The Internet Parent
Sponsored by K9 Web Protection

Monday, February 12, 2007

WiFi Pedophiles vs. ICAC

Child Porn Smackdown Leaves Cops on the Mat

Authorities are struggling with WiFi, reports Jaimie Stockwell in the Washington Post. In WiFi Turns Internet Into Hideout for Criminals, we learn that Arlington County, VA detectives who were about to arrest a pedophile ended up at the home of a little old lady. Ooops...the suspected perp had been using her unsecured wireless Internet connection to trade child porn.

Once again, we see an apparently noble, democratizing technology - publicly accessible Internet through wireless communications - subverted by those who are suffering from a nearly invisible sickness, and used to threaten our kids and our common good.

This is hardly the end of the story, because currently law enforcement has no answer to this growing problem. In neighboring Alexandria, city officials are planning a 16-square-mile free municipal WiFi network. Has anybody thought to ask the parents if it's a good idea?

When are we going to get mad enough to wake up and stop the madness? While the USDOJ's ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) task forces have been created to fight this kind of problem, we are still behind the 8-ball -- arguably, further and further behind.

With free wireless internet access, predators have increasingly easy and anonymous access to our kids, who themselves are often using stray neighborhood -- or even municipal -- wireless Internet connectivity to side-step parental supervision, guidance, and controls.

Wake up!! Please!! Insist that your community think before deploying free public WiFi. Don't do it until you have some security and filtering policy in place. And ask that your community leaders raise awareness regarding the risks of unrestricted, uncontrolled WiFi networks across your neighborhoods. The cost of ignorance, apathy, and inaction will be more than you'll want to bear.

Do you have municipal WiFi in your city or town? Have you noticed unsecured wireless networks accessible from your living room? Let us know what's happening in your neighborhood.

6 Comments:

  • Hello there.
    My name is Juan Carlos De Vinatea and I'm a parent of three children, and yes, I have internet at home.

    My oldest daughter is 15, and she use internet a lot. She loves to post stories (fanfict) and make distant friends (one of them is from China.)

    I'm using a Linksys (WRT54GS) router with internet access control to set up a schedule of internet usage. It works just fine, but I have a very basic control of the contents filtering.

    I like your project a lot. Your are pointing out an issue very important. Internet control access is a parent responsibility. Not the government, nor the school. Our responsibility. And it's a great thing you have developed K9 to assist parents on this task.

    To be honest, I haven't tried it yet. The thing is that my kids are smarter than me, and they for sure will find the way to uninstall it. However, I'll try it out. I trust more in a hardware solution needed to access to internet, in this case the router... If they "uninstall" it, they will have no internet :-)

    I was thinking on onde idea: Linksys use to have a parental control system that worked under subscription (at a very reasonable cost) thta made effective content blocking. By some reason, they discontinued the service.

    On the other hand, the WRT54GS series works with Linux and have the software available under the GLP terms... there are some firmware out there that enhances the original Linksys software.

    My question is that you maybe would be interested in developing some sort of Parental Control service to be run on these boxes. If you somehow provide APIs or webservices for this, it should be possible to implement it.

    What I like of this project is that you already have the content blocking technology, as well as the philosophy of providing this as a free service for parents. On the other hand, these routers are very populars in home networks, so it could be a very nice extension to your endevour.

    What do you think? I'd love to hear some comments from you. You can reach me at jc.devinatea@gmail.com to discuss it.

    Thanks as a parent, annd congratulations for your project.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 27, 2007 8:27 PM  

  • You're missing the point.

    You've raised a great one (or two) but the underlying point is the parent's responsibility to be educated and to educate their children.

    Just as I wouldn't let my 8-year old daughter walk downtown alone at night (until she can do it safely); I won't let her access the internet until she can do it safely.

    If I didn't think she could learn to be safe, and that she will eventually be safe I might take another stance, but controlling the medium isn't the answer.

    It is every member of society who is responsible for keeping our world safe. People who aren't willing to take that responsibility make the world unsafe for everyone.

    Tools which help are just that. Tools, and they should be used for specific instances of the problem for which they were designed. It won't work to set and forget them.

    --Matthew

    By Anonymous Matthew, at March 01, 2007 9:35 AM  

  • Hello Juan Carlos,
    Thanks for writing. Most of us have kids who are more technically adept than we are. One of the design goals for K9 was to make it easy for parents to install, and hard for kids to get past. Based on the angry emails we get from kids, we seem to have done a pretty good job in meeting that goal. But, every product has weaknesses. When we find them in K9, we try hard to fix them.

    I had heard about the Linksys routers having filtering capability. I did not know that it was no longer available.

    It's an interesting idea to develop a filtering solution with Linksys. We'll look into it. We already have relationships with several partners - ZyXEL, Global Security One, and TrustELI all have small routers that you can configure with Blue Coat Web Filter, which is the same solution that K9 uses.

    We'll look into the Linksys opportunity. Thanks for the tip!

    By Blogger John Carosella, at March 01, 2007 1:10 PM  

  • Matthew,
    Thanks for the feedback.

    I agree with you that the parent has to take an active role, and that tools are just tools. Set and forget? Not a chance. Things change too quickly.

    As you say, anybody who acts irresponsibly creates a safety problem for everybody. We aren't going to see the day when everybody acts responsibly (at least, I doubt I'll see it in my lifetime). We have to do more than expect the answer to come from the parents. We have to demand more from the institutions that form the social fabric we live in. Parents cannot fix this problem single-handedly, because its more than a parenting issue -- it's a community-wide issue.

    As kids get older (and technology more sophisticated), it becomes increasingly difficult to get a firm grip on all the ways they can get into trouble. The Internet is probably the worst-case scenario -- no controls, no overt evidence that your kids are straying into trouble, and no way to know, really, WHEN they're getting into trouble, because access to the Internet is becoming ubiquitous.

    So to me, it's absolutely necessary to do both: 1) educate your kids, teach them what/when/how to and not to behave on the net, so they can try to keep themselves safe, and 2) provide a safe environment, because they're KIDS -- they'll make mistakes.

    The challenge for us as parents is to have enough control over when/where/how our kids get access to the Internet to have a fighting chance to keep them safe. Free public WiFi makes that harder. So I feel compelled to suggest that social institutions (like local governments and beneficent corporations) look hard at the consequences of their (superficially benevolent) actions. And, compelled to suggest that parents have a serious obligation to hold their feet to the fire and demand it!

    By Blogger John Carosella, at March 01, 2007 1:25 PM  

  • It certainly is necessary to put safeguards in place when providing a free WIFI hotspot, we just need to remember that even limits need limits. After all, if we follow too far in that same line of thinking, we ban the hotspots. Then the internet. Then the streets.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 18, 2008 2:34 PM  

  • Hello my name is Lisa K; I have two teenagers who have laptops. My neighbor called me one morning and told me that there was a strange kid all dressed in black standing in my front yard when her husband left for work at 4:30 AM. I called the police and they put the night watch out that night and yes he was out there that night (he came out at 3:00 AM) and was using our wireless connection. That day my sister came over and made it safe for me. I had no idea that it was possible for some one to do this.

    I have always used McGruff to see what my kids are doing and talking about and it works very well. For the amount of money I pay for it I get it twice fold. I have good kids but you never know what could happen. I feel safe reading what is going on daily in the computer life.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 02, 2009 5:04 PM  

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