s limitations. He tells many DNS customers (he refers to all MetaCert users as customers because the company is “not a drug-pusher”) that they should use the service in conjunction with the company’s Chrome extension, which offers more features. Both rely on the company’s extensive database of questionable websites, which has drawn the attention of investors, reporters, and other companies alike.
That includes VeriSign, an Internet security company with which MetaCert has formed what Walsh calls an “intimate partnership” that will allow MetaCert to better support its services and allow the company to “scale almost infinitely.” It will also offer two recursive DNSs to ensure that the newly-updated service essentially never crashes.
Like I said, porn and malware go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Preventing its customers from interacting with both instead of simply filtering out the chocolate might help MetaCert grow faster than it has before. No word yet on the company’s ability to stifle choco-holics cravings’ for their bittersweet vice, though.