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Spies are everywhere


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Control or surveillance?

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Parents tend to worry about their children: What are they getting up to after school? Who are their friends and what could those friendships lead to? These are the questions that keep mothers and fathers awake at night.

Why didn't they come home when their classes ended two hours ago? This question can be answered if the parents purchase a special device or install a location-tracking program on their smart phone.

But some parents want to know more. Who are they chatting with? What are they doing right now? One can call a smart device, and the call will be answered automatically—the son or the daughter will never notice that their mother can hear everything.

But it may not be the mom who will be listening—it's no secret that many users leave default settings unchanged. As a result, an attacker can seize control over a device through a vulnerability exploit or using default logins and passwords.

A report published in mid-October indicated that serious flaws in a variety of devices could be used by attackers to control people’s gadgets. Thus criminals could potentially track a child's location in real time and access a huge volume of personal data.

Are children entitled to some degree of privacy? What is the difference between being concerned for their safety and wanting total control over them?

Germany's Federal Network Agency banned smart watches with parental control features and described them as spying devices. According to Gizmodo, the Agency also recommends that parents who’ve already purchased the gadgets destroy them.

The devices in question include gadgets that operate without communicating with children's smart phones and have listening capabilities that enable parents to use an app on their phone to toggle on the gadget's microphone and listen to everything happening around their child.

According to DW, the agency's president Jochen Homann stated that the devices were to be regarded as "unauthorised transmitting systems" and could be employed to eavesdrop on teachers in classrooms.

Sales of smart watches with listening capabilities have been banned, but smart phones have escaped the attention of regulators so far.

British ministers were banned from wearing Apple Watches during cabinet meetings out of fear that Russian hackers could use them for spying.

Can an anti-virus protect users from this kind of "parental control"? Surely, it can block any program that doesn't meet certain criteria. Is there a way to distinguish between a spy and a benevolent monitor?

As a rule, programs that install themselves without users' knowledge, hide their activities and/or have undocumented features that make them operate in an unexpected way are regarded as malicious. But monitoring programs—both those used for spying and for benevolent reasons—must have the ability to be installed covertly and hide their tracks!

The line between the two is very thin. Hackers exploit vulnerabilities and employ social engineering tricks to deploy spyware, while legitimate software is installed by parents. But, nonetheless, parents aren't the devices' owners (technically they are, but their children may believe otherwise).

In this case, reputation may play a key role. Does the developers' site work properly? Does the documentation describe all the features? Do hackers use the program…?

#Parental_Control #children #tracking_location #IoT #surveillance #spyware

The Anti-virus Times recommends

  1. Many programs can be used for both legitimate and malicious purposes. Dr.Web anti-viruses block spying applications. Programs of this sort appear in the databases as a result of being discovered during an analysis of a computer incident.
  2. Parents need to exercise caution and shouldn’t just download the first monitoring program they come across. The software’s developer can get hold of your data too.
  3. Change the security settings (including the passwords) on your devices before you start using them. Hackers shouldn't be able to spy on you and your children.


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