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Securing Your Mom

posted Apr 4, 2012, 5:27 PM by Beau Bullock   [ updated Oct 4, 2013, 1:31 PM ]

No this is not about hacking your mom. This is about helping her, or your dad, or any other IT security deficient family member for that matter be more secure. We all get the call. You know. Mom calls up and says her computer is broken. “Ummm... Mom you mean that dial up connection of yours isn't loading as quick as you'd like it?” Since we are IT pro's we must be able to fix it right? So we ask what the problem is nicely. She says her computer is slow. “Ok, mom... Did you have your Windows patches and AV up to date?” Of course she doesn't know.   

These things should have been set up by YOU, the computer pro. So here are some things you should help your mom do before she happens to click on something she thinks is a link to “a bargain” and ends up becoming part of the Zeus botnet.

  1. Automate Windows updates - This is a given but not always done. In Windows 7 click the Start menu, then Windows updates. Click “Change Settings” and select “Install updates automatically” from the drop down menu. I recommend doing these around 2 PM in the afternoon... That is primetime-naptime.

  2. Anti-virus - If your mom wasn't suckered in to buying an “AV” package when she bought her PC make sure to download something like “Microsoft Security Essentials”. We all know AV doesn't matter in the corporate world where someone actually targets you but at least it will keep mom safe from the bots.

  3. Free WiFi!... and stolen CCN's – Make sure mom knows when she heads on down to bingo night and they have a WiFi hotspot setup so everyone can stalk their kids on Facebook that everything she does on her laptop can pretty much be sniffed. She may ask you to drop the blow when you start talking about sniffing... So make sure she knows that if YOU were on the same network as her then you could potentially see her credit card numbers. You know those shady sites mom likes to order from without SSL. She's sure it's safe though.

  4. Speaking of WiFi – How about the AP's encryption she's connecting to at home? Is she using WEP, WPA, WPA2, or is it just plain open? You reading a blog about security probably puts you in the category of IT/hacker/nerd somewhere. Which means you have an idea about wireless security. It is well known that WEP can be cracked in no time at all. How many of you have wireless intrusion detection systems set up on your moms AP's? Not many... That's what I thought. So how would your mom know when someone is on her network actively trying to exploit her system? The answer is don't let the attacker have a chance to exploit her. Make sure she is set up with WPA and a strong password. When I say strong password I do not mean anything I can find in any dictionary around the world. Make sure her dogs name is not her password. Give her a very strong password. Something 8-12 characters and something cryptic. Maybe something like this: “Mom!s@wesome”.

  5. Physical Security – Make sure she knows not to leave her laptop anywhere even if she thinks it may be safe.  

  6. Make it easy – The most important thing is to make sure it's easy for her. She doesn't need to worry about reboots and software updates.  She just needs to get to her book club chat room.

These are just a few quick and easy steps to helping your mom feel more safe on the interwebz.   


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