Test results for 15 internet filtering programs, including free and commercial products
There are all kinds of 'net nasties' that try to invade your computer, such as viruses, spyware and spam. But what about undesirable content that can be accessed through a web browser — how can you prevent your children being exposed to this?
That’s where internet filtering software comes in. This software helps to block content such as pornography, violence, hate groups and other unwanted text and pictures that can hit your screen without permission. But is your child really safe to browse the Web unsupervised with one of these programs in place?
To find out, we tested 15 net filtering programs, including five government-supported packages (free downloads for all Australian families), five best-selling commercial packages, and five popular freeware programs.
We tested all the software using their default settings, to see how well the filters blocked potentially harmful material from websites depicting physical abuse, crime, guns, hate, pornography, terrorism, violence, and warez (illegal software).
We also checked for false positives — that is mistakenly blocking non-offensive and possibly helpful sites — and whether the programs could detect and block undesirable content from emails, instant messaging, downloads, archived files, and removable media (hard drives and USB keys).
Ease of use was evaluated on installation, updating, support, navigation and layout. To rate flexibility, we looked at the availability of useful features, options and settings for each product.
Please note: this information was current as of January 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
- Net filtering can help prevent children from accessing undesirable web content.
- Net filters aren’t foolproof and may not block all types of content.
- They can mistakenly filter out 'safe' content and sites.
- They’re not a substitute for proper parental supervision.
- Some free software can perform as well as commercial programs.
Products we tested
- Cyber Patrol
- Cyber Sentinel
- iProtect You
- K9 Web Protection
- NetNanny 5
- Optenet Web Filter
- ParentalControl Bar
- Parental Filter
- Safe Eyes (Mac)
- Safe Eyes (PC)