Monday, February 23, 2009


Computer Security

For most of my computer-using life, I haven't had to worry too much about the security of my computers and networks. I always had physical control of the machines. I had passwords on the accounts. I use WEP and WPA on my wi-fi. Best of all, I never had anything very valuable on the machines.

However, for the past year or so, I have a had a potential intruder to worry about: a ten-year old boy named Bailey.

So far, we are not too worried about Bailey's computer use. We monitor his use, both openly and covertly, and he hasn't done anything dangerous or malicious. When he does do things that he's not supposed to do, he doesn't try to cover his tracks. However, he definitely values expediency over rule-following, so if logging into his mom's account is the easiest way to get cheat codes for Pokemon, or if he thinks plugging his iPod into my computer will let him download the movie he wants, then that's what happens. Threats of punishment don't deter him.

So, I've had to start acting a bit like one of those network-admin people who have always annoyed me. I force everyone in the house to log in to computers with their own accounts. I set up computers to automatically go into screen-saver mode after a period of inactivity, and require a password to get out. I've created some scripts that can quickly shut down Bailey's computer, or forcefully log him out.

So far, Bailey hasn't shown much interest in learning how to bypass any of these measures. I don't know how long that will last. Part of me hopes that he will outsmart me. But another part of me hopes that won't happen for a little while longer.

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