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Blue Coat K9 Web Protection review

Our Rating :

We still like K9's free, effective and simple web filtering, but it loses out to other free packages, which offer a wider scope.

A year ago, Blue Coat’s K9 was the only free parental control software other than the beta version of Norton Online Family. Its impressive web filters helped it win our Budget Buy award, but it now competes with two other free packages: the release version of Online Family and Microsoft’s Family Safety.

It’s immediately at something of a disadvantage because, unlike the other two free packages, K9 protects users only against unsuitable web pages. There’s no facility to block other programs or limit whole-computer use according to a schedule, and although the Blue Coat website suggests that a future version will include filtering for chat rooms and instant messaging, the features weren’t included in the version we tested.

Although K9 is free, you still need to register to receive a licence before you can use it, and you need a new licence for each computer you want to protect. Once installed, the software is administered through a password-protected interface that’s available to any user – we’d prefer the extra security of limiting access to computer administrators only.

K9’s filtering settings are global, affecting all users of a given PC. As such it’s not particularly well suited to a shared family computer. Other than this limitation, its web interface makes it easy to configure, and allows you to set the categories of site to block, to schedule web access and enforce safe internet searching, but the defaults are quite sensible. At these settings, its blocking performance was good, although it did allow through many of the self-harm websites on our list.

As with all parental control software, accessing a barred site causes a notification page to load in your browser. Here, it’s possible to provide the administrator password for access to either that site or the entire blocked category for a limited time. It’s a good idea, but it underlines the importance of choosing an administrator password that can’t be guessed by your kids.

K9 forces the use of search providers’ safe searching option, successfully blocking inappropriate searches, and it also prevented us from downloading an instant messaging client. However, although it blocked access to proxy software websites, it was defeated by proxy software already on a USB stick. As such, it’s fine for younger, less tech-savvy children, but not for teenagers.



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