We test the Paraben Porn Detection Stick: does it really work?

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We test the Paraben Porn Detection Stick: does it really work?

Have you ever wondered what your spouse does at night while supposedly "checking emails"? Do your kids frequently use the family PC behind closed doors? Is one of your employees under constant suspicion for inappropriate computer use? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, you need to get Paraben’s Porn Detection Stick on the case.    

The Porn Detection Stick is a new gadget from a computer forensic firm that does exactly what it says on the tin. Resembling a normal USB thumb drive, it connects to a PC and conducts a scan for pornographic content – wherever it may be hiding.

Using advanced image analysing algorithms, it is capable of indentifying facial features, flesh tone colors, image backgrounds and body parts that are potentially pornographic (albeit with mixed results, which we’ll get to in a moment). Once the scan has finished, the program creates a detailed report for the user, complete with copies of the offending images.

The Porn Detection Stick resembles a normal USB thumb drive.

The Porn Detection Stick leaves no trace on the target machine and requires no software to install. In addition to .jpg files, over 15 image formats are supported (PNG, RAS, TIFF, TIF, GIF, TGA, BMP, WBMP, JP2, JPC, ICO, PCX, WMF, PGX, DIB, and PNM). At present, only images are detected, but Paraben is working on an update that will also scan for pornographic videos

To use the Porn Detection Stick you plug it into an available USB port and select an option from the window interface. You can elect to do a full scan, or choose individual hard drives and folders.

The scanning software is also capable of detecting deleted images and Internet cache files. "This means even if Internet Explorer cache files are deleted, many images can still be recovered and scanned for pornography," Paraben cheerfully explains.

Once a scan has been completed, the offending images are sent to one of three self-explanatory folders – ‘Low Suspect’, ‘Suspect’ and ‘High Suspect’. Multiple results are stored in their own subfolders with the computer's name and the acquisition time/date.

From here, users can enlarge the thumbnails for a closer look, follow the path to where the images are stored or delete them from the hard drive. Amusingly, there’s also an option to ‘blur’ the thumbnails, so as not to offend delicate sensibilities.

 

The Porn Detection Stick Report Page

 

To test the Porn Detection Stick, we trawled Google Image for pics of models in scantily-clad attire and saved them to our PC’s hard drive (the things we do for our readers).

We found that the Paraben Porn Detection Stick seemed to be a little inaccurate or overzealous when it came to uncovering porn. Paraben claims that only 0.07% of images on a system will be flagged as ‘false positives’ (i.e. normal photos that have been incorrectly flagged as pornographic). We think this may be a somewhat generous estimate.

In our test, the program flagged 237 images as Highly Suspect, 228 as Suspect and 1702 as Low Suspect. Of these images, only seven were vaguely pornographic in nature (the aforementioned models). The Highly Suspect folder included such innocuous imagery as a dinner plate, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v and a photo of Julia Gillard!

If nothing else, this makes for a fun Rorschach-style guessing game, in which you attempt to work out what each innocent image is supposed to resemble. A lot of spherical objects tend to slip through the net, along with innocent flesh-baring pics, such as pictures of babies.

Somewhat worringly, the Porn Detection Stick used up its entire 4GB capacity before completing our first scan. In other words, there could still have been pornographic images lurking on the hard drive that remained undetected.

Some examples of 'highly suspect' images found on our computer (incidentally, we have no idea why there was a picture of a giant moustache on our hard drive).

To be fair to Paraben, you can tweak the search sensitivity in the settings (we had it on 75/100 – a lower number will return fewer false positives). It’s also worth noting that there wasn’t anything truly offensive on our computer, so it’s possible the program was overcompensating. In any event, it's easier to sift through a couple of hundred "false positives" than an entire hard drive of images.

The Porn Detection Stick retails for $129 and is aimed primarily at business institutions, schools and parents. Presumably, some people might also use it to track down hard-to-find folders in their porn collection.

It's worth noting that the Pareben Porn Detection Stick is designed to catch people who aren't doing much to cover their tracks. The software isn't sophisticated enough to infiltrate encrypted partitions, for example. In other words, if a suspected porn fiend knows their way around a computer, you might have a tough time uncovering their collection.

Apart from this one caveat, the Pareben Porn Detection Stick is an ideal solution for anyone concerned about pornography on their computer. With an RRP of $129, it is perhaps slightly overpriced, but remains a reasonable proposition.

To order the Porn Detection Stick or learn more about the product, visit the Australian Paraben website.

Paraben Porn Detection Stick
4 6
Verdict
Search for unwanted or hidden porn on Windows PCs with this sophisticated scanning software.
Accuracy
Value for money
Ease of use
Overall
Specs
$129
• Paraben
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