It’s out there.

You don’t have to look hard or long to find it.

Sometimes it finds you.

We’re living in a “brave new world”.  The Internet impacts people’s world view, perhaps more than any invention in modern times.  It is a fascinating place, full of interesting information.  As a gigantic virtual community, it has “good neighborhoods”, “questionable neighborhoods”, and some that can only be considered “bad neighborhoods”.

Not only are there places whose content is inappropriate for children, but there is a growing threat from “MalWare”; malicious software–including viruses– that can cause unending grief.  The authors of MalWare are no longer teenage “geeks” competing with each other to see who is the brightest.  MalWare is now used by organized crime to steal personal information for a variety of purposes, including theft and bank fraud.  MalWare can also turn unsuspecting households into platforms for devastating network attacks–attacks whose purpose is to deny service to a target by overwhelming its Internet connection with traffic from hundreds of computers.

How can we protect ourselves and our children from stumbling upon inappropriate content?

Many protection options are available, and several of the best are free.

When our two eldest children were old enough to use the computer, we quickly realized that simply having the family computer in an open area of the house wasn’t enough.  It was too easy to mistype a web address–one of the favorite techniques the bad guys use to “lure” people to their content–and instantly be in one of the “bad neighborhoods”.  We needed to be sure that when we weren’t watching over their shoulders that someone was monitoring what our children were doing online.  We needed a technological guardian to assist us.

As the Information Security Officer for a major state government agency, I have firsthand knowledge of the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.  The bad guys are using sophisticated techniques to commit crimes, as well as make questionable material available.

We discovered Blue Coat Systems K9 Web Protection.  Blue Coat K9 Web Protection uses the Blue Coat Web Content Filter–long considered one of the leading protection systems for corporations.  The filter divides Internet content into over 50 categories. These categories are stored in a database, which maintains more than 15 million ratings of websites and domains.  Based on the content of a site, it will fall into one or more of these categories.  The K9 Web Protection software allows parents to configure the software to block or allow specific categories.  The software also logs attempts to access blocked sites, so parents can review their child’s browsing habits.

Blue Coat’s filtering database operates as a service.  It receives and rates over 80 million requests every day.  With that much rating activity each day, the Blue Coat filter is one of the most accurate in the industry.  This accuracy is the main reason that we chose K9, given the Internet’s rapid changes and growth.  A key feature of the software is that there is no database to download.  Because web requests from the computer are compared real-time to Blue Coat’s database, your protection is always up to date.

We understand that web filtering technology is only one facet of protection for our children.  Our involvement as parents is vital.  We have educated our children about the types of behavior to watch out for when they are browsing.  Knowing when to alert a parent to what they are reading or seeing is a vital part of any online protection strategy.  We periodically review the web filter logs on our computers so that we know what our children are doing online.

The K9 Web Protection software is available for free (yes, I said free) at  You will need to register at the K9 site to get a free activation code.  If you have more than one computer in your household, you can get multiple activation codes.  The software is available for Windows and Mac OS X.

For more information on keeping your children safe online, visit any (or all) of these excellent resources:

Thanks to Hodgepodgedad as the first to guest post here on Habits for a Happy Home. He also adds technical validity and Daddy savvy to his personal site,