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Hacked Parental Controls and how to be watchful

It was 3:39AM and I had fallen asleep in my chair after working late. Not my usual nighttime ritual, usually I would have been sound asleep on my face in my bed. But this time, I was snoozing away… half a room away from our charging area where our children’s phones were docked.

I jolted awoke to the familiar single ping of a parental request from one of my children's phones across the room.

What the...

No one else sends the kid's requests except me and I was asleep... with my phone 2 feet from me... I walked over to the glowing device with it's notification banner still lit across the Minecraft decorated lock screen…

Someone had just spoofed a request from me for my child.

Parental Controls are an incredible safety tool for children unless a criminal gains access.
"Screen Time Request - A parent requested to manage your contacts."

If you think about it, parents already have access to their child's contacts, right? So who sent this?


Answer: Not the parents.

Grabbing the phone up, I looked it over along with mine and shook my head – it was either an iOS glitch or a hack attempt. I scooped up my other child's phone too and walked briskly to my home office. Forget caffeine, I had adrenaline. And it was time to take care of business.


Within minutes, Apple Support confirmed it was not a glitch but indeed an attempted hack - we changed all passcodes, security challenges, everything. We wrapped it up an hour plus later.


She told me I was awesome.

What she didn't know was that I had not only been in the right place at the right time but that I also work with cyber security daily.

What happens to those kids and their parents who don't have security spidey senses going off at 3ish am? Who aren't light sleepers and eerily familiar with every unique digital peep their devices make? What happens when a child accepts that request thinking it’s from their "parent?"

The hacker gains control of the child's contact list, editing the list and sending links and content from the parent or another trusted relative and what's worse is if it's not just a hacker... not a thief... but a child predator.

So how do you protect your children from this type of sneak attack? Tell them to verify. Make sure their operating systems are always and I mean ALWAYS up to date. Install security on their devices, keep it updated. Make sure you are aware of where your children are, who they are talking to, what they are looking at, what they are playing and watching.

Research parental apps before you install them, make sure they are legitimate and not a scam app like the ones mentioned here on Malwarebytes.

But above all of that and more importantly than any app... listen to them. Because if you have open communication between each other, they're going to tell you if something makes them feel worried, uncomfortable, ashamed, scared...

Talking to your kids beats any app and it builds a lifetime of connection that no device, game or software will ever give them.

And be safe out there.

TNW Creations is a Web Development & Media Publishing Agency in Austin, Texas. Web Development, cyber security, web design, clean energy web host, Advanced SEO, Digital Marketing and more since 1995.

I've been programming, designing, writing and publishing professionally online since 1995. I've worn many hats throughout my life, but the common core of my career has always been media. Besides the portfolio you see on TNW Creations, my internet presence has been substantial for over 2 decades. In 1995, while still in college, I founded TNW Creations and became part of the grassroots development for teaching the Lakhota language online. By 2004, my bilingual work was listed on many sites, including National Geographic , Encarta and Touchstone Pictures Hidalgo. When I'm not developing and writing, you'll find me managing MagicStoryLand.Com, creating kid-friendly game & video content, investigating and initating hostile website takedowns, posting salty articles about cyber threats, moderating UnifyLife.Org and enjoying my  community, church & family.