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Net firm to launch PC security software

Net Nanny is set to unveil a computer security product that will let computer users secure files with encryption and password-protect access to programs, settings, and disc drives.

Net Nanny is set to unveil a computer security product that lets parents do more than put up roadblocks to their children's Web surfing.

PC Nanny, which the Net filtering company will begin shipping next week, will let computer users secure files with encryption and password-protect access to programs, settings, and disc drives.

The makers say it keeps children or other unwanted users from creeping into "off-limits" areas on a PC.

"We thought we should put something into consumers' hands that lets them take control of their data, protect it, and secure computers so kids can't get onto the parents' side of the hard drive," said Gordon Ross, the company's chief exective.

Net Nanny said that millions of people use its blocking software program and that it plans to pitch the $19.95 PC Nanny to them. The company is likely to bundle the products in the future.

With advocates as high as the White House calling for parents to use technology to bar minors' entry to the Net's red-light districts, Net Nanny and other filtering companies have gained both increased market share and criticism.

Civil liberties advocates in particular oppose government mandates for use of filters and say that many products screen out material that is protected by the First Amendment. The retail version of Net Nanny, however, does let customers review the lists of sites it blocks and allows them to personally tailor the sites they want to screen. Many competing products don't offer that feature.

But with PC Nanny, the company is expanding its reach to the computer security market.

To skirt regulatory red tape, PC Nanny uses a low-level, 40-bit encryption standard and doesn't include a "recovery" feature for when users lose their keys to unlock encrypted data.

"We didn't want to take on the responsibility and liability that comes with key recovery or [escrowing] the keys, but we're looking into it," Ross said.