Here is your new computer! Please treat it well, it is your friend.
May 23, 2017 5:05 PM   Subscribe

I just helped my youngest sibling buy her first personal machine. She is used to using a shared computer (at home and at school), and I want her to get off on the right foot!

She is finishing her 3rd year of high school and is a very good and diligent student, has her (mostly) own tablet and smartphone and has never had the expectation that her computer behavior was being surveilled (she was not) . However to get her started on her new laptop, I showed her how to install ublock and flashblock on both firefox and chrome, and how to disable windows 10 cortana and microphone options and explained to her why both were important.

This coming weekend, I'm hoping to show her how to use a password manager and maybe how to backup files on an external hard drive.

Is there anything that is important that she should learn how to do right on the first try? I'd love to know what you folks think are important basic computer usage skills.
posted by tedious to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Black electrical tape on the camera? We use that at home and swear by it. When we want to use the camera, we can take the tape off.
posted by amtho at 5:25 PM on May 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

There are lots of resources out there on digital security. EFF has this guide Surveillance Self-Defense (disclosure: I work at EFF).

Other ideas, in addition to using a password manager:

- You could help her use Diceware to come up with an awesome passphrase for her password manager.
- Two-factor authentication for any online services she uses
- Access to a reliable VPN, for whenever she's on a public wifi network.
- Full-disk encryption of her hard drive
- Privacy Badger, a plugin that blocks third-party trackers when you're browsing the internet
- HTTPS Everywhere, a plugin that forces an HTTPS connection wherever possible (both it and Privacy Badger are made by EFF)
- Signal, for end-to-end-encryped instant messaging (which is especially fun if you're on it too)
- And if she's up for it, you could introduce her to email encryption too. It can be weird to get used to, but is also kind of fun and makes you feel like a spy.
- A virus and malware scanner (I don't know what the current recommendations are for Windows)

And just in general, instilling in her a sense that her own privacy is something valuable. When she's setting her passphrase, look away. Teach her that she shouldn't give anyone her passphrase. When a popup comes up in Chrome saying that a site wants to use her microphone, teach her to question why it wants that. Teach her not to let people use her computer without her watching, and that no one should ever force her to unlock it.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:04 PM on May 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

On a very different note, you might introduce her to F.lux or something similar. Since I started using it, it's become much easier for me to work at night and get to sleep right after. I wish I'd have known about it when I was in college.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:06 PM on May 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Learning to back up files is a great idea. You might get her set up with Dropbox, oneDrive, or something similar for backing up important (but perhaps not sensitive) files to the cloud.

Learn to identify the windows security warning and not to let unexpected programs install.

Also, learn to read error messages. Many people get frustrated, click through them, and then wonder why they can't figure out what's wrong. Actually reading the message and googling it can solve many problems, and will help you explain the issue better if you need help.
posted by nalyd at 6:52 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Help her set up an adminstrative account that is the only account with permissions to install stuff, so she has to take that extra step before doing so. And a guest account, if she'll often have friends using it?
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

You have a pretty good list. I'd add:

Updating Windows: I don't know if Windows even allows you to avoid updating itself, but it's important that she knows how to start and run the normal Windows update process, and why it's important. People, including myself, see OS updates as a nuisance (especially after being interrupted by them) and avoid doing them. Also, it's important to go through the official process since a lot of malware / popups disguise themselves as Windows update dialogs and these are to be avoided.

Fundamental differences between phones/tablets and complete operating systems: Us older folk grew up knowing/watching programs crash / ruin the operating system, delete random things, and make our lives miserable. Uninstalling an app is often a suggestion. With phones and tablets, these problems are greatly lessened.

On a real operating system, generally apps can access all parts of the system, including other apps and documents. You can install software that will run in the background and do all sorts of both useful and bad things. It's wise to err on the side of caution.
posted by meowzilla at 7:52 PM on May 23, 2017

Thank you very much for all the responses.

There's some very good stuff here, but I think the most complicated task ahead of me is to explain WHY it's important to protect your OS even if you have all your files on google drive.
posted by tedious at 4:02 PM on May 26, 2017

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