US 6779118 User specific automatic data redirection system

ABSTRACT – A data redirection system for redirecting user’s data based on a stored rule set. The redirection of data is performed by a redirection server, which receives the redirection rule sets for each user from an authentication and accounting server, and a database. Prior to using the system, users authenticate with the authentication and accounting server, and receive a network address. The authentication and accounting server retrieves the proper rule set for the user, and communicates the rule set and the user’s address to the redirection server. The redirection server then implements the redirection rule set for the user’s address. Rule sets are removed from the redirection server either when the user disconnects, or based on some predetermined event. New rule sets are added to the redirection server either when a user connects, or based on some predetermined event.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the field of Internet communications, more particularly, to a database system for use in dynamically redirecting and filtering Internet traffic.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In prior art systems as shown in FIG. 1 when an Internet user establishes a connection with an Internet Service Provider (ISP), the user first makes a physical connection between their computer 100 and a dial-up networking server 102, the user provides to the dial-up networking server their user ID and password. The dial-up networking server then passes the user ID and password, along with a temporary Internet Protocol (IP) address for use by the user to the ISP’s authentication and accounting server 104. A detailed description of the IP communications protocol is discussed in Internetworking with TCP/IP, 3rd ed., Douglas Comer, Prentice Hall, 1995, which is fully incorporated herein by reference. The authentication and accounting server, upon verification of the user ID and password using a database 106 would send an authorization message to the dial-up networking server 102 to allow the user to use the temporary IP address assigned to that user by the dial-up networking server and then logs the connection and assigned IP address. For the duration of that session, whenever the user would make a request to the Internet 110 via a gateway 108, the end user would be identified by the temporarily assigned IP address.

The redirection of Internet traffic is most often done with World Wide Web (WWW) traffic (more specifically, traffic using the HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol)). However, redirection is not limited to WWW traffic, and the concept is valid for all IP services. To illustrate how redirection is accomplished, consider the following example, which redirects a user’s request for a WWW page (typically an html (hypertext markup language) file) to some other WWW page. First, the user instructs the WWW browser (typically software running on the user’s PC) to access a page on a remote WWW server by typing in the URL (universal resource locator) or clicking on a URL link. Note that a URL provides information about the communications protocol, the location of the server (typically an Internet domain name or IP address), and the location of the page on the remote server. The browser next sends a request to the server requesting the page. In response to the user’s request, the web server sends the requested page to the browser. The page, however, contains html code instructing the browser to request some other WWW page—hence the redirection of the user begins. The browser then requests the redirected WWW page according to the URL contained in the first page’s html code. Alternately, redirection can also be accomplished by coding the page such that it instructs the browser to run a program, like a Java applet or the like, which then redirects the browser. One disadvantage with current redirection technology is that control of the redirection is at the remote end, or WWW server end—and not the local, or user end. That is to say that the redirection is performed by the remote server, not the user’s local gateway.

Filtering packets at the Internet Protocol (IP) layer has been possible using a firewall device or other packet filtering device for several years. Although packet filtering is most often used to filter packets coming into a private network for security purposes, once properly programed, they can filter outgoing packets sent from users to a specific destination as well. Packet filtering can distinguish, and filter based on, the type of IP service contained within an IP packet. For example, the packet filter can determine if the packet contains FTP (file transfer protocol) data, WWW data, or Telnet session data. Service identification is achieved by identifying the terminating port number contained within each IP packet header. Port numbers are standard within the industry to allow for interoperability between equipment. Packet filtering devices allow network administrators to filter packets based on the source and/or destination information, as well as on the type of service being transmitted within each IP packet. Unlike redirection technology, packet filtering technology allows control at the local end of the network connection, typically by the network administrator. However, packet filtering is very limited because it is static. Once packet filtering rule sets are programed into a firewall or other packet filter device, the rule set can only be changed by manually reprogramming the device.

Packet filter devices are often used with proxy server systems, which provide access control to the Internet and are most often used to control access to the world wide web. In a typical configuration, a firewall or other packet filtering device filters all WWW requests to the Internet from a local network, except for packets from the proxy server. That is to say that a packet filter or firewall blocks all traffic originating from within the local network which is destined for connection to a remote server on port 80 (the standard WWW port number). However, the packet filter or firewall permits such traffic to and from the proxy server. Typically, the proxy server is programed with a set of destinations that are to be blocked, and packets destined for blocked addresses are not forwarded. When the proxy server receives a packet, the destination is checked against a database for approval. If the destination is allowed, the proxy server simply forwards packets between the local user and the remote server outside the firewall. However, proxy servers are limited to either blocking or allowing specific system terminals access to remote databases.

A recent system is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No.5,696,898. This patent discloses a system, similar to a proxy server, that allows network administrators to restrict specific IP addresses inside a firewall from accessing information from certain public or otherwise uncontrolled databases (i.e., the WWW/Internet). According to the disclosure, the system has a relational database which allows network administrators to restrict specific terminals, or groups of terminals, from accessing certain locations. Similarly limited as a proxy server, this invention can only block or allow terminals’ access to remote sites. This system is also static in that rules programmed into the database need to be reprogramming in order to change which locations specific terminals may access.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention allows for creating and implementing dynamically changing rules, to allow the redirection, blocking, or allowing, of specific data traffic for specific users, as a function of database entries and the user’s activity. In certain embodiments according to the present invention, when the user connects to the local network, as in the prior art system, the user’s ID and password are sent to the authentication accounting server. The user ID and password are checked against information in an authentication database. The database also contains personalized filtering and redirection information for the particular user ID. During the connection process, the dial-up network server provides the authentication accounting server with the IP address that is going to be temporarily assigned to the user. The authentication accounting server then sends both the user’s temporary IP address and all of the particular user’s filter and redirection information to a redirection server. The IP address temporarily assigned to the end user is then sent back to the end user for use in connecting to the network.

Once connected to the network, all data packets sent to, or received by, the user include the user’s temporary IP address in the IP packet header. The redirection server uses the filter and redirection information supplied by the authentication accounting server, for that particular IP address, to either allow packets to pass through the redirection server unmolested, block the request all together, or modify the request according to the redirection information.

When the user terminates the connection with the network, the dial-up network server informs the authentication accounting server, which in turn, sends a message to the redirection server telling it to remove any remaining filtering and redirection information for the terminated user’s temporary IP address. This then allows the dial-up network to reassign that IP address to another user. In such a case, the authentication accounting server retrieves the new user’s filter and redirection information from the database and passes it, with the same IP address which is now being used by a different user, to the redirection server. This new user’s filter may be different from the first user’s filter.

 

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