Saturday, February 11, 2017

Security: Filtering and Parental Control

Security or safety isn’t always about a virus infecting a device, sometimes unwanted content can be as bad or even worse than a virus, and the internet is a vast place and believe me, it has its dark places, that could give the strongest person nightmares for decades.

Thankfully, companies have been working to provide tools like parental control, family safety or general web filtering, for example, Microsoft has introduced a parental control feature since Windows Vista, known as Family Safety now, which has improved significantly and I would assume will continue on improving. Apple has that feature as well.

Usually I would start a guide right about here, on how to use it, but it is so user friendly, the only thing you really need to know is… well, how to find it. So many people don’t realize they have that option available, for free, with their operating system installation.

Windows:
 
On Windows 7, 8.0, 8.1 and probably 10 as well, all you have to do is either use the search feature on your SmartScreen, Start Menu, or even that little nifty search bar you find on the top right corner when you open the Control Panels menu.

Mac OS:
 
From the Apple menu, go to System Preferences, and in there, under System, you should be able to find “Parental Controls”.


Here is a basic guide for both, and probably any parental control or family safety system out there, it basically gives the parent, or could be even an employer, the option to control the content and usage on that specific computer or device.

In order to set it up, you, as an administrator, create a user account for your child, or whomever else you would like to restrict access and content for, after you set up their user account open the Parental Control, and select the user, it will give you the following options: (Different between each operating system, slightly)

Windows and Mac OS Options:
  • Time Limits: Gives you the option to control the time and usage of the computer or the device, for example, on school nights, you could have it set up as to deny access after 8:30 PM, for example. This can be planned thoroughly, and based on each day of the week.
  • Games: Gives you control on which games can be played on that computer, based on rating, content or title.
  • Programs: Gives you control to allow or deny specific programs
  • People: Restricts the people that can be contacted on the computer. (Mac OS)
  • Web: Gives you the ability to restrict access to specific websites, though it’s different between Windows and Mac OS, because of that, I’m providing an optional step in the next part of the article.
  • Other: Profanity filter, web cam restriction and denying changes on printer settings or password changes. (Mac OS)
  • Monitor/Log: Allows you to view the activity of the accounts with restrictions.
Because I’m a Windows user, I do not know if this following feature is available on Mac OS or not, however, on Windows, when you’re setting up your Family Safety controls, you can sync them, monitor and control everything if you have your Microsoft Account set up, you can even get regular email updates if you choose to have them. I’m sure Apple provides the option to control and overview the devices in your home network, and it is probably more than easy to figure out, I’m only guessing though, I could be wrong.

OpenDNS:
 
This is probably one of the most underrated and underused feature, it gives you so many benefits and at the same time it could help you keep you and your family safe from all unwanted content online, and even malicious/phishing content. For more details visit https://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/

Once you sign up, it will give you a detailed guide on how to set it up, and it’s not only for computers, you can use it on smartphones, laptops, tablets, and probably some other devices as well, since it basically relies on you changing the DNS setting on that specific device.

I won’t include a guide, since there is one already when you sign up, it’s really easy, and their support is magnificent.

Use their free version when you sign up, it’s efficient for most case scenarios, and even if you feel that you need more options, stay on the free account for a while, until you know exactly what you need added, then you can contact them and they would advise you on the plan best for you.

Browser Extensions:
 
I’ve seen some extensions that give the basic features of the operating system safety options, but honestly I never tried any of them, since browsers can be easily manipulated and changed (ie: removing the extension), it kind of felt pointless. Though, I’m sure if you use a Master Password option through your browser, restricting access to extension control, that could be prevented.
It’s worth checking out, though you’ll have to do your own research on that one. Hey, if you do research it, please let us know, we might include your article here.

Censorship and Conclusion:
 
We all want the best for our families, I know that many of these services offer it as “Child protection”, but honestly, it works well on adults too. I have a Family Safety set up for my parents, to help them stay clear of that unwanted page some guy on Facebook could link to, it was their decision, and it made my life easier. I restricted access to some programs so the chances of “accidental oopsy I done broke my PC” is less, though it’s still there.

Use the provided tools wisely, but don’t get carried away, you could end up censoring your family to a point where you’re forcing your beliefs and thoughts onto them, this is just my opinion, but when you use these options, only restrict access to things that you would consider to be harmful to you or your family, not things you disagree on. I knew a person that restricted web access to a sport team, because they hated them, and forced that opinion onto everyone in that same network.

Be safe, be smart, be wise.

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