Help me put together a class assignment on hardening a computer
March 24, 2013 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I want to teach students good computer security habits.

I was a bit startled in class to how many students had no idea of the following:

1) securing their browser;
2) securing their computer;
3) understanding how to install and operate anti-virals;
4) changing their habits or better known as, I clicked the link and got hijacked;
5) securing their phones (android)

The students are a full age range but tend towards their 20's. I make no assumption on technical aptitude based on age, I know better than that. Articles like this and the experience of students to being vulnerable has made me realize that I need to help out the students.

I have a course that allows me to teach good media consumption and so could integrate an assignment on security for prevention and "cure". Here are my questions:

1) Would it be better to just have the students boot in safe mode and then go through Deezil and Samsara's list of software or should I do something else?
2) Would this assignment (safe boot and run anti-virals) be too difficult for students or should I just send them to an online checker, if so, which one?

I admit I am a bit muddled about this, but I am concerned since I get a fair share of infected files from students and I observe behavior that is just going to lead to unhappiness. Basically, how do I help prevent these students, who maybe your relatives, stop calling you for tech support?

Any resources or suggestions welcome.
posted by jadepearl to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There's so much to learn here. Is it possible to refer them to do or complete other coursework?
posted by kalessin at 1:49 PM on March 24, 2013

Practically, you could teach about how to use virtual machines as sandbox environments. Demonstrate how to take a snapshot and roll back to it after doing something bad. This will give them the tools to go experiment on their own, and can also be a great jumping off point to learning about other basics like installing your own OS from scratch and playing with things without the fear of ruining their own computer.
posted by odinsdream at 2:20 PM on March 24, 2013

I need to overcome fears and I was planning on showing them how to create a non administrative account in addition to showing them how to do a safe boot then running the software that I would burn for them. I have the advantage of burning clean CDs because my machines are kept clean by me and the university it group.
posted by jadepearl at 3:59 PM on March 24, 2013

My university does not provide training or courses for advanced digital literacy. To be honest, the need to create a course like this for students who take courses, in particular, online courses, is great.
posted by jadepearl at 4:03 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

At a very basic level, please tell them to never share their passwords with anyone (not in an email to tech support, not on the phone, never) and about phishing scams that ask for their password...this is a major issue with students where I work.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:39 PM on March 24, 2013

Apologies if you know this, but 'safe mode' is not actually a safe place to install random software.
posted by odinsdream at 7:08 PM on March 24, 2013

Man, that is why I am here. To be honest, any time I've had an issue I just nuked my machine if my IT group didn't fix it first. Also, being on OSX for my other hardware was less stress in comparison. The students, on the other hand, do not have an IT group at their disposal nor I think the knowledge to do a nuke. Heck, it was a revelation to them that MS Essentials was available.

What exercise or process can be developed or used that gets the most hanging fruit?

I got the browser stuff covered and general safety e.g., don't click the link nor give your password. But an actual scan of their system walk through is difficult.
posted by jadepearl at 8:44 PM on March 24, 2013

You could show them different examples of webpages that look like login screens or administrative requests, and have them classify them as authentic and safe or as phishing attempts. That must be the number one vector for people to be casually hacked nowadays.
posted by value of information at 1:27 AM on March 25, 2013

You can check out some existing material by the US government and the EU.

At first glance, I liked this (The Web We Want) and this (OnGuard Online) and maybe you can use something like's Computer Security 101. Or try to find computer security recommendations for new students (like the one here) and start from that.
posted by gakiko at 2:46 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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