The Official Net Nanny Blog

Connected Toys Are the Weak Security Link

“Internet of Things” and “smart homes” are the latest trends to see a major upswing in the world today.

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Over the last 12 years of my career I have worked in the Content Filtering, Internet Security and parental control segments of the technology market. I have seen many "free" solutions announced, then launched, then sputter, and finally die or become irrelevant. Although I am not a marketing expert, I do have an informed opinion about the reasons for the majority of these Epic Failures.

Good vs Free

Over the last 12 years of my career I have worked in the Content Filtering, Internet Security and parental control segments of the technology market.

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Today I would like to talk about an underappreciated feature: the white and black URL list. Here is a brief description of what it is and ideas on how to use it.

White/Black Lists: A Parenting Friend

Today I would like to talk about an underappreciated feature: the white and black URL list.

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As a teenager I read a science fiction book about a digital encyclopedia created in the future. It contained every scrap of information humanity had come up with. It made learning sound amazing since with a press of a button one would have everything ever written on a given subject. I was in love with the idea.

The Faster Future of Learning

As a teenager I read a science fiction book about a digital encyclopedia created in the future. It contained every scrap of information humanity had come up with.

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Finding out your child has accessed porn or an adult site can be quite the moment. There are so many feelings that come out of it. What did I do wrong? Where did I go wrong? Where did he go wrong? There is no good answer on this one. What we do next when this happens is the hardest part. 

Reasons why parents don't take action

Finding out your child has accessed porn or an adult site can be quite the moment. There are so many feelings that come out of it.

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By definition, "cyberbullying" is any electronic communication, phone or Internet, that threatens or demeans. Research on this topic reveals some alarming statistics.

Monitoring for Cyberbullying Can Save Your Child

By definition, "cyberbullying" is any electronic communication, phone or Internet, that threatens or demeans. Research on this topic reveals some alarming statistics.

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I have heard dozens of opinions about the need, or lack thereof, for content filtering in the work place. I have heard the side of, "We are all adults here," and "We expect our employees to exercise restraint while in the work place." I have actually talked to company CEO's that have said, "As long as they have their office door closed we don't care what they do on the Internet."

Need for Content Filtering at work?

I have heard dozens of opinions about the need, or lack thereof, for content filtering in the work place.

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Grooming is a process child predators use to desensitize potential victims and to eventually trick them into meeting in person. Grooming most often begins in a chat room. The predator often poses as someone who can better relate to the person (such as a teenager of the same age). Other times they are honest about their age but instead put on a show of sympathy about the child/teenager.

Net Nanny has a great tool whereby a parent can receive alerts if a child has an instant messaging or chat conversation in which a stranger uses grooming language. In fact, this tool recently helped a mother in New York discover that her teenage daughter was being sexually abused by an online predator. You can read about how Net Nanny helped catch a predator HERE.

Net Nanny provided this mother with incontrovertible proof that her daughter was being abused. Hence, she was quick to contact the police and take aggressive action. But, what if the proof wasn't so incontrovertible? What if, after viewing the Net Nanny alerts, she just had a hunch her daughter was being groomed? Where would she go? Who would she tell? Would the police give her the time of day? This ambivalence, which is common among unsure parents, can be dangerous. The following are two resources you can use to easily and quickly report a potential child predator.

Tool 1: Web Browser Pedophile Reporter Plugin
This web browser plugin can be easily installed in all the popular web browsers on Mac and Windows computers. When installed, it places a small button at the top right of your web browser. When you're on a profile page of the individual you think is grooming your child, you click the button and it sends the webpage to an investigator. It also opens up an email you can put additional information in to send on to the investigator. It is simple enough to use that you could teach your child how to use it, so they can send up an immediate report if they feel grooming is occurring.

Tool 2: The Child Predator CyberTipline
This tool, while not as easy to use as the web browser plugin mentioned above, is backed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It provides a very detailed reporting tool that forwards your tips on to law enforcement.

It is important to remember, that these reporting methods should only be used to report "potential" child predators. If you have any evidence that child grooming is occuring, you need to contact your local law enforcement immediately. If they don't take any action on your report, take it to a higher level and contact your local FBI offices.

Not Reporting Potential Child Predators is Dangerous

Grooming is a process child predators use to desensitize potential victims and to eventually trick them into meeting in person. Grooming most often begins in a chat room.

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About a decade ago, something new came online. It was called Napster and it allowed normal people to easily share files online. It's what is called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing. One person shares a file   and others that download that file share it too, making it easier and easier to find. And it's nearly impossible to tell who is actually sharing them. Today there are a number of Peer-to-Peer networks. Some businesses even use them to distribute files.

Unfortunately, so do people that are sharing porn, software, music, movies, and other files illegally. It's hard to stop because there isn't just one computer that law enforcement needs to shut down- it's all over the world. And its doubly difficult to stop since it's so difficult to tell who is sharing it.

Net Nanny can block these Peer-to-Peer downloads to your computer. Here are four reasons why you should enable that functionality:

  1. Pornography and Other Objectionable Material- Trying to fly under the radar, many people search for and share pornography via Peer-to-Peer networks. They count on the anonymity P2P networks provide to continue their addiction.
  2. Malware- It's an established fact that a large portion of files shared this way are actually malware that will take over your computer if you run them. Sometimes, hackers will just play havoc with your computer. Other times they will quietly start using your computer to help hack into other computers or engage in other illegal activities online. This type of attack can work whether you're using Windows, Mac OS X, or any other operating system.
  3. Lawsuits- If you download software, music, or movies that you don't own, you open yourself up to lawsuits from the companies that own them. And when I say you, I mean anyone using your Internet connection. The MPAA, RIAA, BSA and others are extremely active in protecting their content. Do a search for RIAA + lawsuit and you'll see how active they are. Regardless of how you feel about whether they ought to, they can and do.
  4. Simple Honesty- Whether you believe in the moral need to be honest or simply appreciate honesty in those around you, most of us don't go around taking things that don't belong to us. If you own a business, you wouldn't want customers stealing your products or services rather than paying for them. And if you have a family, you want them to do well in life- not make it a habit to steal. Taking music, movies, or software via Peer-to-Peer file-sharing is easy and in many ways anonymous. But just because the theft is easy doesn't make it right.

Protect your home and business from the consequences of illegal file-sharing today. In Windows, go to the Net Nanny Admin Tools, choose Additional settings under Filtering, and make sure 'Allow Access to Peer-to-Peer' is unchecked. Click 'OK' to save your settings. In Net Nanny for Mac, on the main screen click 'Others' on the far right of the toolbar and make sure 'Block peer-to-peer' is checked.

One more way we're watching out for you!

Four Reasons To Block Illegal File-sharing

About a decade ago, something new came online. It was called Napster and it allowed normal people to easily share files online. It's what is called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing.

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Parents have a natural instinct to keep their kids out of harm's way. Most parents would not house a stranger, adult film star or the school bully. It wouldn't be logical. Yet, that is what parents are doing when they don't make the Internet safe for their children.

It is wise to put Internet safety precautions in place to protect children online. The problem is, kids sometimes seem to have a technological advantage over their parents and can often find ways around Internet safety measures put in place. In fact, your children may already be aware of loopholes allowing them to circumvent house Internet rules, both on your home computer and on their smartphone.

In honor of June being Internet Safety Month I've listed six loopholes that parents need to be concerned about when their child gets online:

  • Using proxy websites, web pages within a web page that allow teens to circumvent web filters and anonymously surf the web.
  • Children can use peer-to-peer sharing to download content that may be infected with inappropriate content or viruses that can aid predators in finding your child's location or in hacking your identity.
  • Wikis and blogs are comprised of user-generated content that can have objectionable content and can't be monitored in real-time by most web filters.
  • Parents that allow their children to use Facebook may not know that their children can create Facebook aliases they can't see or find.
  • Giving children access to a computer with open administrator rights is a common mistake — this will allow them to potentially uninstall web-filtering or other software.
  • Using a website's IP address to bypass a web filter is an easy way to gain access to inappropriate web pages. Most web filters do not block IP addresses and they can be found simply by doing a Google search.

Apart from being aware of these loopholes there are many precautions that families can take to minimize the risk placed on children and teenagers using the Internet. Some ideas parents can implement in their homes include:

  • Keep the home computer in a place visible to the whole family.
  • Set clear house rules on computer/phone time usage, viewable web pages and other guidelines that you may feel are applicable to your family.
  • Password-protect any computers that may be used by children.
  • Tell children to avoid chat rooms and forums that may lead to cyber bullying or Internet predators.
  • Talk to your children about not giving out any personal information online for any reason.
  • Use strong web filtering software such as Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com).
  • Monitor the web browser's history to look for inappropriate web pages.
  • Instruct children not to respond to emails or chats that may seem inappropriate, violent or unfamiliar.
  • Create an open dialogue where children can feel free to talk about things they see online.
  • Know if your children are using other computers away from the home.
  • Teach the family about never meeting someone in person that they met online first.

Beware of Loopholes in Internet Safety

Parents have a natural instinct to keep their kids out of harm's way. Most parents would not house a stranger, adult film star or the school bully. It wouldn't be logical.

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Good Android tablets seem to be MIA. Many big name companies showed tablets at the CES event in Las Vegas last January but have either put their Android tablet on hold or have removed it from their product lineup all together. One key reason could be that consumers aren't buying, and demand is really weak. Who can afford to sell something people don't want?

Where are all the "good" Android Tablets?

Good Android tablets seem to be MIA. Many big name companies showed tablets at the CES event in Las Vegas last January but have either put their Android tablet on...

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