Need a nanny for your network?

The Internet is like a city: It has good sides and shady sides. How can you protect your corporation from the dark side? Solid Oak Software has released a Windows NT update to CYBERsitter, a filtering program that provides extra online protection from undesirable sites. You can block access to specific Internet areas, such as Web pages, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), FTP, and newsgroups.

CYBERsitter arrives on a high-density floppy, and you can install it on a single computer or in a network environment. Installation is as easy as inserting the disk, entering the drive letter, and double-clicking the Setup file. The program automatically searches for the winsock.dll and installs itself in the same location.

In a network setting, administrators can load the software onto a designated workstation or a server. However, administrators must also run the client setup from the floppy on each workstation to ensure CYBERsitter copies the .dll files to the workstation. CYBERsitter uses these .dll files to access Solid Oak's blocking filter file on the network.

The program opens to a simple, yet powerful control screen, as shown in Screen 1. This dialog box is where you make filtering selections and all other option choices. The interface was easy to use, and most options were understandable. After you've installed the program, it starts when you boot up your system and stays active until you click the Active/Inactive toggle button. This button retains its setting until you change it.

Solid Oak created a Web site filter list, which focuses on topics such as illegal or illicit activities. Solid Oak searches for undesirable sites to include in its updated filter file, and the company encourages users to submit any undesirable sites that they access while using CYBERsitter. If a user attempts to access one of the sites in the filter file, it might be blocked, depending on the block options the administrator has set for that user.

One of CYBERsitter's unique filtering features is that users can enter words that CYBERsitter can analyze in relation to context in a search engine, email, or chat session. This process lets you block material that might be objectionable, yet it prevents CYBERsitter from inadvertently blocking sites with words that have double meanings.

The program was successful at blocking access based on my configuration settings. However, CYBERsitter failed to block sites I expected it to block. For example, when I selected the option, Block sports sites and leisure activities, I could still access the ESPNet SportsZone site.

I had another problem when I selected the option, Block all IRC Chat lines. Because of the option's wording, I expected CYBERsitter to block all access to chat, but I was wrong. In my test, CYBERsitter let me initiate IRC sessions on servers such as Undernet and DALnet, and it also let me access their chat rooms. However, the "bad-words" filter blotted out bad words that participants typed during the chat session. After a call to tech support, I learned that this option will block Web browser chat sessions.

The custom-area feature is where you can enter information specific to your users or sites, such as telephone numbers, and CYBERsitter will block specific areas beyond the filter file. CYBERsitter's filter file is proprietary, and users cannot view or change it.

CYBERsitter establishes security through a password option that appears when users attempt to open the program. Once users are in the program, no other safety guards prevent them from compromising or changing options or the access password.

With the network version of CYBERsitter, you can customize options for each workstation. You must select options before you open your Web browser, chat, or newsgroup program. To change an option, you must exit the program you're in, change the option, and reopen the appropriate program.

CYBERsitter is a beneficial program when you use it with clear employee guidelines concerning acceptable use of the Internet. It is a good choice for companies that want to filter undesirable material from the Internet.

CYBERsitter 97
Contact: Solid Oak Software * 805-967-9853 or 800-388-2761
Web: http://www.solidoak.com
Price: $39.95 for a single license; networks start at $250, plus $19.95 per license for 100 licenses
System Requirements: Windows NT Workstation or NT Server or Windows 95, 486 or better, 8MB of RAM, 1MB available hard disk space