Thales e-Security Enables Teensafe To Securely Help Parents Protect Kids
TeenSafe is devoted to empowering parents to keep their children safe and thriving in the mobile digital age. Studies show that 78 percent of teens have smartphones and access to social media sites, with over 40 percent suffering from cyberbullying. Having developed the world’s leading smartphone monitoring technology, TeenSafe has become the primary iPhone, Android and tablet monitoring service for parents. It enables parents to monitor their child’s device activity using an intuitive, easy to install application. It uncovers text messages (and deleted text messages), locations, web browsing history, contacts, call logs and social media activity through a secure, online account, and is completely legal for parents and guardians to monitor their children under the age of 18. Endorsed by numerous child and family advocacy groups, over 1.4 million parents have created a TeenSafe account.
The monitoring solution works by leveraging the user identification number and password of the child’s backup account for each child that parents wish to monitor. David Moss, TeenSafe’s chief technology officer, explained, “Once a backup is initiated, we mirror that data to our server and parse it to extract all the interactions that have occurred within a set period of time, typically the last 24 hours. The extraction includes deleted information – such as texts – so parents have the full view of what’s going on with their child and can identify if anything inappropriate, like online bullying, is happening.”
Rawdon Messenger, chief executive officer for TeenSafe, emphasized, “The only people who should be able to see that data are the parents. Nobody else - not us, not a hacker, not a commercial partner - no one else.
“We just can’t have raw data on our servers: If a hacker were to make it past all the layers of security to the core information they might see not just private details about the teenager, but potentially damaging personal information about them or their parents. We therefore felt it was a mission-critical imperative to deploy data encryption; without encryption we’d just be paying lip-service to our promise that only parents see the data.”
TeenSafe is a real-time system, operational 24-hours a day. Consequently, the timing for the deployment of any encryption mechanism was critical. Moss elaborated, “We knew we had to be able to do an expedited implementation of the encryption solution and get it up and running with negligible user disruption.
An equally important criterion was transparency: We did not want to have to alter our existing application infrastructure to accommodate encryption-related requirements.
“In addition to the other considerations, our Android product works a little differently by leveraging broadcasting – data is transferred from the teen’s phone to one of our servers where it lies at rest until the parsing occurs – so it’s a different security profile that also needed to be encompassed by encryption.”
There are multiple ways that a criminally minded hacker can gain access to data: “We knew about hardware encryption, but felt that it provided insufficient protection. We needed a solution that could preserve data integrity even if a system became compromised,” Moss stated.
The flexibility of Thales e-Security’s Vormetric Data Security Manager with Vormetric Transparent Encryption and Vormetric Key Management made it stand out as the best solution to meet all of TeenSafe’s criteria.
“The ability to layer the Thales e-Security solution on top of our existing infrastructure with no changes was a huge factor in our selection process because we’re going to be constantly making modifications to the software as we refine and expand our solutions,” reflected Moss. “In addition, its swift deployment, overall ease of maintenance, and robust feature set made it the perfect fit for us.”
“The Thales e-Security solution has proved to be completely transparent and highly scalable too,” observed Messenger. “Our software is extracting large quantities of data – histories of all the text messages and browsing that a child has done – and these data sets are being encrypted seamlessly with no discernible performance impact.”
Moss added, “We’ve had zero problems since implementing Vormetric encryption in our production environment; it’s turned out to be very low maintenance and very reliable. While I read these claims when we were evaluating the Thales e-Security solution, it’s hard to really appreciate the peace of mind that it brings until you have Thales e-Security running and realize it’s true.
“We did buy a four-hour block of professional services time from Thales to do an audit, test failovers and share best practices; the people we worked with were excellent, thorough and very professional.”
Moss continued, “Vormetric Transparent Encryption gives us the ability to finely tune the access rights of every single user. System administrators and owners of other privileged accounts are able to do their work unhindered, but they can’t see any of the data; it appears to them just as an encrypted block.
“This gives us much better protection than other approaches and means that even if a hacker does gain access to a system they still can’t get at the data.”
Committed to Customer Privacy
Thales e-Security enables TeenSafe to honor its pledge of keeping smartphone interactions private and secure between children and their parents. Moss stated, “Vormetric Transparent Encryption means all our subscribers and their families’ information is much more secure; in the remote case that someone breaches all of our extensive security layers to access the data, they will only find unusable, encrypted records. Vormetric Key Management enables our employees to move data around and perform all the activities they need to, without having access to the actual content. We take privacy extremely seriously. Thales helps TeenSafe make that possible.”
Messenger reflected, “One of the reasons we deployed the Thales e-Security solution is because it is considered to have the highest standard. I think of it as us wanting the ‘Fort Knox’ level of security – vaults within vaults – the strongest level possible. Staying secure is an ongoing, never-ending challenge that we tackle head-on every day. Vormetric encryption is a critical part of that.”