Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under The Digital Age

The Electronic Frontier Foundation takes a look at sketchy software that local law enforcement agencies are handing out to parents. This software is designed to track and report kids’ internet activities, and there are some problems:

As security software goes, we observed a product with a keystroke-capturing function, also called a “keylogger,” that could place a family’s personal information at extreme risk by transmitting what a user types over the Internet to third-party servers without encryption. That means many versions of ComputerCOP leave children (and their parents, guests, friends, and anyone using the affected computer) exposed to the same predators, identity thieves, and bullies that police claim the software protects against.

This is a catastrophically huge problem. The whole point of the internet is that it’s full of strange computers. When you load a web page or send a photo, that information is bouncing all around from one computer to another until it hits you.

If that information is, for example, everything you type? And it’s not encrypted at all? That’s your username, your password, your credit card information, every site you go to, etc. That sounds pretty criminally negligent to me.

In investigating ComputerCOP, we also discovered misleading marketing material, including a letter of endorsement purportedly from the U.S. Department of Treasury, which has now issued a fraud alert over the document. ComputerCOP further claims an apparently nonexistent endorsement by the American Civil Liberties Union and an expired endorsement from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Oh, and fraudulent, too.