My Family is Ruining the Internet. Sorry
I spent this Christmas with some family doing the usual holiday activities of drinking and merriment. Getting together with family really does recharge (so long as it's short enough; this year it was). As usually happens, I was conscripted to help everyone with their new electronics; ipods, digital cameras and the like. This always turns into a full blown "thing" where first I have to figure out how the gadget works then, as inevitably happens, as soon as I hook the gadget up to the computer I notice it's running really slowly. This always leads to five hours spent trying to clean out spyware and viruses. Usually, there's the standard fare of spyware and a couple viruses but this time I walked away feeling my family could, almost single-handedly, destroy the Internet.
Now, I run the IT department as my day job so I've seen some messed up computers. I don't want to go into too many details so suffice it to say that you can learn a lot about someone by cleaning up viruses on their computer. Anyway, the first thing I noticed on my families computer this time was that automatic updates was off, their anti-virus protection was disabled and the firewall was turned off. My first thought; they're completely screwed.
It took me the better part of the day cleaning everything up; I did it in the usual method of start a process, have drink and laughs, start next process, repeat.
During the cleanup, and the drinking, I started thinking about what to do about the larger issue of making sure they remained secure. I've tried, multiple times, to explain to my family the importance of maintaining their computer(s), but every time I return for another visit I find the pattern above repeating.
I've gone through the entire spiel about how their computer is acting as a hub on a botnet. How, when they hear stories on the news about piracy and spam their computer is usually at fault too. I get the same reaction as when I try to explain my day job; blank eyes and a nodding head but no real comprehension. Obviously, they just aren't computer people.
Which is really the problem, though not really. Here's what I mean:
The problem is that, while the dumbing down of computers for "regular" people brought them into the mainstream the lack of any type of education about security and management created the perfect melting pot for this type of fiasco.
See, regular people just don't care. As far as their concerned if the computer works than WTF is up with all this NAGGING ABOUT VIRUSES AND SPYWARE! I JUST WANT TO USE THE STUPID THING!!! GOD! So long as their computer can access the Internet and they can write email everything is just hunky dory.
And that's a problem because as we all know, computers require maintenance and attention.
Computers are complicated creations, programmers, geeks, nerds and IT folk know this; Granny, unfortunately, does not and she doesn't care to. It's important that we instill common sense into our loved ones even if it means BEATING IT INTO THEM.
You need to run regular virus and spyware scans. Uninstalling unused programs is important. Defragging the harddrives is good. Regular backups? Yeah, that too.
Anyway, sorry for the slow Internet and all the spam. I'll be seeing my family around Easter and I'll get everything working around then.