safe app use ireland

Introduction

This Website was designed to provide Irish parents with the resources to deal with the problems that arise when allowing children to use Apps in an unfiltered manner allowing access to all the joys of the internet, but also all of the risks associated with unfiltered access.

On this website, you will find case studies explaining the potential dangers and abuses within the most common social media Apps as well selected documented case studies highlighting the potential extreme dangers and extent of the problems in Ireland.

We have also provided tutorials which serve to increase security and reduce the online visibility and footprint of the user. The Apps have each been rated according to our own App rating. We investigate each Apps Terms & Conditions outlining important points we felt parents, in particular, might like to be aware of, relating to how each company deals with important aspects regarding data sharing, retention, and deletion. We also felt parents would like to know how each company deals with issues such as bullying, or inappropriate behavior and ban policies. The intention here was not to suggest that Terms & Conditions can or should be avoided, but rather, to highlight the important information that can often be missed should a user choose to ignore them, We strongly suggest that users always read the Terms & Conditions of an App.

Next up we break down the features and settings of each App and provide a step by step breakdown of each setting and how to adjust it (Settings guide up to date as of March 2019). This we felt was really useful especially to users with less technical experience with modern devices and applications and this forms the backbone of our service.

Having examined the settings in depth we provide a recommendation that we feel will provide the highest level of increased security, the lowest level of user visibility and the lowest amount of online footprint.

Next, we offer our personal views on each App based off our experience in using the App, as we examined it from the perspective of a user who is familiar with Security vulnerabilities and avoiding the risks associated with Apps. We will also state if we feel the app is safe for use by children using our App Safety Rating System.

We hope that users find our service useful, informative and that it helps to provide a greater level of protection for all users especially children, and increases parents peace of mind during those moments where they cannot be there in person to supervise their child’s use of a device or App. We would also like to thank visitors for taking the time to visit our site and we encourage you to share the service freely.

We also provide links to other resources that hotline.ie provides for parental control software along with a description.

Finally, we discuss what VPNs (Virtual Proxy Networks) are along with examples of VPN Software.

Our Motivations:

Security in the digital age can be a complicated minefield for even the most highly educated and trained professionals, let alone the average person trying to navigate their way through the many millions of operating systems, devices, Apps, and other third-party software systems on the market. And that is assuming that the average person is even conscious of the potential traps, flaws and pit-falls they may encounter and takes steps to avoid them, which of course, those of us who study this field will know is simply not true. The average person expects the developers to secure the software and assume they will have done this. This tends to provide a false sense of security as mobile platforms for example, tend to carry inherent risks and security tends to be minimal . To develop a habit of leaving your security in the hands of others and simply assume they have secured your data, identity or device is obviously a bad habit to develop, but it is even more dangerous when children are involved.

A child may see the world differently to an adult particularly if the parent adopts a more permissive parenting style and being possessed with the kind of innocence that is stripped from an adult as we grow, may be unaware that there are people who exist in the world that may want to hurt them; be it for profit or for their own amusement however twisted it might be. As such, a child’s security precautions may be determined by the guiding hands of an adult who has made some effort to establish guidelines regarding a child’s online activity but who may also lack adequate knowledge of the risks that exist. Or, the child’s safety has been left to be determined by the program they are using, or they are simply very lacking bordering on non-existent. This is not to suggest that no parents are making informed decisions, but this is not an easy process to get right and information can be hard to come by. While it is our curiosity as children that drives us to learn, this curiosity unguided and unfiltered and supervised can lead us to danger and this is no less true in the digital age. 

Along-side this risk to children, comes the risks associated with adults being unaware of the dangers that exist. With our modern hectic lifestyles, it is perfectly understandable that a parent may hand a device to a child hoping for a moments distraction to take a breather, completely unaware that some online users may be seeking to take advantage of their lack of awareness coupled with the natural innate curiosity of their child to seek to manipulate them. Some of these malicious users may be predators, some may simple be mentally damaged individuals and some may be criminals seeking a financial gain.

There is of course a further risk factor, less dangerous perhaps, but no less unwanted by users. As well as the risks associated with the modern digital age mentioned above, there is also the risks associated with the monetization of data. Each of us, both adult and child, has an online footprint. And that footprint leaves a data trail that marketers and manufacturers of products can use to target consumers and predict trends. Worse still, users’ data can be used maliciously to manipulate their decision-making processes. Dis-information and disingenuous stories are becoming very pervasive across social media platforms. This can have a very detrimental effect on society and more importantly can have a very negative impact on children. The monetization of data is fast becoming one of the world’s biggest online industries that drives the modern consumer market. To avoid unwanted consumer solicitations, both legitimate and illegitimate spam and most importantly to reduce the targeting of children by marketing companies, it is best to attempt to reduce the on-line footprint, by where ever possible, reducing the visibility of your data via your profiles and data sharing options.

With your data being monetized, you are effectively monetized. Your online habits, uses, sites you visit and purchases you make reveal a lot about you and your decision-making processes.  This makes you a prime target for spam, phishing and any site that may be able to collect your meta-data to sell them to marketing agencies. To put this into some context, as illustrated by , experts at Cisco using their security team Talos, set up a trap server for the purposes of documenting the type of email traffic trapped. It was estimated that over a one-month period, of the almost 45 billion emails screened through this server, just over 85% of the emails were considering to spam or illegitimate emails. And this is just one form of information phishing.

So, how exactly do we remedy this and reduce the potential risks? Well, the options vary from App to App, operating system to operating system and software to software, not to mention websites. And where exactly does one go to learn the skills and obtain the knowledge needed to best know how to adjust these settings or which security Apps to employ to best protect yourself, your identity and most importantly those your child?

These are precisely the questions our group aims to answer. We will conduct research to establish the most commonly used Apps among children in Ireland. Taking platform into consideration, though this is less of a concern as technology develops and Apps become more and more progressively cross-platform. We shall use pre-existing pertinent research as well as conducting our own survey to determine which Apps to study.

Once we have selected our appropriate Apps, we shall conduct an overall case study of the risks and dangers associated with App use among children. Having conducted our case studies we shall develop a simple App safety rating system to determine which of the Apps we investigate are safe for use by children. Next, we will perform in depth analysis of the features of each App. Finally, we will delve into the settings to establish the most secure settings to select, to better reduce your or your child’s online footprint and visibility.

Once we have investigated each App and established our recommendations for increasing security when using each App, we shall then develop a Web based platform to present this information in a user-friendly format. This is the goal of our program. To produce a useable practical blog based of our research which will allow parents to make informed decisions and better protect themselves and their children from the risks and dangers associated with App use both on and offline. Having spent almost 3 years studying cyber security in detail and having considered strongly a project where we simply displayed our ability to implement security into an App, our group instead felt that we would like to give back something to cyber security which provides a useful resource to our community both locally and nationally.

Email Study Carried out by the Cisco Talos Group over a one Month Period

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