Teaching an old dog new tricks


We all get older, and technology is always changing.  With changes in technologies, we are continually faced with new ways we perform tasks in our daily lives.  Most banking and credit card companies are now making their users apply for paperless billing and only using electronic documents.  For a young at heart senior, this could be a pitfall they must overcome.  I can remember setting up my father’s bank account online and he had never used a computer for more than just playing solitaire and an occasional email from a friend or family member who insisted on sharing chain letters and jokes.  I can also remember that random call at 9pm from my dad saying his computer was broken and couldn’t do anything at all on it. In the background you could hear alarms, bells whistles and someone on the computer saying “Call Now! Your Computer Has a Virus!.  Yes, I think we all have gotten that call, haven’t we?  It would take a few minutes to calm him down and try to walk him through steps to get back to normal computing.  Until the next afternoon I received the same random call, same alarms going off on his computer. The question I always asked was the same each time, “What did you do, and what site were you on when it happened?  It was always the same answer, “I just opened this email from cousin so-and-so and it started yelling at me.” After I laughed uncontrollably, I remembered my first time on a computer and how frustrating it was to have to restore my computer and of course I never backed anything up.   I learned after a while to recognize suspicious emails and malicious websites. It did however take a few times to learn my lesson and avoid those links.

With social media and online banking, it is very hard to tell what sites are malicious when you are browsing on the Internet.  We all get older and the first thing that goes is eye sight. Attackers take advantage of this by creating websites similar to a social media, banking or credit card sites with a misspelled word or a funny looking character.  Just for example, which one is correct, or  Well one is a government website and the other two, well I wouldn’t recommend going there, but they are definitely not the real Whitehouse websites you would have you kid search for.  

Just like teaching your child how to be safe on the Internet, you have to do the same thing with aging seniors.  The biggest difference is that the aging adult has more to lose than just computer privileges when they download the wrong thing.  So what are some precautions you can take to protect your loved ones?

  1. Ensure they are using strong passwords and implement a password manager that can generate random passwords for accounts.  If you have a password vault or manager application you only have one password to remember instead of 10 or even more.  There are several family friendly password managers available at a free or low cost.  Some examples are Keepass, LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password.
  2. Sign up for a community computer class with your loved one.  Sometimes individuals need a second teacher to understand things.  I get frustrated trying to tell someone how to navigate through a computer and don’t understand how others don’t know where to find something as easy as their Internet connection status.  Well, I have been doing this a little longer than some, and I take for granted that everyone else hasn’t learned like I have.  Check out your local library, a local community center or the following link;
  3. Learn how to Identify malicious emails (phishing) and impersonating phone calls (vishing).  Take a look at some of Secure Ideas other blogs to learn more about these attacks.
    1. Social engineering why hack it when people are just giving away their information
    2. Professionally Evil support educating your family on the basics
    3. Protecting your kids from online threats
  4. Help perform periodic updates for your operating system. When possible, enable automatic updates on your computer and ensure that if you have multiple user accounts, they are updated as well. Create an online storage or use an external hard drive and backup the computer before and after any updates are performed. A backup drive will allow someone to easily restore a hopeless situation without losing this year’s family reunion pictures. More information on restoring an operating system can be found
    Additionally you can check out Tom’s guide Online backup Services review at  Tom’s guide on best Cloud backups for 2018
  5. Create a user account with no admin privileges, and have your loved one use that account instead.  I solved my father’s computer issues by not giving him the admin password and only my step-mother and I knew the password.  This may be a little harsh, but it helped my father to think twice about installing anything without verifying it was okay. Another option, is to label the Admin account as DON’T TOUCH ME! which will remind them don’t use it.  This will prevent any unnecessary software installs and can be easily deleted, if needed.  Hopefully, a simple restore on the user account will fix any issues that arise. One large drawback to this tactic is that someone will have to install software or updates for the user account until your loved one gets used to installing updates and software on their own.
  6. Periodically, check all banking transactions and validate any unrecognized charges.  Most banking institutions and credit card companies are pretty good about reacting to suspicious charges, but it is the account holder’s responsibility to keep track of activity.
  7. Finally, keep up on current cyber attacks and help others be proactive by recognizing malicious online activities.

These suggestions are just quick, down and dirty techniques on how to help your loved ones be safe on the computer.  Stay tuned to Secure Ideas Blogs for our weekly blogs.  For a one on one advice and discussion with the whole Secure Ideas Team, check out our Slack channel at Professionally Evil Slack channel.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Professionally Evil Insights authored by Larry Franklin. Read the original post at:

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