How To Block Only Facebook Games & Apps On Your Network

facebookapps   How To Block Only Facebook Games & Apps On Your NetworkAs time goes on, social networking and the online community in general is fast becoming a normal part of business. More and more companies are taking full advantage of online communities and social networks, such as Facebook. Companies recognize that where large communities are – online or offline – is where the potential customers are as well.

The same can be said for offering employees access to Facebook. Interacting with users and customers in the online marketplace is almost a requirement for any business that wants to maintain a competitive advantage. What this means is that many companies are no longer blocking their employees from using Facebook during the workday. For the most part, employees aren’t really abusing the privilege. More and more workers these days are working from remote locations with a workday that is scattered all around the clock. People are combining work lives with personal lives.

At the same time, there is a subsection of employees that do abuse the privilege. This is to be expected, but it isn’t an impossible situation to remedy. In fact, it’s relatively easy if you just use a few creative firewall settings. In the example below, I’m going to show you how a small business utilizing a standard Linksys router can configure the router to block only Facebook games from network traffic. However, using the same principles, you can block Facebook games on your larger corporate network as well.

How To Block Facebook Games

There are multiple approaches you can take to block Facebook games. The first involves blocking specific Facebook applications that come from a specific vendor.  This is good because we love Facebook apps – as you can see from Steve’s review of great Facebook photo apps, and Michael and Eric’s review of FB apps that don’t suck.  There are a lot of productive apps out there.

So you may just want to block Facebook applications created by one vendor, such as the game maker Zynga for example. You’ll typically find the app creator listed at the bottom of most applications, such as the game Mafia Wars.

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In most cases, traffic for these games comes from the domain of that creator. In the case of Zynga, you can easily block all Zynga apps by adding the keyword “Zynga” to the URL block list in your router.

Blocking Facebook Games By Keyword

For a Linksys router, you can find this setting by going to the Access Restrictions tab, and then selecting an Access Policy number that is blank. You can find blank ones by clicking on “Summary“.

Once you’ve selected a blank policy, just add the word “Zynga” (or whatever creator you’re blocking), to the section “Website Blocking by Keyword“. This policy will even block access to the creator website itself.

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This won’t enable blocking across the board. You actually have to specifically tell the filter what PCs on the network you want to apply this policy to. You can do that by clicking on “Edit List” in the “Applied PCs” section.

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Here, you can detail specific PCs that you want to apply the policy to by Mac Address or IP. In my case, I know the PCs on my small network range from 100 through 107, so I just put that IP address range in the “IP Address Range” section. Obviously, on a larger network you could specify all hundred or thousand PCs that you may have on your entire network. Or, if you want to block just a few PC’s, you can do that too.

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Click Save Settings, and then also Save Settings back on the Internet Access Policy page. Now, try to access Zynga.com and see what happens.

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Try to access any Zynga game, like Mafia Wars on Facebook, and see what happens.

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However, you can still access Facebook and you can still access any other Facebook app. Obviously, not all Facebook apps are games, so some companies may want to still allow access to non-game apps. Blocking Zynga probably will block a majority of the games that are available on Facebook.  You could add other Facebook game makers to the block list if you wanted to.

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Now, you may actually want to block all Facebook apps completely. That is also possible by using the URL address blocking that routers typically have available as well.

Block Facebook Games By Blocking Facebook Apps

To block all Facebook apps, just go back to the Internet Access Policy page on the router, and in the section “Website Blocking by URL Address“, you can add the base URL for all Facebook apps, which is “apps.facebook.com“.

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This will not block all of Facebook, but instead only any pages that use the base URL apps.facebook.com, which all Facebook apps do. Now, you can see below that the app I could access before – The Sims Social – is now blocked by the new rule that I just added.

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Whether or not you only want to block games, or if you want to block all Facebook apps, really comes down to the policy of your company or small business. Either way, this technique will provide access for the social networking benefit that Facebook offers to all businesses, while at the same time, blocking the time-wasting and addictive behaviors that Facebook apps tend to lead to.

Did this solution work for you? Do you know of any other creative ways to only block Facebook games or apps on your network? Share your own insights in the comments section below.

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5 Comments -

New Block on the Kids

I’m finally able to block FB itself on my laptop using an old (but still good!) program called DNSKong. The program works like Privoxy or Proxomitron and a hosts file. Basically all you have to do is to edit the filter list (called named.txt) and put in a few choice keywords. Mine were Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and — yup — Google. (I use pro-privacy sites like Scroogle and Duck Duck Go instead.)

This ~530K app hasn’t been updated since the days of Windows 2000 (!) and yet is able to block the entire breadth of Google!

I also use PeerGuardian/PeerBlock to block the sites’ IP ranges. Obviously that’s not what this article was aiming for but since I am not a user of any of these sites (including Google, strange and impossible as that may seem), I find it incessantly annoying that I keep being asked to login to different sites with a FB/Twitter/etc. account. It’s also proof-of-concept that as wide-ranging as these global monoliths may be, there are still ways of blocking them as long as FB and Google have to adhere to the ways of DNS and IP addresses. Until FB rolls out its own FB domain system (like Tor’s .onion and I2P), Marky Mark and the Faceless Bunch won’t have their hands on me. :D

I think co’s really need to move back to the old blocking-FB ways. Once you draw the line it’s just bad practice to keep waffling on the issue. There’s nothing of valid interest on these sites anyway, unless businesses happen to be recruiting Justin Bieber and his ilk or establishing a market to attract Angry Birds. Thank Jobs I’m one of the few anti-FB crowd left who still Thinks Different. :)

Aibek

thanks for the input. checked out the DNSKong and looks like a cool app. passing to our authors for consideration.

Aibek

Ryan Dube

Thanks – great suggestions!  As for your last point – about co’s blocking FB. I think the reason organizations are moving away from the old-school approach of blocking social networking sites is because it’s not a matter of whether those sites have business value. It’s the fact that these days people no longer really work strictly 8-5 and from a single desktop computer sitting on their desk at work. People are mobile and work at any time in a 24 hour period. The truth is that people these days may be sitting at home or in a cafe and doing just as much work as if they were sitting in an office. Should companies really require workers to use one computer to work, and then an entirely different computer to conduct personal and family business? 

I think these days companies are becoming a lot more progressive, and simply learning ways to protect the organization from threats while providing flexibility for their workers to do work anywhere and anytime possible. Ultimately, you end up getting a much more productive worker.

New Block on the Kids

Ryan: Don’t forget that a lot of people are using FB to network with competitor agencies because they may be looking for jobs elsewhere — or (conspiracy-minded that I am, too), “friending” employees from other companies and possibly sharing sensitive information.

While a Big Brother-ish approach to blocking whistleblowers, let’s say, is certainly not something I would support, you’ve got to wonder what Zuckerberg would think if one of his employees started “networking” with a Google employee working on the Plus team — or vice versa, what would Larry and Sergei think of a Facebooker pulling a Gates/Jobs act on the “G” spot? ;-)

Facebook is also highly unprofessional IMHO. It started as a network for lazy college kids and basically hasn’t changed its demographic since its founding. An employee at XYZ Co. putting up some YouTube video of her adventures in a Girls Gone Wild shoot isn’t only making herself (or himself, as the case may be) look like an idiot, but giving off a bad image of the company s/he works for — i.e. what kind of people are they hiring? Not that people shouldn’t have fun, but the time-honored practice needs to hold fast: time is money, and if you want to kill productivity with Angry Birds or banal status updates, by all means, do so on your own time. :)

Ryan Dube

Yes, all excellent points, but you’re missing the overall point…which is this:

Define “Your Own Time.” 

What if you’re a worker that pretty much works 15 to 20 hours a day, not only from the office, but from home, from the Internet Cafe, from the hotel room…  Are you really going to demand that your employees carry around two or three devices – one that is only for “work” and has all personal activity blocked, and another for “personal” use. 

The world is quickly changing, and it’s easy to stay trapped in the old IT mindset of limiting a person as a form of safety, rather than determining where the dangers really are, plugging those holes, and giving your workers the freedom and flexibility to do their work from anywhere, anytime. In my mind, that is a way to increase productivity – because you are valuing the individual, and for that, they will appreciate you.

Just because you feel that Facebook is unprofessional and a waste of time, doesn’t mean everyone does. Just take a look at how many corporations are now making use of Facebook as a form of communication with customers and clients.