Question Netgear Removing Parental Control Support for Nighthawk Routers

May 8, 2019
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Over the last few weeks Netgear has forced users of their Nighthawk Routers to upgrade from their old Net Genie mobile app to the new Nighthawk mobile app. Net Genie was the only access to manage filtering levels for connected devices. For quite a few years, it was the best router option I heard of to truly lock your kids down to acceptable websites.

Anyone with teenagers knows how hard ensuring appropriate content is the only content available to our kids is.

Netgear's Net Genie was one of the best tools for this very reason.

And now that's gone. While Netgear still advertises their Nighthawk Routers with Parental Controls.

I think Tom's Hardware would be doing an amazing service if they evaluated the changes that Netgear had done and is doing. Managing appropriate web access is an absolute nightmare in this age.

So this, for many many many parents, is going to be an amazingly critical topic.

It would be worth at least Tom's Hardware checking out the Nighthawk app available on the Google App Store, specifically, the latest reviews.
 
I doubt the staff reads the forum that much, almost everyone on this site is unpaid volunteers. There likely is a better place to post article suggestions.

In general parental control software has become almost impossible to do well. All traffic is now encrypted so you can not see the actual URL being accessed. In addition since many sites are hosted by companies like akamai. If you attempted to determine what site was being accessed using the IP for this site you do not get tomshardware you get a akamai server which many times can be hosting many different companies and it will change based on load.

The only way to even partially track things if via the DNS server. This would mean that all DNS queries must go via the router. For performance reasons many times you set the DNS in the end PC directly. This will also bypass any ability of the router to filter traffic. Using DNS to filter is also a extremely crude filter. There is no way to say limit part of facebook and allow other parts since they all use the same domain.

The way I used to recommend you do this was to use a free tool that loads on the client called K9. Because it intercepts on the client it filter before the encryption. It can see the full URL and filter by words even. The tool is still available but I am unsure how well it is maintained. It was provided by a company called bluecoat and used the same filter lists as their extremely expensive content filter. The company was sold a couple years ago and all the products absorbed into another company. I strongly suspect bluecoat was having issues selling their content filter appliances used by corporations because they likely did not work real well due to almost all sites now encrypting the data with HTTPS.

Besides it only takes the kids 5 minutes of searching to bypass any consumer grade router parental controls. There is no way you can keep the lists of all the VPN sites without some monthly subscription service.
 
May 8, 2019
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The Netgear solution of the router forcing use of OpenDNS worked fantastically. It was... Was... An amazing feature. And it was a feature that caused a number of parents to purchase the router. I've tried numerous solutions in my home and router based filtering was actually the absolute best as absolutely no amount of PC manipulation was able to circumvent the approach. Sure, my kid may have eventually figured out some VPN solution that made all traffic appear to go to a single site. But finding that, and locking down that scenario was far easier at a router based filter than anything done on the PC directly.
 
A couple years ago when you searched opendns google suggested next term was BYPASS it was searched for so much. It is outright silly when all you have to do is set the DNS in your PC to something like google and not use the router dns. I bet there are 5yr old's that can accomplish that.
Any other form of content filtering is completely ineffective anymore since all traffic is now encrypted.
Pretty much parental control content filters are lots of pretty screens that do nothing. It targets technically illiterate parent who want to feel good setting things and think the actually do something. The kids know much better.

The only thing you can do with parental control is control access times or which machine can have access. A total on/off can not be easily bypassed. The concept of actually filtering content is long gone.
 
May 8, 2019
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The only way to bypass it with the Netgear Router was via VPN tunneling and things like TOR. The router serves as the DHCP server. When the parental controls we're enabled it forcibly routed everything through openDNS.

Router based network filtering is actually one of the absolute best ways of managing allowed traffic as end users typically don't get logins to the routers bare minimum.

So as a parent, rather than having to manage and review every site accessed ALL the time, the router dramatically dropped the amount I may need to review to a much more manageable list. And eventually, enough was blocked that I kinda won the fight. If things ever got dicey, then I could set the kids filter level to simply a white list and the whole issue would just be done.

It really has been an amazing solution.
 
May 8, 2019
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I didn't come here to argue with you. As a parent, as a person in technology for over 20 years, I can tell you that the router solution was amazing.

You're welcome to spit on whatever you want. But between me and a slew of reviewers of Netgear's new app, we've lost a incredibly valuable tool.
 

digitalgriffin

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Jan 29, 2008
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I understand your concerns. Having two young boys myself I am concerned about what images they are seeing.

When my son saw a video by MajorLegueGamer making jokes of smoking pot, I put the brakes on everything because he thought it was funny, not realizing what pot was.

So in terms of personal devices there is absolutely NO access to browsers or Multiplayer games where we can't directly supervise.

Second we app block using Google Family Link on android. They cannot defeat this. Believe me I tried and it's pretty darn effective on android devices. It also lets me approve of all apps they wish to install, and how much time they spend on each one. Even if I did give them access to Chrome and youtube, it's locked down to safe search and restricted mode. It will also lock out the android interface during "Bedtime" hours. It can be a bit tricky to install, so if you want me to walk you through it, please contact me.

Third they get a restricted non-priv user account on the Windows computers. These computers are in the family room where we can see everything. There they can play their games where we can see everything. No unrestricted access.

Fourth, Bit defender comes with multiple parental options. Bit Defender box (A separate product) comes with unlimited licenses for apple, android, and windows. It allows me to lock down their devices based on the hour. All our kids devices shut down at bedtime (Second layer of defense on top of family link)

Fifth, Disney Circle is still supported

Sixth, PrivateEyez. There's a monthly fee associated with this, but it will log ALL the websites your kids visit and will alert you if they try common social media apps like kik or discord. If they try to disable it, they will notify you of that too. This is sort of like giving them keys to the car top drive by themselves, but you still check the car logs to see what they are doing with the car.
 
May 8, 2019
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Supervision is absolutely the #1 solution. Absolutely. Though I'm sure you understand how challenging it is to stay on top of everything all the time in regards to all the devices and various ways around the protections we put in place.

I didn't mean for this thread to state that the Netgear old solution was the only solution. But it was one of the best tools I've used.

I'll definitely want to look into Google Family Link. I know that on our Android phones we've really struggled here. Some of the latest Android updates completely broke many Parental control apps by simply loading the apps slowly on restart. My son found he was able to go into settings before the app blockers would initialize and stop those apps. Thanks for the tips! Much appreciated!
 

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