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alternative title: How to deal with a person who has gotten paranoid and doesn't want to go online anymore?

A person, who has over the years been scammed many times, by bad spam/fraud emails, and sites' spyware/ad-ware/..etc that do popup ads like "click here to scan your pc for free !!!" , usually ends with bad virus, and antivirus can't be enabled anymore, and requiring full windows re-install.

How to actually make his internet more secure?, so that he can use his computer to go online and not worry about repercussions?

I was thinking of putting an ubuntu on a flash drive (or using wubi installer) and let him use that as a boot drive for internet, but being not very technically proficient might result in more trouble ..

Are there any other options?

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Have them get an iPad. –  Stephen Touset Feb 8 '13 at 23:07
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That's the worst advice ever. How does an iPad solve fraud mails???? –  Lucas Kauffman Feb 8 '13 at 23:15
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@LucasKauffman - Exactly. There's far more involved than a few stupid infections. Something that getting an iPad or iAnything will never fix. Most fraud is a direct hack on users and aside from video display involves no computer clock cycles whatsoever. –  Fiasco Labs Feb 9 '13 at 0:40
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If they get an iPad they won't need one of the free ones they win. –  ponsfonze Feb 9 '13 at 5:25
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If he cannot help being infected then he won't be able to reliably connect to Facebook, which should impair his ability to procreate. If Darwin is right, then in forty years from now the problem should have cured itself. –  Tom Leek Feb 11 '13 at 16:39

7 Answers 7

up vote 17 down vote accepted

It all depends on the person; but a good first step would be to change their default browser to Chrome or Firefox - install AdBlock Plus (http://adblockplus.org/, or similar) and Ghostery (http://www.ghostery.com/) in their browser, and a decent anti-virus (Microsoft Security Essentials (http://www.microsoft.com/mse) should be fine, and since it's free - you don't risk them just not renewing). Install Soluto (https://www.soluto.com/home) and keep an eye on any changes to default browser, etc.

Turn on auto-updating for everything, Windows, your browser, Flash, Java, etc.

Make sure UAC is on, if they like to just click through the prompts, make them non-admin and set up an admin password - that way they have to enter it to do anything and you should print that on a bit of paper under the words "THIS MAY NOT BE A GOOD IDEA".

Now, a slightly controversial one, disabling Internet Explorer: on their machine, go Start/Run and enter 'gpedit.msc', navigate to Computer Configuration / Windows Settings / Security Settings / Software Restriction Policies / right click that and choose 'New Software Restriction Policy' and then under additional rules, right click, New Path Rule and enter 'c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe', make sure it's set to Disallowed.

Going extreme (with a key, etc.) is going to be a hassle - you want the experience to be something familiar. The Group Policy edit is to prevent them bypassing Adblock or Ghostery unwittingly.

That should make it largely worry-free. Soluto should give you the ability to remotely install TeamViewer or whatever and remote in if something goes wrong, but that should cover most malware entry points.

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what does the group policy disable exactly? –  Aaron Digulla Feb 11 '13 at 11:10
    
Ah, it means no one can start IE anymore ... nice :-) –  Aaron Digulla Feb 11 '13 at 13:53
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Sorry - ninja edit - lost my Internet connection as I was posting. It blocks IE, but in a way that's very hard to get around - so avoids it being accidentally launched or invoked from a shortcut. –  Bob Watson Feb 11 '13 at 20:19

The more I think about it, the more I start to think that a chromebook might be the way to go for casual use cases. It's Linux with nothing but a browser installed. Everything updates automatically, and users can't install anything, malware or otherwise. Plus the computers are dirt-cheap.

You still have to educate people to not give out their bank account number to a Nigerian prince, but that scam predates home computers by a few decades, so nothing new there. The computer part, at least, can be solved.

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Surely this is only a solution in cases where the user uses their machine only for things that are possible in the browser? (I realise this is a shrinking set of things.) Things like Skype, games, etc. are dealbreakers for a lot of people, and not everyone (esp. in the 'not-too-savvy' crowd) has always-on internet (still). –  Bob Watson Feb 9 '13 at 0:09
    
@BobWatson Surely, but as you said, that list is shrinking really fast, particularly if you use Google for things. Google Talk replaces Skype pretty completely, for example. And if you want to play games that aren't browser-based, a $200 computer isn't going to cut it, no matter what OS you put on it. –  tylerl Feb 9 '13 at 0:40
    
Also, they've improved things pretty significantly WRT offline-usage. You don't need an Internet connection to use the Google Drive office suite on a chromebook, for example. –  tylerl Feb 9 '13 at 0:41
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I don't know that we are talking about a $200 computer generally - most of the people I know of that have malware problems have $500+ machines their kids use to play games. For an individual, an iPad, a Chromebook, etc. are appropriate, but if you've got a multi-user device? You spend less buying one, more capable, machine. –  Bob Watson Feb 9 '13 at 0:45

The first thing to use is a 3rd party email filtering service that specializes in removing spam and scams such as Google's postini service. A service like this should remove most unwanted email messages.

Many top end Antivirus products include web content filtering services that tell the user "Don't go there." Some of the products my restrict access all together or allow them through after they acknowledge it is a flagged website.

If the user is always getting fooled by internet scams and spam then limit access to the administrator account. Make them a regular or restricted user so they have less access to install software. They probably shouldn't be an administrator anyways.

Run applications in an isolated environment with software such as Sandboxie to help prevent programs (web browser) from making unwanted changes to the computer.

If you are in a company using VDI, changes to the OS shouldn't be saved the next time the user logs on because the user loads the same clean image every time.

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You need to educate the user. Send him on a security awareness training.They need to learn that stuff is dangerous. (but as mentioned in the comments, this might not always work)

Second of all install software that will block these type of popups and phishing attempts. You need to do damage control and limit the possibility of these things happening.

Third: don't give them local admin on their computer and disable all possibilities of them installing other software. Set up a company policy that disallows software on their computers unless necessary for work.

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That's a losing battle. Theoretically it's a correct solution, but in practice it has a near-zero success rate among non-technically-minded people. –  tylerl Feb 8 '13 at 23:53
    
@tylerl - It's taken 10 years to accomplish 0 with two of our high end employees. Ignorance and arrogance says to just fire them. The bottom line they bring in, in their area of expertise and what they bring to the company says to fire the person stupid enough to think it's an option. –  Fiasco Labs Feb 9 '13 at 0:37
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@FiascoLabs You don't get rid of people because they're overly susceptible to social engineering. Instead, you reduce the amount of damage they can do by limiting the sort of access they're allowed without oversight. This type of thing is a matter of company-wide policy at many companies, so it's not targeted at just a few individuals. The people you have to choose carefully are the ones who have increased access. –  tylerl Feb 9 '13 at 0:46
    
Yep, we've sandboxed our special guys pretty well. I just mention the firing thing because too many times that's thrown out there by technically savvy but socially inept people who often contribute far less to the company than their egos realize. Least right user accounts are especially useful for everyone going into uncharted territory. –  Fiasco Labs Feb 9 '13 at 0:51
    
I updated my answer a little. –  Lucas Kauffman Feb 9 '13 at 8:38

This sounds like it needs solutions in behavior, not technical solutions (and by all means, do what you technically can).

Some simple rules apply:

1) Is the mail from someone or some company you know or trust? If not, throw it away without reading. I can imagine here that the user (says he) "cannot resist" looking. Then you need a discussion why.

2) Never install software that you did not yourself go out and look for. If a website 'offers' you additional/free/whatever software, decline. Period. Any reasons given to 'install this great piece of software that will help you X' are irrelevant.

Now you have tackled 70%-80% of the problem.

An underlying question that you may need to talk about:

Is the user willing to be coached? If not, address that. It's fine that you want to help someone, but if they don't accept the help -> it's their problem, not yours.

Side note: I only read your words, not those from the user, but he may well present himself as being a victim who cannot distinguish between what is safe and what is not ('too difficult'). That is just an excuse.

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As pointed out in a number of other replies, there are some technical things you can do to help protect this user, such as ensuring they are not running with admin privileges, ensuring updates are applied and they have a good anti virus program, disabling some programs etc. However, all of this will only provide minimal protection.

The only real solution to this problem is user education and awareness. I know this is easier to say than do, but it is the only real protection. This is even more critical given the increase in security threats based on social engineering.

To enable a decent experience for the end user, all systems must have a degree of flexibility and responsiveness to user decisions. Applications can do a lot to help warn the user, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to wether the user understand and listens to the advice. There is no benefit in programs which say "Warning, danger, don't go here unless you know what your are doing" if the standard response of the user is to just click OK without really comprehending what they are doing.

By all means, follow much of the advice regarding configuration and software. It is important to provide the safest environment possible. However, don't forget the human element. In additon to the technical stuff, try to provide education and awareness resources to help ensure this user is better informed and is able to adjust to the evolving threats out there.

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I don't think that not being technically proficient is really a problem for installing him a Linux. Given that he has gotten so paranoid to not want go online anymore, it should be possible to convince him to try that.

Linux is not hard when

  • it is already installed and working properly (no programs missing, hardware errors…)
  • there aren't special needs, there should be no problem for browsing the internet
  • the user is willing to do things slightly different than how he used to (actually, changing to some Linux desktops is a less traumatic change than going to Windows 8!)
  • he can get some kind of support when needed (either calling you, some other relative, a nearby shop, etc.)
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