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Thread: Pls Help -- Sniper Spy & Parental Spying

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Pls Help -- Sniper Spy & Parental Spying

    I really need some advice. I've got a 13 year old son who fancies himself a hacker, and though he's quite a decent kid "in the real world", he's fallen into some pretty shady stuff online. Easily finds web info on how to hack our devices (wifi password mysteriously getting reset to default that he knows), gets around the parental software we've tried, Facebook chats with unknown men on the other side of the world, has seen porn videos, tries P2P downloads, downloading TOR browsers (and I think a whole linux-based Tor operating system that runs off a USB), and is currently looking into Kali and Bitcoin mining, etc.

    So, I find out, and since I can't effectively block this, I lock down all laptops and devices, but it's like depriving a fish of water. I have to find some way to allow him to be on the computer safely (and hopefully keep him focused on reasonable topics like his Arduino coding), so I'm looking into stronger Parental Monitoring Software. Most get bad reviews, but the one that looks like it might work (as in he can't get around it) is Sniper Spy.

    Then I read the following: "You can simply attach SniperSpy to an e-mail or embed it into a Microsoft Word or Notepad document. Then send the file via e-mail and when it is opened, it will automatically install and not display any signs it is installed." Whoa! Isn't that how spyware works? Is this software legitimate? I really don't want to be the big secret spy , but I don't like what's happening online. School requires him to have a computer, and he needs to explore his techie passions somehow. Of course, I have let him know that he can only be on the computer if it's monitored, but is this software dangerous spyware? Will SpyBot, Malwarebytes, or Windows Defender simply remove this?

    I know I'm opening myself up to major criticism of my parenting, but what would you do in my shoes?

    Kay

  2. #2
    Member of Team Spybot tashi's Avatar
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    Hello kiwikay,
    Quote Originally Posted by kiwikay View Post
    I really need some advice. I've got a 13 year old son who fancies himself a hacker, and though he's quite a decent kid "in the real world", he's fallen into some pretty shady stuff online. Easily finds web info on how to hack our devices (wifi password mysteriously getting reset to default that he knows), gets around the parental software we've tried, Facebook chats with unknown men on the other side of the world, has seen porn videos, tries P2P downloads, downloading TOR browsers (and I think a whole linux-based Tor operating system that runs off a USB), and is currently looking into Kali and Bitcoin mining, etc.

    So, I find out, and since I can't effectively block this, I lock down all laptops and devices, but it's like depriving a fish of water. I have to find some way to allow him to be on the computer safely (and hopefully keep him focused on reasonable topics like his Arduino coding), so I'm looking into stronger Parental Monitoring Software. Most get bad reviews, but the one that looks like it might work (as in he can't get around it) is Sniper Spy.

    Then I read the following: "You can simply attach SniperSpy to an e-mail or embed it into a Microsoft Word or Notepad document. Then send the file via e-mail and when it is opened, it will automatically install and not display any signs it is installed." Whoa! Isn't that how spyware works? Is this software legitimate? I really don't want to be the big secret spy , but I don't like what's happening online. School requires him to have a computer, and he needs to explore his techie passions somehow. Of course, I have let him know that he can only be on the computer if it's monitored, but is this software dangerous spyware? Will SpyBot, Malwarebytes, or Windows Defender simply remove this?

    I know I'm opening myself up to major criticism of my parenting, but what would you do in my shoes?

    Kay
    I'm not going to recommend a keylogger and by your own description your son would likely get around it anyway, perhaps use it on you.

    If your description is correct you may have a bigger problem.
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  3. #3
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    Congratulations, sounds like you have a very clever and intelligent son!

    Most of the things you list seem to be perfectly legal to me. E.g. I'd recommend everyone to know about Tor nowadays.

    To keep him out of trouble, education is much more important than a technical "solution". You won't have a chance with the latter given the technical knowledge of your son anyways.

    daemon

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    Default Yes, intelligent but...

    As a parent I have an obligation to protect him from some of the more dangerous aspects of being online, and while it may be legal to watch porn and exchange phone numbers with unknown men on the other side of the planet, it's not safe or considered by most to be appropriate for a 13 year old. And yes, education is important, but not everyone acts maturely by simply being informed. I agree, I especially don't like the key-logging aspects of these programs (nor do I like the idea of remote installation), and because I'm trying to model being upfront and transparent, having some kind of monitoring software installed would be part of the terms of having more computer time, where I don't have to regularly look over his shoulder. As well, I intend to go over his usage logs with him so we can discuss and learn from it (for example, how much of his 4 hour school time was actually spent doing anything related to school assignments -- an important discussion for kids who have trouble getting school assignments done). I have no interest in peering into the details of emails, and would only look at what the software has to report with his participation.

    But, I am not alone in this challenge. And as it gets easier and easier for kids (not a time of life known for exercising the best of judgement) to look up online how to easily get involved in shady activities and how to avoid detection (from parents or other authorities), it becomes harder and harder to keep "at risk" kids on a path that keeps them out of trouble. And yes, I think Tor is a great thing for many legitimate purposes (I have even been known to recommend people look into using it when they want to do research on issues which, if known, would reveal personal family medical issues), but it obviously also makes it easier for people to escape detection when heading down a path which is not likely to lead to good things. While I don't know much about bitcoin mining, I would suspect it's not something best suited for a 13 year old and feel it necessary to keep an eye on that. Problem is, with the internet world out there, it's no longer just his interests he follows, but it becomes easy to hook up with other "strangers" who will gladly lead a young, easily influenced, child right into a web of problems.

    So, yes, I appreciate his intelligence, but I still feel the responsibility to be the parent who, in order to help protect him from online dangers and to positively guide his development, has to have an idea of what's going on. So, if there's anyone who's found a working solution to these challenges, I'd love to hear it.

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    Default parent myself

    Not sure if your problem is solved, but as a parent, not a hacker I would talk to him about other people's problems tell him about people who have fallen victim to people he would emulate, and how their lives were upturned. Build empathy and social skills and gently guide him to use his formidable skills to make the world a better place, not a more fearful one for those he may feel superior to due to his skills. If you try to block him, and he is as clever with hacking as you describe, you only escalate the battle. Use his skill to show him other parts of the world and lead him to understand why some things must be blocked and if he is able to bypass those blocks, he therefore carries extra responsibility to protect others, and if he does not learn that he is going over to the dark side.

  6. #6
    Member of Team Spybot tashi's Avatar
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    Good advice halibrewer, the speed of changing technology has certainly brought unique challenges.

    kiwikay, I was wondering if it's possible to find your son a mentor or class above his own grade level to set goals he has to strive for, so he doesn't get bored and turn to his peers to try out new stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by kiwikay View Post
    So, yes, I appreciate his intelligence, but I still feel the responsibility to be the parent who, in order to help protect him from online dangers and to positively guide his development, has to have an idea of what's going on.
    Well said.
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  7. #7
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    I don't have an answer, and I can feel your concerns here, he's only 13 years old. That is my worry, and I do know that if an older gentleman can talk him into things he didn't know about (hacking, or worse) he sets himself up for a big fall. This stuff is interesting to kids believe it or not.

    I wonder if there is a qualified counselor or someone from local authorities could give better insight for an answer? I know many 'sting' operations in the past stopped some nonsense but we have no clue if your son would ever be involved in anything like this.
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    Default Thank you for the replies

    We have talked about this and related online safety issues, but you all must know the relative naivety of youth and the "won't happen to me" attitude, added to the "I'm too technically savvy to get caught up in any problems". He says the porn video he saw made him feel sick, but I'm sure we can all relate to the pull of something that's awful to look at and yet is difficult to turn away from. Fortunately, at this point, he's agreeing to have Parental Monitoring Software installed (and says he won't try to hack it). I'm trying out "Time Boss" and so far it seems alright (at least it doesn't have key logging software which I'm pretty opposed to) and it's not that easy to get around (I can set it up with an onscreen keyboard input password that even other computer admins can't get into) and I can set times so that I'm around to see if there are any USBs plugged in and running (it takes regular screen shots). It also allows me to set allowed times to access social media sites (though that may only work with the IE browser -- I still have plenty of testing to do).

    He thinks his hacking is for good, but I think the boundaries can be muddled sometimes (and I certainly don't consider getting around my parental boundaries good!). I have thought of a mentor, and think it's a good idea. I'm hoping to find one but we're not in a very techie community (and a class isn't an option right now). Thank you for your feedback

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