Parents: Don't Give Kids "Admin" Rights on their Computer

Apr 02, 2012

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We received an unhappy email from a customer this week who said our software didn't work as promised. Apparently the customer's son was able to uninstall our software through a series of “hacks” on his computer and could browse the Web freely unfiltered.

As we researched to figure out what happened, it was quickly determined that the child had Administrative ("Admin") rights on his computer. And now you might now ask “why does that matter?”

All computer operating systems have modes of operation. These modes restrict privileges on what users of the computer can and cannot do. Basically, if you have Admin rights on a computer, you have unrestricted access to create, delete, and modify all files, folders, and settings on that computer. This includes deleting things on the computer that would cause it to stop functioning or even boot up. A tech savvy user with “Admin” rights doesn't need to play by the standard rules to uninstall programs or delete critical files. The operating system assumes “if you are the Admin, you are the boss.”

Net Nanny for Windows has anti-circumvention tools and uninstall protection. These make it difficult for a typical user to kill the software or remove it. These tools are smart enough to restart the application if it is stopped, and force a user to use the Net Nanny Admin password to uninstall the software. If the user is technical and has “Admin” rights, there are ways to change or delete anything on your computer, including Net Nanny.

This deficiency is part of the way an operating system works. When Microsoft, Apple, or Unix operating systems were created, they were not intended for the typical person to be an “Admin.” Without Admin rights, you can't make serious system modifications such as uninstalling software, deleting files or "messing up" your computer.

If your computer is infected by a virus while someone with “Admin” rights is using it, that virus could take control of your computer. If that happens, you could lose all photos and music, and even "share" your tax returns with potential identity thieves. Most parents don't think about this issue when giving a laptop or desktop computer to a child -- and the consequences can be serious.

The first decision you need to make is what type of accounts to set up on your computer. All current operating systems have different levels of "User" accounts that can be given limited permissions and levels of access that are different than an “Admin” account. Best practice, whether or not you have Net Nanny installed, is to use your computer in “User” mode.

For more information about setting up Admin and User accounts, please check the manufacturer of your operation system, whether it's Windows or Mac or something else. You won't regret it.

I work for ContentWatch and all opinions expressed here are my own.