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HomeSafe, the U.K.’s first and only network-level broadband security service provided by fixed broadband operator TalkTalk, is a parental control and anti-malware solution for all devices that use the home Internet connection, putting parents in charge of what their children can visit online and when.
Since its founding in 2002, TalkTalk has steadily grown into the U.K.’s leading value provider of fixed broadband and voice telephony services, serving some five million customers. TalkTalk’s customers are primarily households, where children are likely to be sharing the same Internet connection as their parents, and a lot of that time is unsupervised.
TalkTalk’s own Life Online study has shown that about half of children’s time online is unsupervised, and at least 14% of children aged 6-10 have encountered adult content on the Internet. Web attacks at home are also increasing. According to a Symantec report, the spam level in the U.K. in June 2012 was 67.2% and 1 in 210 emails was identified as malicious.
TalkTalk identified a need in the marketplace for a simple, effective security service for multiple device categories. They already offered a PC-based solution, provided by a third-party supplier and marketed as the Super Safe Boost, but given that the average TalkTalk home connects seven unique devices to the Internet a month, they realized that their customers needed a new kind of solution.
In early 2010, TalkTalk partnered with Huawei to jointly develop a solution that provides safer broadband access for homes, with parental control as the key element.
Huawei provided its Service Intelligence Gateway (SIG) solution, which can be deployed on a fixed (between the broadband remote access server and international gateway), mobile (at the Gi, Pi, or ASN-GW egress), or converged network. Its architecture is simple, consisting of a front end, back end, upgrade center, and cloud security center.
The front end is responsible for analysis, reporting, and policy enforcement, while the back end manages SIG systems, users, and policies. The back end automatically receives the latest knowledge base and URL classification statistics from the upgrade center and cloud security center, without service interruption, while providing SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) interfaces to enable/disable services and configure policies. Based on its interfaces, service providers can develop self-service portals by themselves or through Huawei, while operators can use the SIG to deliver AoS (Alert of Security) messages to customers.
Huawei’s SIG solution facilitates the launch of value-added services such as parental control. Through the operator’s portal, parents can subscribe to or cancel their service plans, and enable/disable/configure their online policy at will. Parents can also restrict access to online gaming and social networking sites at specified times of the day, helping to keep distractions during homework time to a more manageable level.
In May 2011, TalkTalk officially launched its HomeSafe solution (which integrates Huawei’s SIG platform). TalkTalk provides three primary parental control/network security functions through HomeSafe. The first is dubbed Kids Safe, and allows parents to choose websites for blocking by category, including those devoted to dating, drugs, alcohol, file sharing, gambling, gaming, and pornography; blocked websites can also be self-defined by filling the web address in a box. Homework Time allows parents to set a timeframe during which children cannot access online gaming and social networking, while the last function, Virus Alerts, blocks access to infectious websites.
HomeSafe is now a key differentiator in TalkTalk’s service lineup, having made the operator the first in Great Britain to provide network-level broadband security as well as the first to support government efforts to provide what the U.K. government calls active choice where customers are prompted to set up parental controls when signing up for broadband. It has also helped the operator win two industry awards for innovation and network security.
With a claim to being the U.K.’s safest broadband connection, HomeSafe is gaining increased popularity among customers. Eight weeks after launch, it attracted over 100,000 customers and since TalkTalk introduced this active choice, roughly one in three new customers has chosen to use the parental controls. Less than a year and half after launch (May 9, 2012), HomeSafe users hit over 500,000, and this number is expected to reach one million by March 2013.