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

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the what's-the-late-2013-version? dept.

Security 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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They're dead (-1, Flamebait)

kawabago (551139) | about 9 months ago | (#45695645)

Thanks for asking.

Re:They're dead (4, Funny)

morari (1080535) | about 9 months ago | (#45695759)

Bruce Wayne, is that you?

Re:They're dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695827)

I'm batman, you insensitive clod!

Keep my parents away from it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695647)

Might wanna take out the CPU as well, just in case.

Re:Keep my parents away from it. (4, Insightful)

crackspackle (759472) | about 9 months ago | (#45695921)

Might wanna take out the CPU as well, just in case.

One might assume some 35 years after the advent of PC revolution, there are more than a few grey hairs running around like me with infinitely more knowledge on how to secure a computer than some smart mouth tweener. Having spent years securing their computers, I would not trust any child of mine to do a better job than I would and it's time to put the tired meme that kids know tech better than their parents to bed where it belongs.

Re:Keep my parents away from it. (4, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | about 9 months ago | (#45696141)

Something like Faronics Deep Freeze might be useful, restoring the computer to a clean slate after each reboot. You still want your usual anti-virus and firewall to protect the machine when it's running, but at least your parents would know that if things break a restart should generally fix everything.

Leave My Documents and the browser profile unfrozen and set up a regular backup of files written there, taking precautions to make sure the backup isn't susceptible to encryption by ransomware.

Re:Keep my parents away from it. (3, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 9 months ago | (#45696259)

Well, actually, if I were to accidentally bump my head or something, and suddenly found myself incapable of administering a computer, I do have one son whom I could trust. The other two are computer nitwits. Not computer illiterates, but nitwits. They KNOW that certain things are dangerous, but they just don't care. The smart mouth tweeners you mention, to be precise.

Re:Keep my parents away from it. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#45696005)

Seconded, but with a twist. If you take the CPU out of a computer, what are you left with? Yes, my parents had tablets. It's like a computer, but better. At least for old people who can't use a computer but want to use some computer-like applications.

MS Security Essentials (4, Informative)

csumpi (2258986) | about 9 months ago | (#45695669)

All you need. Click here. [microsoft.com]

Re:MS Security Essentials (1)

jratcliffe (208809) | about 9 months ago | (#45695717)

Agreed. It really works very well, and it has minimal performance impact (certainly compared to AVG, and definitely vs dogs like Norton or McAfee).

Is it as bad a Symantec? (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 9 months ago | (#45696061)

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.)

Re:Is it as bad a Symantec? (5, Funny)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 9 months ago | (#45696249)

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.

Re:MS Security Essentials (2)

smash (1351) | about 9 months ago | (#45695835)

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.

Re:MS Security Essentials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695985)

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.

MSE used to be good, but MS seems to have really slipped up last couple of years. They have fallen to the bottom of all the tests, that they use to be in the top of, and even if you don't believe in tests, more and more real-world reports of things slipping through, like poster above here. It has gotten so bad that MS themselves now publicly recommend that their customers use additional 3rd party AV [pcpro.co.uk] . That is pretty damning.

Re:MS Security Essentials (2, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | about 9 months ago | (#45696105)

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.

MSE used to be good, but MS seems to have really slipped up last couple of years. They have fallen to the bottom of all the tests, that they use to be in the top of, and even if you don't believe in tests, more and more real-world reports of things slipping through, like poster above here. It has gotten so bad that MS themselves now publicly recommend that their customers use additional 3rd party AV [pcpro.co.uk] . That is pretty damning.

The test you refer to (not tests) is a notoriously vendor-driven one, which really has no credence with the larger AV community. And there's a bit of misinterpretation; MSE is designed to be compatible with another AV solution, so that the two can coexist. This is made possible by the fact that MSE integrates with Windows as only a Microsoft product could. MS didn't say "don't use our solution all by itself, the MSE r h4x0red!"

Re:MS Security Essentials (2)

Meniconi,Nando (666243) | about 9 months ago | (#45695857)

As AV, MS offer seems to score pretty badly

Re:MS Security Essentials (3, Informative)

Brad1138 (590148) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re: MS Security Essentials (1)

Dokterdok (961082) | about 9 months ago | (#45696083)

I don't agree. My parents PC got repeatedly infected by spyware/malware with MS Security Essentials over the last few years. I switched them back to avast, we'll see.

Re:MS Security Essentials (4, Insightful)

EuclideanSilence (1968630) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:MS Security Essentials (2)

gaspyy (514539) | about 9 months ago | (#45696217)

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.

No problem (0)

russotto (537200) | about 9 months ago | (#45695671)

Cut the network cable, remove the power cord, and call it a day.

If it is simple use (4, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:If it is simple use (1)

master_kaos (1027308) | about 9 months ago | (#45695899)

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 on the interface - Mail app, Open Office App, and Shut Down Computer icon. Also disable admin rights. When I did switch her to Windows 8 I suppose I could have switched her to linux instead, but didn't want to bother as I am sure it would have been a lot more support calls on my end.

Re:If it is simple use (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#45695987)

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.

Re:If it is simple use (1)

Meniconi,Nando (666243) | about 9 months ago | (#45695947)

Doing the same for my parents, too. Covers web surfing, skype and youtube videos, which is all of their needs. Does not need to be a tablet, either. There are a couple of 21+" android all-in-one out there.

Don't have an answer? Change the question (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#45695973)

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

Pull the Plug (0)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 9 months ago | (#45695681)

and call it a day

Sell them. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695683)

Sell the PCs and get them iPads.
Problem solved.

I'm not joking.

Re:Sell them. (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | about 9 months ago | (#45695963)

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."

Get them a tablet instead (3, Insightful)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:Get them a tablet instead (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about 9 months ago | (#45695769)

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.

Re:Get them a tablet instead (2)

omz13 (882548) | about 9 months ago | (#45696151)

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.

Re:Get them a tablet instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696211)

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.

Does it have to specifically be MS Office though? Or can it be a substitute? Apple does have "Pages" for the iPad, and I'm sure there's something similar for Android; or even use Google Docs.

It think the OP should take one step back and look the use cases that need to be solved. E-mail, surfing, social web sites, (simple) documents, music, movies: a good portion of these activities don't need the "traditional" PC anymore for a large portion of the population.

Re:Get them a tablet instead (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 9 months ago | (#45695781)

can really type on them and the screen may be to small as well.

Re:Get them a tablet instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695817)

It seems the original question included the proviso that the user doesn't want to change from Vista. Is there a tablet that runs vista?

Re:Get them a tablet instead (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | about 9 months ago | (#45695881)

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.

Chromebook! (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 9 months ago | (#45696167)

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

I would use a script to detect any boring videos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695697)

such as Band of fools [youtube.com]

I switched my mom to Ubuntu 12.04 (4, Informative)

nicomede (1228020) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:I switched my mom to Ubuntu 12.04 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695761)

Same here, using xubuntu (old PC). Created a limited user, with no ability to change anything in the system. The system auto-logs in with this user, and Firefox opens automatically.

Re:I switched my mom to Ubuntu 12.04 (1)

Selur (2745445) | about 9 months ago | (#45695911)

Installed my mom Kubuntu with LibreOffice, Teamviewer, Skype and she too does not have less trouble with Linux than with Windows.
Sure at the beginning it was all a bit confusing, but she adapted a lot faster than I would have thought.
Switching from Office 2003 and Windows XP to LibreOffice and Kubuntu did seem to be less of a hassle for here than switching to one of the newer Office Suits and Windows 8.1.
Installed Windows on here PC and lent her my laptop with linux mint for a month so she could test both and decide.
Yes, both systems were installed with shortcuts to here favorite tools&co, getting her scanner running on Linux was a bit of a hurdle, but worth the effort.
-> as long as the package maintainers do not mess up or through out support for here hardware she is probably fine.
(now that I think about it, she hasn't complained about anything for quite some time now,..)

=> I too would recommend, trying to switch her to Linux, alternatively buying an older Mac might also be an idea. (that worked for my uncle ;))

Re:I switched my mom to Ubuntu 12.04 (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about 9 months ago | (#45696209)

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.

Windows 7? (2)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Ubuntu (1, Funny)

Nemura (3452793) | about 9 months ago | (#45695709)

Just teach her how to use Ubuntu.

Re:Ubuntu (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | about 9 months ago | (#45695829)

Unfortunately, Ubuntu is trying hard to emulate a Mac, not a Windows box.

It would be interesting to have a linux distro that allowed you a choice of which mainstream OS (xp/vista/7/8/osx) to emulate.

Re:Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695885)

Maybe ZorinOS would be a choice

Kubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695915)

Then try Kubuntu. It is much more akin Windows, with a taskbar, "start" menu, icon tray. I've switched my mum's pc from Windows XP to Kubuntu 13.10. As she was already using Firefox, Thunderbird and LibreOffice, the transition was easy for her. And for me it was also easy, thanks to Firefox'es sync and IMAP. The only complaint I got so far is "it looks different" :)

Re:Kubuntu (2)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 9 months ago | (#45696019)

I second this. I've moved people from Windows to Kubuntu telling them that it is Windows [7|8|9] and they love it. Just don't tell them what it is called.

Tips: Firefox instead of Rekonq, Lancelot instead of the default KDE menu, remove all desktop widgets and 'lock' the desktop and panel.

Re:Kubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696087)

Or just switch the default K menu to Classic mode, so it looks like the Windows XP menu.

Linux (3, Interesting)

used2win32 (531824) | about 9 months ago | (#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 (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695783)

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

Re:Linux (3, Interesting)

johnnys (592333) | about 9 months ago | (#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. :)

"frozen" configurations (5, Informative)

h00manist (800926) | about 9 months ago | (#45695727)

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]

Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695737)

there are less buttons...

Hide the IE and MSO icons. (3, Funny)

Nutria (679911) | about 9 months ago | (#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.)

Re:Hide the IE and MSO icons. (2)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | about 9 months ago | (#45696173)

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.

Take away administrator rights (5, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 9 months ago | (#45695751)

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.

My two cents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695755)

You are doing all you can for the most part. Putting old folks on Linux is just asking for trouble. They don't want open source, they want compatibility with their friends and family. That means Windows, or at least a Mac.

If you want heightened security, buy them a firewall that does more than just NAT. Lock down their Wi-Fi with a good WPA2 passcode. Just remember you will have to maintain it.

Vigilance (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 9 months ago | (#45695757)

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.

install kubuntu with fluffy theme (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695767)

kubuntu looks just like windows.. she won't feel much difference. you have to motivate her to use the new system. put some pretty wallpapers or flowers or red/fluffy theme.. kde has bunch of them. she is gonna love it.

ZorinOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695771)

A linux distro that mimics Win 7 UI
http://zorin-os.com/

Re:ZorinOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695795)

(Also, PearOS for those coming from Macintosh http://pearlinux.fr/)

Google nexus 10 (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 9 months ago | (#45695793)

Get a tablet, show them how to use google docs. Enough.

My parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695801)

Unplug it.

Apple (2, Insightful)

tonywestonuk (261622) | about 9 months ago | (#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....

Re:Apple (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 9 months ago | (#45695905)

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.

Re:Apple (2)

tonywestonuk (261622) | about 9 months ago | (#45695995)

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.

Re:Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696157)

Unless you are a developer. Every fucking time a new version of OSX is released we need to re-compile our applications since the old ones no longer work.

Chromebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695819)

This sounds like a great use case for a Chromebook. Easy to use, locked down by design. Everything lives in "the cloud" so reinstall if there's a problem.

Re:Chromebook (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 9 months ago | (#45695933)

Right up to the point where she has to turn it on and use it. See, his mother knows where everything is in Vista and MS Office (prob 2000 or 2003). Can you set up a Chromebook to EXACTLY replicate where everything is and how everything works on a Chromebook? If not, then no amount of security in the world will stop her from complaining incessantly about not being able to find her stuff.

Firefox + NoScript (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:Firefox + NoScript (1)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#45696129)

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.

sell PC, buy mac mini (2, Insightful)

smash (1351) | about 9 months ago | (#45695849)

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.

Re:sell PC, buy mac mini (1)

smash (1351) | about 9 months ago | (#45695867)

... 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.

Walled garden (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695871)

An unorthodox but secure way is to put her PC behind a small little OpenBSD box or something running squid and configure it so her PC simply can't connect to anything that isn't whitelisted. There are probably whitelists out there to make this configuration easy. As a plus you can hide those annoying banner ads other "questionable" things on the Internet.

It's almost like cutting the network cable. Of course use this approach in concert with others.

Problems? (1)

jd142 (129673) | about 9 months ago | (#45695895)

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 will notice the difference.

Does she just hibernate the computer and rarely reboots, so you get slowness because of memory leaks?

I'll second the suggestion to upgrade from vista to 7. From a user's perspective they are practically identical in look and feel. Only a few icons have changed and I'll bet you can find a skin for 7 to make it look exactly like vista.

I like the tablet suggestions, but if the person is really change adverse, that can be a big shock. I hate to say it, but windows rt might be the best way to transition her to a tablet. If you like the idea of a tablet, try a Kindle as a cheap way to test the waters.

OpenDNS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695901)

In addition to some of the suggestions above, I would set their DNS servers to OpenDNS

Get them a chromebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695925)

They are cheap, easy to use and secure.

tell her to stop surfing for pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695959)

Or install K9.

Chromebook! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45695967)

Chromebook!

When he was alive... (1)

XB-70 (812342) | about 9 months ago | (#45695977)

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...

Use AdBlock and NoScript (2)

fey000 (1374173) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Re:Use AdBlock and NoScript (2)

ckedge (192996) | about 9 months ago | (#45696253)

> 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 dark corners and stuff she doesn't normally browse, wanted to click on a link in e-mail, or wanted to install something".

The computer within a computer confused her a little bit, don't think she ever did really understood that, but she got used to it and knew how to use it.

I think I was lucky that she'd not been on the internet long nor signed up for anything ever -- she got zero spam. That might be your second biggest viral vector. To counter that, I'd say tell her she's not to look at attachments or click on links in e-mail, even and especially if the e-mail came from friends or family, without forwarding the e-mail to you first.

With a hammer (1)

jaketeater (1849832) | about 9 months ago | (#45696001)

With a hammer

Basic Protection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696013)

Perhaps Unbound DNS so she is resistant to DNS Cache poisioning attacks.
http://unbound.net/
You probably already have these installed but just in case Avast Antivirus, Malwarebytes, Fanboy's TPL List For IE. If you use IE. If not he has Adblock list too.
http://www.fanboy.co.nz/ie.html

You don't (2)

BeanBagKing (1151733) | about 9 months ago | (#45696025)

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 gets really bad, I've found it actually does help performance a bit, CCleaner does a good job of this. Make sure everything is up to date and clean. Now go to the Control Panel, uninstall all the toolbars, uninstall Mcafee, etc.

Repeat this process every month... You can make things better, but you can't secure it.

Windows VM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696027)

Windows as a guest OS, Linux as a host using Virtualbox.

Set up a base Windows VM and clone it for her. When she ruins it, delete it and launch another clone. You can even ssh in and do it remotely.

linux and one app at a time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696029)

I extricated myself from Windoze over a period of years, and so this is my recommendation. Before anything backup onto external drive.

1) Find the list of application functionality that you *need*. We'll get to *want* in a minute...

2) Install whatever flavour of linux you feel comfortable with. I use opensuse, but you might find mint or ubuntu easier due to large forums for non-technical users.

3) If you can find all the applications you NEED, e.g. email, browsers etc
4) for any apps that you want that you cannot find a less involved approach is using WINE or Crossover. WINE is free, Crossover costs a little, but has some support. Many windoze apps will run unmodified under it, some need tweaks.
5) Copy all your user data to the linux user account. It is generally not a good idea to have user and admin be the same account, but this is not the linux default.
6) For applications that are running natively, your data will be in the same place. For those apps you are running using WINE/Crossover you will need to point the apps to where it is.

Avoid using a VM if you can, not because it will not work, but you cannot control the portion that microsoft provides i.e. the OS.

If you run one application at a time under linux/WINE, you can fine grain the permissions, and limit exposure to windoze failings.

This is the simplest and least developed approached. For a few years I used VMware and a SAMBA mount from the linux system.

Nowadays, I would recommend getting a BTRFS underlying linux so you have snapshots available, and stop the problems with "cryptlocker" and other nasty viruses destroying your data.... If you have important data encrypt it. If you have vital data, back it up!! externally!! Often!!

FOSS is not perfect, but provides a lot of the tools you need, if you are willing to change. Eventually when you have got away from proprietary platforms, you no longer look to them first to provide your computing needs, and will be able to help others....

My $0.02.

What about Linux guest in VM in seamless mode (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | about 9 months ago | (#45696037)

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.

secure the network (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696053)

secure LAN with ClearOS edgerouter and administer it remotely...

Linux. Full stop (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696059)

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 important info by snail mail.

Nothing else in needed or required.

by removing windows (2)

FudRucker (866063) | about 9 months ago | (#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

steadystate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696103)

Windows steadystate is a little known godsend. In situations where networked images weren't gonna happen it can maintain a specific setup and importantly is free to use. You're welcome.

MIcrosoft EMET (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696115)

MS The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit is a nice extra security layer.

Lock it down (1)

bensw (2757251) | about 9 months ago | (#45696147)

You can use Software Restriction Policies or AppLocker so that they can only run the whitelisted programs and not random .exe files and whatnot. You can set this up with various rules, like path or publisher (for signed software).
AppLocker is easier to setup, but not available for all Windows versions.
It might seem like a drastic measure, but at the end of the day your parents probably don't need to install new software themselves. Automatic updates for programs can still work, if you set it right (for example with publisher rules).

Other than that: don't install software unless absolutely required (such as Java), use a PDF reader with JS disabled, disable macros in Office (if possible) and some other stuff [wpctips.com] ...

my suggestion (1)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about 9 months ago | (#45696201)

Windows 7 and Chrome with Adblock+Ghostery

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

You said as she gets older. (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | about 9 months ago | (#45696205)

You said as she gets older. Pssssssttt so is her PC. :) Time to replace her OLD PC with a newer one. That helps too.

Linux (2)

Eggplant62 (120514) | about 9 months ago | (#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.

Step 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696227)

Step 1: Ask her to stop watching porn from disreputable sites. At least introduce her to RedTube and xHamster.

DeepFreeze (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45696245)

You could deep freeze the computer, aka make all changes non-persistant except in her Users folder.

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