Make Your Non-Techy Friends Safer Online in Under an Hour

UPDATED ON APR 27, 2023 : 890 words, 5 minute read — PRIVACY & SECURITY

As someone who pretends to know tech, it can be a hair-pulling experience watching the blatant disregard people you care about have for privacy & security online. Unsecured Wi-Fi named Sturbucks? seems legit 🤦‍♀️. They might not know the dangers all around and need someone to watch out for them.

You want to help them be more secure, but it’s easy to come at it wrong. Online privacy and security is a deep rabbit hole, and you can quickly drop people in over their head. If the task becomes daunting, or your approach makes them defensive, they likely won’t bother. Instead of hammering them with information and tasks, follow the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule): start with the simple actions which have a large effect on reducing their vulnerability. In under an hour, you can work through these 4 steps and stop your friends & family from being the low-hanging fruit baddies love.

Small changes, Big Rewards 🔗︎

  1. (< 15 mins) Teach them to stop using the same Password1 everywhere. Make it take longer than a second for malicious people to cause trouble. If they aren’t comfortable using a password manager, don’t berate them. Using a password notebook or formula is just as good. It’s not about having a perfect tool, it’s about having one that works better than not having one . The number of people able to access a notebook in their room is a lot smaller than those who can crack accounts with crap passwords. Password managers aren’t for everyone , so think about their circumstances and tech literacy before assuming that’s the best option. Your goal is only to get them set up. As time goes on they can slowly migrate to their chosen solution rather than feeling forced to change everything right away.
  2. (2 mins) Do they have the uBlock Origin extension or a browser that blocks ads? get one. You might get nervous when you see the permissions or uBlock Origin, to feel more comfortable you can read the trust explanation from the open source team building it and/or some helpful Reddit comments .
  3. (< 15 mins) get a VPN . This is especially important if they have the bad habit of using public wi-fi, people can do all sorts of nasty things over public connections. VPN services often allow multiple devices per account, so if you share it’s likely under $2/month for digital privacy. Is making it harder for people to track & mine your information worth a candy bar?
  4. (< 10 mins, 🤔 base this on a per case basis) On their most important sites (like banking), enable 2 factor authentication. Yes, it takes an extra few seconds out of your day to log in. Tell ’em to think of it as trading a couple swipes on TikTok for improved protection. Even decent passwords get cracked, 2 factor adds another layer baddies need to get through to have access to their accounts.
⚠ MFA - Future Edit
Leaning towards removing this MFA section, depending on their sophistication. Too many stories out there of people getting locked out of their accounts because they didn’t understand MFA, or Google/other companies don’t have a good process in place for people who’s phones get lost. The protection is good, but getting locked out forever is a dangerous possibility. At least if a scammer takes it, you have a chance at getting the data back.

The process doesn’t end here, there is still a lot for them to learn and explore. Don’t be a condescending techie, be encouraging and answer their questions. In under an hour, you’ve helped them lay the foundation to better protect themselves online. Pat yourself on the back, and go help the next person sending money to Nigerian princes.

Bonus points 🔗︎

Finished all the ideas from above? Great, you’re a star! If you want to keep going and delve deeper into privacy and security, keep going with these bonus tips & tasks.

See Also