Manufacturer
Blue Coat
Product Website
URL Screenshot of http://www1.…ction-browser
Price
Free
Pros
Blocks porn, not easy to bypass providing native iOS browser apps are disabled, content blocks updated in real time
Cons
All or nothing approach with absolutely no category configuration options, advertising bar intrusive
Summary
K9 Web Protection Browser for iOS is a free family-safe Web browser app for iPads, iPhones and web-enabled iPod Touch devices which promises to provide "immediate and highly accurate protection from content that is not appropriate for young children" which includes pornography, hate/violence, illegal drugs and gambling as well as basic phishing and malware protection for good measure. But it's what it doesn't do that disappoints, namely allow parents to configure what their kids can or cannot access.
Rating
5/10
0

If the schools that my kids attend are anything to go by, it seems that high on Santa's list this Xmas just gone was an iTouch, iPhone or iPad depending how well off the parents were. That's understandable, they are just as attractive as gadgets for kids as they are to adults. But along with the never ending supply of free games, educational apps and the like comes the small problem of unfettered access to the Internet and all that brings with it. While adults may well have the family PC protected by parental control software to filter unsuitable content from their kids screens, the same is unlikely to be the case with a smartphone or tablet device. So how can parents keep porn, and other unsuitable online content, off the iPhone and iPad? One solution is provided by the same company, Blue Coat, that has been supplying a free and hugely popular desktop parental control solution for some years now in the form of K9 Web Protection.

Blue Coat tells me that the app utilises the same cloud-based WebPulse service that provides desktop users with up-to-the-moment protection from objectionable content and threats by continually categorizing new and evolving content driven by the real-time online experiences of more than 70 million users. On a typical day the WebPulse service identifies over 110,000 pages of new or previously uncategorized pornography and adult content.

I installed the K9 browser app and immediately tried to access some porn sites, both well known and less so, without altering any of the default settings. All the porn I tried to access was immediately blocked. Having tested many parental control software solutions in the past, I know from experience that many can be bypassed by simply turning off Google SafeSearch and then querying the Google Image search engine for sexually explicit material. Not so K9, no Google Image searches were allowed, not just for sexual content but any content at all as the entire Google Image search facility is blocked.

There were a few inconsistencies that we found with K9 for iOS. Some drug awareness and education sites were allowed, while others were blocked under the 'illegal drugs' category. The online pharmacy sites we tried were also allowed. Gambling help sites were allowed, but online betting services and casinos were blocked. Race hate site blocking was pretty hit and miss, so while the 'white power' sites we tried to visit in the US were clocked, the racist UK British National Party site was not.

Likewise, some parental control software gets a bit too strict when it comes to sites that provide educational or medical advice about things such as breast cancer. However, a quick test confirmed that sites dealing with breast cancer were not blocked, so thankfully K9 is not using a simple keyword blocking system. However, sites dealing with sex education were blanket blocked, including relevant entries on Wikipedia. While some parents might not want their children referencing such material, others will be shocked to find that sex education and pornography are treated as one and the same thing: unsuitable.

It is possible to report a site for review by clicking the on-screen link, which reveals the categories the site has been blocked under and provides a form to complete with your reasoning why it should be reclassified. But you cannot configure which categories should apply to your childs browsing activity based on age or parental choice, as you can with the desktop product. In fact, you cannot really configure much at all.

You can opt to clear the browser history after 7, 14, 30 or 60 days. You can choose whether to accept cookies or not, and whether cookies should be automatically cleared each time the browser starts. You can toggle the annoying dog barking sound when a site is blocked, although thankfully this is off by default. But that is pretty much the extent of the K9 browser configurability.

When it comes to configuration, the truly concerned parent is going to be doing most of it outside of the K9 app itself. Indeed, you need to lock down iOS itself if you want to prevent your kids accessing the stuff you don't want them to. So, for example, while the K9 app will block access to YouTube if your kids try and get to it through the browser app itself, if they fire up the native iOS YouTube app (which is installed by default courtesy of Apple) your kids can view whatever they want thank you very much. The same, of course, applies to websites accessed via the default Safari web browser. K9 does provide a link which offers to help you disable these apps, which involves getting stuck into the iOS password enabled 'restrictions' settings but there is no in-app ability to change these settings.

Oh, and talking of downsides, an advertising bar in the free version takes up a fair bit of screen estate, based at the top of the browser client. This is particularly problematical with the iPhone version as the screen is not exactly enormous to start with! Of course, you can remove the adverts with an in-app purchase but that costs $2.99

The trouble with simplistic parental control solutions is that they tend to offer an all or nothing approach to the problem of unsuitable content. The desktop version of K9 is popular not only because it is free but, I suspect, as it provides a great deal of flexibility to the parent when it comes to controlling the precise nature of content categorization on a child by child basis. It's even possible to temporarily override the filtering if your child needs access to a particular site for a homework assignment, for example. Sadly, the K9 Web Protection Browser for iOS is the complete opposite and goes for the 'all' approach with absolutely no flexibility built in. This may work for the very youngest of children, although one wonders why they might have an iOS device anyway, but not for the kind of age range that are more likely to be in possession of an iTouch, iPhone or iPad. By locking down access to the native apps and severely restricting access via the web, those gadgets lose a lot of their usefulness as an educational tool and appeal as an entertainment device.

To answer the question posed in the title of this review then, yes, K9 can and does keep porn off your kids iPad or iPhone. No doubt about that. But until Blue Coat introduces a degree of granularity in the controls it imposes, and puts the choice of acceptable content categorization in the hands of the parents, I cannot recommend it.

Edited by WASDted: n/a

Votes + Comments
just leave it be
Attachments DW_rating_5_150px.png 17.41 KB k9001.jpg 37.27 KB k9003.jpg 17.03 KB

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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Discussion Span
Last Post by Murray1176
0

Strange conclusion. Are you recommending that everyone allow all porn for their kids? Just because you don't have some configuration options? No thanks. As you say, if its an all-or-nothing decision -- all porn or none -- I'm going with no porn.

Thanks Blue Coat, for continuing to provide free services for our families.

I'd give it 8/10, with the hope for more options coming after this initial version.

0

No, I'm saying that while the 'no porn' aspect is good the inability to control what else your kids may access is not.

It's a bit like removing all the wheels from your car to prevent it from being stolen. It works, but it means your car is going nowhere fast...

Would you not prefer something like K9 on the desktop which enables the parent to determine what content categories their children can view? I don't want my son looking at porn, I don't mind him watching videos in YouTube or accessing sex education sites. Your mileage may vary, but that's the point about configuration options: they allow everyone to be happy and apply their own values to the filtering solution.

Edited by happygeek: n/a

0

Would definitely prefer options, but that doesn't make the app not recommended. It would seem more appropriate to say:

"For parents that want no frills protection and aren't too concerned about fine-tuning, this is a good app. For parents that want control over settings, you may want to wait for a future version."

Your car example is extreme. The kids can access news, sport, education and all that is good on the internet. It's not taking the wheels off a car. It's like putting a governor on the car.

Kids can access the built in youtube app, if the parent decides. Sex ed pages would be fine for certain ages, but I'm not too upset that my kid can't get to them on their iPod. Small concession for making the iPod safer.

I could do without the ad bar...but the apps free...

0

Dani

Great review and recommendation. We have been using a service called Mobicip and its Safe Browser app. It does allow granular control of what is allowed and what isn't. Would appreciate your review of this product as well.

Thanks
JB

0

For the record, can I just add that I use and indeed recommend the K9 desktop protection product. It's free, first class and does an excellent job of blocking the bad stuff without impacting upon the freedom of the parent to choose what is and isn't acceptable content for their particular kids, applying their particular parenting values and moral code.

My problem with the iOS version is simply that the control is absolute, non-configurable and totally in the hands of K9. Parental choice is removed from the equation and that can't be a good thing.

I'm slightly confused as to why people would think that such inflexibility is acceptable on the iPad or iPhone, yet Blue Coat itself must think that parental choice over content control is important or it wouldn't make it available in the desktop product which is, after all, the filtering solution upon which the iOS app is based.

1

This is John from Blue Coat. Thanks for taking the time to review our latest product. I thought it would be helpful to explain the reasons around your concerns.

We agree that having configurability on the basis of each parent's views and values is the best way to go. As you pointed out, we provide this in the K9 desktop versions and that flexibility is very well received.

So, why is it not available in the iOS version? Quite simply, time. We hope to add configurability to a future release. We could have held the release for much longer to add configurability, but we figured that some parents will be OK with a fixed set of categories and it was worth releasing the first version with this simple functionality.

As for the specific categories blocked in this first version, we followed the Apple guidelines to recieve a 4+ rating on the app. We wanted to have a 4+ rating so that parents of all ages would feel comfortable putting it on their children's devices. We realize that it is a little more restrictive than it needs to be for teenagers, so it was a trade off.

Let me know if you have any questions. We hope you will continue to review Blue Coat products in the future.

Votes + Comments
thanks for the input
0

Hi John, thanks for the clarification. It's good to know that configuration controls are coming in future releases. I will keep my eyes open and once they are available will review the app again and revise the rating accordingly.

As you can probably tell, I'm actually a big fan of the K9 product and both of my younger kids (10 and 11) are happy to have it installed on their netbooks.

0

Nice review. I agree with Davey whereas I would keep such a limited product off my own iPad, though if any of my kids were old enough to have their own ipad i would certainly install this product for the time being (better than nothing) and eagerly await their updates.

I also want to thank John from Blue Coat for posting and getting involved with the community. I am certain the feedback is valuable both ways.

-1

I wonder whether kids do really need iphones or ipads.If they really require parents should always have a eagle eye on its usage by their kids.
I appreciate K9 for its wonderful features and thank author for its nice analysis.

-1

iPad or iPhone is really useful for kid's for the entertainment, Music, Images, movies. Kid's are not require porn. So it's lock or ban the Porn or unused-full data. Kid's require education related data, movies or images.

1

My opinion, porn is better for kids (I see your points but I have my own). Look, it is natural for kids to masterbate, whether you like it or not. Porn helps them, guys usally do it 8 times a week when they are kids. If you restrict porn then the kids will go off and do it with eachother... I mean this is just a lot worse (disaese, school grades droping, etc). Then you got other weird kids that are messed up enough to kill and rape for it. I mean.... you do not want this either.

Edited by mah300274: n/a

1

if you don't trust your kids to the point where you think you need stuff like this, you've no business giving them cellphones, tablets, or indeed any device with internet capabilities.

-1

Davey,

Good review - you may want to check out McGruff SafeGuard Child Safe Browser. McGruff - The Crime Dog - Take A Bite Out Of Crime - is known by most Americans from their childhood.

McGruff SafeGuard browser gives parents more flexibility - 60 categories to choose from, emails reports to parents, etc.

McGruff SafeGuard is in the App Store, with details at GoMcGruff.com/browser and GoMcGruff.com/BrowserVideo

-1

I love Apple & iOS and have an iPhone 4s and an iPad 2, but unfortunately EVEN with apps like K9, Mobicop, Safe Browse, Covenant Eyes, etc. and EVEN with all of Apple's 'Restrictions' disabling Safari and limiting what apps can be installed, the reality is that there are many, many apps (even currently many seemingly content-neutral ones like the Weather Channel app, for pete's sake) with built-in browsers where kids can instantly go anywhere and see any pornography on the web with NO filtering and No record at all of that taking place. What's the point of all these 'Parental Control' apps if they only make the parents think they have control, when almost always their more tech savvy children EASILY figure out how to bypass ALL of them without any record that happend! Now this isn't the fault AT ALL of any of the developers for these Parental Control apps, it's Apple's fault in creating a 'Restrictions' setting and then allowing in-app browsers in thousands and thousands of apps that completely negate those restrictions and make great apps like all the ones I listed above totally irrelevant.

To keep their kids from pornography (or other adult content like violence, adult language, etc.) many parents eventually figure this out and see that they can't purchase ANY apps with built-in browsers and that they have to delete EVERY single app they already have if it has a built-in browser anywhere in it. It doesn't make sense that Apple allows all these in-app browsers when:

1) Apps with built-in browsers completely ignore and neutralize Apple's browser 'Parental Controls' or 'Restrictions' settings.
2) This problem inevitably decreases app sales revenue, in-app purchases, and even advertising revenue because if these apps didn't create a potential problem for their kids, so many adult parents would definitely prefer to purchase, keep and use those apps for themselves rather than having to delete them from all the iOS devices their kids might play on at some point.
3) There are already a number of apps where, if Safari has been disabled in Apple's 'Restrictions' setting, when you click on an ad or on any live 'hyperlink' anywhere in the app it just doesn't do anything (except offer to 'copy' the hyperlink address into memory so that you can go paste into an email or text message).

Apple should just make 3) the app design standard and requirement and then great apps like K9, etc would be able to accomplish their purpose and Apple's promise of 'Parental Controls' or 'Restrictions' would become more than a false sense of security.

Edited by carpemanana: clarity

0

Apps like this cannot solve the problem. Parents need to communicate with their children and learn to trust them. Is this so difficult for you to understand, people?

also who goes to playboy.com to watch pr0n? I'd say it is pretty benign compared to... um. Forget what I said.

Edited by 3825: added reference to playboy.com

0

Hey open the K-9 browser and search for "Furry Bomb". I guarantee you that you will find porn in the browser.

0

Course k9 browser it sucks nuts you can't even use a att scanner this app sucks like a dick

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