Category: Internet Filtering & Security

VPN Explained for Dummies | Is a VPN Necessary?

Should You Have a VPN

Ok, you are NOT a dummy.  This is simply an article that explains VPNs in simple terms.  VPN services are not well known to the average person. For those who are aware of what they do, VPN services are often given a bad rap. We’ll explore and answer questions and concerns. We’ll also define what a VPN does and look at the online safety benefits.

VPN is short for Virtual Private Network.  It’s main security function is privacy protection. The privacy obtained through this private network is one of the reasons VPN’s get a bad name. However, when it comes to cyber security, personal privacy protection is a cornerstone of Internet safety. The need for effective solutions is growing.

How Does a VPN Protect your Privacy?

A VPN hides your location and makes it look like you are located somewhere other than your actual location.  You can choose the country and available locations within that country that you want it to appear you are accessing the Internet from.  One of the most practical places you would want to hide you location is when surfing public WiFi.  There are security risks regarding your personal information when logging on to public WiFi.  Firstly, never log on to a public WiFi unless there is an official verification of you as a user.   For example, when logging on to WiFi, such as an airport’s official free WiFi service, it will ask you to agree to certain terms.  This identifies yourself to the airport WiFi providers as well.  It also identifies others using the service.

This still won’t stop hackers from being able to anonymously spy on your lap top or phone.  Using a VPN will hide you from potential hackers who may be sitting just a few feet away from you.  The same is true for public Wifi in libraries and hotels. Most hotels require a password, which make it a little more secure but it’s still no match for a hacker who wants to hijack your laptop or mobile device.  If you are using public WiFi without a VPN, you should restrict your internet usage to activity that does not involve logging into personal accounts, such as banking.

Why Do VPN’s Get a Bad Rap?

If a VPN hides your location, then the assumption is that you are going to do something illegal.  True, VPN’s may be used by criminals who do not want authorities to see what they are doing online.  There are other activities that VPN’s are used for that are not necessarily illegal or have drastic legal ramifications, but many deem them as unethical.  These include streaming services such as NetFlix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime.  Streaming services only have the rights to show certain movies and TV shows in particular countries according to agreements with the copyright owners of that material.  If you pretend to be from a different country, would would gain access to entertainment that normally is not allowed in your country.

Additional Uses of a VPN

There are other legitimate reasons people want to sign up for a VPN on their computer, lap top or mobile phone.  We mentioned protection while using public WiFi already.  Here are a few more.

VPN Protection in Countries that Limit Personal Freedoms

If you live in a fully democratic country, you will be enjoying freedom to speak your mind or write about thoughts and ideas without suppression or persecution from your government.  There are countries that limit this in different ways.  These include; totalitarian regimes and communist countries that are highly restrictive, failed states and countries of great political unrest, as well as seudo democracies that suppress political opposition and limit access to information to control it’s citizens.

These countries also block legitimate websites to keep people from reading ‘fact based’ news, as opposed to state propaganda. They censor information online and there can be great consequences for journalists and bloggers who seek to expose government injustice and stand up a free and open society.  Even a regular citizen in a restrictive country can go to jail for posting a protest message on social media.  For these reasons, a VPN can protect individuals from being located and charged with doing something that is illegal in their own country, but is highly regarded as noble and just in a democratic country.

Protection from Hackers

Apart from the legal and seemingly innocent tracking that websites and internet service providers do while you are surfing the web, we can’t forget about the risk of being hacked.  Every home should have a proper firewall set up and every computer should be running proper Internet security.  Regardless of these protections however, hacking of your computer and the stealing of your private information can still occur at home.  A VPN hides your IP address so a hacker can’t find you.

VPN’s Prevent Swatting for Gamers

This is a scary one.  Swatting is when a fellow gamer online reports your to local police in your area and commits a most horrendous prank.  Or they may do it to get back at you for beating them at a game or just to be mean.  They will call the SWAT team to your home claiming there is hostage taking or that someone has a gun and threatening people.  The unbeknownst gamer in your family and anyone else at home is shocked when SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) shows up and hauls everyone out of your home in handcuffs.  Sometimes the outcomes of a swatting call are much worse.

The FBI reports that there are over 400 cases of swatting in the USA every year.  New technology has evolved that has expanded swatting from the home to public areas.  A VPN protects gamers at home and anyone out in public.  Video game players with a VPN turned on can rest easy.  If they get on the bad side of another gamer half way around the world, those bad eggs won’t be able to detect where you live.

Protection Against Cyberbullying:

We would not say that getting a VPN is a primary solution if a child is being cyberbullied. If you are having a serious problem and threats are involved, call your local police.  In extreme cases, having a VPN even for a short time can prevent bullies from finding out where you live until bullying issues are resolved.  The same is true for online predators.  Proper guidance and parental controls go a long way to protect kids online, but if you are dealing with a situation where a predictor may be attempting to stalk your child at home or at school, a VPN will stop that.

Business Protection

Most businesses do not have a lot of extra dollars to hire full time IT personal to protect their data.  A monthly subscription to a VPN is relatively affordable and manageable within a companies budget.  Businesses big and small will have 24/7 privacy protection that anti-virus and malware protection can’t provide.  Hackers need an IP address to hack any home or office.  This is includes hacking Microsoft 365 accounts.  Also, consider all your employees traveling the world and putting company data a risk.  Another benefit while traveling is the ability to access company files in countries where the internet is restricted.  Businesses can connect their VPN to the good router where all employees can use the service with only one account.

Alternatively, business may use residential proxies to filter residential IPs by country, city or ISP.  They use residential proxies to effectively monitor their online advertising to ensure ads are showing properly anywhere in the world.  Businesses are also able to gather prices from competitors, improve market research, and for social media management.

VPN Protection from ISP Tracking

Your internet service provider (ISP) collects your data and can often sell your personal information for advertising purposes.  This is legal but many protest that this is an invasion of privacy.  Most people are not concerned about it because internet service providers are not out to hurt you.  Though the threat does not appear imminent, your private information is still exposed to third parties.  Opening a new private window in your browser, also known as incognito mode, is not as secure as you think.  It does not hide your personal information from your IPS.  It merely blocks cookies from being saved and prevents websites from collecting your data as a user.  This can help you save money while shopping (more about that in our next point) but it does not provide full privacy.

Using VPN’s for Online Shopping Freedom

As alluded to in the previous paragraph, you can activate privacy mode in your browser to ensure you are not overpaying for products. This is especially true for airlines.  They want air travelers to pay the highest price possible for a plane ticket.  They will increase prices for customers they think will pay more and also reduce prices for those who are only willing to pay less.  Hiding your location and private information results keeps these websites in the dark about browsing history and buying habits.  For this reason, using a VPN for online shopping does a much better job of protecting you from over paying for products and services.

It also allows you to shop more easily while away from home.  Let’s say you are in another country and want to buy a product to be shipped to you by the time you return home.  Setting your location to your home country will allow you to shop as if you were there and not be subjected to different prices or shipping restrictions because the website thinks you are a foreigner.

Is a VPN Necessary?

Unfortunately, even though human rights have grown in democratic countries in many ways, a lack of privacy seems to be diminishing.  Or at least we are just become more are of the need to deal with these privacy issues since it has been in the news a lot lately.  The fight is on in developed nations to push back against the invasion of privacy that Internet companies, various websites and even social media platforms use to influence users and increase profits.  Laws need to be strengthened to make protection universal.

What is discouraging however, is the increased restrictions in old regimes.  While social media networks have been accused lately of neglecting the privacy of it’s users, no one can deny what a great tool it has been for people in corrupt countries to band together and oppose their governments for freedom that many of us take for granted.  This was first seen with the Arab Spring.  Today, oppressive countries are clamping down even harder to restrict their citizens from the having the freedom of ideas and communication that the growing power the Internet brings.

Even with proper laws in place for privacy protection, the world will always need Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) as long as there are hackers, predators and corrupt governments in power. Software companies and computer hardware manufactures will continue to improve security to make your personal data more secure.  Using an SSL proxy is another solution, but it is much more complicated to implement.  Subscribing to a VPN that hides your location is the best user friendly option to complete protection from everything we’ve mentioned in this article.

Parental Control Software

Most parents seeking parental control software options have kids in their home using multiple computers and devices, all of which are connected to the Internet. Even a single child may have a phone as well as a computer or tablet. They also are often using their parents personal computer from time to time for school projects or simply to print something.

If that isn’t enough to manage, your family members are connecting to the Internet at school or at a friend’s house. With proper parental controls you can ensure the safety and security of your kids online. Otherwise, it’s difficult to know where to begin. It’s hard enough for a person who has some technical savvy, but what if you are technically challenged?

This article features options to protect kids on all devices using parental controls.  Some apps are only designed to filter and monitor mobiles devices. 

Download Qustodio Parental Controls for Windows | Mac | Chromebook | Android | iPhone/iPad | Kindle

Access Free Downloads or Create Your FREE Parental Control Account!

Schools:  Download online student safety & content filtering tool

In addition to iPhone and Android mobile devices, our recommended parental control app also works on Amazon mobile devices.  In fact, multiple devices within your home can be monitored and controlled.  Comprehensive solutions for complete online safety is a parental control app that Filters and Monitors all aspects of online activity for kids. It provides an easy to use app or access from and computer dashboard that gives parents peace of mind knowing their children are protected online.

Parental Control Software

When parental control apps are not created for Windows and MAC computers you will need to find a software program that handles those devices as well, such as SentryPC. It offers monitoring, filtering and control of desktops and laptops at home, in schools and even at work for employees.

Let’s face it, a lack of technical knowledge is the case for most of us. We live in an ever changing world where the optimal “kid safety zone” is a moving target. This is where parental control software becomes an essential tool in managing the various needs of any family, according to a range of ages and responsibility.

The good news is, effective parental controls allows you to help keep your family safe in one software download. At Safe Search Kids, we recommend parental internet filtering for PC and MAC users to meet the needs of any family large or small.

Parental Control is Internet Filtering

Internet filtering is certainly the first priority when thinking about protecting kids from harmful aspects of the Internet. This is the primary focus of our search tools on Safe Search Kids, but we are only a single access search engine. Parent control software takes it one step further by filtering the entire Internet, regardless of what search engine your kids may be using.

Quit simply, it allows you to completely control access to the internet including and blocking websites no matter what device is being used.  The level of restriction can be customized by age. After all, the places your 16 years old can go online is much different than your 7 year old. This includes allowing or limiting access on apps and social media, some platforms of which are only appropriate for older kids.

Parental Control is Screen Time Management

Once you have the peace of mind of knowing all the bad areas of the Internet are completely blocked on every device in your home, you can think about controlling the time your kids spend online. Imagine having peace of mind going to sleep at night knowing your teenager is not able to access the internet past 10 or 11 pm.

These controls can easily be set within the dashboard of your account. Likewise, you can restrict access from your 7 year old so that they can not get online after 8 pm, for example. This screen time management control is at your fingertips for any day of the week from the app or desktop dashboard.

Parental Control Software Monitors Apps

The dangers of the Internet are not just through a website browser. With a software application you can also monitor what apps your kids are downloading. You can choose to also block apps you don’t want your family to access at all. As with managing screen time, you can individually customize accessibility for every one in the house and on every one of their devices.

New apps are being developed and made available on the app store everyday. Whether the app is on an iPhone, Android or Kindle Fire device, you will be notified when a new app is downloaded and installed on any device.

Parental Control is a Location Tracker

Within the parent dashboard, you can also track the location of each family member in real-time from your computer or smart phone. There’s no need to login to an iCloud account and no additional location tracking software is needed. The location tracking feature also allows you to check the past history of where your kids have been.

You can coincide their location with whether or not they’ve been online during that time. Let’s say you agree that it’s OK for your child to go to a friend’s house but you just want them to play. You don’t want them spending time surfing the web or going on social media. This is a way to check up on their activity while out of the house.

Alerts and Activity Reports

With all these parental control features working in the background to filter, block, and monitor online activity there is an additional feature that will help you keep track of things. Firstly, only need to initially set up controls and restrictions for each family member one time. From there it’s easy to fine tune controls as needed. 

Get instant alerts when suspicious photos or texts are detected on your child’s phone. Be notified when specific search terms are entered or when an app is being downloaded. What your kids are searching for online is also an insight into struggles they may be having, including bullying or feelings of alienation with friends or at school.

Safe Search Kids recommends software solutions, which include parental controls with dashboard access on mobile devices, computers and lap tops. Features can be applied on multiple platforms, including Android and iOS smart phones, Kindle Fire, Windows and Mac computers.

Teaching Internet Accountability and Responsibility

Monitoring and Controlling online activity should always be coupled with showing kids how to be responsible on their own. We all know putting kids in a cocoon will not prepare them properly for life in the read world. Setting up boundaries for kids is of course important, but some of those boundaries can be more lenient for older aged kids while allowing them to learn online responsibility. An internet blocking software can protect kids while they learn how to be responsible with the level of freedom you give them. The older they get and the more responsibly they use that freedom, the more trust we extend. 

Parental Controls answer these questions about your kids’ activities:

1. What exactly are my children doing online or on their mobile phones?

  • Are they chatting with social network sites like Facebook, Snapchat?
  • Are they visiting pornographic or other inappropriate sites?
  • Are they being bombarded with inappropriate ads on pages for guns, cigarettes, drugs or other illegal activity?

2. How much overall time is really spent on a daily basis on their phone and computer talking to friends or other socializing?

Now Here are Some Facts That May Surprise You

  1. One in 5 kids between 11-18 have been solicited online.
  2. 60% of kids are exposed to porn before age 12.
  3. Over 65% of kids have accidentally visited an inappropriate site online.
  4. More than 25% of kids have been cyberbullied, but only 10% of these incidents were told to parents.

We trust our kids to do what is right, but there is so much filth lurking on all corners of the internet and as parents, we should be very concerned – even for the innocent child who is 100% aware of all the dangers involved, it is next to impossible for our children to be 100% protected. In addition to our lack of time, it is an impossible task to manually monitor our children’s online activities. The latest internet and mobile technology make it impossible with software working in the background.  This includes cyberbullying prevention made possible by monitoring.

Why Every Parent Should be Using Parental Controls on Every Device in their Home

Even with the most strict guidelines in place, it is nearly impossible to monitor your children’s activity online doing it manually. In the past several years, a new niche of software has been developed to help families monitor overall online and computer activity.

Parental Control Software is a must.

While there are several in this field, what they all have in common is that the specific monitoring is automated. This does not mean that you can rely on the system 100% of the time to monitor what your kids are doing – parental supervision is essential, whether they are using a laptop, desktop, tablet or mobile phone.

Parental Control Software provides an integrated time management and internet blocking & monitoring solution with the following key features:

  • Restrict Internet & Computer Usage based on a customizable schedule or time limits.
  • Monitors chatting/instant messaging based on a time limit or schedule.
  • Access phone activity reports including what apps they install or uninstall.
  • Award-winning automated filter of porn, illegal, vulgar and other inappropriate websites.
  • Ability of parent to create White “Trusted” list and Black “Restricted” lists.
  • Dynamic Content Blocker – blocks inappropriate banner ads on webpages.

Basics of Webcam Protection from Hackers for Your Children

Webcam Safety and Security

Children are easy targets for cybercriminals and similar people. Children are often reckless about their actions: can click some unknown links out of curiosity only, go to an unknown page, or reply to a new message from an unknown addresser. Using a webcam by children also needs special attention from their parents’ side.

Otherwise, children can be unpleasantly surprised or even traumatized—the question of why cyber criminals do this will be left behind the topic of this article. The main point of this content is how to secure the webcam your children use and prevent any possible negative consequences. Get easy-to-apply tips tested by security experts.

Start with Security Software First

This is the foremost point that has to be ensured. If your device lacks effective protective software, it becomes automatically vulnerable to webcam hackers and similar categories of cybercriminals. This software is a moderate investment ensuring the effective operation of your PC, preventing getting any malware, spies, and similar software. Install that software and explain to your children how it should work. They should be aware of the most common notifications from this app and how to respond to those correctly.

Suspicious Links Avoided

This is a simple rule all children have to follow. It is easy to secure kids webcam, simply telling them “no links, no downloads” from unknown sources. This rule prevents getting malware and spyware that infect the computer and enable getting access to a webcam. If something appears to be suspicious, avoiding that is the best solution. Children should be aware of this.

“Stranger –Danger”

This rule is related to communications with unknown people. Children should not start this communication and share with them any kind of personal information. It is necessary to explain to children that even if these persons are pleasant to deal with, it is unlikely that somebody fair will ask to share personal information about a person during the first conversations.

What information is usually requested by strangers? It includes the details about the child’s history, date of birth, siblings, information related to parents, etc. Requesting personal information is the right way for using such details for unlawful purposes, hacking webcams, and arranging any similar things that may have a negative impact on children and their devices. Emphasize that your children should not deal with strangers online and provide those any authorizations.

Explain How It Works

Previous tips are effective, but they only decrease the risks related to hackers’ surfing and illegal webcam usage. You should explain that to your children and also clarify how this device works. Emphasize that kids’ webcam should be covered all the time. It is an easy-to-arrange technique that requires a special case or tape only. Explain to your children that such has to be present at any time other than the time when they are using that. It is not a kind of burdensome thing but a matter of ensuring a basic comfort of PC use. All those points require clarifications so your children could follow those.

Make Sure WiFi Is Secured

Sometimes the easiest way to secure your webcam is to protect the entire WiFi network you are using. It is necessary to apply secured and complex passwords. Your children should also be aware of all risks related to accessing public WiFi networks. If they are recklessly joining such networks, it is easy to get malicious software and become a target for cybercriminals.

To protect children from these negative emotions, you need only install VPN software. It secures your devices by changing their real IP addresses. As an outcome, devices remain untraceable. Using such networks is the single way for securing devices while using public networks.

Create Rules for the Camera’s Location

The easiest strategy on how to secure children from possible negative consequences while using a webcam is determining strict rules for applying it. The most workable rule, in this case, is avoiding using a webcam in a bedroom or bathroom. The situation is simple here. A child may easily forget to switch off the camera. This reckless mistake may have negative consequences.

Think about Applying Encryption

There are special devices and software that encrypt videos. That may be a bit complicated, of course, and problematic for children to apply. But, you may arrange that on your own easily. This will surely add points to the security of the applied device and its camera. Still, this aspect varies depending on your case and its peculiarities.

Secure Devices for Your Work from Children

It is always necessary to separate in time kids and company webcam you may have. Children may recklessly think about funny jokes or consider their devices are more secure and they have more freedom while using them. In fact, this is not so. The best strategy here is to secure your devices with effective passwords and software and better take those far away from children.

Apply More Advanced Methods

Those are related to data storage and security in the first turn. Perfectly, if your videos, including with children, are encrypted and stored securely. Applying two-factor authentication is another aspect of making your Internet experience safer.

Red Flags to Pay Attention to:

You may probably think that all stated risks are hypothetical, and that is true at some point. In fact, there are clear indicators that signify that your webcam is probably working against you. There is usually a red LED light nearby the camera. If it is on, this is an indicator that the camera is used without your permission. Another aspect to pay attention to is getting suspicious notifications.

Final Words

Afraid of any cyber threats for your children? There are easy-to-follow tips on how to secure a webcam and your children from the negative consequences of reckless actions while surfing the Internet. It is always better to explain to children that the Internet is not a place full of joyful and interesting materials but also a spot where lots of cyber criminals exist.

To prevent any negative feelings and experiences from becoming a victim of such persons, it is necessary to set and follow simple security rules for webcams and Internet connections. Applying a special case or tape to cover a webcam at any time other than using it is the best tip to secure children. Installing special security software, preventing chats and connections with strangers, and following suspicious links are other helpful tips to follow. Make your children aware of all these tips and be more or less calm about their security.


Author’s Bio

Aston Rhodes is an experienced content creator and marketing expert for Aston has been helping authors improve their blogs for over 5 years and turn this hobby into a business. She does research and discussion on tech-related topics. She enjoys sharing her experiences with a like-minded audience and writes about software development, digital marketing, business, career, and more.

Personal Data Parents Should Protect | Apps that Collect the Most Data

Apps that Collect the Most Data

In a world of easy internet access, our children are vulnerable to online criminals. There are several types of personal data that parents should protect for their kids. We’ll take a look at what you need to know to keep your family safe online.

We will also show a valuable resource that shows which apps for kids that collect the most data.  This data collection goes unnoticed unless parents are vigilant.

Your Children Are Vulnerable Online

Because we all use the web so much, it’s easy to forget about internet privacy. Companies, agencies, and other organizations track us when we are online: our location, our financial data, and our personal information, as well as what we buy. Even our conversations are recorded and stored by companies.

Companies use this data for marketing. Unfortunately, hackers and other criminals can access it to steal, defame, and otherwise harm our children. One of the main forms that kids are at risk is through the use of apps.  Apps are used for education, social media, gaming, messaging, and streaming entertainment.  These are just one facet of a child’s internet use.

Ways to Protect Your Family

The first step is to talk to your children. As long as your children are online, they are not too young to learn about internet safety. Set age-appropriate rules and boundaries for internet usage. Then, teach them to understand why you’ve put these in place.

The most important thing you can teach them is to avoid sharing information with people they don’t know. They should not share personal data, like their phone or address, online. Instead, they can give that info out via phone or text.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take to safeguard their privacy online:

  • Use a VPN with your internet service to block unwanted sites and safeguard browsing features.
  • Protect your browser by disabling tracking cookies and enabling private browsing in your options. That will protect their data and actions from being monitored.
  • Use trustworthy antivirus services and parental controls to keep kids and their computers safe.
  • Have your kids set up and store unique and complex passwords for all their accounts. Using the same ones repeatedly puts them at risk.

Besides these generic safety tools, there are several options you can employ to protect them during their most common activities.

Social Media

Just about all our kids are on social media. Unfortunately, this can be a dangerous place. To keep kids safe, you must teach them to keep personal data private while on social media. Here are some simple guidelines you can teach them:

  • What we share online can be stored forever. Make sure your kids understand how to use good judgment and discretion when posting. If they are uncertain, start a conversation about what makes a good post versus TMI (too much information).
  • Everyone likes to post photos. Sadly, family pictures can attract predators, cyberbullies, and other internet dangers. Teach them to respect others’ privacy by not posting pictures of other people without their permission.
  • Many websites give you an option to log in using a social media profile rather than your email. That leads to numerous security dangers. Instead, teach your kids to set up a new profile via email rather than exposing social media data.

Virtual Gaming

Online gaming is another area that exposes our kids to identity theft, data mining, phishing, and other hazards. There are several protections you can put in place to safeguard their virtual gaming activities.

  • Computer cameras and mics may be exploited with the click of an insecure link. Be sure your kids are not clicking anything suspicious or unverified while in games. You can also cover the camera and unplug peripherals when offline.
  • Turn off location tracking on devices if possible whenever gaming.
  • If you have secure Wifi or a VPN and antivirus software, you’ll give your child an extra level of protection against unsecured gaming servers.
  • Finally, be sure to update applications and software regularly.

Online Shopping

Safely shopping online is a bit of a tricky activity since your child needs to enter secure data, such as location, phone, and credit card info. Teach your child to recognize safe sites for shopping (i.e., Amazon, Target) versus unknown name sites or links that redirect elsewhere. Additionally, kids need to be wary of clicking email links from unknown sources.

Posting a direct bank account link is also unsafe. Therefore, instead of using a debit card, have your kids use a credit card for an extra measure of safety. Kids should also protect their credit card usage by keeping their online receipts and looking for suspicious activity on their accounts. Have them avoid saving credit card data either with a retailer or in their cookies.

Online Courses

Since the pandemic, more children are relying on online education. Unfortunately, from 2018 to 2019, problems with student data security in classrooms tripled. Your child’s grades, progress, and other confidential school data are stored online and can be vulnerable to attacks.

Be sure that your educators and administrators take the appropriate steps to protect student privacy. Review your schools’ digital policies, including how information is protected and shared. Schools should use FERPA Sherpa, a government resource designed to help them protect student privacy.

Kids today cannot avoid using the internet. This puts them at great risk for cybercrimes. However, these simple steps can keep your children safe online no matter what they are doing. As mentioned, apps are now one of the ways most of us access resources and information according to our own interests. This is especially true when using smart phones and tablets.

Explore this interactive resource to learn what apps are collecting the most data. Which ones collect the least?

Safer Search

What does it take to provide a safer web experience for kids? It takes a combination of tools and resources working together in unison: internet filtering, secure browsing, apps for parental controls, and education. That is our mission at Safe Search Kids as we work to deliver these four cornerstones of online safety to parents, teachers, and students.

Search public records to find people, connect with long lost friends, family, or conduct background checks to learn about strangers or acquaintances that have contact with your children on the people search engine.