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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Secure Your Parents' PC? 408

New submitter StirlingArcher writes "I've always built/maintained my parents' PC's, but as Mum has got older her PC seems to develop problems more readily. I would love to switch her to Linux, but she struggles with change and wants to stay with Vista and MS Office. I've done the usual remove Admin rights, use a credible Internet Security package. Is there anything more dramatic that I could do, without changing the way she uses her PC or enforcing a new OS on her again? One idea was to use a Linux OS and then run Vista in a VM, which auto-boots and creates a backup image every so often. Thanks for any help!"
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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Secure Your Parents' PC?

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  • by csumpi ( 2258986 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:49PM (#45695669)
    All you need. Click here. [microsoft.com]
    • Agreed. It really works very well, and it has minimal performance impact (certainly compared to AVG, and definitely vs dogs like Norton or McAfee).
      • I ask since that's what we use in work. It's one of the things that makes my system really slow(since it scans my hard drive constantly.) yet I've seen at least 2 people here that have gotten viruses anyway over the few years I've been here. (Considering the site is less than 50 people that sucks as far as I'm concerned.)
        • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:47PM (#45696249) Homepage Journal

          Is it as bad a Symantec?

          No. In fact, I can't really think of anything that is. Maybe there are a few viruses that are as bad.

          • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:44PM (#45696727) Homepage

            I've never encountered a virus that was more difficult to remove than Norton.
            I've also never had as much damage from a virus as the damaged caused by simply running Norton.
            I quite honestly treat Norton as malware.

            • by Mashdar ( 876825 )
              I added some RAM and reformatted some aging work machines a few years ago, and they were running amazingly fast (compared to before the format). Then I re-installed Norton and they became unbearably slow immediately. I never knew before that just how bad Norton had become (having not used it personally since ~2000). With forced version changes, Norton makes entry-range computers unusable within a few years, in my experience. I can't believe they willingly produce such a system-crippling product. It is reall
      • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:03PM (#45696395)

        I would suggest this as well. If she's comfortable with Windows, then make it as safe as possible. Security Essentials has far less risk of throwing a key Windows file into quarantine and hosing the install. It's also far better as far as performance. Ensure she knows how to spot when it has not updated in a while (it happens). Ensure it updates when the PC is likely to be on.

        From there, you need to use a few plugins that will help keep your mother safer online. WOT [mywot.com] is an excellent, and low impact plugin that will warn her about known dangerous sites. AdBlock is a must if she's prone to clicking on things she shouldn't.

        If you can swing it, get an SSD, and kill scheduled tasks like defrag, which would no longer be necessary.
        DO schedule checks for updates when she is most likely to be on. Ensure you train her to spot the prompt that updates are needed, and how to install them.
        If she can't deal with the update process, then you should setup some time each week to remote into the PC to do them, and to handle basic maintenance

        For remote fixes, I'd suggest TeamViewer, set to auto-run as a service., with an Admin password setup for yourself.

        I used all of the above steps with my Dad who lives about 2 hours away with decent results for quite a few years until the old XP hardware failed. I should note that I eventually moved him to a Mac mini when his old hardware failed, and when I no longer wanted to pay a hundred bucks for Windows. My dad likes playing games for the most part, and the ecosystem on a Mac made sense for him (app store), while keeping him largely out of trouble.

    • by smash ( 1351 )
      Not as good as it used to be, we run Forefront which uses the same definitions and have had a number of things get through it as of late.
    • As AV, MS offer seems to score pretty badly
    • by Brad1138 ( 590148 ) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:16PM (#45695923)
      Is it any better than Avast(free)? I have been using Avast for years and it seems to work quite well. Most if not all of the online reviews pick Avast over MSSE.
      • by Ksevio ( 865461 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:50PM (#45696283) Homepage
        It's better in that it stays out of the way a bit more - it updates with Windows Update and doesn't require registration.
      • by dk20 ( 914954 )
        I use to use MS Security essentials but dumped it in favour of Avast. Does a better job and even warns about some bad websites. There are online reporting tools which is good when you have more then one PC to deal with, even more so if they are not in the same location.
        Oddly enough my kids (non-admin accounts) continue to get the odd virus.

        I have since converted the kids to Linux (One runs Mint the other two use Ubuntu). Seems to have went fairly smoothly.
      • by Kvasio ( 127200 )

        I have a customer with registered avast on all PCs. It comes with bundled "software updater" that deals internally with SOME software (eg. adobe flash or some upgrades of firefox) without running the official installer. Comes quite easy to cope with, so perhaps parents could do some updates.
        Otherwise, there is remote admin module as well.

    • by EuclideanSilence ( 1968630 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:36PM (#45696127)

      My parents computers don't have missile launch codes on them, they don't need to be secure. They need to be recoverable.

      1) Any photos, bookmarks, etc that you want to keep: have a copy of it on a backup DVD
      2) Be able to format and reinstall

      Anything else is just extra.

      • This is so true. Even as somebody who knows how to keep his computer clean of viruses and malware, I still follow these recommendations. Keep the important data backed up, and format the machine every 6-12 months. Keeps things running smoothly.

        That or just get them an iPad or Surface 2, and be done with it. They can probably get all their stuff done on either of these devices. Surface 2 even has MS Office, and they've really up their game on the hardware this time around. Found that most reviews fou
      • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:53PM (#45696311) Homepage Journal

        Your parent's PC(s) don't hold any credit card numbers, or personal information that might embarrass them? Not even a baby picture of a (gasp) nude child which might mark them as (GASP) pedophiles?

        Sorry, but your assertion is terribly naive.

      • by Tom ( 822 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @05:25PM (#45698055) Homepage Journal

        1) Any photos, bookmarks, etc that you want to keep: have a copy of it on a backup DVD

        Doesn't work, never has and never will.

        Unless backup is automatic in the background with no user intervention required, regular people will not do backups, period.

        Apple's Time Machine is the biggest leap forward for home-user backup in... well, basically ever. Not because it's a technical marvel (it isn't), but because it's so simple and out-of-the-box that regular users actually use it.

      • My parents computers don't have missile launch codes on them, they don't need to be secure. They need to be recoverable.

        Wow, that's naive! Their online-credentials, details that one could use to do identity theft, their credit card numbers and banking details -- you're completely dismissing all that as irrelevant? And how are you going to "recover" the damage if someone does get their credit card details, for example, and empties the account? Your backups won't do shit in such a situation, and neither does reinstalling the system!

    • by gaspyy ( 514539 )

      For a while, MSSE was good, then it took a steep dive to the point it's not even tested by the labs anymore. Quite sad really.

      Personally I went back to Bitdefender.

    • Goodness. I make a fair bit of my salary from environments where people have such casual attitudes to security, and install a single tool as a "fixed all my problems".

      Good security takes layers. Robust backups, proven recovery or rebuild procedures, good practices for sanitizing incoming data, procedures to transfer sensitive data securely, and ways to safely store seldom used passwords are all subjects requiring thought and consistency. Schedule some time with your parents to walk though their usage patter

  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:50PM (#45695677)
    Like email, browsing, and perhaps some photos and videos, get a tablet. I hate to add to the PC market shrinking (it is my main bread and butter), but a tab is typically simpler, and more than enough for many use cases.
    Additionally, you can root and do a nandroid backup on initial setup as a quick imaging routine in case of problems.
    Disclaimer, I wrote this on the commode with a nexus 7.
    • This is definitely a viable option. My mother uses her tablet almost exclusively. She will occasionally use her computer for an occasional task (such as writing a complex document, or managing photos from her digital camera) but other then that she only uses her tablet.

      Another option is Windows 8 which I have done for my grandmother. While I cannot stand the Winodws 8 interface it can actually make sense for certain people. My grandmother does 2 things, write documents and checks emails. So I have 3 tiles
      • This is definitely a viable option.

        That's for the guy who asked the question in the first place to decide, and he specified:

        without changing the way she uses her PC or enforcing a new OS on her again

        So I'd say it's not.

        • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:29PM (#45696613)

          Sometimes the correct answer to a question is one the asker doesn't want to hear.

          This is the correct answer. Guy should give his mom a tablet for Christmas, for "when you'd rather sit on the sofa than at the computer desk". Six months later, either he'll find it's never used (which means he's just out some money) or that she uses it exclusively (which means the problem is solved, as she's now adapted to another OS - acceptable because it's "on a tablet" instead of another PC OS).

          Tablets are what parents should have been getting in 2000-2005 instead of all the PCs that were used instead, if only they had existed in non-suck forms.

    • without changing the way she uses her PC or enforcing a new OS on her again

  • Sell them. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sell the PCs and get them iPads.
    Problem solved.

    I'm not joking.

    • You seemed to have missed this part of TFA, "I would love to switch her to Linux, but she struggles with change and wants to stay with Vista and MS Office."
      • They'll complain for the first month, but it won't take them that long to catch on. You could also just say you refuse to help them if they refuse to take advice which would make your ability to help them that much easier. Seems to me they are being a little unreasonable. They are asking for free computer repair service, and won't even change their habits to make it easier on the person doing the repairs. Ask for $50 every time they want you to fix it (Anybody else would charge more), and they'll probably
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Ridiculous... Last thing i would ever want to do is charge my parents for computer repair. I owe them a lot for their time and commitment invested in me to make me the man i am today. I am sorry you don't feel that way about your parents.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:52PM (#45695695)
    Most people don't need the flexibility and attendant hassles of PCs anymore. Just give them an iPad or Nexus and be done with it.
    • Most people don't need the flexibility and attendant hassles of PCs anymore. Just give them an iPad or Nexus and be done with it.

      And how do you run MS Office on those? The poster specifically mentioned MS Office.

      • by omz13 ( 882548 )
        I got my mom a iMac... installed Office for Mac on it... and the support calls from her dropped to almost zero... the only problem now is that she'll somehow screw up Safari and the toolbar needs to be reset every now and then. Given her past history of screwing up a Windows machine within a year of getting it, and having 'friends' who 'help' install software that she 'needs' on it, moving to OS X was a big win, despite the initial ' this is so new' pushback that occurred for about two weeks.
        • I guess I'm just lucky. When my mother in law last asked for computer help, it was because Avast or AVG (can't recall which) was too annoying, and the free license ran out. So I dropped that completely and got MS security Essentials. There was basically nothing installed on her computer that didn't come with it. I guess it helps that the only thing she does is Facebook.
    • can really type on them and the screen may be to small as well.

    • First, I think that he wanted to better set up their existing computer, not discard it and drop $300 on a new one (even if it is gift-buying season).

      And second, if someone is not good at learning new things - like the transition from Vista to Linux - then learning an entirely new computer and OS, without such familiar items as a keyboard and mouse, is going to be even harder.

    • The OS is self healing and comes with a full keyboard. Your tech support calls will disappear.

    • Most people don't need the flexibility and attendant hassles of PCs anymore. Just give them an iPad or Nexus and be done with it.

      The geek is quick to impose his own solutions on others, whether they fit or not.

      This geek's mother is comfortable with Windows and MS Office.

      Implying that she needs a physical keyboard of standard size and layout and would benefit from a larger monitor than any tablet has to offer.

  • by nicomede ( 1228020 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:52PM (#45695699)

    and she took a few weeks to adapt, now she uses it (mostly) trouble-free. I also enabled Desktop sharing via VNC to avoid driving to her place every time she complains 'I had my icon here and now it's gone' or 'It does not behave as berfore' or 'The menu to send my mails is gone'.
    Her grand-children also spend lots of time on this computer while she takes care of them, and I used to clean lots of malware after them... not anymore.

    • My Mom's been on Ubuntu for several years. She had an old Dell that was crawling on Windows, I put Linux on it and it was a much better experience for her. She's never looked back.

  • by frdmfghtr ( 603968 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:53PM (#45695701)

    How about Windows 7? From what I remember about the steaming pile that was Vista, 7 looks very similar. Sure it's new, but if it looks the same that may be acceptable.

    • Windows 7 can be made to look almost like Vista (I believe the only thing that isn't easy to change into a Vista facsimile is window transparency, which was disabled in maximized windows in Vista).

      Even out of the box, the differences are so minimal that the learning curve should be no problem.

  • Linux (Score:3, Interesting)

    by used2win32 ( 531824 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:55PM (#45695725)
    My in-laws were having Windows XP issues, so I upgraded them to Mint. Zero support calls to me since then - and they like it...
    • Re:Linux (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:03PM (#45695783)

      "Is this how sons-in-law say 'F- You' these days?"
      "Must be!"
      "Don't call him ever again."

    • Re:Linux (Score:4, Interesting)

      by johnnys ( 592333 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:17PM (#45695931)
      The last time my 82 year old father-in-law visited, he wanted to check some web news sites so I handed him my netbook running Ubuntu. Half an hour later, I told him he was using a Linux system and he was happily surprised since he was used to Win7.

      What I learned at that moment is that IF you provide a good system running Linux and presenting the apps a user needs in a usable way, THEN the user doesn't really care whether it's Linux or whatever. Firefox and Thunderbird and Libre Office really are good enough (or better) for any "normal" user doing "normal" things.

      I haven't converted his home system yet, only because he has a son who does support for him, so it's Not My Problem. :)

  • by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:55PM (#45695727) Journal

    Freeze all system changes except saving into the the documents folder. There are a number of programs to do it, seems the most popular is Deep Freeze. It allows all system changes, but after reboot it is all gone. Some tweaking will allow making a few things persistent, such as the documents.

    http://alternativeto.net/software/deep-freeze/ [alternativeto.net]

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:58PM (#45695747)

    Install Firefox, LibreOffice & Thunderbird. Insist that she use them. If she ignores your advice, tell her you can't/won't help her.

    (Living on your own, doing your own laundry and being over age 25 adds necessary gravitas.)

    • Firefox is okay, but LibreOffice when compared to Office 2013 is a piece of shit. If she is still using Office 2003 or before, it might be viable, but 2007 and above - forget it. He doesn't want to change how she uses the computer.
    • by csumpi ( 2258986 )
      I wish Libre or Open Office would be anywhere near as good as MS Office. But the reality is, they are not even close. Unless all you use it for is type out a lost cat flyer per year.
  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <(gterich) (at) (aol.com)> on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:58PM (#45695751) Journal

    My mom uses her Win7 machine as a User, and not as an Administrator.

    You can avoid 99% of viruses, phishing, and other BS simply by taking away administrator rights.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @12:59PM (#45695757) Journal
    No matter what you set up on a PC they will break it somehow. Trust me on this one. The best I.T. decision I ever made was giving my mother-in-law an ipad.
  • Get a tablet, show them how to use google docs. Enough.
  • Apple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tonywestonuk ( 261622 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:05PM (#45695805)

    When I see comments like this, I am SOOOO grateful that mum bought a core duo imac 6 years ago, and it still is going strong....

    • Because it works well, or because she calls somebody else when all the shit breaks?

      My mother let her iPhone update to iOS7 and she is still bitching about where all her stuff went and how she can't find anything anymore.

      • Apple don't keep changing stuff around in their Mac OS, unlike Microsoft do with windows, so my mum can keep up to date without getting lost.

        Yes, I do have to fix stuff sometimes, but that doesn't include removing dozens of spyware etc.

        • by csumpi ( 2258986 )

          Apple don't keep changing stuff around in their Mac OS, unlike Microsoft do with windows

          You obviously have not used OSX or Windows recently. I use both daily, and I have to tell you, every time I upgrade OSX, it takes a full day of work getting things back to usable.

  • Firefox + NoScript (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:08PM (#45695823)

    If she already uses Firefox, great, if not, see if she can accept it. If she does, then add NoScript in and pre-configure it to only allow scripts from the sites she visits and their legit links and support sites. Basically, walk through her bookmarks and URL shortcuts and give just enough privileges to make the site load properly. That'll block a lot of the skeevy ads from appearing and protect against the vast majority of X-site scripting. You may still have to deal with new sites "not working" from time to time.

    You may also want to install WOT (Web of Trust) if your existing security package doesn't block dangerous sites. That'll put a big warning screen up on any sites that are recognized as unsafe.

    Also, if you can at least get her to upgrade to Win 7, that should stay in her comfort zone while giving you a few more generations of security updates.

    Unless she absolutely needs it, uninstall Java.

    And finally, since you have her off of Admin rights, I'm assuming you are doing all the administration-otherwise she'll forget some day and go out on the web when logged in as Admin. In that case, you'll have to go over there once a month to update Windows, Firefox, Adobe Flash+Reader and possibly Java. Or at least every three months.

    • by Arker ( 91948 )

      I used to do this but these days it takes hours to get firefox anywhere near sane or usable after installing or defaulting it. It's simply too much work. Safari for windows is surprisingly functional with defaults however.

  • by smash ( 1351 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:10PM (#45695849) Homepage Journal
    You, the OP, are a nerd. Your parents are not. Apple get "normal people". Do them a favour and get them something they won't hate.
    • by smash ( 1351 )
      ... and the whole backup thing? time machine/time capsule. set/forget. if they ever need to reinstall the machine themselves, hold option, network boot/install, restore from time machine backup when prompted. it's so easy, your grandmother could do it.
    • The great thing about buying Apple is you can always send them to the Apple store for support, once you determine you can't solve the problem via screen sharing.

  • What type of problems? Is she installing a bunch of ad toolbars? So many install in the user folder, so no admin rights are necessary. Some of the pop-up malware doesn't need to have admin rights to infect the pc. They drop the executable in the appdata folder or a subfolder with a randomized name and start up from HKCU\software\microsoft\windows\start so it is all in the user's area. Try firefox (or chrome) with adblock and change the shortcut icon to the IE icon. Migrate bookmarks and few people wil

  • Loved the dead parents joke above....

    When the Old Man was alive, I set him up with SuSE Linux and locked it (mostly) down. He ran it for 5-6 years. It never crashed, got a virus or had any known breaches.

    With the release of WIndows 8.1/8.2 which demands and tracks huge amounts of personal information, Microsoft's offering is contra-indicated.

    I'll let better people than I argue about the details of which distro/browser combination to use...

  • by fey000 ( 1374173 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:21PM (#45695981)

    That which helped me the most with this issue was enforcing Firefox with Adblock and Noscript, and setting the AV to update daily without confirmation and run scans every other day. This has reduced the warnings / malware numbers from roughly 120 to 0 when I run the scans manually.

    The only problem is that you need to make sure they don't simply click "allow scripts globally" every time something doesn't work.

    Good luck.

    • by ckedge ( 192996 )

      > enforcing Firefox with Adblock and Noscript

      Yup, this. My 65 year old mom was able to put up with the annoyances of Noscript. She told me all the websites she regularly uses and I went through her bookmarks and history and configured Noscript to allow the minimums necessary on the sites that didn't quite work without partial permissions.

      I even went so far as to install a local copy of VMware and put a browser in it without noscript (but with adblock), and told her to use it if she was ever "browsing d

  • Simple as that, you don't, it's just not possible....

    I'd start with Avast, maybe Malwarebytes. Install Chrome, put it on their desktop and change the icon to Internet Explorer. Use SpyBot to blacklist sites. Setup everything to auto-update and auto-scan so they don't have to be bothered with any of it.

    Then come back in a month, Secunda PSI and Qualys Browser give you a good way to keep track of what needs to be updated. Update it all. Registry doesn't really need to be cleaned these days, unless it ge
  • To run browser(s)? If she is using web based email, then all her online actions are through Linux. I would think that would be more secure than Linux host/Windows guest. It doesn't necessarily need to be in seamless mode, but it might be more user friendly to her if it is.
  • Linux. Full stop (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I would secure my or any one's parents' PC by first installing a well supported and regarded Linux distribution, with a firewall, ClamAV to repel viruses that could infect a Windows computer to which e-Mails are sent, and a simple login authentication with password that they would easily remember, but could not be be easily guessed by anyone else.

    Remind them never to click on any Bank or other business ad or e-mail for which they do no business, and that all their insurance and banking vendors would send im

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:30PM (#45696075)
    and installing Linux and configuring an IPTables firewall script that runs every time the PC boots up so i only have to visit once a week to check for software updates., all mom does is play various solitaire games and email a few family & friends, buy a few things on amazon and Linux does all those things quite nicely
  • Windows 7 and Chrome with Adblock+Ghostery

    That's what I did and it hasn't worked out too bad yet.

  • by Eggplant62 ( 120514 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:45PM (#45696221)

    I put my dad's PC up with Linux a few years ago. I have him set up with reduced user privileges so he cannot fuck anything up. He does very well with everything he needs to do, and I've not had to worry about anything that he's doing with that PC in just as much time.

  • iPad. Seriously. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dawnkelly ( 81341 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:54PM (#45696313)

    I bought my Mother an iPad 2 years ago. I didn't realize how profound the change over was for her until I saw her helping one of our other relatives with their new iPad. Not only had she mastered her iPad, it made her feel smart again.
    She still has her Vista desktop connected to a printer and uses it when she needs to print or fill out online forms. But that only happens a couple times a year. We even got her a little JBL dock so that she could listen to music last year and she fell in love with the iPad all over again. It's crazy.
    But it was a good reminder for me. Technical people get caught up in different camps (i.e. Linux vs. Windows vs. Mac). We forget that good tech is good tech. And when you can watch your own tech-resistant parents become empowered by one device. It's good tech.
    I specifically went with an iPad because of their walled app garden. Higher functioning users could probably be just fine with an android tablet but this was my Mother. A woman who gets very emotional when things don't work right. And now 90% of my extended family have iPads because of her.
    So before you think about changing your Mother's desktop, change the way you're looking at the problem. Users will try to tell you what they think they need but *hopefully* most of us are smart enough to go back and ask them what the problem is (not what they think the solution should be).
    As I said, we did keep her desktop but the tasks that would open her up to viruses (surfing) now happen on the iPad. I went from having to clean her machine 4 or 5 times a year to zero. Getting that time back was well worth the price of the iPad.

    • by dk20 ( 914954 )
      Apple PR department?

      As others have asked, does it run MS office? You saw this right "wants to stay with Vista and MS Office."
  • Create a host file in the OS you're giving them redirecting any http requests to known online shopping tv channels (QVC and the like), reverse mortgage companies, life insurance companies that prey on the elderly, etc. Maybe redirect to something to do negative reinforcement, like goatse.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:00PM (#45696373)
    Folks hate change, but everybody loves something new. So instead of fixing their old crappy computers or installing Linux, I give them a new netbook/chromebook running some kind of Linux. They immediately start to use the new shiny one and I never get any support calls, since the machines just work and keep working, year after year.
  • People who are treated like children behave like them. Give her the responsibility to sort it out when it goes wrong, and she'll quickly become an adult and learn how it works.

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:24PM (#45696575) Homepage

    "I think my computer has a virus."

    "What makes you think that, Dad?"

    "Well, it's been running slow lately. And once a website popped up a notice saying it had detected a virus on my machine."

    "... It did?"

    "Yeah. I downloaded and ran the program it suggested but it seems even worse now."

    "You're right, Dad. Your computer has a virus. Better take it to the repair guy."

    True story. I love my parents, but they're three hours away by car, I gave up on Windows years ago, and there's no way I can talk them through a de-lousing session over the phone. ("Open the control panel. Go to the start menu... No, the one in the lower-left. Now click on it. LEFT click. Press the button on the left side of the mouse, Dad...") Computer repair shops still exist, or in the worst case they can take it to the Geek Squad who at the very least can re-image the damned thing.

  • Local Group Policy (Score:4, Informative)

    by chr1st1anSoldier ( 2598085 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:27PM (#45696593)
    Greetings, As someone in the IT industry maybe I can give you some advice.

    Since she is on Vista, you might want to look into Local Group Policies.

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc725970.aspx [microsoft.com]

    You have much finer, granular control over many aspects of Windows through it. It can take some trial and error, but you can setup an environment where only specific applications run and nothing else. Or, you can do things like not allowing application to run from specific locations (E.G. C:\Users\\AppData or C:\Program Data). Doing this can greatly reduce the amount of Malware and Virus infections. You can also prevent changes to things like the Start Menu or task bar, etc. A lot can be done with Local GPOs that doesn't seem widely known to the standard Windows user, but they can really help lock a machine down.
  • my suggestions (Score:4, Informative)

    by RobertLTux ( 260313 ) <robert@lauBLUEre ... .org minus berry> on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:59PM (#45696839)

    1 backup the data from the computer and wipe the computer
    2 install Win7 (you should be still able to get a LEGIT copy somewhere) DO NOT CONNECT TO THE NET
    3 build on your computer a win7 and whichever MSO set of WSUSOffline patches and create a Ninite loader with Firefox/chrome,7zip, LO ,teamviewer ,avast and whatever else you think they will need

    4 run WSUSOffline and get the patches done (optional step install MSSE and upgrade MSIE)
    5 run the Ninite Loader
    6 FOR EACH OF [FIREFOX CHROME MSIE] WHERE INSTALLED =TRUE hit the adblock plus site and get it installed and configured.
    7 setup Teamviewer and set a permanent password
    8 set like EVERYTHING to auto update and "silent" mode where possible.

  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @04:45PM (#45697729)

    Securing a system for novice users isn't really that hard. The two most important steps are: (1) make sure they're running as a limited user, and (2) have them run a decent, but lightweight, anti-malware program. You've already indicated that you are doing this. For the user account, I strongly recommend not even giving them the admin password so they won't be tempted (or socially engineered) into using it. You should set up remote access so you can get in if they need help with something that legitimately requires it. For anti-virus, Microsoft Security Essentials works pretty well - it's lightweight and free. Not 100% perfect, but nothing is.

    DO NOT install the Java Runtime unless it's absolutely necessary. Having this crap in the browser is the #1 vector of malware infections today! If the user absolutely needs it for one or several specific sites, use a whitelist. (Or, if it's for a non-web application, disable the web plugin using the control panel.)

    Watch out for the Adobe junk, too - Flash Player and Adobe Reader are major malware vectors these days. Unfortunately, you can't usually skip Flash and PDF support entirely. Therefore, I suggest having the user use Chrome instead of IE. Chrome has its own version of Flash which is automatically kept up to date. And you don't need Adobe Reader, since there is a built-in PDF viewer in Chrome (which you can also associate with the .pdf file extension if you want). Install Adblock Plus for Chrome for some added peace of mind (not to mention a better browsing experience). Uninstall IE (or at least hide/remove the icon) so the user won't be tempted to run it.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly