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Ask Slashdot: What To Tell Non-Tech Savvy Family About Malware? 340

First time accepted submitter veganboyjosh writes "I got an instant message from an uncle the other day, asking me what was in the link I sent him. I hadn't sent him a link so I figured that his account had been hacked and he'd received a malicious link from some bot address with my name in the 'From' box. This was confirmed when he told me the address the link had come from. When I tried explaining what the link was, that his account had been hacked, and that he should change the password to his email account, his response was 'No, I think your account was hacked, since the email came from you.' I went over it again, with a real-life analog of someone calling him on the phone and pretending to be me, but I'm not sure if that sunk in or not. This uncle is far from tech savvy. He's in his 60s, and uses Facebook several times a week. He knows I'm online much more and kind of know my way around. After his initial response, I didn't have it in me to get into the whole 'Never click a link from an unfamiliar email address' bit; to him, this wasn't an unfamiliar email address, it was mine. How do I explain this to him, and what else should I feel responsible for telling him?"
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Ask Slashdot: What To Tell Non-Tech Savvy Family About Malware?

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  • by mattkrea ( 2795977 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @11:23PM (#42305261)
    Yeah.. pretty sure this is the more likely scenario..
  • Re:Nothing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @11:28PM (#42305281)

    This used to be good advice, because Macs were such a small share of the market that the malware authors didn't bother with them. This isn't quite so true any more.

    If you want to get them a platform that won't be targeted by malware authors for quite some time, install Linux Mint on their PC. As a bonus, it won't cost anything extra (unless they have some shitty printer that has no Linux support, but a new Linux-compatible printer is much cheaper than a new Mac). As an extra bonus, you can install the KDE version of Linux Mint and assuming they're coming from XP or Win7, they won't even have to learn a whole new GUI paradigm.

  • Re:Nothing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @11:40PM (#42305327)

    Most 'exploits' that get people these days are emails, etc, with fake notifications that get people to enter their login details for FaceBook, Gmail, etc. A Mac will not help for the majority of what gets people these days.

  • Re:Nothing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Sunday December 16, 2012 @12:56AM (#42305655)

    What he's getting at is that any OS on any computer is vulnerable to this sort of attack. Any OS at all that has a web browser: Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, iOS, *BSD, Solaris, whatever.

    Once you click that link and enter your credentials, you are hacked. No resident virus required that has to hook your system via known attack vectors. Of course once you are hacked, it is much easier to get to that next step, if that's important to the attacker. But usually it's not, they're perfectly happy with your accounts.

  • by theedgeofoblivious ( 2474916 ) on Sunday December 16, 2012 @01:05AM (#42305677)

    Have you ever heard of backscatter spam?

    Spammers use bots to browse the internet and scoop up email addresses. Then they send messages with one of those addresses in the "From" header and one in the "To" header. If the messages go through, one person receives spam. If they don't go through, the other person receives spam. Either way, someone gets spam.

    None of this requires much technical knowledge. I can make backscatter spam by filling in a registration form on any website. I just put your address in the "email address" field, and the site sends you a confirmation email, typically from a email address. So it's basically impossible to stop.

    Backscatter spam works because it looks like it came from someone it didn't. It's why web sites shouldn't provide alerts for messages that weren't delivered and why "out of office" messages or messages to confirm addresses are bad. Because any bot (or any person, too) can fill in a form and turn your website into a backscatter machine.

  • Re:Nothing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday December 16, 2012 @01:27AM (#42305751) Homepage Journal

    Browser hijacks and browser vulnerabilities are exactly that, and have little to do with which operating systems they are being run on. Phishing attempts work on any operating system. My own operating system has been one flavor or another of Linux for many years now, and I have to be cautious. Mac, Windows, Unix, Solaris, Linux, DRDOS, MSDOS 6.22, - it doesn't matter which you are using if the exploit is aimed at the browser.

  • Re:Nothing (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThePeices ( 635180 ) on Sunday December 16, 2012 @02:54AM (#42305965)

    And where, exactly, do you get paid money to buy a Chromebook?

    MacBook Air starts at $999 [] for the 11" version, so in order to save 1200 bucks, you'd have to be given $201 when getting the Chromebook.

    Sounds like a really bad deal for the manufacturer to be honest.

    Hi there, you must be very pedantic and love to point out how utterly moronic everybody else is compared to you.

    Welcome to Slashdot!
    You will fit in quite nicely here.

  • Facebook Spam (Score:5, Informative)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Sunday December 16, 2012 @04:23AM (#42306101) Homepage

    I'm surprised that no one's brought it up yet, but -- One of the most common spam email profiles that I get these days has the name of a Facebook friend in "From", my name in "Subject", and the body being just a single hyperlink. Pretty clearly, something is scooping up names of friends from Facebook (and recall email address is required there), so there's no need for any personal computer involved to be hacked. And I'm getting these things with the names of some friends I've never had any contact with except through Facebook, so it's easy to deduce that's the source. I would think.

  • Re:Nothing (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 16, 2012 @09:00AM (#42306651) Journal

    Unless he is willing to be full time 24/7 tech support that would be a BAD idea. Just look at the serious guttings that have happened to Linux in just the last 5 years, ALSA for Pulse, Gnome 2 for GnomeShell then this funky ass hybrid of the 2, KDE 3 to KDE 4 (which was frankly shoved out in alpha quality at best by ALL the "user friendly" distros) and finally the changes in the wireless networking that has made USB wireless hit or miss, usually miss.

    Frankly if you know what you are doing you can set up an "idiot proof" Windows that short of the old guy clicking "Why yes, I DO want to get infected, STFU and let me get infected!" then nothing is gonna happen. With this system I've had customers that picked up more bugs than a Bangkok whore on coupon day and they are squeaky clean. Everybody ready? Here we go..

    You start by doing the most obvious thing, that is making sure all their software is up to date. Once that is finished you get their ass OFF IE onto something that doesn't have a giant bullseye on it, personally I prefer Comodo Dragon [] as not only does it have low rights mode like Chrome, but it also has Privalert, which will block all the tracking crap (you can of course whitelist any page with a single click, even grandma could do it) and you have the option of Comodo DNS which in this case i would say YES, use it, as it blocks many malware pages from loading. Once its installed go ahead and add ABP, in less he likes ads bugging the shit out of him, and I usually install ForecastFox as its nice to have the 5 day forecast and the radar right there.

    Next you install Paragon Backup and Recovery Free [] as this will let you not only make a hidden backup capsule (think OEM restore partition, only custom made by you and up to date) but you can set it to any kind of schedule you like, including differential, daily, weekly, whatever. I used to use Comodo Time Machine as it allows you to restore even if they hosed the boot image but its not supported on Windows 8. if you are running 7 might want to check it out. Next you install FileHippo Update Checker [] and tell it to ignore beta releases. the reason you do this is to keep the old guy for falling for the "you need the latest flash, just download "Iz_Not_Bug_Iz_Flash.exe" right now!". you tell him if the little Hippo don't say there is an update there is NO update, period.

    Finally you have the AV, here you can use either Avast free or Comodo IS, I prefer the latter as its not as "chatty" and has built in sandboxing by default but some folks like chatty, both are VERY good at stop malware pages before load and Comodo IS sandboxing means if the old guy does try to run something nasty it'll minimize the risk.

    so there you have it, it looks more complex than it actually is, takes about an hour all told depending on how out of date the software on the system is. Once its done that's it, just leave them be, they'll be safe as houses. The browser is sandboxed and in low rights mode, you have the AV scanning every page before load, the browser is blocking ads (one of the biggest attack vectors) and tracking crap, and to top it all off the OS has a hidden encrypted partition with a backup image so if they by some miracle ever do figure out how to break something you can have it back up in under 30 minutes, no problem.

  • Re:Nothing (Score:4, Informative)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Sunday December 16, 2012 @09:41AM (#42306775) Homepage Journal

    My parents could never get used to global menus on the Mac, for example.

    I would have said the reverse. The menu bar being at the top creates modality that makes it easy to discover which windows belonging to a given application. In the Windows/X11 world, trying to figure out which application a particular window came from can be a usability nightmare... except for apps that are designed so that all of your windows are subwindows of one big window, which makes your second monitor useless.

    And remote system management on the Mac is also harder (the best you can do is try and set up remote desktop access).

    Or SSH or iChat/Messages screen sharing. The latter makes more sense for home use, IMO.

    And, of course, there is the obvious advantage that people using Linux can continue to use the hardware they are already used to.

    Unless it is ancient hardware with a PS/2 mouse and keyboard, you can usually just plug their existing hardware into a Mac and use it. People aren't used to the box on their desk; they're used to the peripherals and the OS, and you're changing the OS either way.

  • Re:Muha (Score:2, Informative)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 16, 2012 @04:11PM (#42308329) Journal

    And you don't even have the balls to make an account so why should anybody listen to you? Oh and here is How to write a Linux virus in 5 easy steps [] but you hang onto that "magical thinking" because it sure did protect all those Apple users from the non existent MacDefender and MacGuardian...oh wait. Well it at least protected all those android users because of the excellent Linux kernel protecting them...oh wait.

    NEWS FLASH: there is NO SUCH THING as an OS that doesn't have bugs and vulnerabilities, which is why you airgap sensitive systems. All your "solution" does is use security by obscruity alongside a truly shitastic ecosystem where a billion devs "do their own thing" and make changes for the sake of change, make things incompatible for no damned reason other than they can, and where the kernel on up is like the shifting sand with ZERO QA or QC so the driver that works now probably won't work when the 6 month upgrade deathmarch comes. Hell even one of the Red Hat Devs [] says the current desktop is shit, and you wanna hoist it off on somebody who is barely able to use a PC? Yeah maybe if he hates his dad's guts and wants to see him suffer maybe. After all a broken machine is 100% virus proof as well, not gonna be very useful though.

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