Online safety and home infrastructure

Technology has become an important part of the life we now lead.    Social media, games consoles, smart phones and voice recognition systems like Amazon’s Echo are now all part of normal life.    This technological change has brought many benefits however there are already some indications of the implications of technology use.

We have already seen discussions about technology addiction.    We have also seen discussions around unforeseen implications arising from technology use, such as the impact of parents posting their children’s every move on social media; How do they feel when adult photos of their every childish endeavour and mishap are easily found on Facebook?

Then we have the issue around cyber or online safety.   This is an issue that I find of particular interest.  There has been a particular focus around being careful in relation to passwords in particular, and to the information shared on social media, however this seems to take for granted that the infrastructure we are using our technology to access is secure.

In the home will have a Wi-Fi network connected to which there may be a wireless printer, a laptop, a couple of phones and maybe some other internet connected devices.    But have sufficient security precautions been taken?

Maybe the Wi-Fi network was setup straight from the box it was supplied in, with little adjustment of its configuration.    As such the default Wi-Fi SSID may give away the make of the router which would help anyone wishing to compromise the network.    Has the default admin password for the router been changed and has Wi-Fi access to the administrative interface been disabled?    If not then malicious access is all the easier.      Has WPS been disabled and has the appropriate security features such as WPA rather than WEP been enabled?

The games console has fathers credit card details entered in it for purchasing and downloading games, however the password is shared with his Gmail account, Facebook account and a couple of other services.       As such should any service be compromised then all services are likely to be compromised given the common email address and password used across accounts.

A new wireless printer has been set up, but again has been left configured as it was in the box it arrived in.   As such the admin password is set as the default.    Should someone gain access to the network they can therefore easily use this device to gain a permanent foothold within the network.

The laptop doesn’t have any anti-virus software on it and the windows firewall is turned off.  Also windows updates haven’t been carried out in over a year leaving the operating system seriously out of date.

The growth of technology in modern life is very much related to its ease of use, however the technology itself is far from simple.    Although the default configurations and setups get things going, they are generally not the best solution in terms of safety and security yet the majority of users neither have the understanding or the skills necessary to make the required changes.   With this in mind I think it is important to not only teach our students about safety in relation to end client devices and apps, but also about the safety aspects of setting up and maintaining your home infrastructure.


Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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