Baby’s Days have fixed the Picture links on the Demo Site!

Hey readers, sorry again about the lack of blog posts this week!  Things are just so insane planning my wedding and working as a childminder; the blog will have to slow right down but there is still plenty of material to cover including a very sensitive issue with the legalities of Childminders using Baby’s Days.  I’m waiting for absolute clarity on this from The Information Commissioners Office before blogging properly but hopefully early next week I will know more.

If you are concerned about this in the interim as many seem to be on Facebook, you should read this and contact the ICO directly; note that you don’t have a contract with Baby’s Days, you accept their T&Cs.  I am more than sure if you approach Baby’s Days you will get their rose tinted view and not the actual facts to say the least, so the impartial link should help with that.

Today’s blog post is a quick one.  A while ago I posted about how individual photos were able to be viewed without any authentication by the person attempting to view them.  Baby’s Days fixed the issue whilst insisting I was a lair, but I proved the loophole was still present in the demo system in a follow up post; which you can read here.

Baby’s Days still insist that I was lying and that all individual photos required validation (which isn’t true as you can read from the comments in the blog, customers reported their photos were not individually password protected), Mark Kahl the director of Baby’s Days insists I am a liar and continues to post comments such as this in the official Baby’s Days Support Group:

Mark-Kahl-calls-me-a-bad childminder againAnyway, the reason for this blog post is because now photos on the demo do require authentication, isn’t that a bit weird.  Why has it suddenly changed?  These are the questions that Baby’s  Days customers should be asking.  Please make sure you  backup your data and don’t record data on any aspect of the system that can not be backed up.

I promise to blog later in the week, I’m going to blog about a company called Orange Moon and also about a childminder who encountered an inspector who was not so keen on Baby’s Days.  I’d also love to hear form anyone that has provided Baby’s Days with any planning records or other intellectual property over the years for another blog post I’m drafting.

Hope you all had a fab easter and that Tuesday doesn’t hurt too much!

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?”


Baby’s Days newest release.

If you are a Baby’s Days customer you may have been lucky enough to have had your system updated with the latest release.  Not all customers are eligible for all system updates so there may be some people missing out on this upgrade, if you haven’t received it contact Advertising Standards as they may be able to help as Baby’s Days clearly advertise monthly updates when you take out the subscription.

Anyway, the newest upgrade is a really cool looking bulk download feature.  I like to think I’m responsible for this newest upgrade after I pointed out in a blog post that it’s very difficult to back up your data.  This is probably why so many people thought it wasn’t necessary to back up data and there wasn’t a single mention of backing up in any the 100s of training videos.

But now at least all customers have the ability to backup their data more easily which is fantastic news.  This means that (providing you back up regularly) Baby’s Days will never be able to hold your data to ransom as they have with me – excellent news!

Just be very careful with how you are storing your data once you have downloaded it your end.  Memory sticks are easily lost or broken and computers can suddenly implode.  If I were still using Baby’s Days I would back up the data to my laptop and then store it on Drop Box or similar before eventually moving it to memory sticks when a child leaves.  You may need to update your parent permissions to assess the changes on where exactly the data is being stored.

If you want more info on Drop Box and what it does pop back tomorrow when I will be blogging about how I use Drop Box to manage my paperwork now I no longer use Baby’s Days.

This week I’ll also be blogging about some handy tips that have been published in the Baby’s Days Support Group, as well as providing you with an update on the ICO situation and some details about other online EYFS providers and how they can’t be tarred with the same brush as Baby’s Days  / Sys IQ Ltd / Mark Kahl.