Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Surveillance of young people(teens) on OSX

When visiting a friend they discovered their 13year old son had been sexually propositioned by a girl (15 years) over IM to meet up and do it. The parents asked me what they could to with the computer(sons personal laptop) to prevent the kids using the computer they gave their son in this way. As well as to have a record of what they had been up to if their offspring disappeared(that had happened to a girl at their school earlier that year and involved underage sex with an adult, drugs, a runaway organised over msn and eventually the cops). The parents were against censorship(i.e. web filters) but not surveillance with the minors knowledge. My personal views on teen censorship are not expressed here, but a list of choices available to parents.

I said that you can:
-install spy software.
-get admin control over the computer and backup the computer to an external disk so you have a record (logs of IM's & browser history) if the laptop goes missing.
-only let the laptop be used publicly with supervision

The issue is that a variety of software can be used to access the internet for IM or web communication, so if the parent is going to monitor the computer they need to control what is installed on it. Also if they are going to install any 'parental software' if the minor has administration access to the computer it makes it far easier for them to disable it. To do any of the above you need to be the super-user i.e. be admin with greater privilege & have a secure password!

If you do manual/admin control you need to limit what applications are communicating. So the only way to be sure is:
- reinstall osx clean if your kids are at all IT/hacking friendly
- ask what applications they want on it to start with.
- every time they want to add an application you need to understand what is being installed (i.e. say no). This might not be practical, as it requires the parent to have to have the IT experience to set it up and know what the offspring are doing when they ask for the password to be typed in because they wan a game or something installed.
The disadvantage of screen-capture software is that it does not search or present 'bad' activity. It just shows everything, so a parent is going to spend 45min a day checking it, use it as a big brother threat, or use it to a keep detailed record of all activity just in case.
Education(parent & child)

Parental tools _OSX :
software - free for basic
Email alerts monitoring all chats, myspace, facebook - language analysis for direct/ indirect contact (i.e. coming to your house), Specific and sexual references
http://www.keylogger-mac.com $49
records keystokes(only one side of IM), screen capture, web visit lists, email delivery (no demo so i haven't tested it, but the interface looks a bit chunky)
http://www.spectorsoft.com/products/Spector_Macintosh/index.html $99
records keystokes(only one side of IM), screenshots
-basic simple interface -expensive for what it is..
GURL Watcher - $20
records the URL and title of all web sites viewed in any browser and emails
words or phrases list to ban web pages
KidsGoGoGo - £30
-good filters for internet, records URL, screenshots, IM logs(both sides), ipod monitoring, time setting, application blocking
-modular interface sucks, steep learning curve, requires adding proxies to firefox
Mac OSX Leopard
-TimeMachine: Backs up everything (all files on computer) - but difficult to check, but good record, if a super-administrator is setup, so stuff cant be deleted.
-Parental Controls: web filters but only safari, logs ichat (but not any others)

- add password to the airport (both for users(to protect from wardrivers) & a parental one for the administration)
- The young people need to not have admin control of their laptops.
- A back-up using time-machine to be set up(the kids were actually very happy to do this fearing he loss of all their mp3 if there hard-drives went down)
- The young people need to not have access to the time-machine shared disk.
- The OSX install disk must not be given to the young people ever!
- Use http://www.imsafer.com to monitor IM and social networking sites
This was written summer 2008 and the choices might of changed now.


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