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Computer and user monitoring software

9 July 2013

American journalists have discovered a video on YouTube that has never been intended for public viewing. It was uploaded back in 2010 for demonstration at the Federal Security Conference (that took place in April 2012), but it was never shown – the developers decided that the software was really not ready.

The author of the video and the software shown in it is the American defense company Raytheon, and the software is RIOT (Rapid Information Overlay Technology). The video can easily be found on YouTube by typing in the full name.

It is a computer and user monitoring software that uses a large number of data sources, including social networks (Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, etc.). A data unit (personal file) is assigned to each user within the software, where information is gathered from all possible sources.

The monitoring software collects information on contacts, places visited, and typical routes. User’s photos are analyzed – the appearance is identified, EXIF tags are analyzed with the GPS data and times the pictures were taken. By analyzing the gathered information, the software predicts the future actions of the person.

Raytheon confirmed the authenticity of the video and stated that the software has not yet been sold to the client – the federal agency.

Development of monitoring software is a global trend that seems to have been around for a while, but is just beginning to gather steam.

Despite its formidable functionality, this software can be used in hundreds of peaceful and lawful ways.


downloadFor example, if your children use your computer in your absence, information gathering about their activities can make life much simpler both for the children and for their parents – after all, you can avert many dangers of modern day Internet that way.

And you don’t have to sign a contract with a defense company to do it; you can simply download the Personal Monitor software and install it on your computer. For the first 3 days the software is free in the fully functional mode.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rules Revised

15 January 2013

Experts of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission are convinced that the technological progress has reached such a stage that we must revise the rules of protecting children’s online privacy.

This document was adopted in 1998 and obliged ISP’s to provide a certain level of protection for confidential information about children under 13.

FTC believes that most parents today are not fully aware of what information is being collected about their children, where it is stored and for what purpose. This is especially true for social networks, mobile platforms and various applications.

Amendments to COPPA contain several definitions of new terms that appeared since the adoption of the original document. The very notion of “personal data” has also been revised and redefined by including geolocation data, photos and videos.

The full list of proposed amendments is available on FTC’s website.


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Parental control in Google Chrome

15 January 2013

Google announced plans to implement parental control features in the settings of its Chrome browser. These features will help parents efficiently control their children’s web browsing.

This update will enable users to launch the browser with different settings under different accounts. Unlike the full-featured ”parent” account, a “child” account will not allow browsing of blacklisted websites. It will also be possible to restrict browsing only to a “white list” of allowed sites.

Moreover, the “child” account will not support the private browsing mode and deletion of browsing history. The release date of the updated version of Chrome with these features has not yet been confirmed.

If you are interested in parental control, feel free to check out Time Sheriff, our program that is currently distributed free of charge.

RFID at Schools: a Tricky Question

30 November 2012

One of the American schools competing for a 2 million-dollar government grant from the state of Texas has started using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to control the location of students hoping to improve the attendance rate. According to the school’s administration, this should have a positive effect on the safety of students as well, since they believe that public schools are safe places to be in.
However, students and their parents do not always agree with this opinion. Andrea Hernandez was suspended from classes for a categorical refusal to wear an RFID tag. Her agitation among peers against the use of this technology was also prohibited. The student believes that this new practice violates her right to privacy and infringes her religious beliefs and freedom of expression.
Andrea goes to another school now, while her parents and a group of civil rights activists are trying to sue the administration of the old school that refused to let her continue her education. They may well win the case — personal rights and freedoms have always been prioritized in the US.

Children spend more time each week in front of PC’s than with their textbooks

11 February 2011

ChildWise, a British research agency, has published a report based on surveys completed by two thousand kids aged 5-16 from 92 different schools.

The report clearly states that various Internet-enabled devices are gradually becoming a sort of “virtual nanny” and Internet is becoming the children’s playground.

The Internet is steadily replacing television that has been playing this role for years.

The following figures from the report appear to be quite interesting:

  • School-aged children spend less time every week on doing their homework than on using their computers.
  • Around 97% of schoolchildren aged 11-16 have a personal cell phone (89% for adults and 30% for 8-year-olds).
  • Most of them use their phones for going online.
  • Around 60% of children aged 11-16 have a computer and a TV set and 50% of them have permanent Internet access.
  • These kids spend their free time in social and torrent networks and on video portals.
  • Over 30% of kids aged 7-10 use social networks, although it’s only legal for children aged 13 and above.
  • 30% of the respondents have a personal blog and 62% have a profile in a social network.
  • Children with Internet access spend an average of 1.7 hours online every day, slightly more on watching TV and just as much time on playing computer games.

Doctor Emma Bond, a child development expert, believes that it’s high time for many parents to re-evaluate the situation, restrict access to television and websites and start educating their children on their own. She also added that “school-aged children also use cell phones for sexual development by using them as a means of establishing intimate contacts with each other”, which is an important element of the personality formation process.


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Protecting children from online threats: methods and cost

21 December 2010

Ironically, the realities of today’s Internet dictate the need for protecting children from it. These days, even adults cannot avoid the traps set on the global network, much less children.

The number of psychic, emotional, physical and financial threats that Internet users are exposed to is steadily growing very day.

Thousands of sites with content absolutely inappropriate for children’s eyes, erotic images and pornography, violence and all kinds of intolerance, spam and the already commonplace «adult» ads even on harmless mainstream sites, viruses and incessant attempts of scammers to steal your information or money — this is just a short list of things that are all over the Internet and finding them is not a problem at all.

What programs can parents use for restricting children’s access to unwanted content? There are several approaches to solving this problem:

  • Protecting using integrated OS and browser functions.
  • Using a special module of a paid anti-virus tool.
  • Restriction on the Internet provider’s end.
  • Using activity monitoring programs.
  • Using specialized software (free and commercial).

Let’s take a look at these methods in more detail and considering the license costs involved. More »

Google to detect user’s age

15 December 2010

Google has developed an algorithm that determines who is using the computer at any given moment — a child or a grown-up.

To do that, the system monitors the user’s actions, analyzes the browsing history and the sites loaded in the browser. The algorithm already demonstrated reliable results in a series of tests, which enabled Google to register an official patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The author of the algorithm, Krishna Bharat, is the head of Google’s research facility in Bangalore, India, and the lead developer of the Google News service. He is also a co-author of another similar patent describing an algorithm for determining the age, literacy and income levels, as well as the ethnicity of a user.

New Apple patent: iPhone monitoring

10 December 2010

Microsoft is not the only company to show interest in monitoring technologies: a new patent in this area has been recently registered by Apple. It describes a parental control technology intended for mobile devices.

Drafting and approval of this patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office went on for two years — specifically, from 2008, when the original patent application was submitted.

The described technology is essentially an application capable of blocking outbound and inbound messages (SMS and email) containing obscene words (mostly of the sexual nature). Depending on the settings, these messages can be modified, deleted, saved for review by parents or forwarded directly to them.

Unwanted content is detected with the help of a database of dictionaries that also take into account the actual age of the child and the level of his/her personal development. Word abbreviations and intentional word distortions will also be detected and intercepted.

It is still unclear if such an application will ever be included into one of the future firmware updates of iPhone, but this is quite a possibility.

New free spy apps for android keeps a detailed log and records all conversations, allowing you to find out everything from contact name to the duration of the call.

Phone tapping becoming a problem in France

29 November 2010

The French press are reporting on public disquiet concerning mass telephone conversation tapping. A lot of politicians and journalists are openly declaring that their telephones were tapped.

Phone tapping is officially illegal in France, but many organisations involved in economic espionage often use their capabilities for other aims. For example, phone tapping politicians.

In addition, today functional equipment and software for illegal phone tapping are available to all. Both can be easily bought over the internet.

More »

Providers focused on child protection

15 October 2010

Large Internet providers are joining the developers of parental control software and antivirus tools for seeking the most efficient methods of protecting children from online threats.

The fight against adult materials in the global network on the legal level is highly inefficient at the moment. Finding pornography and extremist materials online is not a problem these days. What makes the matter even worse is that children today are often more educated about computers and the Internet than their parents.

These are the reasons why so many people put so much effort into creating technical means of child protection on all levels — from operating systems to Internet providers.

Apart from the Internet threats described above (malware, unwanted sites, direct contact with abusers, theft or personal information), social networks are emerging as a major source of potential threats: Internet addiction, excessive use of social networks and, of course, new viruses that can be contracted in social networks, possible contacts with abusers or all sorts and theft of personal information.

Child protection mechanisms can be implemented on several tiers:

  • using the integrated tools of the operating system,
  • using special software,
  • on the Internet providers’ end.

Starting from Windows Vista, Microsoft has been including its Parental Control tool into all versions of its operating systems.

These applications can be standalone (KinderGate, Time-Boss, Time Sheriff) and included in modular antivirus solutions, such as Kaspersky Internet Security.

Providers have also noticed this problem and are trying to find viable solutions for solving it.

This year, many Russian Internet providers signed the Children and Youth Safe Internet Charter and made a commitment to implement software tools that will restrict children’s access to illegal and potentially unsafe online content.

Such solutions have already been implemented by OAO UTK («Children’s Internet» service) and OAO Vimpelcom (Beeline).

KyivStar, a large Ukrainian provider and mobile carrier, in cooperation with the Institute of Psychology of the National Academy of Sciences released a special brochure for parents devoted to the security-related aspects of online activities of their children called “Children on the Internet: teaching your children safety on the Internet”. Besides the distribution of this brochure, the company also maintains a white list of sites with safe content.

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