Security tips

TimesUpKidz uses the security features built-in to Microsoft Windows. When you follow the steps below it is very difficult to defeat.

Make sure each child has a Limited/Standard Windows user account. Unlike Administrator accounts, Limited/Standard users can't uninstall TimesUpKidz, change the computer clock, set time limits, or kill the program via the Windows Task Manager. You can configure Windows user accounts from the User Accounts area in the Windows Control Panel. Or click the "Manage Windows user accounts" link on the main TimesUpKidz screen.

There are disadvantages to Limited/Standard Windows user accounts. The most onerous problem in day-to-day use is that Limited/Standard accounts can't install new software. Some games (poorly designed ones, I might add), require administrative privileges to run and/or update. For these reasons parents will ask if TimesUpKidz can work if their child has an account with Administrative privileges. They answer is a qualified "yes" - you can set time limits on an administative account. But kids with administrative accounts, especially those with technical familiarity with Windows, can defeat the software in any number of ways. They can even delete your user account and deny you access the computer. This is not a limitation of TimesUpKidz. It is simply a fact about administrator and non-administrator accounts in Windows.

Make sure each Administrator account has a tough-to-guess password. Administrators (that's you!) can set time limits, change the computer clock, and uninstall the program. So it is very important that these user accounts are protected with passwords that the kids don't know and can't guess. You can set your password via the User Accounts area in the Windows Control Panel. Don't forget your password, or you may need to reinstall Windows.

Sometimes parents ask "how do I put a password on the TimesUpKidz program?" It doesn't work that way. Instead you put a password on your Windows user account, as described above. When you want to set time limits, you first log on to your Windows user account (password required) and then start up the TimesUpKidz program (no password required). Don't forget to choose Log Off, Lock, or Switch User from the Windows Start menu each time you are done using the computer . A quick way to do this is to press WindowsKey+L. Otherwise one of your kids can sit down at the computer, start TimesUpKidz (just as you would), and grant themselves unlimited time or worse, uninstall the program. If you think you might forget to log off, consider password-protecting your desktop with the Windows screen saver.

If you've got teenagers or very tech-savvy kids who will probably go to extreme lengths to bypass the limits you've set, consider implementing the steps below. Because following these instructions can be confusing and difficult, you might want to wait until you see that your child has bypassed the software before doing any of them.

If you're still using Windows XP, put a password on the hidden Administrator account. This account is hidden, disabled, and has a blank password. But this account can be used to log on to the computer in Windows Safe Mode. To set a password on this account click Start and then click Run. Type cmd and press OK. Type net user administrator * and press Enter.

It is possible for your child to bypass Microsoft Windows by the way they startup the computer. If you are using Windows 8.1 or later, explore the options for how Windows starts.Three Ways to Access the Windows 8 and 10 Boot Options and Windows Startup Settings

Password protect the BIOS. This may (not sure) only apply to versions of Windows prior to Windows 8. In order for TimesUpKidz to properly enforce time limits, it needs to know the correct time. It determines the time by using the computer's hardware clock. Once Windows has started, Windows prevents people with Limited/Standard user accounts from changing the time. But it is possible to change the clock by bypassing Microsoft Windows and accessing the computer manufacturer's "BIOS Setup" screen. The BIOS Setup screen is a place where you can change the computer clock and configure other low-level items that affect the functioning of the computer. Likewise, it is possible for very tech-savvy kids to bypass Microsoft Windows entirely by booting the computer from a CD/DVD with a different operating system, and then tampering with Microsoft Windows or using an alternate operating system. To prevent these types of sophisticated attacks, configure the hardware BIOS settings to boot first from the hard disk rather than from a floppy disk or CD/DVD. And then password-protect the hardware BIOS settings to prevent tampering with the clock and boot sequence. The specific way you enter the BIOS varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. On some Dell computers, for example, a small message says "Press F2 for Setup" immediately after you turn on the computer. Usually the message disappears after being shown for just a second or two, so you may need to reboot the computer repeatedly, or look at the computer manufacturer's web site to figure out how to get into the BIOS. If you set a password on the BIOS, it is extremely important that you do not forget the BIOS password .

A child can bypass TimesUpKidz by reinstalling Windows from scratch, which will wipe out TimesUpKidz and any other program on the computer. Similarly a child could use a "restore" or "backup" diskette and revert the computer to the way it used to be before you installed TimesUpKidz. Consider hiding the Windows installation CD and other restore/backup diskettes .