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Parental Control Review 2015 – ESET Smart Security

Date August 2015
Language English
Last Revision September 14th 2015

Parental Control Test August 2015


Release date 2015-09-15
Revision date 2015-09-14
Test Period August 2015
Number of Testcases 1200
Online with cloud connectivity checkbox-checked
Update allowed checkbox-checked
False Alarm Test included checkbox-checked
Platform/OS Microsoft Windows

Introduction

In today’s world, even young children commonly use Internet-connected devices. Parents who are concerned about what their children may find online can use parental control software to restrict their access. A common feature of parental control products is web-category filtering. This allows parents to block websites relating to topics they feel are inappropriate for the child, such as pornography, drugs or violence. Some products may contain additional features such as time limits for computer or Internet use, monitoring of the child’s online activities, and restrictions on usage of particular apps. Before employing a parental control product, parents are advised to check that it includes whatever web-filtering categories and other features they deem appropriate.

We must stress that no software product can ever be a substitute for parental advice. Parents should always talk to their children about the dangerous and worrying things in life. Amongst other reasons, children will in all probability get to use unrestricted devices at some stage, e.g. when visiting friends, and will then be free to explore as they please.

We also strongly advise parents who decide to use parental control software to ensure that it is appropriately configured and working as intended on all relevant devices. This can be done by searching for some websites in categories that should be blocked, to see if these can be accessed. If time restrictions have been set, the parent should attempt to use the computer/Internet at a time when usage has been forbidden. If the child has his or her own account on a computer, parents need to log on with the child’s account to ensure that monitoring and filtering are being applied as expected. In most cases, simply installing a parental control product, or security suite with a parental control component, will not have any effect; the software has to be configured in line with the parent’s requirements and applied to all account(s) that the child has access to. We suggest contacting the vendor’s technical support service if parents are unsure how to use the product.

About this review

In this review, we have attempted to answer the following questions about the product:

  • Which versions of Windows does it work with?
  • What features does the product provide?
  • Which categories of website can be blocked?
  • Is it easy to install and configure?
  • Does it work with common browsers, i.e. Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome, and Firefox?
  • Could a child bypass the software by using the Google Cache or Google Translate?
  • What does the child see when restrictions are applied, e.g. when a web page is blocked?
  • What help features are available?

Tested Products

Test Procedure

Using AV-Comparatives’ unique Real-World testing environment, we have tested the product’s ability to recognise and block 1,000 websites with pornographic content, and a miscellaneous group with a further 200 sites in the following categories: abortion-related; alcohol sales; creationist (anti-evolution) cults; sale and use of cannabis; online gambling sites; hate sites (e.g. racist or homophobic); web proxies (which allow parental control products to be bypassed); sites encouraging suicide or advising how to do it; online tobacco shops; online weapons sales. Before testing, we configured the product as accurately as possible to block the websites in the test categories. We have additionally tested for false alarms, using 50 specifically child-friendly sites.

Test Results

In our URL filtering test, Smart Security blocked 99.8% of pornography sites, and 89% of other sites, with a high block rate in all individual sub-categories.

  • Abortion 80%
  • Alcohol 100%
  • Cults 85%
  • Drugs 95%
  • Gambling 89%
  • Hate 83%
  • Proxies 85%
  • Suicide 69%
  • Tobacco 100%
  • Weapons 100%

In terms of false positives, it blocked 7 out of 50 child-friendly sites.

 

Product Reviews

ESET Smart Security – GUI

System requirements

Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, Windows Home Server 2003, 2011

Nature of the program

ESET Smart Security is a full security suite, featuring antimalware, antispam, theft protection and a firewall, in addition to the parental control component.

Parental control features

Smart Security includes Web content filtering and Internet-activity monitoring.

Installation and configuration

Installing the program requires the user to accept a licence agreement, decide whether to detect potentially unwanted programs, and whether to join ESET’s data-sharing scheme. A prompt also asks the user to define the current network as private or public, and decide whether to set up the anti-theft feature.

To configure the parental control feature, the parent clicks on Setup in the left-hand column of the program window, then Parental control and sets this to Enabled. A list of Windows user accounts is then shown:

Parental Control

Clicking on the child’s username brings up a prompt for the child’s age. When this has been entered, the feature becomes operational, with the default filtering settings for that age being applied. We note that filtering of https websites needs to be enabled separately; this is done by clicking Enable in the relevant section of the page at the top. To see and customise the list of categories filtered by the program, the parent clicks on the Setup link which appears next to the child’s account name when the feature has been activated. This opens the following dialog:

Web filtering categories

Web filtering Categories

Not categorised, not resolved, lifestyle, finance and money, organisations/government/legal, games, professional, IT, education, communication/social networking, art/entertainment, search engines/portals, recreations/sport/hobby, security/malware, criminal/questionable, for children, fashion/beauty, health/medical, information technology, maps, news, government/institutions, wikis, fitness/recreation, email/SMS, entertainment, weapons, shopping, religion/philosophy, recreation/sport, nudity, jobs/properties, IM/chat/forums, file downloading, content servers, business services, pharmacy/health, alcohol/tobacco, file sharing, alternative religion and occult, online marketing, adult content, criminal/drugs, gambling, miscellaneous, violence and hate.

Browser Test

In our test, we found that the software worked identically with Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Web-filtering test results

In our URL filtering test, Smart Security blocked 99.8% of pornography sites, and 89% of other sites, with a high block rate in all individual sub-categories.

  • Abortion 80%
  • Alcohol 100%
  • Cults 85%
  • Drugs 95%
  • Gambling 89%
  • Hate 83%
  • Proxies 85%
  • Suicide 69%
  • Tobacco 100%
  • Weapons 100%

In terms of false positives, it blocked 7 out of 50 child-friendly sites.

Using Google services as a bypass

When we attempted to bypass the filter using the Google cache, the cached page was blocked. However, using Google Translate, we were able to see blocked sites, both in translation and in the original English.

What does the child see when a page is blocked?

Blocked website

Clicking Show Details displays the category of blocked material that the website is considered to belong to.

Blacklisting/whitelisting

To blacklist or whitelist an entry, the parent clicks Blocked and allowed web pages tab in the Parental Control dialog box, types in the web address, selects Allow or Block as appropriate, and then Add:

Black-/Whitelisting of websites

Monitoring

A list of websites blocked by the program can be seen by clicking on Tools in the main program window, then Logs, and setting the dropdown list at the top to Filtered websites:

Filtered websites

Help

Clicking on Help and Support in the left-hand pane of the main program window, then Open Help opens the local help window. This has comprehensive text instructions for all the features of the suite, illustrated with screenshots:

Help

The Help and support page of the main-window also has a link to the ESET knowledge base, which provides instructions for specific tasks, generously illustrated with annotated screenshots. Finally, there is a comprehensive 120-page manual with detailed descriptions of all the features and their use, also very well illustrated.

Verdict

ESET Smart Security’s parental control features are limited to web filtering and monitoring, but we feel it does these very well. We found it to be straightforward to configure, with excellent help facilities. The list of categories is extensive but not excessive, whilst the pre-defined age groups are helpful in making a selection for a child of a particular age. In our web-filtering test, it was very effective at blocking sites in all categories. We have one suggestion for improvement, namely to prevent the use of Google Translate to bypass the filter.

Award levels reached in this Parental Control Review

As ESET Smart Security performed competently in our test and is easy to use, we are happy to give it our Approved Parental Control Product award.

APPROVED
ESETAPPROVED

Copyright and Disclaimer

This publication is Copyright © 2015 by AV-Comparatives ®. Any use of the results, etc. in whole or in part, is ONLY permitted after the explicit written agreement of the management board of AV-Comparatives prior to any publication. AV-Comparatives and its testers cannot be held liable for any damage or loss, which might occur as result of, or in connection with, the use of the information provided in this paper. We take every possible care to ensure the correctness of the basic data, but a liability for the correctness of the test results cannot be taken by any representative of AV-Comparatives. We do not give any guarantee of the correctness, completeness, or suitability for a specific purpose of any of the information/content provided at any given time. No one else involved in creating, producing or delivering test results shall be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damage, or loss of profits, arising out of, or related to, the use or inability to use, the services provided by the website, test documents or any related data.

For more information about AV-Comparatives and the testing methodologies, please visit our website.

AV-Comparatives
(September 2015)