Today I would like to salute a creature without whom life would be much less secure. I'm talking about the canine, who works endless hours patrolling the Internet, making sure that all who surf on your PC's browser stay safe.
By DAVID SHAMAH
Today I would like to salute a creature without whom life would be much less secure. Of course, I'm talking about the canine, who works endless hours patrolling the Internet, making sure that all who surf on your PC's browser stay safe. He will loyally prevent your kids - or you - from getting themselves into cyber-trouble, bark when danger approaches and even chase down and scare off Net intruders who get too close to your cyber-fence.
True, the closest I come to dog ownership is K9 Web Protector (http://www.k9webprotection.com/), a free program that makes it easy to keep you - or your kids - from surfing through "bad" Internet neighborhoods.
While there are lots of programs that can block Internet sites by address or keyword, K9 is one of the easiest to set up - because there's almost nothing for you to set up, ever. K9 offers several levels of blocking, from "minimal," which keeps out only the bona-fide worst sites of the decade (pornography, phishing, spyware), to "high," which keeps out just about any Web site "not approved for general audiences," as they say in Hollywood - hate sites and sites that mention drugs, alcohol, weapons, gambling or "occult" practices are banned in this setting.
Of course, sites come and go, and in several of the categories, Internet jerks are always coming up with new scams to disguise the true purpose of a site that could damage your computer, all in an effort to get around programs like K9 that you install to prevent such damage. But K9 is ready for those sites, too - like an anti-virus program, it's constantly getting updated, and your PC gets a new database download daily which ensures that you're protected from the latest crop of cyber-crap. And, of course, like a good little doggie, you can set K9 to bark when it comes up against a Web site it doesn't like.
And there's no way around the program, either - unlike many of its competitors, including some of the expensive ones. Any access to the program's controls requires typing in a password, which you, as the program and computer administrator set up. The K9 control panel is where you set up the level of protection, and it also contains the access log for your PC - the sites that users surfing the Internet tried to surf to - as well as the administration log, which shows what K9 blocked and flagged during the surfing session.
Even if your kids are adept at using password crackers, you can halt attempts to access the control panel after, say, three attempts in which the wrong password was entered. If your kids know about Web proxies - third-party sites that let them surf via a different IP address - it won't help them; K9 bans access to such sites.
And if you want to limit use of the Internet altogether, K9 has a function that will prevent any Web access at times you specify - for all users.
Even better - K9 runs as a Windows service, which means you can set it up in a manner that makes it impossible to "kill" from the Windows task manager panel. Of course your kids have their own PC account, separate from the administrator account you used to set up K9 (if you don't know how to set up accounts in Windows XP, check out http://tinyurl.com/ygu5vh). If K9 runs as an administrator service, it cannot be killed by a regular user, unless he has the Windows administrator password. And even if he does manage to get hold of it, you can set the K9 service to automatically restart when it is stopped - or to shut the computer down when someone kills it.
And for local users, good news - K9 does Hebrew, too! Of course, you have to set up Hebrew keywords you want to avoid in the program manually, but a program that understands Hebrew is relatively rare among site blockers. And to think - this pooch works for nothing.
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