Private eye

Record text, Web sites, keywords, screen shots, and more with this nosy program.

Scheming teenagers, wayward spouses, and other sneaky computer users sometimes inspire someone to keep an eye on them. BlackBox Security Monitor Express can do this task for you, keeping track of the Web sites, keywords, and text that are entered by each computer user. Whether or not you should be snooping is something we'll refrain from weighing in on; all we'll say is that this program works.

The program's interface is plain and pretty easy to figure out. A wizard walks you through the process of selecting which users or computers are to be monitored; these can be local or remote. Then you select exactly what you want to monitor. Are you looking to see whether a particular keyword is used or if a particular Web site is visited? BlackBox Security Monitor can tell you that. Do you need to know if a particular program is launched, or when network traffic crosses a certain threshold? BlackBox Security Monitor can tell you that, too. It can also take screen captures, record all the text that's typed, and record Web searches, e-mails, and chats. It runs invisibly, with not even an icon in the system tray that might alert someone to its presence. Overall, we were quite impressed with BlackBox Security Monitor and the amount of information that it collects, but it wasn't perfect. One of its most notable features is the ability to send e-mail and text message alerts when certain keywords or Web sites have been detected, but we never were able to get this feature to work. The built-in Help file didn't provide enough guidance or troubleshooting assistance. But even without that feature, the program is still easy to recommend; it's more thorough than many similar programs we've seen.

BlackBox Security Monitor Express installs a desktop icon without asking but uninstalls cleanly.

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