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Are proxies at home a good idea?

“Should I?  Shouldn’t I”

These are the thoughts I have behind the idea of putting a proxy (physical equipment or a software program used to allow or block certain websites) into my home.  On the one hand it seems like a great idea because the proxy is a safeguard for little ones which helps prevent them from stumbling upon unwanted adult websites.  However, there are drawbacks.  First, as adults, we are taking away the ability to our kids to make the right choice for themselves.  Second, we may be kidding ourselves into thinking that we have battened down the hatches and secured the fort.

Older kids, and sometimes younger ones are figuring ways around proxies faster than we can implement them.  Proxies including, the free OpenDNS, or inexpensive NetNanny, etc can soon be circumvented by the sly child.

My advice is to:

  • Talk with your son or daughter about the kinds of dangers and annoyances are on the internet.  Sometimes pornography is the least of your worries.  Cyber-bullying is becoming more of a concern with students online.  Good ole Facebook is one of the prime playgrounds where this happening, but it could also be taking place in many of the other social networking sites, like Hi5, MySpace, Second Life or even Club Penguin, which is designed for younger ones.
  • Move the computer into family space like the kitchen or family room.  Back in the days of one computer per household this was a more easy task to perform, but with the advent of one (sometimes more) laptops per member of the home, this can be a arduous task.  As a parent, insist that your son or daughter work on their homework or play their games in the public space.
  • Be aware. Recognize that “Alt Tabbing” (Switching between programs with shortcut keys) is not a secret feature only your son or daughters knows.  Be sly.  Look at running programs in the task-bar. Look to see they aren’t running things in hidden mode.  There are plenty of ways to play games inside of otherwise workhorse programs like Microsoft Word or Excel.
  • Join your son or daughter in their world, the cyber-world.  Have them show you what they are doing and how they do it.  Take a genuine interest in their MMORPGS, their social networking, their blogs, their shopping sites, their games, and anything else they will show you.  They have so many things tricks up their sleeves, why not learn it from the horses mouth?  Not only will you be more wise to them, but in allowing them to teach you, you may grow your relationship into another dimension.
  • Words of warning: Sure there are ways to key-log, track and block everything they do, but think to yourself:
  • Are you really helping them?
  • Are you invading privacy unnecessarily?
  • Would you read through their journal, if they kept one?
  • Would you want someone else doing this to you?
  • Embrace | Educate | Explore together
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3 Comments

Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Technology

 

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Safer passwords online

This article isn’t just about banking. It is about any computer transaction where you need to type in a password.

Suppose that you have a virus, one called a key-logger. (Oh no! Boo!) This is a program that infests itself on your computer, runs in the background without you knowing, and copies down every stroke that you have ever typed. It can be run by someone who has access to your computer, or worse yet, can be run remotely, which means that it sends the information back to a user automatically when you connect to the Internet.

In order to fight against things like this, try these things:

Don’t type your password in order – If your password was “hello”, then you might type “lo”, then place the cursor at the beginning of the string, type “el”, then place the cursor at the beginning of the string, and type “h”. A key-logger is going to capture the letters, but not the order. Hopefully the password field will also be showing password dots, like this: ● ● ● ● ●

Use different computers and Change your password frequently – Do these in conjunction with each other. Don’t always change your password on the same computer, in case it is the one that is infected. Also, read above and type your original password out of order. (This could take some planning because passwords often have to be typed twice)

Look for the “s” – As shown in the accompanying image to this post, look for the “s” at the end of “http”. It means the connection has heightened security. Any time you need to input your credit card number or something else that is worth money, this is one security measure you want to see. Along with the “s”, in many browsers you will also find an image of a lock, usually located in the bottom right-hand corner. This “s” and lock mean that you are most likely connecting directly to the site, rather than through an insecure route that may allow middle-man eavesdropping.

Don’t use a simple password – Hopefully these days this goes without saying, but don’t use something that is easily guessable. A good password has lower and upper case, numbers and letters and even punctuation. Many sites are forcing you to create a password like this with character detecting. Your password should look something (un)like this: tJ76/lP$

Don’t use swear words as passwords, as they are very popular and guessable. The top 4 passwords are: “123456″ “password” “12345678″ “1234″ and the fifth most popular is a bad word. To find out more poorly chosen passwords, click here

Don’t use more than one anti-virus – More is not better, in this case. The reason for this is because one anti-virus detects other anti-viruses definitions. Anti-viruses download virus definitions to know what the latest viruses are, in order to detect them. Other anti-virus programs see these and think it is the virus. They are detecting false viruses. You dont want this.

Use Avast on a PC, Mac Os, Linux, or Ubuntu – A FREE and top-rated anti-virus that I prefer to use is Avast. It does boots from DOS, which means that no other viruses can already be running when you are installing it. It updates automatically and regularly. It seems to take up less RAM than Norton and it seems to be continuously rated well.

If you have the option to use Mac, Linux or Ubuntu as your operating system you are also much less likely to have a virus. However, you many have problems with programs and drivers working. This problem seems to be diminishing due to the fact that more and more support is available for alternative Operating Systems.

Don’t use Free Wifi – There are thousands of free softwares available that allow a person to see what you are doing and typing on shared open access wifi. Do yourself a favor and don’t open your computer up to this type of vulnerability. Read more about it here.

Hopefully your banking institutions are employing these methods:

Multiple security questions that change each time – The institute asks you to answer different questions that you know the answer to each time you log on. This way you are not key logging the answer right away. The next time you log on the the bank site it will ask another question looking for a new answer.

OTP – “O”ne “T”ime “P”asswords are an option that is enabled with your phone. When you log on to the website, you are asked to press a button to send a password to your phone. You are SMSed a password that works only one time, which you need to input in to the site to gain access to your account.

It is quite genius, but it means that you have to have your phone on you at the time, you cannot change phone numbers without updating your bank, and you cannot access your accounts from outside of the country.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Technology

 

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Esafety: Thoughts about it

Paul White led a discussion about e-safety with an idea of a 360° tool, found here at generationsafe.ikeepsafe.org.  It is a self-assessment tool that asks educators to see how effective they are implementing safety through the cyber-world.  Some other resources that were mentioned included:

Things to consider when creating content were in reference to pod-casting and video editing online.  No specific items were mentioned in conjunction with these ideas, but some things that come to mind would be to make sure that people, especially students remain anonymous.  Ways to do this, would be to use fictional names and places in podcasts, to not allow any names to accompany children’s images in video, as well as to ensure that no imagery gives away the location of said children.  For example, crests and logos on shirts, billboards in the background, etc.

Another idea brought up was to have a focus with an Anti-cyberbullying week. The UK has a week designated to this from November 21st – November 25th.  At the website bullying.uk they stated a study found these stats, “43.5% of respondents aged 11-16 had been bullied via social networks such as Facebook, Bebo, Myspace, Twitter. 51% felt that blocking the bully from further contact or communication was a vital tool and a further 68 % felt that being able to report the perpetrator’s bullying activities would be advantageous.”

A simple way to cut down on the bullying would be to involve parents.  For example, parents or teachers could teach kids how to PrntScreen the bullying taking place online.  The parents of the bullied child could take this PrntScreen as evidence to the bullies parents and engage in a suitable conversation to try to rectify the problem.

One question that seems to arise again and again is, “Do schools block or not block Facebook?  Why or why not?”  I am definitely on the side which says, “Do NOT block Facebook”, but rather teach about profile limiting, privacy settings, using and what abuse is.  As educational foundations I think it is our job to be aware of all environments our students will be, and educate them about these environments.  Blocking such sites will do them no good when they get into the real world.  That said, these are some of the things that we need to concern ourselves with:

Facebook has incorporated a report button for people.  This is the dialogue box that pops up when it is enabled:

The REPORT/BLOCK button allows for the options necessary to report this person as you can see in the picture above.

As a school administrator, you can educate a large population.  Create a fake account and befriend as many students as possible.  You will be surprised how many and how fast students unwittingly allow access to their online personal lives through befriending.  After many of the friends have been established, have an assembly or an unveiling of who you actually are.  Watch the astonishment around the room, but also watch shortly afterward the action that takes place by students to put up safeguards against such actions.  Many of them will possibly re-evaluate their whole friends list in order to weed through actual friends and those who they don’t actually know.

But don’t just consider the little ones.  Run a course called “Facebook for the over 40s”.  Most often the young kids and teenagers have a pretty good grasp at much of the technology that is out there.  It is the non “digital natives” who are taking a slower time to jump on this bandwagon.  Therefore it is often necessary to help them out in order for them to properly guide their sons and daughters.  A course designed for them is just the thing to jump-start that relationship.

On the subject of esafety a debate naturally arises between primary and secondary teachers.  “Who should be blocked? What should be blocked? Should anything be blocked?” are all good questions with opposing answers depending upon whose lens you wish to view the answer through.  As a school, different proxy settings need to be put into place to enable and disable certain viewers from content depending upon age range or maturity.  A neat esafety site for kids to play games and learn is found here.

Finally, as educators, don’t limit the scope of the student’s online social networking to Facebook, but introduce them to other free online tools for collaboration: Google Docs, Scribed, Google Scholar, and a whole slew of other ideas are out there.  A great resource for finding Online Collaboration Tools is found here, at MindMeister.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 17, 2011 in Technology

 

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Is GPS for children a good idea?

Paranoid mommies and daddies have considered getting RFID and/or GPS tracking systems for their children.  What does this mean and how does it work?  The items readily available for kids [parents] these days are wristwatches made by Whereify or other devices by Brickhouse Security.  They are relatively cheap and can be worn by children just like a normal watch.

Some of the points Brickhouse has to say about its product include:

  • Enjoy a solid sense of reassurance; receive an alert in the event an unauthorized person attempts to remove your child’s BrickHouse GPS Child Locator Watch
  • IP Rating 6X; withstands rainwater, but submersion is not recommended
  • Child Locator supports Google street map views of your child’s physical location

Wow!  And scary at the same time.  As a parent, I feel like I may be able to sleep a little better knowing that my son or daughter cannot be snatched from me without me being able to track them down.

As a citizen I think about all the scary uses and applications these devices have to offer “the wrong” people.  Husbands tracking wives, girlfriends tracking boyfriends, government tracking us.  Who knows.  It’s happening already.  Hopefully using technology to our advantage to allot safety where it wasn’t once possible outweighs that notions behind the ‘Big Brotherism’ of it all.

 
 

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