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A new school year and a new computer – study safely online


Children are now preparing for the start of the new academic year and while the prospect of returning to school may not please every child, a significant number are probably happy that it has prompted parents to invest in PCs and laptops to support success in studies.  However, Manchester-based Global Security One (GSEC1) is advising parents to ensure that they have appropriate systems to protect their children from the more unsavoury aspects of the Internet. 

“The internet is a fantastic resource, with encyclopedic knowledge a few keystrokes away, but once children have access to the Internet, it is only fair to assume that they will want to engage in the social aspects too, from chat rooms to messaging,” explains Mark Brooks, International Marketing Manager of GSEC1. “While there are bodies who strive valiantly to police the Internet and keep youngsters safe, it is a daunting, enormous challenge.  It is unsurprising therefore, that many 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. 

“That said, I know from being a parent myself that it’s unrealistic to expect Mum or Dad to monitor every minute of their child’s surfing.  There are household chores to perform, there may be more than one child with a PC or laptop in the home, working patterns may not coincide with children’s activities and so on. That is why we have developed the XGate which has the ability to significantly reduce any harmful online communication, without parents having to permanently survey their children’s activity.”

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
- control access to specific websites at pre-agreed times to children, e.g. education websites only between 18:00 and 20:00 for support with school assignments

Mark explains how XGate offers this level of control: “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. The XGate comes with a control centre and parents can select categories of websites and email content which is to be off-limits, for example sites with pornographic or bullying content.  Should a child then attempt to access such a site the XGate cross references with the dynamic database, identifies that it is prohibited material, blocks access to the site, generates the alert page and informs the parents.  These restrictions can be applied on a permanent basis or can be restricted based on the time, allowing children the flexibility to browse the Internet whilst also concentrating on their studies at the same time” 

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.

There is no other device in the world today able to offer such peace of mind to a parent.  Mark adds ‘“The issue of child security while on the Internet is an ever changing landscape and we believe that it is right that leading organizations in computer security, such as GSEC1, should play their part.  We believe 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.” 

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

The XGate retails at £99.95 and is available via Amazon while visitors to 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 cable Internet, wireless and ADSL.  

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.