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.

Read full post

A few recent articles discuss CTIA's call for a unified "rating" system for mobile apps. Note: CTIA is the Cellular Telecommunications Internet Association, a nonprofit that includes wireless carriers and suppliers of wireless data products and services.  The articles are informative and interesting but the rating system is still in discussion phase.

Rating systems are a practical method to help set expectations. Most are familiar with the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system for movies (NR, R, PG-13, PG, and G) and perhaps somewhat less familiar with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) system of rating video games. 

The mobile app rating initiative is a noble venture. Parents would be enabled to make educated decisions about the apps their children want. Even though most app markets have a version of content ratings, the system needs improvement. For example, in the Android market, you won't see a content rating until you tap the “More drop-down box to get a complete description of the app. Unless a parent is conscious of its location, a rating will go unnoticed. I wasn't even aware of these ratings until I read an article discussing the new system.  I consider myself fairly informed, too.

The nice thing about the MPAA and ESRB is that when kids go get to a point of sale at the movie theater or retail store, they should be stopped by the clerk prior to purchasing mature content.  In the world of smartphones and tablets, however, there is no one waiting at checkout asking for proof of age.

More important is the issue that unless app management software is installed on a smartphone, a parent won't truly know what apps are installed. Consumers are likely to revolt if asked to indicate their age somehow on their device. This is due to privacy concerns, and even recent lawsuits against Google and Apple regarding location tracking.

A unified rating system would be well received but given the complexity of enforcing the rules, it would seem impossible to protect identities and block mature content without the aid of some type of smartphone app manager.  An app manager should be able to block downloads of mature applications, alert parents when downloads have been attempted, and describe the downloaded content.

I hope the CTIA is able to introduce a well designed rating system, but I also think it's important for consumers to recognize that it's only one tool in an overall solution. Without an app manager, kids will sneak past faster than they do at the movie theater.

Ratings are not enough for mobile apps

A few recent articles discuss CTIA's call for a unified "rating" system for mobile apps. Note: CTIA is the Cellular Telecommunications Internet Association, a nonprofit that includes wireless carriers and...

Read full post

Being in the industry of protecting families makes me more aware of issues like online predators than the average person. Curious whether I had an over inflated view of the issue, I randomly asked a 14 year old girl (whom I know) whether she has ever been approached by a strange man online. She responded by saying, "More than once." I have no statistical data to back up this claim, but I assume that for every report we hear in the news, there are substantially more cases of online stalking that haven't been detected or reported. For as much as we protect our kids from talking to strangers on the playground, it is equally important, if not more so, to teach our kids to not talk to strangers online. 

I read an article posted in the beginning of the month (you can read it here), that tells a story of a man in Florida who picked up a girl in Nebraska to bring her back home. The lengths this predator went through are no less than shocking and a little scary. The story includes a list of tactics online predators use to "catch" the innocent and what parents can do to prevent this from happening. Following are a few points I found most relevant:
 Predators' tools

Grooming, aka Online Predator Behavior

Being in the industry of protecting families makes me more aware of issues like online predators than the average person.

Read full post

It's true. YouTube loves Net Nanny and hates all the other Internet filters. Here's why... most Internet filters on the market use a pre-determined list of sites that are either safe or not safe for kids. The good sites go on to a "white list" and the bad ones go on to a "blacklist." Imagine, having to categorize every new website as good or bad. That's how the majority of Internet filters still work.

Now imagine if there was a site that had both good stuff and bad stuff on it. Then you'd have to categorize on a page by page level (vs just blocking/allowing the full website). Such is the case with YouTube. There's tons of great stuff. But there's also a bunch of trash you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy. A lot of the Internet filters out there realize this is an impossible task, and so they just give you the option to block or allow all of YouTube. There's a couple brave Internet filters out there that attempt to categorize all pages, but they fail miserably.

And here goes YouTube, introducing their latest and greatest feature that returns a whole slew of new "exploration" results when you search for a video. It's a great feature. I'd explain it but it'd triple the of this already expanding blog post - so you can just read about it HERE.

YouTube and every other respected website is constantly changing their features and web pages. Keeping up with the changes is tough. Thus, we've built Net Nanny to intelligently look at the content of the webpage and block or allow pages dynamically, based upon the content, and not their url. Pretty smart huh? It works too - just take a look at the Net Nanny reviews.

Net Nanny. Loved by YouTube, loved by you too.

YouTube loves Net Nanny

It's true. YouTube loves Net Nanny and hates all the other Internet filters. Here's why... most Internet filters on the market use a pre-determined list of sites that are either...

Read full post

I just read an article from www.dynamicbusiness.com entitled, "Website fitlering boosts staff productivity." The writer shares some pretty interesting statistics about cyberslacking in the workplace: 30-40% of internet use in the workplace is not related to business; and 37% of workers surf the web constantly while at work. As someone new to the business, I can't say this information is surprising despite the fact that it is shocking. The internet provides a quick and undetectable escape for employees from their regular workdays. The surprising thing I found on this page, however, was a link to a related article entitled, "Study proves surfing web boosts productivity." The author here sites a study done by the University of Melbourne, which claims to prove employees are more productive if they give themselves cyber breaks here and there, a practice dubbed, "Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing."  You can watch a YouTube interview with the leading professor here.

A Boost to Productivity?

I just read an article from www.dynamicbusiness.com entitled, "Website fitlering boosts staff productivity." The writer shares some pretty interesting statistics about cyberslacking in the workplace: 30-40% of internet use in...

Read full post

I recently read a great article on www.internetprovider.net about ways to protect your kids on Facebook. If you would like to read the article, you can find it here. I won't spend too much time discussing the ten points they go through, but I would like to focus on point number 6: “Invest in Parental Control software that monitors your child's internet activity.

Only 23.9% of parental control programs actually monitor Social Networking activity

I recently read a great article on www.internetprovider.net about ways to protect your kids on Facebook. If you would like to read the article, you can find it here.

Read full post

As a lad, I had several opportunities to eat SPAM, most of which occurred on scout camps. I know, interesting how taking away your child's cell phone in today's world is child abuse and yet feeding children SPAM back in the day was not.

Because my experience with cooking SPAM is limited to dumping SPAM into a dutch oven with cream of mushroom soup and some green beans, I don't think I'm one to give any good advice on cooking with SPAM. If you did actually come to this blogpost hoping I'd make you a SPAM cooking connoisseur then I don't want you to go away un-fulfilled, so HERE's a link to some great SPAM recipes.

For those of you who'd like to figure out how you can decrease offers for discount Viagra and offers to claim your unknown Uncle Harry's jagnormous inheritance, read on. I'll attempt to teach you how to overcome that pesky spam problem that has overtaken your email box.

First off, we need to think like a spammer. Read this sentence three times: "I want to make a bunch of money for doing the least amount of work possible." If we can get a few million email addresses to send spam to, eventually we'll get some poor sap to click our link and give us their credit card number or bank account/SSN. Here are several cheap/easy ways we can harvest email addresses to send spam to:

Learn To Cook With SPAM

As a lad, I had several opportunities to eat SPAM, most of which occurred on scout camps.

Read full post

If you're alive and have children, you've probably at least been asked about an iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) or Android device. After all, they're very neat and can do lots of fun things. But if you're visiting the Net Nanny website, you're also concerned that some of the things those devices can do are not so good.

We've announced a new release of our mobile tools that will bring our incredible dynamic filtering technology to these top of the line mobile devices, including Android and iOS. With those announcements, some customers have written in to make sure we're going to get it right. One customer wrote in our forums:

"I have found that several miscellaneous apps have an 'embedded browser' that can be accessed through advertisements, FAQ, etc. These browsers essentially allow you to get around any filtering... Are your developers aware of this and will the Net Nanny Iphone app address this issue?"

This issue has been at the forefront of our development conversations, so don't think we're not aware of it. That said, there is sadly not a lot we can do about it. Apple has always taken the approach that when they sell you a product, it is a work of art that should be beautiful and sufficient as-is for their users to use. iOS devices are no different. Because of that, as well as insistence from cell phone carriers no doubt, iOS is pretty restrictive in terms of what you're allowed to do as an app programmer.

Within iOS, Apple lets apps do certain things. One thing they do not let apps do is watch other apps and intercept internet traffic to other apps. Their reasons for doing this are more than just keeping apps under their control. Imagine you had an app from your bank on your phone and a neat Sudoku app you downloaded yesterday was allowed to peek into the bank app and send your account information to someone in another country? So, we do need to limit what apps can do. Unfortunately, to Apple, all apps are created equal, so Net Nanny will have the same restrictions as any other app. So our iOS product will be the Net Nanny browser for iOS. Just as Apple doesn't let us watch what other apps are doing, we can't even watch what the built-in Mobile Safari in iOS is doing. So the only thing Apple will let us do is make our own web browser that will have filtering built in.

I know that will disappoint many people, including us- we hate that it's not the ideal solution, but that's all we can do for iOS devices. Unless Apple changes their app policies just for Net Nanny. Which I doubt.

Basically, you paid for it, but Apple still makes the rules there and we have to follow those rules just like everyone else. Sadly, security and privacy concerns on the device mean that it's more difficult to keep the device safe from objectionable content.

Apple does provide a simple way to lock down iOS devices under Settings > General > Restrictions. Details are at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4213 (Also be sure to lock down iTunes- http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1904)

Those restrictions together with our Net Nanny browser will do a lot to protect individuals while online on their iOS devices.

For Android devices there are similar problems but the carriers have more say in the Android devices that connect to their network. We have developed a new app for Android (not released yet!) that is capable of filtering the whole device and we're talking with manufacturers and carriers to try to get lower level access and provide real filtering there. Keep your fingers crossed!

Don't worry. We're not satisfied and we will keep pushing to do everything we possibly can to protect your devices.

Playing By the Rules on iOS

If you're alive and have children, you've probably at least been asked about an iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) or Android device.

Read full post

Yesterday one of our customers asked in our forum how to turn off Amazon.com's Look Inside! feature. If you aren't aware, Look Inside let's you page through a certain number of pages from books online- it's a clever and nicely implemented way to let customers browse and flip through a book to see if it's what they want. I've always loved that feature.

So it caught me off-guard when our customer, M, asked how to turn it off. He rightly points out that the previews in Look Inside are just images, not text, so Net Nanny doesn't 'see' anything bad. But if it's a bad book it may be granting previews of bad content we don't want in our homes.

Far from blaming Amazon, I would say this is just a case of a company wanting to do something really cool and not even thinking of the parental controls angle. It happens a lot, unfortunately. I'm going to write to Amazon and ask if they're attempting any kind of protection there or not and at least bring it to their attention.

As parents, we need to be deeply and actively committed to protecting our families if we're going to catch subtle things like this.

If you want to disable Look Inside, just disable the domain sitb-images.amazon.com in the Blocked Web Sites tab of Net Nanny for Mac. In Windows®, add a Web Exception for that domain. Even though the Look Inside interface will come up normally, all the preview images will be blocked.

Blocking Amazon's Look Inside Feature

Yesterday one of our customers asked in our forum how to turn off Amazon.com's Look Inside! feature.

Read full post

Happy Safer Internet Day! Yes, that's right, although you may not have heard about it- it is today. Although pushed by a European Union funded group, it's always good to think about being safer online.

It came to my attention because of some resources put out by Yahoo spotlighting how parents are doing at protecting their children and some new resources Yahoo has made available regarding Internet safety over at http://safely.yahoo.com. I was really happy to see the great content they have there and recommend you take advantage of it. There's some great info there. I especially like the family pledge worksheet, which outlines an agreement that parents and their children agree to follow. Communication about these topics is vital. If all you do is build a wall, when your kids are outside the wall, they'll have no clue what they should do.

Unfortunately, a rather large elephant in the room seems to have been left out of the festivities. There is appropriate emphasis on cyber-bullying, identity theft, smartphone safety, and online privacy. These are important. Here and there in the Safer Internet Day and Yahoo! Safely content are references to "inappropriate content". It appears that the term pornography is no longer politically correct. Maybe it's just too harsh and writers and editors are opting for inappropriate content because it sounds milder.

The fact is that "inappropriate content" is everywhere, and often isn't thought of as inappropriate. TV shows and movies talk about pornography as a funny joke that adults elbow each other and snicker about. It's just something that's portrayed as a part of growing up. While dealing with and avoiding pornography is a necessary life skill, there is no point at which pornography becomes appropriate.

As parents we need to decide for our families what's appropriate for us. If we don't, others will. Media companies, school teachers, and our kids' friends will set the bar wherever they want to. Maybe you're unsure if you have the right to decide what should be classified as pornography. Don't be unsure. If you don't decide, others will decide for you. Yes, what you decide is inappropriate in your family may offend someone out there. Maybe your kids are going to whine or stare at you in horror. It's okay. Setting boundaries is part of parenting. When I'm watching TV or movies to this day, I know exactly what my mom would say about anything that comes onto the screen. Because as a child and something would come on that was inappropriate she would tell us so, and explain why. And often it would get turned off. You have that power.

Happy Safer Internet Day. Along with all those other important online safety ideas, don't forget about pornography. Set boundaries. Talk to your kids. Decide what's inappropriate for your family and don't let anyone decide for you.

What Makes the Internet Unsafe?

Happy Safer Internet Day! Yes, that's right, although you may not have heard about it- it is today.

Read full post

Not too long ago, my wife handed me one of my daughters' homework assignments. She had been asked to note some people in her family that help others in their work and she had listed me:

"My dad keeps bad websites from spreading all around the world!"

That made me really happy for two reasons.

First, I love what we do here at ContentWatch: helping families like mine everywhere to take advantage of the modern marvel of the Internet but to do so in a safe way. We build peace of mind.

Second, I know that my daughter knows there are bad websites. She's only six right now but she already knows. I suspect (and hope, I guess) that she doesn't understand how a website can be bad.

Years ago, a friend of mine told me about his dad, who was a special forces commando of some kind without his children ever knowing it. He had a civilian cover job and the military sent him to places all over the world as needed. After retirement and revealing his secret to his children, he answered the door of his home one night to find his daughter's ex-boyfriend, drunk on his porch with a friend. The ex-boyfriend insisted on seeing his daughter. This father told them to move along before they got hurt. They did not move along and decided to push him around. The fight was very brief.

Now I'm not a violent person, but I want to protect my family too. Every good dad wants to protect his family. And it can be pretty frustrating when bad websites slip into your home. There's no confrontation on your porch. No way to tell them to leave your family alone.

We as parents must be deeply and actively involved with our children if we want to protect them. Buying stuff (even Net Nanny!) is not enough. They're just tools. If someone is determined to get to those bad websites, there are ways around anything. Our kids need to understand what that Net Nanny icon on our computer means and cooperate with it. They need to understand that there are bad websites (and lots of other bad stuff) out there and if all protections fail, what to do then. And we need to stay vigilant to make sure we have done all we can.

Stopping Bad Websites

Not too long ago, my wife handed me one of my daughters' homework assignments. She had been asked to note some people in her family that help others in their...

Read full post
5
Devices

Family Pass

$12
per device

Save
20%

$74.99 $59.99

Net Nanny for Android® & Internet Filter for iOS® available exclusively
with the Family Protection Pass.

Buy Now

Mac Windows Android IOS

10
Devices

Family Pass

$9
per device

Save
25%

$119.99 $89.99

Net Nanny for Android® & Internet Filter for iOS® available exclusively
with the Family Protection Pass.

Buy Now

Mac Windows Android IOS