Saturday, July 13, 2013

Protecting Your Children on the Internet with Linux or How to be a Sneaky Parent Part 6 Parting Thoughts

Network Security:

Keep all of your local ports closed. Use your Desktop and go to one of those free port scan utilities on the web and run it. This should probably be done quarterly and you want to make sure that no port is answering. Running a service on a home network is dangerous. If a port is open, go through your router and close it.

For the record, you can use this desktop computer for almost any reason that you would normally use a Windows PC. There is lots of software available, look around. On your desktop computer at least lock the screen before you walk away. Preferably, you should just sign off. Don't give your kids physical access to your desktop, let them know it is off limits. There was a story I heard in college, where one of the students created a fake sign on screen. By the end of the semester, this student had captured every other persons user ID & Password (including the teachers). It would be harder to pull off today, but not impossible. If the kids want to use the desktop, make them ssh in. There is a setting that would prevent your kids from signing on to the desktop via the desktop.

Passwords need to be strong. As I said before, your children know you. Use special characters and numbers in the password and use words or phrases that they don't connect with you. Don't make it easy for your kids to crack your network.

Known Issues

1. Raspberry Pi, it's a great little computer and has a 1001 uses. But it is cheap and your child could get a hold of one and go around all of your security and have free reign on the Internet without your knowledge. Ok, the router will still stop most of it, that's why we have several tiers of security. Most modern routers allow the owner to setup an Access List, which allows you to limit the computers that can connect to only those with approved MAC Addresses. Another issue is that your child could boot their laptop from a memory stick, which would also allow them to go anywhere on the internet. If you can't ssh in, something is wrong. Based on the MAC Address you should be able to figure out what computer it is.

2. Almost all browsers have a private browsing mode. I don't know of any way to completely disable this. I know of a add on for Firefox that will allegedly remove the menu item, but there is supposed to be an easy way to get around this. I don't know of a good solution for this other than locking the laptop down in such a way they can't be taken to another network.

Cutting the Rope

When your Children are young, you will want to have the security settings as tight as possible, but as they get older it will be necessary to relax them. Start with the e-mail and chatting. Relax the rules a little and if they behave responsibly leave them alone. If they are irresponsible, tighten it back up. By the time they are 15 or 16, they should be allowed a more free hand and hopefully if they have problems they will come to you.

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