Develop a parental controls web filtering offering as a feature of an endpoint security suite (current suite includes antivirus and spam filtering) to improve competitive positioning and product differentiation. Provide extensive website coverage for the global user base, together with web threat protection, as well as a customized “parental controls” category set, across a family of Windows-based PC platforms.
Desktop AntiVirus leader with over 20 million users worldwide (“AntiVirus Provider”)
Add parental controls web filtering on family of Windows™-based endpoint security suites
“The zveloDB® offering provided us the best web filtering coverage, malicious protection and accuracy with the perfect set of categories for the consumer market, including child appropriate, mature, adult and web threats.”
– Senior Vice President of Technology, AntiVirus Provider
The AntiVirus Provider was starting to lag behind the industry in product reviews due to shortcomings in the endpoint security suite, notably the lack of web filtering capabilities. Additionally, the AntiVirus Provider was seeing renewal rates falling and channel/retailer feedback growing increasingly negative as the core endpoint security product was viewed as losing its competitive edge for a variety of reasons.
The product review and channel/customer feedback identified the following web filtering requirements for the endpoint security suite:
- Simple, Intuitive Parental Controls Categories – the need for a simple, intuitive category management interface with a dozen key categories, such as child friendly, mature, adult, malicious, etc. to allow for easy user administration.
- Zero-Hour Gap Protection for Malicious Websites – the need to provide users with protection against malicious websites during the coverage “gap” that exists between the time when a website is infected and when the AntiVirus Provider provides an anti-malware signature for the endpoint security suite.
- Strong Adult Website Coverage – the consumer/family market segment targeted by the AntiVirus Provider requires superior coverage for adult, porn, mature and similar websites.
- Performance – a lightweight web filtering implementation was required to eliminate any excessive loads on the PCs, which spanned several generations of Windows implementations.
The market feedback convinced the AntiVirus Provider of the need to introduce a parental controls filtering service and to bring the offering to market before the critical holiday season.
“We had the parental controls application design in hand, but were faced with the challenge of finding the right partner with the right web database technology who could support our aggressive implementation and launch schedule. Importantly, we identified the need for a partner with proven database technology and track record in supporting their business partners.”
– Senior Vice President of Technology, AntiVirus Provider
The zvelo Solution
Following the decision to bring the parental controls offering to market as part of the endpoint security suite, the AntiVirus Provider embarked on a thorough evaluation of the top URL database vendors. The AntiVirus Provider’s evaluation criteria included:
- Simple Parental Controls Category Set – a determination as to whether the vendor had the ability to “map” their category set to the dozen easy-to-manage categories required for the Parental Controls offering.
- Adult Website Coverage – an evaluation of the respective vendors’ URL database coverage compared with the Alexa™ global 100,000 list was conducted, with a particular emphasis on adult and porn website coverage, using a variety of lists for such websites.
- Malicious Website Detection – an evaluation of the vendors’ coverage and detection abilities of malicious websites was performed, using feeds from several sources including Phishtank™ (for phishing and fraud websites), IWF™ (for child sex exploitation websites), and a range of internal/external sources for websites identified as hosting spyware, malware or other threats. Additionally, specific tests were conducted to determine the ability of the vendor to provide the critically-important zero-hour coverage gap for newly identified malicious websites.
- Accuracy – an evaluation of the URL database accuracy was conducted, with an in-depth analysis of the Alexa top 1,000 URLs and 1,000 randomly selected URLs in the Alexa top 100,000 list.
- Speed to categorize new URLs – an evaluation was conducted by submitted new URLs to determine the speed at which new URLs were categorized and added to the URL database.
- Response time to handle Miscats – an evaluation was conducted by submitting miscategorized URLs to determine the time it took the vendor to research and correct a miscategorized URL.
- Deployment Option – an evaluation was performed to measure the impact of the “client” database software running on the Windows PC, and to assess the vendor’s abilities to optimize a local cache database to balance URL query speed with load on the PC.
- Performance – testing was conducted to determine the time required to perform a URL query both in the local cache database on the PC, as well as to the vendor’s cloud network.
- Scaling – an assessment was made of the vendor’s ability to handle the volume of URL queries in its data center(s) anticipated for the rollout of the Parental Controls offering to the AntiVirus Provider’s user base.
At the end of the three month evaluation process, the AntiVirus Provider selected zvelo as having the best technical and business strengths to provide the URL database for the Parental Controls offering.
“zvelo superiority in coverage and zero-hour protection really stood out during the evaluation process. Additionally, zvelo was unique in its ability to map the 144 categories of the zveloDB to exactly the category set we required, as well as demonstrating a proven track record for supporting partners with aggressive implementation schedules. Further, zvelo was able to provide a lightweight SDK for a handful of different Windows platforms, which really sealed the relationship.”
– Senior Vice President, AntiVirus Provider
At the conclusion of the evaluation, theAntiVirus Provider finalized implementation of the lightweight zveloDB SDK on a range of legacy and current Windows-based offerings, using the zveloNET® cloud for real-time URL lookups not found in the local cache database.
AntiVirus Provider’s Parental Controls Offering
The AntiVirus Provider introduced its Parental Controls offering in time for the critical holiday season as a component of its endpoint security suite, with users gaining the capability upon installation of the latest version of the software.
Once a user installed and enabled the Parental Controls, they were able to simply click on the categories they wished to have blocked and begin surfing the web. When the user requests a website, the Parental Controls application makes a query to the lightweight zveloDB SDK running on the user’s PC which has a cache of the user’s most recently and/or frequently accessed URLs and their categories.
If the URL is in the local cache, the URL’s category value is returned to the Parental Controls application and the user is blocked or allowed access to the requested website based on their category blocking preferences. If the URL is not in the local cache, the URL is then immediately queried to the zveloNET Master Database (e.g. the “zvelo Cloud”) where, if the URL is found, the category value is returned to the requesting Parental Controls application/PC and the appropriate block or allow decisions are made.
If, however, the user requests access to a website and the URL is not found in the above-mentioned query process, the URL is immediately processed by the zveloNET real-time AutoCat systems to determine the appropriate category (up to 5 categories) and to identify if the website is infected, compromised or contains any type of threat. The URL and its categories are then added to the zveloNET Master Database and available for any subsequent queries from any zvelo customer.
This solution provides a simple-to-manage set of Parental Controls categories, extensive coverage of the ActiveWeb* sites visited by users, with particular strengths in blocking adult-oriented websites and coverage for the critical zero-hour gap for malicious websites.
Ease of Integration
One of the main decision criteria for the AntiVirus Provider was the ability to implement a lightweight SDK across a variety of Windows platforms, including 32 and 64 bit systems. zvelo was able to quickly provide the required mix of 32 and 64 bit Windows-based SDKs with a lightweight cache database implementation that emphasized the need for a minimal impact on the load of the user’s PC.
The resulting zveloDB SDK was designed to optimize the use of RAM available on the PC, increasing or decreasing the use of RAM automatically based on the load of the PC and the memory/resource requirements of other applications running on the PC. With a simple API implementation to the zveloNET cloud, the Parental Controls offering could be implemented and deployed in an extremely low impact fashion.
“We were particularly concerned about keeping the load and impact on the user’s PC to a minimum, as we felt this could be a significant competitive advantage for users and in product reviews. We were very happy with the resulting lightweight SDK implementation by zvelo. It surpassed our expectations in terms of performance and minimal impact.”
– CTO, AntiVirus Provider
The zveloDB’s unique “category mapping” provided the AntiVirus Provider with the precise category set required a simple, intuitive Parental Controls offering. Additionally, by providing 99.99% coverage of the ActiveWeb sites visited by users, the AntiVirus Provider had the comfort of knowing users in every part of the world would have effective website blocking as required, particularly for adult websites. For product reviewers, the AntiVirus Provider was able to deliver an endpoint security suite that moved from lagging the pack to leading the pack in terms of features, with important zero-hour gap coverage for malicious websites and a very lightweight implementation for superior testing and benchmarking performance. Additionally, zvelo provides an API to automate end-user submissions of any miscats for immediate research and response by the zvelo quality assurance team of Web Analysts, eliminating customer support overhead for the AntiVirus Provider.
The AntiVirus Provider’s Parental Controls offering was introduced in time for the all-important holiday season and immediately produced positive results, increasing sales of the endpoint security suite, increasing renewal rates, as well as increasing the rate at which users upgraded their software to the latest version, resulting in reduced technical support costs for older versions.
Channel and customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the AntiVirus Provider was requested to expand web filtering offerings to other products in its portfolio.
“We thought it would be impossible to find everything we were looking for in a single company. However, zvelo has met and exceeded our all of our technical and business criteria. The zveloDB has proven to be the right solution from the right partner.”
– CTO, AntiVirus Provider
*ActiveWeb – those websites visited by actual users.