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Online safety advice for parents

BitDefender UK : 29 September, 2009  (Technical Article)
BitDefender is offering advice on internet control for parents in light of the latest threats emerging from social networking sites
Most parents accept that there are some risks involved in allowing their children to use the internet and take reasonable precautions. However, with the rise of Web 2.0 applications, BitDefender advises parents to be aware of a new breed of threats when considering the online safety of their children.

The latest threats include social networks and blogs, a phenomenon which has exploded in recent years. Children are exposed to an array of predators in the Web 2.0 world, seeking to do anything from phishing and spamming to more serious attempts of bullying, molestation or abduction. As shocking as the Jaycee Dugard case may be (the woman abducted as a child and held captive for 18 years), the likelihood of this happening to children today is increased simply by utilising the home computer to lure unsuspecting children from the safety of their homes. For example, through the use of hidden cameras and seemingly underage decoys, an American TV series has depicted how easily underage children can fall prey to online traps.

Parental controls on computer usage are becoming essential in today's society, with a rise in readily available violent video content, easily accessible "adult" entertainment, the prevalence of online gaming, the increasing problem of internet addiction, as well as online advertising that heavily targets today's children and teens.

BitDefender's senior antispam researcher, Catalin Cosoi said: "Not long ago, parents had stronger control over the types of information available to their children. Now the situation is completely different. In the past it used to be enough to turn off the TV in order to avoid the exposure to undesired information, such as advertising for alcohol, tobacco and so on. But with the technical evolution came a series of inconveniences and a lot of "grey areas" where no rules apply. One of the most important changes in recent years is the unrestricted and almost unlimited access our children have to the Internet."

BitDefender's Parental Control component provides comprehensive settings for web and application control as well as the ability to filter web, mail and instant messaging traffic for certain keywords. It offers three initial restriction levels based on the age of the specific user which can be customised to fit any needs utilising the following features:

• Web Control - allows or disallows access to certain websites added to a list, with a wide range of categories to choose from.

• Web Time Limiter - allows or blocks access to the Internet during certain times to help prevent addiction.

• Application Control - allows a parent to define a strict schedule to which applications (including games to prevent gaming addictions) the users of that computer have access to, either by setting up an hourly/daily cycle or completely blocking access to the software.

• Instant Messenger Control - blocks or allows certain messenger IDs the user is able to talk to.

• Keywords Control - allows blocking of either HTTP traffic (web), POP3 traffic (mail) or instant messenger traffic which contains certain words. The blacklist can be filled with either complete or partial words. This feature utilises proactive detection to cover sites as they are created.

• Email Notification - notifies the parent every time it blocks an activity for other users.

"Besides protecting children from online predators, inappropriate content or addiction, every BitDefender security suite features technologies for proactive malware detection, privacy control, traffic encryption data backup and more - offering complete identity and data protection against threats originating from known and unknown sources," added Cosoi.

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