The summer holidays are in full swing and the British weather is typically changeable. Many children are therefore indoors and spending time surfing the Internet, which is unfortunately often the haunt of cyber bullies and paedophiles looking to groom children through chatrooms or social networking websites. It is little wonder that many parents are concerned about their children’s online safety and welfare.
Responding to the online threats of child grooming and cyber-bullying, Manchester-based Global Security One (GSEC1) has developed the pioneering XGate which, rather like an electronic guardian angel, has the potential to significantly reduce any harmful online communication, without parents having to permanently pry at 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. This should be especially welcome in the light of a recent children’s charity survey which uncovered that children who were subjected to cyber bullying did not inform their parents because they thought their mobiles may be confiscated or PCs be off limits.
Mark Brooks, International Marketing Manager of GSEC1, says: “Parents face the problem of it being impractical to constantly oversee their children’s online activities. And potentially damaging online material can take many guises, including websites, chat rooms where grooming can take place, blogs, bullying emails sent by other schoolchildren, and even videos of children fighting or children being bullied by others taken on their mobile phones – so called happy slapping - and then posted on the Internet.“
The 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 the parent to remotely control their child’s computer by using simple replies to any email or sms alerts they receive, 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 GSEC1’s 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 reference with the dynamic database, identify that it is prohibited material, block the site, generate the alert page and inform 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 intelligently uses a 'smart' 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 and GSEC1 so that children cannot override it and change the categorisation.
Unlike traditional security solutions for home PC users, 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 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 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.