The article below is a bit dated - but I'll leave it as is in case you want to read through.

As to my more recent recommendations, check out www.opendns.org to receive your FREE DNS numbers to filter out porn and phishing on your home network.  Or, you can pay a $20 annual fee to your own customized DNS settings which will allow you to customize categories and white/blacklist particular sites that you want blocked or allowed on your home network.

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It's been a while since I've done a search on what is available "out there" for the protection of children from internet porn, predators and other bad elements.  Prior to recently, I had only normally recommended one product, which is Net Nanny.  Net Nanny is definitely a good product, and I am still able to recommend it.  But, I have now discovered a new product that offers one outstanding feature which Net Nanny doesn't - it's free.

The product:  K9 Web Protection. 

The synopsis:  K9 is a filtering package that will protect your family (and particularly your kids) from the ever-growing number of pornographic, violent and virus-infected sites on the web. 

Rather than randomly recommending a product, I decided to install K9 and give it a test drive.  It installs very easily, but you will have to create an account at their website (below) before you can actually install the program.  With your new account, you must then create an administrator password (which you will want to make something only you could guess) which will allow you to configure the software.   The "download" section of the site offers two versions:  a Windowx 2000/XP version and a Windows Vista version.  There are no Mac or other OS versions at this time.  I did notice that the Win 2000/XP version seemed to have a problem.  I could not install it.  But, I installed the Vista version (on a Win 2000 computer) with no issues, and it appears to perform as expected.  The configuration settings are all browser-based, so you don't open a cumbersome program, but simply input your choices in the web interface.

Deciding on a safety "level" for your computer is very easy.  There are several pre-configured choices which require no further configuration.  In my test installation, I chose the default setting.  To test it, I did the unthinkable... I typed in "playboy.com" in the address bar, then held my breath.  It worked.  (I hoped beyond hope it would work, but more importantly, I hoped no one would be walking through the room if it didn't!)

 After checking the general features, I have concluded that K9 is a worthwhile consideration for web filtering for your family.  While I have not had a long enough experience with it to give it a hearty vote of confidence, I have been very pleased with the results of my rough testing.  And, I have enough faith in it at this point that I installed it on my boy's computers, replacing Net Nanny (because of reasons I will not go into here.)

One reason for my faith in the product (other than my preliminary testing) is the company which created it.  Blue Coat is a technology company which focuses on high-end hardware solutions for businesses.  In short, they build internet secure proxy appliances which protect companies, schools and government agencies from web-based threats.  In my personaly opinion, the hardware-based internet appliance developers are ahead of all others in areas of creating safety nets for the web.  Blue Coat, as only one element of it's internet appliance technology, also designs protective content processes, whcih are the heart and soul of their free K9 software.  In short, K9 has been developed by people who are at the top of their game in filtering technology.

Blue Coat decided to give K9 away free for two reasons:  to get name recognition and to generate a product which will demonstrate the quality of their web protection abilities to potential customers.  They have a lot at stake with K9, because it is their calling card to their industry.  I like knowing that K9 is a priority to them for that reason.  I also like their commitment to providing a free product of this sort to the general public.  It says a lot of their character as a company.

You can check out K9 for yourself at www.K9webprotection.com.  Remember to create an account before you install the program (and you may have to install the Vista version, even if you're running XP).  Also, you must have an account for each computer you will install K9 on.  You can create an account a second time, using your same email and password, and you will be asked if you want to add a computer to your account.  In this way you will be able to install K9 on each of your home computers (if you have more than one).

Lastly, I must say that internet protection - like virus protection - is like a flu shot.  It's very helpful, and likely a solution, but is not fool proof.  There is no substitute for parental oversight- especially when it comes to something as important as your children's safety and the preservation of their innnocence in these crucial areas for as long as humanly possible!

I'll be keeping an eye on this product, and will post a followup if I learn anything new.  But, for now, if you're looking for internet protection, K9 seems to be a good candidate; and the price is certainly right.

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