Monitor your users' Internet activity

Do you have a problem with employees spending too much time on the Internet? Would you like to be able to monitor what their Internet activity entails? Are you a parent whose child's unbridled Internet surfing is giving you increasing cause for alarm? Pearl Software's Cyber Snoop 3.0 might be your solution.

Cyber Snoop is an Internet monitoring and blocking utility. The product installs on your Windows system at the OS level. Cyber Snoop communicates directly with Windows Winsock interface to better integrate into your environment and prevent users from circumventing its reporting and protection features. A base version and PRO version of the product are available.

Cyber Snoop lets you restrict access to Internet resources in five major areas: the Web, USENET News, FTP, email, and Chat. With the first four Internet services, Cyber Snoop monitors and blocks connections and messages, depending on the restrictions you have established. The program records each Internet connection in an activity log so you can review where your employees (or children) are surfing. With Chat activity, the product saves the text of the chat messages to a buffer for review. Screen 1 shows how you establish your security policies through a password-protected administrative program.

Cyber Snoop has multiple levels of restrictions. The first type of access restriction is to manually create a block list of sites that you want to restrict access to. For example, if you don’t want your employees surfing to the Playboy site, add that site to the block list. When employees attempt to connect to the site, they receive a generic connection-failed message from their Web browser, as if the site is not on the Internet or they cannot reach the site.

Another type of block occurs with keywords. You can tag certain words as blocked, and if those words appear in a message or on a Web site, users will be unable to access that site. This feature is especially useful in business environments because many porn sites on the Internet come and go rapidly, making maintenance of a site block list difficult and time-consuming.

Cyber Snoop includes different security levels for each of the areas it monitors, and you can individually configure each level. The levels include the following:

  • Block all, which blocks all access in that area (i.e., block all access to .ftp sites).
  • Block listed, which blocks only those sites you put in the block list or that contain the keywords you specify.
  • Allow listed, which lets you connect only to sites you put in an allow list.
  • Allow all, which gives users unrestricted access.

The PRO edition of Cyber Snoop offers all the features of the base edition and three additional features that might be of interest to corporate or large environment users. The PRO edition lets you export data the application collected and import the data into another application, such as a SQL Server database or an Excel spreadsheet. The PRO edition also lets you have multilevel logons to the administrative program; administrators can create an overall monitoring and restriction policy, and individual users can build upon that policy and maintain their restrictions. Finally, the PRO edition lets you create a custom splash screen that appears when a user launches the program, which is a useful feature for corporate customers. In the small business or home market, the features found in the PRO edition are not generally necessary.

To test Cyber Snoop, I installed the product on a Toshiba Tecra 730XCDT laptop running Windows NT Workstation 4.0. The installation consists of two steps. First, you physically install the product on the machine. Then, you run the Cyber Snoop administrative program to set up how you want the software to function, add sites to the allow list and block list, and set up automated blocking of sites that fall outside certain advisory ratings.

I encountered a couple of problems using the software. During one session, while I was using the Internet to retrieve recall information from the US National Highway Transportation Safety Board’s Web site, Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 aborted with a General Protection Fault (GPF). When I restarted my browser, I was unable to connect to any Web sites or send any email. I had to reboot my system. After rebooting, a message appeared on my desktop indicating that Cyber Snoop had disabled my network privileges because it had found damaged Cyber Snoop files. I ran the administrative program again, and after verifying that my configuration was correct (I didn’t see any changes or damage), I saved the Cyber Snoop configuration again and was able to connect to the Internet.

Despite my mishap with the software, I found Cyber Snoop to be useful, and I intend to purchase and install the software on my children’s computer systems before I let them connect to the Internet unsupervised. You can download a trial version from Pearl Software’s Web site.

Cyber Snoop 3.0
Contact: Pearl Software • 610-458-2387
Web: http://www.cyber-snoop.com
Price: $49.95 for the base version; $59.95 for the PRO version)
System Requirements: 486 or better, Windows NT, Windows 98, or Win95, 4MB of RAM, 15MB of hard disk space