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Thursday, March 25, 2010

K9 Web Content Filtering Software

I got a call a couple of months ago from some friends who were panicked.  Their kindergarten son was over at the babysitter's house and he and the babysitter's daughter (same age) had accidentally stumbled onto some pornography.  Here's the disturbing part...they were on the My Little Pony website dressing ponies in different outfits when a window popped up showing a very graphic scene.  No, My Little Pony isn't promoting porn.  The machine had a hijacker on it that would open new windows and show whatever website it wanted whenever someone was on the internet.  Hijackers are one of many programs referred to as malware that reside on your computer and take control of your browser, redirecting you to different websites.  Some sites use hijackers as a marketing ploy - when you try to leave their site, they wont let you - they keep redirecting you back to their site.  Other hijackers are posted by people who just want to cause trouble.  Either way, they are bad things to have on your computer and they are all over cyberspace.

How frustrating is this for parents?  You spend the time researching sites before you let your kids on them and try to set limits but it doesn't matter.  Webkinz, My Little Pony, Pop Cap...all the harmless kid sites are now a threat if your machine has a hijacker.  The only way to keep your kids from seeing porn is to turn the machine off.  Aren't you glad you spent $1,500 for that new machine?

My friends wanted to know what they could do to keep the same thing from happening on their computer at home.  The first thing I told them is to get their computer clean.  Not being extremely tech savvy, they didn't know what to do other than fire up Norton's scanner so I took their machine and went through it with a fine tooth comb (437 malware infections to their surprise).  Once the machine was clean, I recommended they put some web content filtering/parental control software on it.  The problem was that the machine was older and my friends didn't want to spend a lot of money on  software like NetNanny or CyberSitter (both excellent programs but costly).  So I did some research and came across K9 Web Protection Software from Blue Coat.

So far, I really like this product.  First and foremost, it's free.  Setup is easy and their website does a good job of helping parents through the process.  Once installed it filters the websites that your children access by a variety of methods.  Parents can log into a control panel that allows them to tweak the settings to customize access specifically to their own standards.  The program receives updates automatically from K9's website and is always on whenever your children are on the internet.  The best part for me (other than the content filtering of course) is that it doesn't slow your computer down.  Many filtering applications cause lags in connection speed and slow browsing down considerably.  I didn't even notice that K9 was running while I was testing it.

There were only three drawbacks to the software that I noticed: 1. It doesn't filter chats or messaging.  2. It doesn't filter files that you download (which would be very difficult to do so I don't really hold this as a strike against K9) and 3. K9 sends the administrator access info to the parents e-mail address so if you are a parent who (like many) leave their e-mail open all the time, it wouldn't take much for your child to find the password and disable K9 (but again, how else could K9 handle this? - I don't hold this as a strike against them either).

Overall, I am pretty impressed by K9.  It does as good a job filtering as some of the expensive programs and it's free.  You really have nothing to lose in trying it out.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Here is a link to the K9 website for more information:

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