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Remote Spyware Use- Warning to Parents

by Wayne Porter

The Dangers of "Remote Spyware"

In the past, concerned parents and users have used Spyware or 'Snoopware' to monitor their children?s online activities. While we adamantly oppose the use of spyware on unsuspecting users, we can certainly understand the desire to legitimately monitor children?s activity to ensure their safety from on-line predators.

Unfortunately, spyware vendors, in the urge to produce more feature packed products and stay competitive, are launching and selling a new breed of spyware that can readily be abused by unscrupulous people and/or cyber criminals.

These Spyware packages promise ?remote installation? or the ability to install a spy software package without having to have physical access to the target machine. While difficult, this is possible and opens up a Pandora?s Box of security threats. It doesn?t take much imagination to see how cyberstalkers could use commercially available Spyware products to penetrate an unsuspecting child?s machine and easily gather ALL information being typed, passed or sent through that machine. This is especially dangerous if a parent and child are sharing the same machine.

Further compounding this threat is the poor security implementation of some commercial remote monitoring packages. We have identified several spyware programs that open a default communication port on the target system and use a hard-coded or default, easy to guess or easy to brute force password. Hackers can use simple port scanning tools to scan entire networks and easily find and penetrate affected machines.

In these cases well-meaning parents who have installed remote monitoring security solutions have opened their children up to potentially greater harm.

Tips for Parents:

-Software can never replace the need for having a parent or guardian actively involved with what a minor is doing online. Just as you would not turn a child loose in a big city alone, parents should never send their children online unsupervised.

-If you must use monitoring software, be sure the child knows the software is in place and why. It is better to be upfront and honest about monitoring your children?s activity then potentially violating someone?s trust- no matter how young they are.

- Do not use ?remotely installed? spyware or monitoring systems as you may be opening up your computer to scenarios where attacks can be made by hackers or cybercriminals.

- Ensure that your child is not opening up e-mail attachments or other unsafe files that might contain a Spyware payload. You should make regular sweeps with both current anti-virus software and anti-spy software to be sure a machine is not being monitored without your knowledge.

- Educate your child on the potential dangers of the Internet. The more they know the safer they will be.

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