Internet safety software supposedly helps parents protect their kids from the uglier parts of the internet and keep an eye on their usage. Soemtimes, though, these tools are actually just spyware. Why are hundreds of police agencies and other law enforcement agencies spreading this garbage?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have been distributing thousands of copies of a program called ComputerCOP for free to familes via community events, schools, and so on. At least 245 agencies in over 35 states have been distributing it.
In investigating the software, the EFF found that ComputerCOP is "neither safe nor secure"--with a keylogging feature that stores everything a user types in a folder without encryption. In other words, rather than being a tool that protects your (and your kids') safety and security, it's one that can compromise it.
The EFF points out the ComputerCOP's parent company has been marketing the software as a fundraising and election tool to law enforcement agencies. While our police departments and other public officials probably have the right intentions in mind, trying to promote internet safety, this is not the best way. Besides the insecure keylogging, ComputerCOP has made some dubious claims about endorsements it has received.
"Even if it's a pointless giveaway from the police," the EFF writes, ", it’s still being purchased with our tax dollars. As law enforcement agencies around the country face budgetary shortfalls, spending $25,000 on an ineffective product is not only unwise, but fiscally irresponsible. Law enforcement agencies should cease distributing copies immediately and tell parents not to use it."
Instead of handing it out.
Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.