Many of us are visiting parents/relatives this Thanksgiving/Christmas, and will have an opportunity to help our them with cybersecurity issues. I thought I’d write up a quick guide of the most important things.
1. Stop them from reusing passwords
They don’t need a separate password for every site. You don’t care about the majority of website whether you get hacked. Use a common password for all the meaningless sites. You only need unique passwords for important accounts, like email, Facebook, and Twitter.
Write them down, with pen and paper. Don’t put them in a MyPasswords.doc, because when a hacker breaks in, they’ll easily find that document and easily hack your accounts.
You might help them out with getting a password manager, or two-factor authentication (2FA). Good 2FA like YubiKey will stop a lot of phishing threats. But this is difficult technology to learn, and of course, you’ll be on the hook for support issues, such as when they lose the device. Thus, while 2FA is best, I’m only recommending pen-and-paper to store passwords. (AccessNow has a guide, though I think YubiKey/U2F keys for Facebook and GMail are the best).
Apple has made this especially easy with fingerprints (and now faceprints), so there’s little excuse not to lock the phone.
Note that Apple iPhones are the most secure. I give my mother my old iPhones so that they will have something secure.
My mom demonstrates a problem you’ll have with the older generation: she doesn’t reliably have her phone with her, and charged. She’s the opposite of my dad who religiously slaved to his phone. Even a small change to make her lock her phone means it’ll be even more likely she won’t have it with her when you need to call her.
The password should be written down on the same piece of paper as all the other passwords. This is importance. My parents just moved, Comcast installed a WiFi access point for them, and they promptly lost the piece of paper. When I wanted to debug some thing on their network today, they didn’t know the password, and couldn’t find the paper. Get that password written down in a place it won’t get lost!
If they have a really old home router, you should probably replace it, or at least update the firmware. A lot of old routers have hacks that allow hackers (like me masscaning the Internet) to easily break in.
Most of the online tricks that will confuse your older parents will come via advertising, such as popups claiming “You are infected with a virus, click here to clean it”. Installing an ad blocker in the browser, such as uBlock Origin, stops most all this nonsense.
For example, here’s a screenshot of going to the “Speedtest” website to test the speed of my connection (I took this on the plane on the way home for Thanksgiving). Ignore the error (plane’s firewall Speedtest) — but instead look at the advertising banner across the top of the page insisting you need to download a browser extension. This is tricking you into installing malware — the ad appears as if it’s a message from Speedtest, it’s not. Speedtest is just selling advertising and has no clue what the banner says. This sort of thing needs to be blocked — it fools even the technologically competent.
First, you really need to separate your work account from personal. The IT department is already getting misdirected emails with your spouse/lover that they don’t want to see. Any conflict with your work, such as getting fired, gives your private correspondence to their lawyers.
Second, you need a wholly separate account for financial stuff, like Amazon.com, your bank, PayPal, and so on. That prevents confusion with phishing attacks.
Consider this warning today:
Phishing warning! Fake emails are being sent out pretending to be from the US Postal Service, claiming that you requested your mail be held this week. Don’t click on the attachment OR the links.
— Wendy Nather (@wendynather) November 21, 2017
If you had split accounts, you could safely ignore this. The USPS would only your financial email account, which gets no phishing attacks, because it’s not widely known. When your receive the phishing attack on your personal email, you ignore it, because you know the USPS doesn’t know your personal email account.
7. Deauth those apps!
8. Up-to-date software? maybe
You should install the latest OS (Windows 10, macOS High Sierra), and also turn on automatic patching.
But remember it may not be worth the huge effort involved. I want my parents to be secure — but no so secure I have to deal with issues.
This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog post authored by Robert Graham. Read the original post at: Errata Security