Children are increasingly capable of creating their own websites, some of which have potentially provocative domain names. While the youngsters do this in an apparent bid to be seen as cool by peers, parents worry that the sites could attract unsavoury individuals or give rise to children misspelling the URL in a search engine with the potential to navigate to unsuitable sites.
Mark Brooks, Technology Manager of Manchester-based Global Security One (GSEC1), understands the parents’ anxiety. “The news that a number of workers were fired by a public sector organisation after surveillance of the IT systems uncovered the circulation of pornographic material will have done little to reassure parents who seek a practical, affordable answer to the conundrum of their children surfing safely without being watched over,” says Mark.
“We understand both the commercial and personal issues. GSEC1’s Prodigy™ range of Internet security products is specified by businesses with up to 3000 users and investment in a product of this level of sophistication historically would have been difficult to afford on the domestic front. That is why we have developed a home-user version, the XGate.
“The XGate features an intelligent web filter, which is a dynamic solution checking against a centralised database containing millions of websites that are constantly updated, categorised and rated according to their content. Parents activate the web-filtering module via the XGate’s control centre to manage access to specific websites at either permanently or at pre-agreed times to children, e.g. education websites only before 8:00pm for support with homework. Parents can also select categories of websites and email content which is to be off-limits, e.g. sites with pornographic content. Should a child attempt to access such a site the XGate cross references it with the dynamic database, identifies that it is prohibited material, blocks access to the site, generates an alert page and informs the parents by email or SMS on their mobile.”
In the unlikely event that a particular website requested does not currently appear within the categories listed in the database, the web filter uses an intelligent algorithm to rate the website and will block or allow the website accordingly, and also update the central database - all in real time. Access to the control centre is via password chosen and known only by the parents so that children cannot override it and alter the restrictions.
Unlike traditional security solutions for home PC users, the XGate is not a piece of software that sits on the PC and slows it down. It is a hardware device which plugs into the PC and includes an ADSL modem, enabling the user to safely browse the internet as fast as the connection allows.
The XGate monitors real time children’s online activity and alerts parents if relevant by email or sms on their mobile phone to inappropriate material and/or behaviour in terms of website content, chat room activity and emails and their attachments.
GSEC1’s XGate will:
- flash an alert page (which reads ‘This page has been blocked under the category of pornography, please contact your guardian’) on the PC screen should a user try to access a website with pornographic content; the page will stay on the screen until the child decides to navigate away from the site
- email or sms the website address to parents’ mobile phones to advise them so they can discuss with their children later
- block emails with pornographic or bullying content and attachments via its intelligent email filter
- email or sms to parents’ mobile phones if inappropriate or ‘trigger’ language occurs while their children are in chat rooms and at risk of being groomed; grooming language includes phrases such as ‘sex’, ‘secret’, ‘meet’, ‘mobile phone number’, ‘age’, ‘webcam’, ‘are you alone’ etc
- allow a parent to remotely control the child’s computer by using simple replies to any email or sms alerts received, including the ability to remotely shutdown the child’s computer
Key benefits of the XGate approach include:
- it is a unified approach to home Internet security so doing away with the need for the user to buy disparate pieces of software or worry about integration, compatibility and licensing issues.
- A single XGate meets all home broadband Internet security needs and allows up to 4 computers to be connected
- A single renewal relieves the user from tracking multiple software subscriptions
- It’s a stand alone device which stops threats before they reach the computer. Unlike conventional security software which will only identify threats when they have actually infiltrated the computer system
Mark adds ‘“It’s only natural that parents will want to try and manage their children’s use of the Internet to safeguard them from online threats such as websites with unsuitable content, child grooming and cyber-bullying. While there are bodies who strive valiantly to police the Internet and keep youngsters safe, it is a daunting, enormous challenge. The Internet is an ever changing landscape and we believe that it is right for leading organisations in computer security, such as GSEC1, to play their part. It is our view that the XGate enables parents to be in charge of their children without being afraid of technology and the Internet which, used safely, is a wonderful tool.”
The XGate retails at £99.95 and is available via Amazon while visitors to www.xgate.com can find details of other outlets. The XGate is currently ADSL compatible as GSEC1’s research highlights that the greater proportion of the country has that type of Internet access and so it can offer a wider population of children the protection they need. The next iteration of the XGate will be compatible with ADSL plus cable Internet and wireless.
GSEC 1, which has over 100 employees, was founded in 2000. It has a facility in Manchester and an office in Birmingham in addition to offices in Godalming, India and Taiwan. XGate is based on GSEC1’s Prodigy range of business-class products. These were the first products to offer protection against blended threats and incorporate all aspects of business security including Anti-Virus protection, comprehensive spam filtering, secure banking and web filtering in addition to an impenetrable firewall.