Tech Security 101: Educating the Non-Techies
I’m the type of person that shows up during a holiday gathering and immediately has phones and laptops shoved in my face – quickly followed by “I don’t know what’s wrong with it. Can you fix this?”
I grudgingly oblige and get their tech back up to normalcy (and a little faster) but it always irks me that this needs to happen considering that the basics of security are something that anyone can learn with very limited knowledge of computers.
But I digress.
The issue I’ve found has less to do with the availability of the hardware and services to keep a machine secure and more on helping my family understand the importance of staying safe. The hardware and software you can basically set it and forget it; what gives?
What I found was that the best security is one that someone will actually follow – like a routine.
We techies have no issue with handling data corruption, online attacks, hardware repair, and the lot that goes with regular maintenance. We love doing this stuff… but others don’t and that’s what we need to remember about this all.
So, I decided the best way to go about removing this situation of holiday tech repair was to essentially set everyone up with a process:
Talk about security
You’ll easily get through to them if you tell them a person could potentially gain access to their private files, phish for personal data (used later against them such as with online transactions), or exposing media that they wouldn’t want to be available to the public.
In some way, it’s a bit of a scare tactic… but it works.
Now you’ve got their attention. At this point, your best bet is to tell them (and share examples) of online phishing which will help them avoid those malicious interactions on social, email, and what could be done over the phone.
Secure via hardware
Next up is to talk to them about how theft and natural disasters are very real because of the value of technology. Let them know that their information may not be freely available if their computer was damaged in a fire or if someone swiped their tablet while they were going to grab their coffee at a shop.
I like to think my family would be on board with doing regular uploads to cloud-based backup services but I have given up on that. Instead, I use an encrypted secure flash drive.
People understand backups on a hardware level because it’s always been around; it’s better they do backups to their encrypted drive than none at all (or having them get frustrated with online services).
Download/update and step-by-step programs
Typically what I’ve been doing now is to create a step-by-step checklist for each person that comes to me about their computer or phone when it’s running slow or has been infected.
This guide is nothing more than a word document that’s left on the desktop which has screenshots and very detailed copy that explains what to do (and why).
Underneath the document, are the virus scans and other online security services so all they really need to do is open the document and follow the instructions. You can always tweak them with any specific preferences or operating systems, but the core idea is there.
This one is the big one because it’s something you’ll even forget.
Set up some form of timer for these people so that it tells them you’d suggest doing an update and running the programs or backing up to the flash drive.
· Scheduled email (see this guide for automating Gmail)
· Place it into their calendar on their phone
· Set a reminder for yourself and send a mass text or group chat to alert them
Security is only good if they continually use it so having a schedule where you can keep them reminded, encourage them to do so, and answer their questions for a few minutes will prevent the big disasters you’re generally looking at when they dip in during the holiday and throw their troubles at you.
What approach to security do you generally do for helping friends and family stay safe?