Friday, November 6, 2009

Home filtering for OSX

Well, there are many ways to filter your internet connection.  You could setup your own proxy/filter (like Dan's Guardian) solution at home, but I think many parents will not bother (or just plain don't know how) to do it.  The other thing, if you have an unsecured wireless network around (you know...form those pesky neighbors) then your little one can just jump on that network and avoid it.

Some home routers support firewall/filtering rules, but you have to get into the router to set it up and still, the problem you have is if you have unsecured wireless networks around.

Lastly, you can install filtering software on the computer.  This is an option only if you make sure your child is not an admin on the machine.  A problem especially in the Windows world.  But either way, with the child being an Admin, anything can be installed or uninstalled which is a BIIIG problem since kids have a habit of clicking all over the place whenever any type of advertisement or fake warning (you know the type...."Your computer is not running 100%, click here to make it faster") pops up while web browsing....Not to mention the virus threat of transferring files all over the place using IM.  So...what to do?  Sure there are lots of Windows solutions out there...but what about OSX?  Here is one solution that works for both!

Lightspeed Guide is a product of Lightspeed Systems which make a filtering and anti-virus product for Window/OSX/Linux.  They also have a home filtering option for school districts that opt to send laptops home with kids and require to maintain logging and filtering called the LightSpeed Guide.

They offer a free LightSpeed Guide as well which you can get from here.  You log in to their site and create accounts for your children, then you can go and modify the filtering policy using one or more of their over 100 categories, or just choose a preset policy.

You can also force Safe Search on for Google and Micorosft Bing, but beware that this option is not the moderate safe search (regular searching but not able to disable it) but rather the strict safe search, which may be too strict for useful reports for Middle School aged students and above.  You also have the ability to tell the client to block all surfing if the LightSpeed Guide servers are not available.  This could happen for many reasons, but it is a safety measure incase there are any shenanigans happening at the home router attempting to bypass the security.

The Windows version also has a removal password, so even if you are an admin, you can not remove the software without knowing that password.

Last thing, you can do reports, as well as have reports emailed to you on a regular basis.  BUT PLEASE, do not try and thing that any type of filtering product is 100% foolproof.  The best filtering policy is to be open and talk to your children, and just be a parent.  Stay on top of what your children are doing, don't let them lock themselves in their room with a computer and have honest and open talks with them about the dangers that lurk out there (not just the internet).

Lastly...BE A PARENT.  If you know the internet is being abused take the computer away!  Know the capabilities of your home router and see if you can put time  restricting in place for your child's computing devices (don't forget about the iPhone, iPod Touch, Wii or anything else that can be put on your home network).  And if you know your neighbor has an unsecured network, tell them about it too.  they should know the security risk that they are presenting themselves with before something bad happens.  As a prime example, we initially attempted to recover a stolen laptop that reported back to us it's internet address and DNS name.  The police went to the house and were befuddled to find out the people we knew had the laptop was not the family that lived there...well, we eventually found out that they were the neighboring house and were borrowing the unsecured WI-FI.

Just for a point of reference, if you have Verizon FIOS, their included router has the following parental controls...

The box on the left will be populated with the names of the computers on your home network....