NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, October 2006
BlueCoat’s K9 Web Protection
by Mike Mitchell, Board Member and Newsletter Editor
Topeka (Kansas) PC Users Club
mike.mitchell@cox.net (click to email author)

Lately, I have been approached by several parents asking if there is a reliable Internet filtering solution they can install on the computer for their kids. I have also thought even some adults might be interested in content filtering software to possibly help decrease the risk of spyware, malware and viruses being installed on their PCs. (Most of that comes from inappropriate sites anyway.) The statistics are staggering: 5,000 pornography sites registered daily; nine of ten kids ages 8-16 have viewed pornography on the Internet, often in the process of doing homework; one in five children ages 10-17 have received a sexual solicitation over the Internet – and those are stats for just one category! Furthermore, the FBI lists on their website the following as some of the reasons your child might be at risk online:

  • Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.
  • You find pornography on your child’s computer.
  • Your child receives phone calls from people you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Since so many sites these days have inappropriate content, I checked the filtering software possibilities out there. Most of them charge a fixed or a monthly fee (some quite expensive) but, lo and behold, I think I’ve found one! My buddy Gizmo from Tech Support Alert (http://www.techsupportalert.com) recommends BlueCoat’s K9 Web Protection (http://www.getk9.com) as his top free parental filter. Gizmo’s description is as follows:

“K9 Web Protection is a web based service that uses a special driver installed on your PC to redirect all your browsing through K9's servers where it is filtered for content. This means that the filtering works for any browser installed on your PC (Internet Explorer, Firefox, AOL, etc.). The actual filtering itself is highly customizable from a password protected control panel at K9's web site with over 55 selectable categories plus the ability to restrict or permit individual sites. Full reports on sites visited are also available from the control panel. The filtering seems quite accurate; I only found one site in an hour of browsing which I felt should not have been blocked. I also liked the optional blocking of Spyware and Adware sites. I tried a few obvious ways of crippling the filter such as uninstalling the product or disenabling the driver, with no success, which is comforting to parents. (You have to know the password to uninstall it.) I suspect though, that a determined tech-savvy teenager might eventually find a solution. The only real downside was the slight slowing down of my browsing as a result of it being re-routed through the K9 servers. This will mainly be of concern to dial-up users.”

Installation is quite simple. When you go to the download page, you register your name and e-mail address. They will send you an e-mail with the download link and a password to use during installation. I believe you can use the same password on more than one PC but they would like you to register a different name/e-mail address/password for each family. During the first use, the software asks you for an administrator password (don’t tell your kids!!!) so you can manage the settings in the control panel. The program works regardless of how many user accounts are set up on the PC. (The program icon doesn’t need to be copied/created on the other user accounts’ desktops, which would be a good thing anyway.)

Figure 1 shows the sign-on screen for the control panel.

Figure 1

Both options (View Internet Activity and Setup Options) require administrator password privileges.

Figure 2 shows the Internet Activity Screen.

Figure 2

It gives you the category summary and general overview of the websites that have been visited from all users on that PC. In Activity Detail, it will actually list the individual sites that were accessed. You can reset the counters after each time you look at the stats or every month, etc., so the log file won’t become too large.

Figure 3 is the Setup Options area.

Figure 3

The options in this area are:

  • Web Categories to Block – Sets the categories to block. It offers several protection levels of filtering, or you can make a custom filtering level if you wish.
  • Website Exceptions – Sets websites you always want to block or allow. (Those are bypassed from being filtered.)
  • Web Search Options – Using Google SafeSearch™ will filter search results you get from Google. This will reduce the amount of adult material that is returned when you search with Google.
  • Time Restrictions – Allows you to “turn on” or “turn off” the internet at half-hour intervals throughout the whole week. You can drag/select more than one block at a time to make setting it go a lot faster.
  • Blocking Effects – Set other default options. If speakers are turned on, you can enable the program to “bark out loud” to let a nearby parent know their kids are trying to go to inappropriate sites. Also, there is a setting where if users go to too many blocked sites within a set time frame, it will deny internet access for a set period of time. (All are adjustable by the administrator.)
  • URL Keywords – You can place words in a list so if that word shows up on a website, the page can be blocked, or the words on the site just won’t be shown when the page is displayed. (That will probably not work for words embedded in a graphic on a web page.)
  • Change Password – Ditto…

There are two things you will want to keep in mind. First, any block or notification from the program on the user’s display can be overridden by an administrator’s password. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4

If it is a questionable site, you can override it for 15 minutes and then it will go back to “blocked” status, or you can permanently permit it to be displayed. If you try to access the internet during a time of the day when time restrictions deny it, you can enable a temporary override for 15 minutes with the administrator’s password. Second, if you make any changes to any page in the Options area, make sure you click the “Save Changes” button on each menu or the changes won’t be saved. (It will remind you of that if you go to a different screen without saving.)

Overall, the parents’ computers that I’ve installed this program on have been very pleased with the results. They have broadband connections and could not tell any noticeable difference in their download speed. If you like this program, please spread the word about K9 Web Protection to all of your friends, parents, etc. who would benefit from content filtering software.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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