back to article Parental control apps prove easy to beat by kids and crims

Parental control apps may do more harm than good, according to researchers who found 18 bugs in eight Android apps with more than 20 million total downloads that could be exploited to, among many nefarious acts, control other devices on the parents' network. Fabian Densborn and Bernhard Gründling of the SEC Consult …

  1. Old Used Programmer

    Smarter that who?

    I've long held that parental control programs are an intelligence test for kids. In light of this research, a test with an unsurprisingly low bar.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smarter that who?

      I'm not really sure it's an intelligence test as being intelligent doesn't imply you know lots of things about everything. There's still this old stereo type in peoples heads that kids are somehow inherently better with technology than their parents. In my experience that hasn't been true for some time, in fact I'm beginning to see more and more kids who don't care about the technology and how it works they just want the results.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Smarter that who?

        It's like they didn't care how magazines are being made, they just wanted those pages...

      2. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Smarter that who?

        > that kids are somehow inherently better with technology than their parents

        They are just better at crowdsourcing: They will certainly find a friend who has a friend who has a big brother who has heard about how to bypass the obstacle. All they have to do is ask around, among their dozens of friends.

        Whereas parents are stuck with the (usually unique) family hotline person, who might or might not know about those things (usually not, as in the country of the blind any one-eyed man is king).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smarter that who?

          I think parents have got friends too, so they'll also ask a friend who knows someone who works in IT...

          In the case of my kids their friends only ended up bricking the phone so I had to do a complete re-install. The third time I told them I wouldn't do it again and they finally stopped listening to their friends... at leats on this subjects :-)

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Smarter that who?

            > I think parents have got friends too, so they'll also ask a friend who knows someone who works in IT...

            Depends on age and profession of those parents I guess. For instance I don't have any close friends in IT. Acquaintances yes, but nobody I could bother with hacking some security device for me. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

            As for getting stupid advice from your friends, well, that's youth... When you get older you pay good money for that.

          2. Lil Endian Silver badge

            Re: Smarter that who?

            A difference between the adult and minor groups is in the obligation of debt when asking their peers for assistance.

            Adults asking for help from the one-eyed man will often "pay" in some way, cash or a bottle of wine, for example. If adults ask a professional friend for help, it's probably a straight up favour, who's going to charge a family member a three figured hourly rate? If that pro has said "I told them I wouldn't do it again"[1] then they're no longer going to be the one asked (which is how the one-eyed man supports his wine dependency!).

            Minors will share the information just to circumvent the issue in-hand (eg. parental control apps) "that showed them!". It does not matter to this group if the info is incorrect. Eventually the correct approach will be hit by the social brute forcing of it.

            Which brings me to the size of the knowledge pool available to these groups.

            The "stereotype" that "kids are somehow inherently[2] better with technology than their parents" is founded, in part, in that the minors have 'no' limitation due to brute forcing a problem with their peers - they could well be in a school of 2000 students, a huge pool of resource. Adults are much more restricted in the size of resource pool, they've often become "set in their way" and are often limited for quid pro quo reasons.

            So, I think I'm more with ThatOne on this.

            [1] There's only on person I give Doze support to. It's shit, and I've told all of those people that used to ask me for assistance with it that they're making a rod for their own back. I will always assist them in moving away from it to something that doesn't bork itself on a given Tuesday.

            [2] Anyone saying it's "inherent" is missing the mark by miles, it's learned knowledge.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Smarter that who?

          And yet, we are already at the stage where the parents of school age kids ALSO grew up with computers and technology. Maybe most of them are in the same boat as their kids. They don't really care how it works, just so long is it does, sorta, more or less, does what it's expected to do.

  2. joed

    nature will find the way

    what did they expect?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: nature will find the way

      Not really nature finding a way, more a piss poor job done by the developers of these apps. I notice Google's Family Link wasn't in the list, I wonder if that's because it's OK or because it' wasn't tested.

  3. Rikki Tikki

    My parenting career was pre-parental-control apps, but I found out early on that "childproof" locks aren't, and I'd assume that control apps offer a similar level of security.

    I'm sure my kids would simply have viewed them as a (not overly hard) challenge.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      As a toddler, my nephew used to frequently treat baby gates as a problem to be solved. Each one lasted about a week before he worked out how to open it..

  4. ChoHag Silver badge


    I remember working around my first one of these in about 1994 so that I could see some pixellated nipples and read banned pages about hardcore computer hardware and other scuntorpe-esque demonstrations of how well designed and, after 15 minutes, effective censorship can be.

    Good times.

    I didn't have much love for the industry then but I'm a parent now and so I'm glad to see the sport is still alive and well, training the youth.

  5. ThatOne Silver badge


    The only point of these contraptions is so you can tell yourself you did everything you could, and if something happens it's not your fault, and definitely not that you failed your duties as a parent. No, no, you clearly were a good parent, you spent all of $20 on your kid's safety!

    And besides, you'll have somebody to sue if something really bad happens: Profit!

  6. AnAnonymousCanuck


    First time I have heard of Frida. It looked interesting And then I learn it's written in python.

    Poor performance and an insecure environment. "pip install" Does not meet standards. Too bad.


    1. Lil Endian Silver badge

      Re: Frida

      insecure environment

      Security is proactive by necessity, for banks, homes and dev environments alike. You don't fit a lock to your house and walk away without actually locking-up. (Well, not in St Annes anyhow!)

      If a programmer uses third party, unvetted code in any language, be it from PyPI or cut'n'paste from Stack Overflow, then they're as good a programmer as the parents are good parents in ThatOne's comment above ("Pointless").

      Do we all write code from the ground up every time? Of course not. Do we ignore the ramifications of introducing third party source into our dev environment? If the answer is 'yes' stay away from my stack!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only the government was to step in, sort things out and take contr.....

    Erm... perhaps not!

  8. Frank Bitterlich

    In Soviet Russia...

    In Soviet Russia, tablet controls parents!

  9. RyokuMas

    ... and for iOS?

    Going by the content of the article...

    "Android parental control apps prove easy to beat by kids and crims" (TFTFY!)

    Facetiousness aside, I'm curious to know how the equivalient iOS parental control systems stack up by comparison - my kids are hitting the age where they'll be wanting their own phones soon, so I'm on a bit of learning curve again...

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