Josh Moulin: Who Are You Allowing in Your House at Night?


If I were to ask you to install an exterior door in your child’s bedroom and told you that this door could not have any locks, alarms, or other security, how would you react?  Most people would be uncomfortable with an unlocked door anywhere in their house and especially in their child’s room.  How could a parent properly protect their child if strangers on the outside could walk right in?  How would parents get alerted if someone had entered the child’s bedroom?  This scenario might seem crazy or even rise to the level of negligence.  The risks to the child could be anywhere from a simple burglary to physical assault, sexual assault, kidnap, and even murder and could extend beyond the child to any other occupants of the house.

The thought of this is disturbing and it is hard to imagine any parent would be this careless.  Unfortunately though, there are homes in nearly every neighborhood in our country with unlocked and unmonitored doors.  These doors are not your traditional doors though, these are virtual doors disguised as computers, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, and a host of other gadgets referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Most parents teach their children common safety messages to keep them safe: look both ways before you cross the street, don’t go anywhere with a stranger, don’t touch the stove because it could be hot, etc.  But what do many parents teach their kids about Facebook, Snapchat, Kik, instant messaging, texting, or web surfing?  In my experience as a career technologist and former law enforcement investigator of cybercrime, parents rarely have this kind of dialog with their kids.  Stranger abductions of children are incredibly rare (less than 1% of all kidnappings), yet parents spend a great deal of time talking about stranger-danger with their kids and completely miss the much bigger and more common risk of online predators.


I cringe when I hear parents ask what kind of smartphone they should buy their tween, or I see kids walking to the local elementary school staring at their smart devices along the way.  In a recent study, it was found that 21% of kids in kindergarten to second grade have cell phones!  I completely understand the need for parents to contact their children, but does that really need to include a data plan and 12 megapixel camera?  Any of these Internet capable devices are a portal to the world and kids who do not yet understand the consequences of their actions can quickly make fatal errors.  The social impacts and long-term exposure to this technology aside, kids don’t need $800 smartphones to remain in contact or to use during an emergency.  Believe it or not, cell phone providers do still make basic phones especially for kids.

The risks associated with kids and technology are not born from my paranoia or hypothetical scenarios I have dreamt up over the years.  During my career I have seen firsthand the devastation brought to children and families from having an unlocked virtual door to a child’s bedroom.  In one such case, an adult man lured an autistic 14-year-old girl over the Internet.  This man used online gaming as his method of choice.  Over the course of a few weeks he established a rapport with her and kept her distracted with the game (World of Warcraft), while he asked seemingly innocuous questions spread over time to not be obvious.  Questions like what her parents did for work, what their schedules were, where she lived, and what school she went to were asked of her.  The suspect recorded these answers within the dossier he was building on this girl.  As the two communicated via voice chat in the game, she thought she had found a great friend.  What she did not realize was that this man had no interest in World of Warcraft or being her friend.  That realization became apparent the day he showed up at her front door when she was home alone.  This man arrived from out of state when he knew her parents would be at work and he kidnapped her.

When the police was notified of her kidnapping they began searching and luckily found the vehicle several hours later in a different state as it was traveling on the freeway.  I remember getting a phone call on a weekend about this case and was asked to assist the agency that stopped the suspect’s vehicle.  They had taken the male suspect into custody and the girl was safely with child welfare.  I conducted a forensic analysis of the suspect’s multiple computers he had in his truck as well as searched the truck itself.  In the back of this truck was rope, knives, sex toys, and a mattress.  I have always believed that if this man would not have been stopped, that young girl would have been raped, tortured, and killed.

In another case I investigated, an adult man was searching for young boys in chatrooms and other online venues.  He knew exactly the type of boys to target and could quickly establish rapports with them.  After having sexually explicit chats with these boys, he would ask them to send nude images of themselves to him.  If the boys refused, the suspect told them that he was a police officer and had already traced their Internet connection back to their physical address.  The suspect told them that if they did not send the pictures, he would show up to their home and tell their parents that they were homosexual. Out of fear of embarrassment, almost every boy was coerced into send the images to this man.  In many cases, he continued the blackmail and had young boys travel to his home where he would sexually abuse them.  He often would send money to these boys to facilitate getting them to his home.

These two examples drive home my point, but unfortunately I have many more stories; some of which have worse outcomes.  On so many occasions parents would tell me they had no idea that their kids were on the Internet, or that they couldn’t keep up with all the technology.  I argue that parents have a duty and obligation to protect their children from danger and simply saying they don’t understand technology does not suffice.  Parents either need to learn the technology or not allow their children to use it.  Before parents allow technology to be introduced to their child or home, they should understand what the device is capable of and how to secure it.

If you are interested in protecting your own family or help someone else with their children, here are some high level suggestions that you can take:

  1. Limit Access: No computers, laptops, tablets, iPhones, smartphones, Xboxes, or other Internet capable devices are allowed in kids rooms, period.
  2. Have Oversight: Computers are located in a common area of the home that can easily be seen by adults at a moment’s notice.
  3. Least Privileged Access: Kids have a separate non-administrative account on computers so they cannot change settings or install software.
  4. Protect Passwords: Kids do not know parent’s passwords.  Change your passwords and PINs occasionally.
  5. Start the Dialog: Parents need to have real and frank conversations with their kids about Internet safety and what kind of sexual predators exist in the world. Most kids do not tell their parents when something makes them feel uncomfortable online because the kids are embarrassed, don’t want to get in trouble, or don’t think their parents will understand the technical pieces of what happened.  Parents must build trust and have these discussions often.
  6. Know Their “Friends”: If children are allowed on social media, parents should have full access to the profiles and ensure that any “friend” is someone they actually know in real life.  A 14-year-old probably doesn’t have 750 real friends.  It should not be thought of as a popularity contest.
  7. No Cameras Allowed: 22% of girls have posted nude images of themselves online or sent them to another person.  Having kids and cameras together is an exceptionally bad combination.  I have investigated cases of girls as young as 10 taking nude images of themselves and sending them to adult males.
  8. Use Parental Controls: Both Mac and PCs have excellent parental controls.  Lock down what websites kids can go to, what times they are allowed online, and who they can communicate with.  Make sure kids can’t sneak devices into their room at night, or go out to the family PC while everyone is asleep.
  9. Review their Browsing Habits: 90% of children ages 8-16 have viewed online pornography, the largest group of Internet pornography consumers are ages 12-17, and 70% of kids ages 7-18 have accidentally encountered pornography while searching for unrelated material.  Know what kids are looking for and looking at.  Examine Internet history on browsers to see where kids are going.  If Internet history is being deleted, ask why.  There are other ways to capture Internet history at the home router level too, which kids would should not have access to or be able to manipulate those logs.
  10. Use Internet Filtering Solutions: Implement technical controls both on the device (e.g., parental controls) but also on the home Internet connection.  OpenDNS is an awesome way to do this, see this blog post for more:  This can prevent children from accidentally coming across inappropriate content and block intentional access to sites.
  11. Thing About All Sites: Think YouTube and Flickr are educational and should be OK for your kids to have access to?  Think again, these sites are full of nudity, sexual content, violence, and many other categories of inappropriate content.  If there are videos that your child needs access to, give them access to just the URL of that video in YouTube and block everything else.
  12. Internet Rules are for Everywhere: The rules established about appropriate Internet behavior must be for the Internet, not just within a home.  Many kids find themselves in trouble while at a friend’s house or somewhere outside of the home.  Make sure they understand the family acceptable use policy applies anywhere.
  13. Parents get Full Access: Frequently review their social media pages, posts, pictures, and sites.  Ensure there is nothing that could be considered cyberbullying or that a sexual predator could use to find out where the child goes to school, lives, or works.  Limit personal information such as birthdays and phone numbers and check the background of images and videos to make sure there are no hints that could lead a predator to the child.  Also consider Exif data in images that may lead someone directly to the front door (for more on this, see this blog post:
  14. Understand the Technology: Ignorance is no longer a viable option.  There are many resources for parents to learn about technology and how to protect their child, some of which are provided in this post.  A simple Google search for protecting kids online would be a great start.
  15. Consider Internet Monitoring Software: There are software products on the market that are designed to covertly monitor kids’ activity online and provide reports.  These programs can be helpful and range from free software to paid commercial products.
  16. Ensure Profiles are set to Private: Utilize privacy settings on social media and make sure all privacy settings made available are enabled.


While apps and websites may change names, the principles and mitigating controls are the same. If parents teach kids how to use technology responsibly, have frequent communication with their kids, and follow the steps outlined above, the virtual door can be closed.  Technology can be amazing and kids must know how to use it properly to be successful as they grow older and prepare for college and their careers.  By taking the time to implement what is suggested here and balancing the convenience of technology access with the security controls to make it safe, kids can have a healthy relationship with the Internet and devices.



Josh Moulin is a federal defense contractor and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of an agency with a national security mission, overseeing all classified and unclassified IT and cybersecurity functions for the agency that spans the country.  Josh has been recognized nationally and in courtrooms as an expert in the areas of digital forensics, cybercrime, and cybersecurity.  He spent 11 years in law enforcement with his last assignment as a police lieutenant and commander of an FBI cybercrimes task force, investigating hundreds of complex high-tech crimes.  Josh has a Master’s Degree in Information Security and Assurance and holds multiple certifications in law enforcement, forensics, hacking, and cybersecurity.




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Why Have Thousands of Writers Attended the Writers’ Police Academy? Well …


The 2016 WPA marked our 8th year of providing heart-pounding action and real police, EMS, and firefighting training. Our instructors are the best in their fields and our workshops (over 50 different sessions throughout the event) are second to none.

Simply put, the WPA is the best event of its type on the planet and that’s why writers from all over the world—the Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Guam, Ecuador, Canada, every state in the U.S., and more—travel to attend each year.

And, to top off this unique and thrilling learning experience, we deliver more fun than a room full of puppies.

Well, shooting guns, blowing up stuff, investigating murders, and driving patrol cars while performing PIT maneuvers may not be quite as cuddly or snuggly as a lap full of cute, tiny beagles, but hey, we brought in a helicopter!

Remember, the WPA is always designed especially for you and your needs as a writer! As a plus and in addition to actual academy training at a renowned international academy, we believe in pampering our attendees. Therefore, our event hotel, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center Green Bay, is luxurious. Sleeping rooms are extremely nice and well-appointed. There are several in-house restaurants, lounges, and bars, a Starbucks, and a fantastic Noodle House. It’s situated on the Oneida Indian Reservation and it’s attached to the Oneida Casino. The hotel is the official hotel of the fabulous Green Bay Packers. We provide transportation between the hotel and the academy and to offsite training grounds and workshops, and much, much more.

If all of this sounds like we’re bragging … well, we are, and we earned the right to do so because we, along with your loyal and generous support, have worked hard over the years to be the best at what we do.

Anyway, as a recap, here’s a brief video/slideshow of the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy. So crank up the volume and hang on. It’s a thrilling ride!

See you in 2017!

*Planning for the 2017 WPA is well underway and, believe it or not, we’re going to try our best to top this year (is that even possible?).

Sisters in Crime, a major WPA sponsor, is once again offering a huge discount for members attending for the first time! Not a SinC member? No problem. Simply join SinC to receive the discount!

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen



Deputy Sheriff Jack Hopkins, 31

Modoc County California Sheriff’s Office

October 19, 2016 – Deputy Jack Hopkins was shot and killed shortly after responding to a domestic disturbance call. The suspect, a registered sex offender, fled the scene and was later wounded in a shootout with police.

Deputy Hopkins is survived by a large family and his dog, Bandit.

*    *     *


*Officer death by gunfire is up 53% this year compared to the same time in 2015.

Remember, this total includes only the officers who died as a result of their wounds. The number does not include the numerous officers who’ve been shot but were fortunate to have survived.

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I Am Offline: Be Back Soon


I am currently offline and will be for a few days. Denene and I are assisting with repairing damage to family property caused by the recent hurricane that struck the East Coast.

Many roads in the area are still flooded, impassable, and/or totally washed out. Some businesses and homes are still partially submerged and people sometimes navigate parking lots and side streets in small boats.

Conditions in many places are definitely less than desirable and in some cases, devastating. But it is what it is and the locals are survivors.

Until I return, I thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, #hurricanematthewsucks

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen



Officer Lesley Zerebny, 27

Palm Springs California Police Department

October 8, 2016 – Officer Lesley Zerebny was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance. The suspect, a known gang member, fired at officers through a closed door after telling family members he wanted to shoot police officers.

Officer Zerebny is survived by her husband and her four-month-old child.


Officer Gil Vega, 63

Palm Springs California Police Department

October 8, 2016 – Officer Gil Vega was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance. The suspect, a known gang member, fired at officers through a closed door after telling family members he wanted to shoot police officers.

Officer Vega is survived by his wife and eight children. He was scheduled to retire in two months, after serving 35 years as a police officer.

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Juvenile Crime: Before and After the Arrest


Prior to serving as a police officer and detective, I was employed in the prison system as a corrections officer. I spent part of this miserable portion of my life working in a prison that housed a unique group of inmates, those who were absolutely and totally unwanted by the state’s numerous other institutions. It was a place for criminal misfits. They were unmanageable, unruly, and they hated the air and the sky, the water they drank, and they hated themselves. Just plain nasty is what they were.

This particular facility, the place where I spent most of my waking hours in those days, was divided into four separate buildings with each surrounded by a tall fence. One section was for the super mean and out of control, another for just regular mean guys, a third for prisoners with special needs, and the fourth for mentally ill inmates who’s diet consisted largely of handfuls of medications such as Thorazine and Wellbutrin.

The prisoners there enjoyed throwing things at us (feces was a favorite). They liked to fight us. They often attempted to catch one of us alone so they could deliver a beating from hell. Escape attempts were often and killing other inmates was a sport. Didn’t happen too often, but when it did the fellows seemed to derive a bit of pleasure from seeing blood and dead bodies.

The place was a nightmare for officers. As I stated earlier, it was miserable.

In the late 1980’s, Virginia opened the doors to what they called the Youthful Offender Centers. These were prisons designated to house young males between the ages of 18-21 who’d been convicted of various crimes.

It was my understanding, after speaking with a few of the officers who worked there, that they, too, felt pretty darn miserable at the end of the day. You know, same old, same old—the victims of tossed feces and squirts of urine and other body fluids, fights, escape attempts, yada, yada, yada. Most of the officers there also said they felt as if they worked in a facility that trained young inmates to be better older prisoners and the best criminals they could possibly become.

But this is where the young criminals ended up. What about prior to prison and the process that eventually lands those troubled youths behind bars?

Well, in Virginia, for example:

  • Juvenile is any child under the age of eighteen.
  • Delinquent: A juvenile who has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult.
  • CHINS – Child in Need of Services: A juvenile whose behavior, conduct or condition presents or results in a serious threat to the juvenile’s well-being and physical safety of another person.
  • Child in Need of Supervision meets one of these criteria:
    1. A juvenile subject to mandatory school attendance, is habitually absent without valid excuse.
    2. A juvenile who remains away from his family or guardian.
    3. A juvenile who escapes or remains away from a residential care facility ordered by the court.
  • Child Abuse and Neglect

    1. A caregiver who creates or inflicts a physical or mental injury upon a child.
    2. A caregiver who creates the child to be at risk of physical or mental injury.
    3. A caregiver who refuses to provide for juvenile’s health and well-being.

    Court Services: 

    1. Intake – Reviews all complaints regarding juvenile crime and determines whether there are enough facts to involve the court. If so, the intake officer may either proceed informally to make practical adjustments without filing a petition (a petition is basically a warrant, akin to an adult arrest warrant) or the intake officer may authorize the filing of a petition (a warrant) to bring the matter before the judge. An intake officer may also order the placement of a juvenile offender in a secure detention facility designated for juveniles whose present offense requires such security prior to a detention hearing by a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge. Note: Intake officers used to be called probation officers.
    2. Investigation – Intake officers conduct background studies, such as examination of a juvenile’s familial, social and educational history. Such studies may be used by the court as a factor in determining the disposition appropriate to the subject and by the probation staff in the formulation of a services and supervision plan.
    3. Probation. Supervises delinquent juveniles and children in need of services released into home probation and supervises adults released on probation in support and other cases involving the defendant’s relation with family members and individuals to whom he has a support duty.

    Residential Care: Supervises juveniles being held in detention, shelter care and post dispositional probation facilities. In most localities, the staff of these facilities are employees of the localities served by the court and work cooperatively with the staff of the respective court service unit.

    Social Services: Welfare and social service agencies are in frequent contact with the court in certain types of cases. They perform the initial investigation in abuse and neglect cases. Juveniles may be committed to such agencies when they are removed from home. Other agencies provide such services as may be ordered by the judge.

    Juvenile Delinquency and CHINS Cases; Adult Criminal Cases Detention or Shelter Care

    A juvenile may be taken into custody if one of the following applies:

    1. A judge, clerk at judge’s direction or intake officer issues a detention order requiring the juvenile to be taken into custody.
    2. A juvenile is alleged to be a CHINS and there is clear and substantial danger to the child’s life or health and this is necessary for the child’s appearance before the court.
    3. A juvenile commits a crime that is witnessed by a police officer or would be a felony if committed by an adult (a crime punishable by more than 12 months in jail).
    4. A juvenile commits a misdemeanor offense involving shoplifting, assault and battery, or carrying a weapon on school property.
    5. A juvenile has absconded from lawful incarceration or a court ordered residential home, facility, or placement by a child welfare agency.
    6. A juvenile is believed to be in need of inpatient mental health treatment.

    If not immediately released by the intake officer or magistrate, the juvenile is held in custody (detention) until being brought before the judge for a detention hearing. The juvenile’s detention hearing should be held the next day the court sits within the city or county but no longer than 72 hours after being taken into custody. Prior notice of the detention hearing must be given to the juvenile’s parent or guardian, and to the juvenile if over 12 years of age. A detention hearing is not a trial, but merely a hearing to determine whether the detention of the juvenile should be continued.

    The judge decides whether to hold the juvenile in secure detention or release the juvenile to a parent, guardian or persons having custody of the juvenile, or to shelter care. Shelter care is defined as the temporary care of children in a physically unrestricted environment.

    The judge may set bail and/or certain rules to be followed while the juvenile released awaiting trial. The judge may order the juvenile be held in detention if the judge believes that there is probable cause the juvenile committed the act and:

    1. The juvenile is charged with violation of probation or parole.
    2. The juvenile is charged with a felony or class 1 misdemeanor and: (a) is a threat to self or others or the property of others or (b) has threatened not to come to court or has failed to appear to court within the past 12 months. While the juvenile is in a detention home or shelter placement, parents or guardians wishing to visit may do so only during permitted visiting hours. Parents or guardians should find out in advance of a visit: the hours of visitation, the documentation needed, dress code, the number of visitors allowed at one time and any restrictions concerning who is allowed to visit.

    Certification or Transfer to Circuit Court for Trial as an Adult

    A case involving a juvenile 14 years or older accused of a felony may be certified or transferred to circuit court where the juvenile would be tried as an adult. A hearing to determine whether to transfer the case cannot occur unless the juvenile’s parents or their attorney are notified of the transfer hearing.

    Certification to Circuit Court

    A juvenile 14 years or older at the time of the alleged felony offense(s) may be transferred to the circuit court and tried as an adult. Some felony charges require that a judge make the decision whether to hear the case in juvenile or circuit court. The Commonwealth must provide notice requesting transfer of the juvenile’s felony cases to circuit court. This written notice must be sent to the attorney for the juvenile or to the juvenile and one parent or legal guardian. A judge will hold a hearing to consider whether probable cause exists regarding the offense(s) charged and whether transfer of the case to circuit court is appropriate. Some factors the judge may consider when determining whether the case should be heard in circuit court or in juvenile court are: the juvenile’s previous court contacts, competency, school record information and the child’s age and emotional maturity.

    Transfer to Circuit Court

    If a juvenile was 14 years or older and charged with a violent felony, then the Commonwealth may certify the charge to circuit court for trial. Written notice to the juvenile’s attorney or to the juvenile and one parent or legal guardian, must be provided. In these cases, the judge solely determines probable cause as to whether or not the charged juvenile committed the crime. These charges are: felonious injury by mob, abduction, malicious wounding, malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer, felonious poisoning, adulteration of products, robbery, carjacking, rape, forcible sodomy, or object sexual penetration. OR A list of these violent juvenile felony charges is listed in Virginia Code section 16.1-269.1C. If the judge finds that probable cause exists that the juvenile committed the crime(s) charged then the juvenile’s case will be tried in circuit court.

    The crimes of murder or aggravated malicious wounding are automatically certified to the circuit court if the juvenile is 14 years or older at the time of the offense and the court has found probable cause that the juvenile has committed the offense(s) charged. No Commonwealth request is needed.

    Statements made by the juvenile during the transfer hearing may not be used as evidence of the offense at a later court hearing but may be used if the juvenile testifies during trial.

    Both the Commonwealth and juvenile may appeal a transfer decision within 10 days of the transfer hearing. Any juvenile convicted in circuit court will be treated as an adult in all future criminal cases.

    *Much of the information in this article is from The Commonwealth of Virginia, The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. I suppose to copy and paste is lazy, cheating, and plagiarizing. All I can say is “Guilty!” But I’m in a time crunch today. Still, the information is important and I’m really hoping the text, since it’s a government agency, is in the public domain. Fingers crossed. In the meantime … wish me luck, and I hope you find the material useful. By the way, as far as I know the little guy in the top photo is not a juvenile delinquent. 



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