Are all Baby’s Days systems “identical”?

Hey readers thanks for all the messages of support over the last week, many of you were worried the blog might not return, but as promised here it is!  I managed to get so much wedding stuff done, the only thing left now is a heavy duty Generator that I need to hire so if you’re in the South West and have one kicking about let me know :)

Anyway, today I wanted to blog about how the director of Baby’s Days, Mark Kahl, repeatedly claims all Baby’s Days systems are “identical”.  This has come up this week on their Facebook support group as many users are experiencing their devices (mainly iphones and ipads) crashing and then losing all their work.

A line that Baby’s Days like to use when dealing with some technical support issues is, ‘all systems are identical, if anyone else was having this issue we would have 1000s of complaints, it must be your end’ or words to that effect.

In my experience this isn’t true, all systems are not identical.  I say this based on my own experience; if you have read this blog from the start you will know it was started because the director at Baby’s Days (Mark Kahl) uses his discretion to decide which systems do and do not get the monthly upgrades, that’s right you aren’t automatically entitled to them as part of your subscription.  My system and at least 2 other systems did not receive the control centre update when it was released, despite the fact that all other customers had been updated. If you don’t believe me here is a link to a post which has further details.

So no in my experience all systems are not identical and Sys IQ Ltd have the ability to make some systems do some things and some systems do other things. So when Mark Kahl says all systems are identical please take this with a pinch of salt.  If you have a technical issue open a ticket with support and get it sorted, don’t be fobbed off with ridiculous excuses.

As lots of users have had problems with Baby’s Days crashing their devices recently and their servers have been down twice in the last few days so I’m going to be blogging about that tomorrow and what exactly a SaaS Application is; so bring your nerd glasses!  Just take heart in the fact that if the system is crashing and you can play videos on youtube it’s probably nothing to do with the RAM on your device (as Bbaby’s Days advise), so don’t drive yourself mad trying to “fix” it like I used to!

Getting Married!

Hey blog fans, I just wanted to let you all know that I am still here and still have a load of things to blog about, a few companies have contacted me about potential stories and my solicitor is going through some legal aspects that need my attention and I’m also getting married in 80 days!

With all this going on (on top of usual childminding duties and potty training my 2.5 year old) I’ve decided not to blog this week, but next week I will be back as normal.  I’ll be blogging about a childminder that was downgraded for using Baby’s Days, the ICO stance on Baby’s Days, Advertising Standards and their response to Baby’s Days adverts and also a post on how I’m currently doing my paperwork.

I’ll update the blog with really quick small posts this week with other small news items :)

Are all systems built equally?

So one thing that keeps coming up is thoughts like, “but if someone wants to find a way in they will”.  This is mainly from customers of Baby’s Days who seem to be saying that the 2 security issues I’ve found on the system, one about photos and the other abut parent comments not being stored securely, have come about because I’m “looking for issues”.

The two flaws I’ve posted about, I was not “looking” for; the first a parent told me about after he found it out by accident trying to download his child’s photos in bulk (as parents can not bulk down their children’s photos from their logins).  The second came up after I was looking at URL strings trying to find out if my own photos were stored somewhere on my own laptop in a temporary folder.  Both issues have cropped up quite by accident, there was no looking or probing involved.

Some other customers have also suggested that the same issue could come up with any of the EYFS online software providers and with this post I’m really hoping to clear up that misconception.

Before I continue it I want to make it clear that the issues I am talking about below aren’t necessarily connected to Baby’s Days uniquely, I am talking about computer programming as a whole.

The first question is, “Is it true that a determined “hacker” could get into any internet system if they tried hard enough?”  I’m not really qualified to answer that question with 100% certainty but from briefly reading around this area, it seems that if someone was dedicated enough they would find a way into almost any system.  As I’ve posted before Baby’s Days claims of being 100% secure are ludicrous but obviously some systems are easier to get into that others and some people are better at getting into them than other people.

So does this mean those that claim, “it’s ok that you found these flaws Hayley, anyone can find flaws in anything if they try hard enough” have a valid point?  It is my opinion that these people are missing the point somewhat; whilst their opinion is true it is rather short sighted.  I will try and explain this with a simple analogy.

All houses are houses and if you try hard enough despite the best security systems there will probably always be one clever burglar that could get in if he or she really wanted. If you had a suitcase of cash which house would you put it in?

House 1: The house with every external security system going, it was designed by an award winning architect and the structure is perfect.

House 2: This house has all the same features as house one in terms of external security.  But it was the first house this builder had ever made, and he didn’t quite get all the bricks lined up properly and there are a couple of little cracks here and there.

They are both houses, but you’re going to put your suitcase into house 1 aren’t you?  This is because although both houses carry the risk of getting broken into by some burglar, house 1 carries less risk than house 2.

So yes, “anyone can find flaws in anything if they try hard enough”, but the point is some systems are considerably harder than others to access.  It is deeply unfair on those systems that take time, money and effort to ensure the programme they create is on par with the award winning architect in House 1, to simply shrug issues like this away.

I understand that people don’t need the added stress and worry in life of thinking too much about these things and it’s far more convenient to just hope for the best.  But as a practitioner that should be working in accordance with the Data Protection Act, “well these days shit just happens doesn’t it?” wont curry any favours with the ICO unfortunately.

Please put that new feature of bulk download to good use and download your system to your home computer daily.  You really don’t want to be in the position I am in right now.

 

 

Can Baby’s Days access your system and info?

In their Privacy Policy Baby’s Days/Sys IQ Ltd state,

Our staff do not have access to any user passwords and are, therefore, unable to access the organisation’s account or data without receiving an invitation from the Master Administrator.

I have had a few blog readers and Facebook members tell me that Baby’s Days have accessed their systems without the user providing them with a user name and password.  If this has happened to you please comment below, if you post using the name Anon, Baby’s Days will not know it was you.

I’m hoping that some of the techie blog readers can help with some questions around this issue?

  1. Baby’s Days record users IP addresses.  In theory could they access a users system without a username and password using the IP address?
  2. If you stopped using Baby’s Days and they kept a record of your IP could they in theory still access your computer even if you no longer run the programme?
  3. If someone could access you computer using the IP address alone, can they change data on your laptop or only view it?

Obviously I could never say categorically that Baby’s Days have accessed users systems with IP addresses only.  But it would be interesting to learn if this is possible.

Pop back tomorrow when I will be blogging about a how all systems are not built equally.

 

 

Have I found another flaw?

Before I start this post, I should clarify that I’m not a very technical person, I don’t know much about computers beyond basic functions such as web browsing and word processing.  I have a vague idea that programmes are written in code, but beyond that I know no more.  I know that you can look many things up on Google and that wikipedia is a great resource.

Given this complete lack of IT knowledge, it’s a little concerning that I may have found another security flaw on Baby’s Days; to clarify this flaw is on the Demo site and on current customers sites.  You can see if for yourself, it’s not straightforward but I’m happy to talk anyone through it if they would like to see it for themselves.

The flaw is an issue that most IT people would label, “unsecured data at rest”; this means that when the data has been sent to the server securely, it is then stored in an unsecure manner.  The data in question is parent comments.  The parent types the comment in on the photo (I’ve only tested this on diary photo comments), the comments are then sent to the server via encrypted transfer and then they are stored on the server logs in plain text – which sort of makes the encrypted transfer rather redundant in my opinion!

This means that anyone at the server end (ie. Data Centre employees and thirds party contractors and Baby’s Days employees) can read all the comments parents place on diary photographs.  Without getting too complicated, the programme absolutely does not need to be written in this way and Baby’s Days could easily make the storage of parent comments more secure.

Here is a screen shot to give you an idea, the screen shot is from a demo, but this will also happen on your own system.  As you can see I have underlined the parents comments and you can see they are stored in the URL log, which is then sent and stored on the server.  Click on the photo to make it bigger.

Given that Baby’s Days stated I was lying about the last security issue regarding photographs, then I expect this issue will also be swept under the carpet in the same way.  Like the last issue, I emailed Baby’s Days to inform them of the flaw 48 hours before I published my blog.

Ok, so some of you reading this might be thinking, “so what, does it really matter that people can read my parents comments?”

The answer to this will vary from person to person and ultimately I’m only writing about this due to Baby’s Days 100% secure claims, this is another post that suggests it’s not 100% secure.  The way this part of the system has been written appears at best bad practice and and worst unsafe.  Is this the result of using possibly incompetent freelancers?  I would have hoped that freelance developers would be competent at developing secure systems – or at least following some basic best practices which doesn’t seem to be the case here at all.

But at any rate, in my opinion that’s not really the question you should be asking. I think the more important question here is; “If a childminder with no knowledge of computer programming can find 2 security issues with the system, how many could someone with more experience find?”