CyberPatrol

CyberPatrol Review: Parental Control Software

Rating:
Bottom Line:
Poor blocklist, easy bypass, no chat monitoring, and confusing interface
Full Review:
CyberPatrol is another big name in parental control software. It boasts a much more customizable interface than Net Nanny, its better-known competitor. It has a number of good points, but also has some serious weaknesses.

There are definitely things we liked. Setup was very easy. CyberPatrol offers more user age-levels from child to adult, five of them to be exact. And there's a fair amount of customization too. It's easy to add words and websites to both the block and allow list. Unfortunately, the interface does feel a bit too cramped and muddled for our taste. There's also no search functionality in the activity viewer, meaning parents will spend a lot of time scanning a long list of URLs, looking for a specific website or keyword.



It's hard to go on giving CyberPatrol kudos when it failed in very obvious ways. Probably the most egregious is how easy it was for us to get around CyberPatrol. We were able to access pornographic sites through a number of common circumvention proxies. We were also surprised to see that CyberPatrol could not block any sites when we used Google's Chrome web browser. We were also able to receive emailed pornographic images from a Yahoo! group we joined (which, to be fair, necessitated lying about our age when creating the account).

Then there's the issue of the block list. CyberPatrol's block list is less conservative than it is dumb. It blocks image searches for "chicken breasts," but not for the first page of "bikini" results. We wouldn't have a problem with it allowing Google image searches for "bikini" if it didn't block "bikini" as a web search term (and inexplicably allow web searches for "chicken breasts"). While every parent will have their own opinions on how conservative a web filter should be, CyberPatrol's seemed rather strict for the Mature Teen setting. Among the searches that were blocked: "gay rights," "safe sex," "bikini," "KKK," "sex linked characteristics" and, rather inexplicably, "green." It's understandable when a block list fails on so-called gray queries (words that are ambiguous such as "breast" or "amateur"), but it's far too general with clean queries. It even displays an odd bit of sexism: allowing searches for the organs of one sex, but not the other.



There are other problems too. There's no built-in support for monitoring the more popular chat programs, so we could communicate age and location information between our two test accounts using Yahoo! Instant Messenger.

As we've pointed out in other reviews, when looking at software in this category, we try to take two viewpoints into account. On the one hand, the software should successfully block inappropriate content. On the other, a teen should be able to search for "clean" content without encumbrance. CyberPatrol fails on both accounts due to its overly broad block list and poor ability to deal with circumvention techniques. Given how much content it blocked at the Mature-Teen setting, we can't imagine what it would block on the Child setting, so it may have a use with users too young to figure out proxies and other circumvention techniques. Still, it's hard to recommend given all of its limitations.

System Requirements: Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 2000 Professional, 32-bit versions only

Compare to Other Parental Control Software


 
Service Details:

Cost:$39.95/yr for 3 PCs
Programs Monitored:IE, Firefox
Special Features:IM-level profanity masking; multiple configurable age groups
Social Network Monitoring:None
Reports/Alerts:Web history reports; does not record chat activity
Kid-Proof Rating:Poor: very open to circumvention

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CyberPatrol Forum Posts

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