Product Information

Paraben Porn Detection Stick

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by Nick Barron April 30, 2010
Vendor:

Paraben

Product:

Paraben Porn Detection Stick

Website:

http://www.paraben-sticks.com

Price

£65 + P&P

RATING BREAKDOWN

  • Features:
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  • Ease of Use:
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  • Performance:
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  • Documentation:
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  • Support:
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  • Value for Money:
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  • Overall Rating:
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QUICK READ

  • Strengths: Easy to use, accurate scanning, per-site licensing, extremely cost-effective product
  • Weaknesses: Some problems with anti-virus scanners, software on stick can be corrupted, no scanning of network drives
  • Verdict: Paraben Porn Detection Stick is a straightforward, effective and great value tool for detecting pornography on corporate systems

Pornography is a major concern for many corporate security departments. Besides the productivity issues involved, there are legal requirements to protect staff against offensive or sexually discriminatory material. A device to quickly and effectively scan a PC for pornographic images would be a welcome addition to many a business security toolkit.

Paraben is a company well known in the computer forensics field, with a range of well-respected investigation tools. It has recently introduced a number of standalone USB stick tools, one of which is the Porn Detection Stick, a 4GB USB stick preloaded with Paraben's software for detecting pornographic images.

On insertion to a machine, the software runs automatically if autorun is enabled, or alternatively it can be run manually by double-clicking the launcher.

During the review, there were a few minor problems with over-zealous anti-virus software identifying the software as possibly malicious, so before any corporate use of the Paraben product, it may be necessary to whitelist the Paraben applications.

The user interface is minimal; there are options to select what to scan (local and logical drives are supported, but not network mappings), update the device or amend the scan settings.

Settings include sensitivity, whether to scan for deleted files, check browser caches and 'blurring' the results image previews. This feature of the software 'blurs' any suspect images to reduce the risk of offending casual passers-by (see the illustration above).

Scanning is relatively quick, limited mainly by disk access speed. Image files are detected by contents, so that old ploy of renaming or removing file extensions has no effect on the scan, and deleted files can be checked if required, although this is not yet supported on Windows 7. The stick can be configured to scan silently in the background, if required, another useful feature.

Once complete, the scan summary shows suspect images as thumbnails for confirmation. If image blurring is enabled, a 'spyglass' view allows the suspect images to be viewed in full resolution. Images can be securely deleted if required, with a copy kept on the stick in the report folder.

Paraben's scanning algorithm is surprisingly effective, detecting the majority of the test images obtained from a range of internet sites. Without going into details, it is an 'equal opportunities' algorithm that does not discriminate against particular races or genders.

At low-sensitivity values, the false positive rate is lower, but there's more chance of missing pornographic images, whereas at higher values the false positive rate is much higher, but detection of genuine pornography is pretty much guaranteed.

During our testing, a setting of 80 provided equal false positive and false negative rates of around 20 per cent for the small test set of images (100 clean, 300 pornographic), and scanning a machine with nearly 30,000 clean images yielded a much lower false positive rate of three per cent.

In practice, this is not a major problem; it is very easy and quick to scan through a few hundred false positive images, and Paraben's automation means that scanning large file-sets is not only possible but actually quite a straightforward process.

There are also procedural advantages with using an automated recognition tool, as it means that scanning a user's machine is far less intrusive.

Support is very good, and during the short review period the product was updated with several new features. An online update facility automatically installs new software, and a low-cost annual subscription will provide ongoing updates after the first year.

The licence agreement is similarly generous, allowing use of the device in any number of machines owned by the same company at the same location.

There are a few gripes. Although the software can be updated online, it cannot be replaced if corrupted or deleted, whereas the use of a U3-style CD emulation would have made the software read-only for normal users.

The lack of support for network shares does mean that visiting each machine is required, although it is hard to criticise Paraben for this limitation, given the low cost of the device. Clever use of colour filtering and graphics effects can be used to fool the detection, but this is fairly extreme and anyone that keen to hide their images would probably not keep them on a company PC in the first place. Finally, it is a Windows-only product, which may be an issue for some corporate customers.

This is an efficient and extremely cost-effective tool for checking machines for pornographic images. With a generous licensing arrangement, simple user interface and the backing of one of the top names in forensics tools, it is impossible not to recommend it at this price point.
Nick Barron

SC Webcasts UK

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