The easy way to Internet filtering

Introducing Snipeslider, a new way to prevent unauthorized Internet access by children, and even adults.

snipeslider 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
snipeslider 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
What would you do if, as a parent, you came across your kid surfing “inappropriate” Internet sites? Depends on your parenting style; if you fancy yourself a “tough” parent, you might “ground” the kid off the Internet, banning him or her from surfing the Web at all. That, of course, lasts as long as the time before the next homework assignment – when your child has to access Wikipedia or some other site.
With the Internet thoroughly integrated into school assignments, it’s impractical to keep the kids off the Net altogether. The challenge is figuring out a way to enable them to surf safely, avoiding the sites you want to keep them off. Most parents opt for a filter scheme, which prevents the computer from loading “off-limit” sites. This way, the kids get to surf the Internet, and you don’t have to worry about where their surfing leads them. For extra insurance, you might also add a “keylogger” – a program that records keystrokes and other input, enabling you to keep track of the messages they’re writing on Facebook, for example.
But these schemes have flaws – major flaws, says Yarive Shulem, an entrepreneur who teamed up with Amir Weinstock, the inventor of Snipeslider, a new and, according to Shulem, much more painless and effective way to prevent unauthorized Internet access by children, and even adults.
“The Internet service providers in Israel provide filters, and they’re popular with many parents who want to limit their kids’ surfing activities. But there are ways around the filters,” Shulem says. “If your kid has a laptop that has the ability to connect to a wireless network, he might be able to connect to another open, unprotected wifi network from a neighbor.”
Even without a laptop and an open network, the filter often falls by the wayside – because it’s just too difficult to keep up, says Shulem. “If you’ve installed a filter on your home computer, the kids won’t be able to access sites that aren’t appropriate for them – but you might need to access those sites.”
Parents can turn off the filter when they want to surf, but if they don’t remember to turn it back on when they’re done, there’s no limit on where the kids can go in their next surfing session.
“Eventually, many parents give up on filters, because of the hassle of turning it on and off for themselves. Often they just leave the filter off and hope for the best. And even if they do stick with the filter, a kid with halfway decent hacking skills will be able to beat it,” says Shulem.
When he was shopping around for an effective way to protect his own kids from the ravages of the Internet, Weinstock, Snipeslider’s inventor, realized that the filter system had effectiveness issues, and came up with an alternative – a USB stick flash drive “disk-on-key” system that parents use as a “key” to allow Internet access. When the drive is connected to a USB port, the computer is in “parent” mode, allowing full access with no restrictions. If the flash drive is not connected, the computer goes into protected mode, allowing access only to specific sites that parents have authorized.
Weinstock “told some people at work about the program he had invented, and they asked for a copy,” says Shulem. “One thing led to another, and we realized we had a product with commercial potential here.”
As mentioned, having to turn the filter on and off is one of that system’s great flaws – and that is exactly the flaw Snipeslider addresses. “We wanted make this as simple as possible, and there’s nothing simpler than attaching or detaching a USB drive. There’s no need to fiddle around with commands or checklists, so it’s great for parents who are technophobes, as well,” Shulem says.
There are no settings to adjust and no buttons to press; just removing the flash drive puts the computer into protected mode, making it the simplest and most painless Internet protection system out there, he adds.
ORIGINALLY, SHULEM and Weinstock sold USB flash drives with the Snipeslider application built in, but eventually dropped the hardware and concentrated on the software, which you can download from Once downloaded, you connect a flash drive to your computer and install the program, which prepares the drive for use. You then prepare a “white list,” adding the sites you want to allow your kids to surf to (the Snipeslider site has ready-made white lists appropriate for various ages you can use) – and you’re done.
The program currently costs $10 per computer license – a one-time fee, unlike the monthly tab you’re charged for filters, says Shulem. “It’s a very reasonable price to pay for peace of mind,” he says.
And as an additional bonus, Snipeslider has a time-limit component, with which you can painlessly kick your kids off the Internet when you feel they’ve had enough.
“Unlike Windows scheduling, which only allows you to set scheduled hours of use – which may have to be adjusted to take into consideration schedule changes – Snipeslider lets you set a specific amount of time, like an hour, during which the computer’s browser may be used,” says Shulem. “The time can be used all at once or in different portions – but once the hour is up, the browser closes, and cannot be reopened.”
Of course, a truly determined hacker will be able to get through the program, but, says Shulem, the kids Snipeslider targets (between four and 15) are usually not that technically savvy – and besides, he adds, kids at that age usually still have a life away from the screen, unlike their older siblings.
Snipeslider’s innovative product has been on-line for about three months, and has been downloaded by thousands of people all around the world, Shulem says. The company is self-funded, for now (Shulem says that venture capital firms don’t want to undercut ISPs, who, preferring to push filters, are Snipeslider’s competition), but he expects a lot more people to use the product once he starts actively advertising it.
“The beauty of Snipeslider is that it empowers parents, and saves them the hassle of having to micromanage their kids’ surfing habits,” says Shulem. “As long as the flash drive isn’t connected, the parents are in control of their kids’ surfing habits – and when the drive is connected, they’re in control of their own surfing habits. Instead of being at a disadvantage with their technologically adept kids, we give the parents an advantage.”