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Safe Computing For the Elderly? 143

wingspan asks: "My 80-year old mother is insisting on using this new fangled thing called the Internet for banking and brokerage. I researched ways for her to perform those activities safely. The typical suggestions, from organizations such as BITS [pdf], include installing anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, anti-adware, browser toolbar, and a personal firewall. The suggestions also include not clicking on links, verifying security certificates (If it has a cert, it must be a good site!), making sure the address begins with 'https://' regularly updating the security software and patching all other software, and regularly changing passwords. Personally, I think the technical suggestions are too Windows-centric, too costly, and leave too much of an attack surface. The non-technical suggestions are simply too much to ask of the elderly. What do you think? Is it possible for an elderly person to safely perform Internet banking and brokerage? If so, what system should they have, how should it be configured and maintained, and how much of the security should depend with the elderly user?"
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Safe Computing For the Elderly?

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:41AM (#16928578)
    I've had great success getting technically incompetent people to avoid the evils of the Internet by introducing them to Linux.

    They hate the bootup sequence text and the weird program names, so they quit using computers altogether and get back to using ATMs.

    This may or may not be what you are trying to accomplish with your grandma.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      To get your grandma up and running without any trouble, just update your repositories:

      deb [] grandparents human

      Then run your updates:

      sudo apt-get update perspective-on-life

      And finally, install the required old person packages (debian sarge includes a larger list, see here for more):

      sudo apt-get install falseteeth slippers cardigan

      Once you have done this, logout of your grandma and when you bring her back online she will be ready for action.
      • Once you have done this, logout of your grandma

        It was going great until this line. I have to go wash my brain out with soap now.
        • It was going great until this line. I have to go wash my brain out with soap now.

          I was doing great with it - brain resisted horrible thoughts (*praises brain with beer*) until you pointed them out. I nearly fall off my chair laughing though.

      • by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:01AM (#16930598) Homepage
        Once you have done this, logout of your grandma

        Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner in the "most disturbing thing ever uttered on slashdot" category.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CharAznable ( 702598 )
      I actually think there is some sense in introducing someone who hasn't used a computer before to Linux. With Windows, especially on an OEM machine full of crapware, the user is constantly bombarded with popups and warnings. This was too much for my girlfriend's elderly grandma to handle. She had no clue what these things meant and didn't know how to react to them. On the command line, on the other hand, nothing happens unless you type something and hit return. It might be cryptic, but you're in control, and
    • get back to using ATMs.

      They feel comfortable with their average ATM because it runs Windows and bluescreens as often as their Internet banking does!

      In all seriousness, Linux is a good way to keep old people out of trouble. They are scared of computers and all their "tech savvy" friends are scared of Linux. You can lock it down so they can't bollocks it and let em rip.

      But there's no way to keep the elderly safe on computers. They (in general, I have seen one or two exceptions) aren't cluey enough i

    • by krell ( 896769 )
      "They hate the bootup sequence text and the weird program names, so they quit using computers altogether and get back to using ATMs."

      I know. People have died just trying to pronounce "Ubuntu".
    • by smchris ( 464899 )
      I put a little old lady on linux. She still can't handle online banking but she can web and do email. So what does that say about online banking?

      • My bank has a perfectly straightforward web-based interface, which supports paying bills, dealing with accounts, looking at transactions, etc. And it's a small bank that phishers haven't bothered with, though somebody typosquatted the .com name back when they were first getting online. The interface works fine with Mozilla, so there's no need for IE, and I assume a Mac would work with it as well.
  • Sad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trailwalker ( 648636 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:45AM (#16928598)
    A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.

    Author needs to be whacked with a cane.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Threni ( 635302 )
      > A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.
      > Author needs to be whacked with a cane.

      As you get older you lose your mental faculties. That's not patronizing - it's what happens. Eventually - if you live long enough - you'll start to make bad decisions. It doesn't happen, or we shouldn't talk about it?

      Getting back on topic, I guess you could provide a shortcut to a browser with no address bar, pointing to a homepage which is a local html file with links to the banking (etc) sites so that
      • Re:Sad (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:57AM (#16929108)
        "As you get older you lose your mental faculties. That's not patronizing - it's what happens."

        Sometimes true, however I once had opportunity over several weeks to play a Monk in his late eighties at chess, a game at which I have some talent. I've never been so completelly destroyed in chess so many times in a row, his abilities were fearsome.

        Yet he seemed absent minded, it was all very puzzling.
        • Re:Sad (Score:4, Interesting)

          by EinZweiDrei ( 955497 ) * <> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:22AM (#16929326)
          Chess skill is largely a basis of pattern recognition and experience, prodigies aside. One can be brilliant at chess by sheer dint of having played thousands and thousands of games and be mediocre at everything else in life. Adrian de Groot [] famously [in the chess world, at least] found that Grandmasters are far better than amateurs at memorizing real gameplay positions on a board, but are just as poor as amateurs with nonsense positions [three white bishops all on black squares, kings adjacent, general random piece placement]. This has led heavily to the adoption of the 'pattern recognition' mode of thought.

          Your monk, then, may have just been very, very, experienced, in spite of his old age, and thus fearsome. Hell, look at Viktor Kortchnoi [].

          That said, though, I absolutely believe there are some very, very, sharp elderly men and women out there. As well as some very, very, strong ones, to dispel another myth. The key is using what you have -- intelligence, strength -- and never giving it a chance to slip into senility.
          • Re:Sad (Score:4, Interesting)

            by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:58AM (#16929704)
            interesting stuff.

            The Monk in question had been left at the monestary as a baby and raised there. Chess was, and remains, a major entertainment in that monestary. We're probably talking over 70 years of constant chess playing.

            What struck me as odd at the time was that I didn't seem to be able to come up with a single long term strategy that he didn't block several moves before I got to a checkmate. I got a few checks, but usually before I realised something horrible was happening elsewhere on the board.
        • When I am in my eighties, will I still be typing "jjyyjjjjjjp:wq!"?

          And will I have done some brilliant bit of editing, killed a yeti, or totally lost it?

          Yikes! I've been using "vi" for over half my life, and my life is probably half over!

      • "As you get older you lose your mental faculties. That's not patronizing - it's what happens. Eventually - if you live long enough - you'll start to make bad decisions."

        It's not clear you lose mental faculties; certain your body gets older. But the idea that people become senile as a normal part of aging is false.

        As for old people making bad decisions, so does everyone. And if I was betting, I'm betting that 21 year olds make more bad decisions than 80 year olds.
        • by be951 ( 772934 )

          It's not clear you lose mental faculties...

          Agreed. It seems to be a "use it or lose" proposition. Old people who stay mentally and physically active -- particularly when the activities include learning new things -- tend to live longer and be less susceptible to diminished memory and reasoning capacity.

          On a related note, I'm very concerned for the younger generations. Many amoung them seem to be suffering diminished physical and mental capacity already due to inactivity.

      • This has nothing to do with loss of mental faculties. The elderly are from a different era, and in general they have little training on computers and no desire to learn more about them.

        My mother was a brillant woman who did the accounts for an insurance form with pen and paper. She used a computer at work when she had to, so she knew the basics. Then she retired and I told her to get a computer to stay in touch and shop from home. A year later I visited and that computer was an unholy mess, infested wit
    • by Tinfoil ( 109794 ) *
      A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.

      Author needs to be whacked with a cane.

      Oh dear God, no!

      My grandmother/grandfather both have a hard time in simply shutting down Windows properly. Even after adding 5 icons all lined up on one side of the screen that are labeled 'SHUT DOWN THE COMPUTER'. This after I sat with them for the better part of the day trying to explain how to connect to the internet (setup behind a router, there is no 'connect' icon, just double click FireFox) and how to reply to
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      In this case it would seem to be very true. If this woman can do her own banking and investing she doesn't sound like she is impaired to me.
      Frankly most people are a security risk on the Internet. Being young doesn't mean you are not an idiot.

      Elderly people can't figure out the Internet.
      African Americans are criminals.
      Hispanics are illegal aliens.
      Jews are cheap.
      Christians are intolerant.
      Muslims are terrorists.
      All great examples of prejudice.
    • A rather elitist and patronizing view of the elderly.

      Author needs to be whacked with a cane.

      I guess it depends on the elderly in question and their track record with such things.

      In my case, my father (late 60's) has always been a complete idiot when it came to technology. He can weld and use any tool like nobody's business, but remote controls and setting time on digital watches elude him (I kid you not, he owns two identical digital watches, one for Daylight Savings Time and one for Standard time.)

      He keep

  • Use upgraded antivirus, adware and spyware blockers and a good firewall. Beyond that the main concern is to never fall for phising attacks - ie you have to teach them that their bank/broker will NEVER send them a mail asking for them to log in or any such thing. Teach them to just say no to links in emails. This is a particular problem for many inexperienced users who tend to blindly trust the email headers.

    Odds of more exotic attacks are slim enough to be ignored for every day users and really isn't a conc
    • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:56AM (#16928654) Homepage Journal
      I would add to this: only use bookmarks to navigate the web instead of typing in addresses. Especially if the person has never used a keyboard before(or hasn't in a long while) and may have a bit of trouble reading the address bar accurately. One mistaken keystroke could send you right to a phisher/camper's site. Plus, if you only navigate to known trustworthy sites, your chances of getting spyware/virus etc. are greatly reduced.
      • I work with a few 70+ year old contract employees, and I've had success with making things easy for them, in that they're always ecstatic when I show them what they can do and make it easy. I agree that just having them go to bookmarks would be a tremendous help. Another idea is to put shortcuts on the desktop with clear descriptions, which is what I often do for them (though only so far for directory locations). And take the time to show them the steps and make sure they can do it.

        Also, let them know tha
    • Agreed; the problem is that things that seem like trivial "user training issues" can be very difficult to teach people with memory problems. This is an issue both when dealing with the elderly, and also with the learning disabled; you have to build systems that can deal with people who may not learn and retain information quite as quickly as a 'normal' person would.

      I think the key here is to teach all the important basics about not clicking on links in emails, but also try to design the system so that it re
  • by oDDmON oUT ( 231200 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:59AM (#16928676)
    First of all, go with something *you* are comfortable with, because you're going to be the first person she calls in the event of an emergency.

    Otherwise, considering going Apple. Sure some will decry the proprietary aspects, but it's an *easy* system to use, and with Applecare she will have a years worth of tech support from someone who is inside the US of A if you're not availabe.

    My 76 yo Mom has a Powerbook for her internet related stuff, and a Winbook, because she was a long time Windows user and her embroidery stuff runs only on Windows (it's tied to a Bernina, who offers no Mac port of their software).

    I think if she hadn't been into the sewing thing we could have gone straight Mac. She understands too, that if she needs to go on the internet for any reason with the WB, she uses "that other account you set up for me" (i.e. non-Admin), cause it's safer.

    FWIW, the PB has been just fine for 3 years, the WB has had problems within 3 months of purchase, YMMV.

    Good luck, whatever you do.
    • You raise some good points, but, depending on their level of tech-savvy, Mac may not be the way to go.

      If the person in question is really, completely, clueless at computers, an Xubuntu box is the way to go.
      Think about it: the person is so clueless that they won't use the menus; you make a shortcut on the desktop to Firefox, and rename it to "Go Online", another shortcut to Writer, and that's about it.
      This has one great advantage over a mini: cost! Grab your old P3 from the basement, dust off the 128 megs

      • Last I checked a Mac does that far more effectively with the Doc. Even can make icons & text larger as needed rather nicely. Not to mention if they decide to dig around and I dunno...get to know their computer more they won't be breaking anything. With a Linux box they are guaranteed to never explore one bit and are far more likely to be calling about the most asinine, "web" stuff. Just because they are old doesn't mean they are 2 year olds.
        • Last I checked a Mac does that far more effectively with the Doc. Even can make icons & text larger as needed rather nicely.

          Linux does a fine job. The doc menu or the desktop are just different ways of accomplishing the same thing, and a few seconds of configing my Ubuntu desktop, and I can enlarge icons/test.

          get to know their computer more they won't be breaking anything

          Last time I checked, Mac allowed a user to delete their own files, which is really the worst you can do in Linux without being root

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thornae ( 53316 )
      Seconded, with a proviso: Make sure the people she's getting tech support from are patient and nice.

      My mum's got a Mini, and is totally happy with it (and has now converted my Dad, a longtime Wintel user).
      When she first got it, though, she spent a lot of time on the phone to the Mac shop (and me). The Mac people were totally understanding and patient with her, never told her to just ring Apple, and now she's doing great.

      However, there are two main Mac outfits in our little town, and the other one* is staffe
  • Since she isnt gonna install applications but only browse the Internet, she doesnt need to understand how her OS works. So i would say go for a Ubuntu with icons to the few programs she will use on the desktop (Browser, Mail client, Text editor). Once this is done, you re safe from every threat except phising. As someone else said before you will have to teach her about the danger of links in e-mail, and that they shouldn t trust their email.
    • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:31AM (#16929414)
      So i would say go for a Ubuntu

      She wants to use it for banking. Banking sites are often designed for IE and nothing else. Maybe Firefox will work, but that's not guaranteed.

      • by rbochan ( 827946 )

        Banking sites are often designed for IE and nothing else.

        That's true, but I won't use those "services", and I've taken my banking elsewhere, and I let them know why. Banks _hate_ to lose customers.
        Sure, you can think "fuck him, he's an elitist asshole linux hippie", but it's got to start somewhere.

      • Bank of America and Juniper both work well with Firefox, Opera, Konqueor, and Safari. What banks have broken websites?
      • It has been years since I have run into a banking website that was IE only. Either way, prudence dictates that you test it first obviously.

      • She wants to use it for banking. Banking sites are often designed for IE and nothing else. Maybe Firefox will work, but that's not guaranteed.

        IE runs pretty darn well under Wine, along with most of the ActiveX controls and other nonsense the banks seem to want. However, it tends not to run the illegitimate malware crap.

        Set her up with Firefox for general internet and IE for specific banking stuff.

  • Apple Macintosh.

    I bought a MacBook for my mother's birthday. She has never had any problem whatsoever and this is the first time she uses Mac OS X. My brother has bought her a Windows laptop (Toshiba) before but it was too hard to teach her the security expertise required to safely operate it connected to the Internet. Needless to say we decided to do what Slashdotters advised us to do - that is buy her a new Linux notebook (Assus). Well, let's just say that we had to find something else *cough*copyandpaste
  • by CharAznable ( 702598 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:25AM (#16928858)
    I'm amazed at how user-hostile Windows is when confronted with someone who has never seen a computer. My girlfriend's elderly grandmother just got a computer for the first time. It's an interesting situation cause she has never used one before in any way or form. I was on the phone with her trying to help her out and when I'd say "click OK", I had to explain that she had to move the cursor over the box that said OK and press the button on the mouse. Now imagine that kind of user confronted with a popup saying "Google Desktop is attempting to connect to the Internet. Allow? Keep Blocking?" It totally freaked her out, and explaining firewalls and how the Internet works was futile. It's like a completely different planet for her. I don't know if Linux or Mac OS X would be any better, but I wonder. What's a good system for someone who hasn't touched a computer before? What would this system need to be like?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      They're not children. It's new (but not necessary), they've a life time of perspective on the merits of caution, and the perils of reckless ignorance. My grandparents got a computer for Christmas a few years back, I do the tech support. You know what the majority of my calls were? "No, really it's ok. It's nearly impossible for you to screw it up so bad I can't fix it easily." Now there more of a focused nature about doing specific tasks. They're almost 80, grandpa installed his own ram upgrade (with
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gribflex ( 177733 )
        "No, really it's ok. It's nearly impossible for you to screw it up so bad I can't fix it easily."

        That is probably the best advice that you can offer someone. Most people are so worried about breaking it that they won't do anything to it. Explaining that it's always fixable goes a long way to improving anyone's ability.
    • by stubear ( 130454 )
      Linux and OSX ARE no better when confronted with the scenario you outline. If the user has trouble moving the mouse and clicking OK then all modern operating systems are going to cause problems for them. Software firewalls, to work effectively, are going to ask users these kinds of questions as well, no matter what OS they are on.
      • But they are also no worse, and have a lot of advantages in other areas. I would be much more comfortable giving a completely inexperienced user Linux than Windows. I'm not saying I'd give them Gentoo or LFS, but Kubuntu is quite nice to work with in my limited experience.
      • by Cato ( 8296 )
        It's best to not have any software firewalls on a PC used by someone elderly - from my experience, it's easy for the elderly person to click the wrong button after a Firefox/Thunderbird update and cut off their email. Instead, just use a broadband router with a reliable firewall, and disable all use of Internet Explorer or Outlook, and make sure Windows auto-updates are turned on. Or get them using Linux if you can - one relative, now 80, started using PCs a long time ago when Linux wasn't an option, so s
  • Do this for her: Install Firefox, set up a browser bookmark for her bank's HTTPS address, and configure her email so that URLs in email phishing messages are non-clickable.

    If she can figure out how to make her URLs clickable again, she's probably smart enough to learn about secure surfing. If not, at least she's less likely to be phished.
  • Make a system running some Linux distro in a little box with no legacy ports available. Have three giant icons for the browser, simple word processor and email, do not give them the root password.
    • A "Frugal Install" (see Damn Small Linux forums for details) of your choice of live CD ISO image, with a seperate partition to save files, and a bookmarked webmail account would make things very simple.
  • Everybody wants to get on the internet and netbank, surf, mail, shop.
    Imho the idea that this ought to be simple and easy for everybody is false.

    Time for a bad analogy.

    If I want to drive a car on the highway, i first need to :
    - learn how to drive a car
    - learn how to behave in traffic
    Furthermore I need to have an understanding of what i'm doing in order to be able to predict the outcome of my actions.

    Why is this accepted for driving a car, but not for computing and using internet? (It looks like a TV set, but
    • Meh.

      Perhaps if there were fake road signs everywhere pointing people to fake banks your analogy would hold up.
    • by ewl1217 ( 922107 )
      Just why does everybody make a car analogy... When cars crash, people can die. When computers crash, nobody dies*.

      *excepting the exploding laptop batteries, but that's another story...
    • what about training / courses

      The University I studied at had just that twice a week for older people. They took a bunch of computer illiterate elderly people and churned out a bunch of computer illiterate elderly people who knew a bunch of Windowsy buzzwords. It's not that the course was bad or that the people in the course were stupid. It's that there's too much to learn. Computing isn't simple. Many of us on /. have grown up with computers and have been able to learn them at our own pace since we

      • by witte ( 681163 )
        I agree, except for the license bit :
        Licenses = regulation.
        That would be doubleplus not good for internet.

        Imagine what bureaucrats would do to our precious internet.
        The Horror, the horror.
  • by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:01AM (#16929146)
    I don't think this is specifically about the elderly. It is about anyone who isn't internet-savvy. The elderly, because of their lack of exposure to computers, may form a substantial group of such users, but the same would be true of new users in the developing world etc.
  • iMac or Mac Mini (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:03AM (#16929156)
    Get them an iMac or a Mac Mini with a 24 or 30 inch screen from Dell.

    Set the system up to auto-update.

    If they have vision problems there are settings on the Mac to help.

    You might consider getting an additional keypad - for instance you can get one from x-keys [] and set it up with all the things they normally want to do - opening and closing the web brower for instance, you could even set it up for different keys to open different sites. Then clearly label the keys.
    • I bought my 76 year old dad an iMac G5 20" just as the G5s were being phased out so it was at a significant discount. He had never used a computer before but was interested in starting. He had no knowledge of Windows although some of his friends have. Turns out that they like the Mac too and are thinking about getting one next time.

      My wife's grandmother was put onto Windows before we could do anything about it and now she won't consider anything else so I recently donated my last PC to her (all Mac now!)
      • She has an ADSL router modem and since the IP address changes frequently I have put a link on her desktop to a site which will tell her what the IP address of her machine is.

        You know that there are services like DynDNS [] that provide free domains? There are programs available to automatically update the domain when the ip changes. This way you could have something like and it will always work.

        • Yeah, I know, I use it all the time for my own system. Just thought it would make her feel more secure to have to invite me to access her machine rather than think I could connect to it any time I liked. Also gives her more of a sense of self determination with her computer.
  • an oxymoron?
  • that is Safe Computing For the Elderly.
  • There are two ways to keep Granny safe on the internet;

    (1) If you can get her a static IP address, get her a generic PC and install your favourite distribution of Linux. Customise it for her with a few simple desktop icons. Know the root password so you can login remotely and perform maintenance (or just eject the CD-ROM and scare the shit out of her -- I used to do that all the time in the office where I work).

    (2) In all other cases, get her an Apple Mac.
    • by oojah ( 113006 )
      You don't need a static IP for what you describe - using a service like [] is a perfectly reasonable alternative.


      • by ajs318 ( 655362 )
        Well, maybe ..... my ADSL router actually has support for built in. But there are other benefits which go along with a static IP address. It's usually a business-grade thing -- and that means no ports blocked, no transparent proxies, no usage limits and only 20:1 contention. Some residential-grade services have much worse contention ratios, up to 200:1. I wouldn't live without a static IP address; but then again, I just like "industrial" stuff!
  • My grandma uses wget. She egreps the output for <a\s+href and does wget in the link she chose. This way, instead of blindly clicking on the anchor, she picks the URL she wants and she is not phished.

    Oh, yes, once grandpa modified her hosts file, transfered funds from her savings account run away with his 20 something bride.

  • Seriously, that's it. Put big (and I mean BIG) shortcuts with generic names on the desktop for all the programs they need. Just Internet, E-Mail, Music, and so on will do. Explain to them never to trust e-mail from people they don't know and that their bank wont e-mail them. Have all their favorite websites bookmarked, or better yet have desktop shortcuts. You can set up an SSH server for updates, and they wont even need to know about it. They presumably won't need to play games or anything, so drivers aren
  • by bano ( 410 )
    Banking it not safe for elderly people, online or offline.
    Ofcourse unless your name if John Coyote Mutombwe Esq. and you are executing the will of their late oil baron long lost relative and need $45k to get the inheritance out of Nigeria.
  • by JustOK ( 667959 )
    I've found that time and repetition work very well, regardless of OS or application. Spend the time with them as they use it. I've found 2 common causes of their problems are 1) not remembering what to do in each case, and 2) what to do in a new situation. In both cases, being able to quickly ask for and receive help works best.
  • Echoing many of the above posts, just get her a Mac. Don't get me wrong, I'm not much of a Mac person myself and I like Linux, but as much fun as getting and configuring a nice Ubuntu box for Grandma might be for you, and as much nerd cred it might get you to be able to tell all your LUG buddies about how you've got Granny on FOSS, it'll be just as much of a PITA for her and you in the long run. One thing Mac is light-years ahead of the competition on is usability and support to someone who has never seen
  • Gee do you think theres a reason for that?
    • Maybe it has something to do with Windows being on 90% of the computers out there.

      Seriously. If you honestly think that you don't need to worry about security because you have a Mac or you run Linux, seek help. You're too stupid to own a computer. The reason there aren't more than a handful of viruses that target Linux isn't because it's innately more secure, it's because it doesn't run on many desktops. Once it starts seeing a decent market share (and that's only a matter of time), you'll start seeing viru
      • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
        A Linux virus (if it were possible to make one) would be very useful due to all the Linux-based servers out there; you could do a hell of a lot more destruction if you could target Linux, AIX, HPUX, BSD, OpenVMS, Mac OS X, etc. The incentive is there, it's just not really possible to write a virus for a non-Windows platform.
  • I'd love to say "get a Mac", but I have to say there is one gaping hole on the Mac side that seriously needs closing. That hole is Safari, which doesn't _currently_ have a phishing monitor. They say it's coming for Leopard though. If this is the case, in a couple of months I might just day "get a Mac".
    • You can download it at

      But in all seriousness, not liking Safari is no reason not to get a Mac. Since I don't have 10.4 at home so I can't use the newest Safari anyhow (and old Safari really sucks) I use Firefox almost exclusively on my emac.

  • I've spent quite some time teaching basic computer/Internet usage to a wide variety of people; some as young as 5, some in their 90s. At some point you realize that there are actually two issues with regards to Internet safety. The first is securing your machine from malicious attacks (viruses, spyware, malware, etc). The second is securing yourself from social attacks by others.

    You will probably find a lot of information on the first kind of safety - this is what most tech people will talk about when speak
  • My 95 year old grandmother has been visually impaired for over a decade. She had trouble finding good software to improve her computer experience and ended up spending several hundred dollars on something called ZoomText. [] Which I found to be a complete and total rip off. It's better than Window's built in stuff, but it's not worth more than $50.

    However! Apple has done a pretty good job of including such features, and honestly I think they might be better. She'll still need a
  • No matter what kind of system you get her, don't forget to warn her about email scams.
    It took me a long time to convince my parents that there is no child in Indonesia getting the money they DID send, that there is no one trying to escape to the United States needing their money and always check for the validity of charities asking for help.
    Also, the identity thefts... well, you get the point. LOL

    My dad is an educated man. He has a pharmacological degree and that took many years of college and he still fell
  • Keep it simple as possible. If all she wants to do is the internet, set her up with something like MSN TV [] or maybe even a Wii [] once the browser comes out and if it supports SSL. Also, some cable companies offer web browsing through their digital cable box, and I'm sure that there's some linux distro out there that runs in a very small storage footprint (256MB or less) that can be run in a set top box configuration.

    Bottom line, if she just wants to surf the internet, get her something that just surfs.
  • runs from a cd in ram and is just Mozilla, not much else.
    ByzantineOS on Sourceforge []
    works with most computers with a lan connection.

  • Get your elderly user to take a look at the book "PC's for Dummies". Several of you spoke of scenarios in which you attempted to explain some computer or internet-related concept, only to find that your grandfather was so lacking in fundamental knowledge that your explanation made no sense to him at all. This book was written with this type of user in mind. I began using PC's later in life than most of you. "PC's for Dummies" explained many things that authors of other, allegedly, beginner level books assum
  • Ask the hard question: what exactly is it about banking and brokering ONLINE that is so attractive and necessary? This is what should worry you, the motivation about finance sites. Some people lose all sense of danger as they age.

    To give a real Internet appliance, do a minimal install of Debian with Windowmaker. Large icons in top right for web, mail, word processor, maybe photo app. People with previous computer phobias react astonishingly well to this setup, comments like, of course I can use THAT
  • It all depends. What's her Social Security Number?
  • If they can't see ads and pop-ups then they can't click on them to download and install malware. "Your computer's time is wrong, click here it fix it" works because non-technical people don't know any better.
  • From the inside (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Danious ( 202113 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @04:11PM (#16938100) Homepage
    Here's some advice form someone who's just finished building a new internet banking security system for the bank I work for:


    Simple really.

    Seriously, for someone who wasn't weaned on Windows, using a modern Linux desktop is a very viable proposition. The only trojan attack vectors we've seen are from Windows boxes. A recent survey stated that 50% of all trojanned machines run Windows XP SP2, so there's no safety there. Most are simple key-loggers which are bad enough, but there's a new wave of targetted banking site trojans designed to crack various protection schemes.

    Install Linux, Mandriva is a good newbies distro. Get broadband with a hardware router/firwall. Put big icons on the panel for e-mail, browser and OpenOffice. Put a signle Bookmark for teh Banking site on the browser toolbar. Lock down the KDE desktop using Kiosk. Install Spamassasin to cut down on the phishing e-mails. Sign them up with a bank that supports Firefox (there's plenty, we do) and has a form of 2nd Factor Authentication. A smaller bank will be less of a target, but they need to be big enough to have proper security in place.

    Most importantly, patiently explain to them WHY they must only ever use the bookmark to access thier banking, never reply to e-mails or follow links on other sites. Don't assume they won't understand the background, just issuing blanket orders to not do something is guaranteed to confuse and be forgotten/ignored. Explain it to them in simple, non-technical language and use analogies to things tehy do understand. If they understand the why, they will be better prepared when they do see an attack vector you haven't explicitally told them about.


    P.S. And yes, I've done this for my parents...
  • I have had the misfortune of helping my in-laws, both 75 at the time, to jump into the digital domain. We did this originally with a hand-me-down PC onto which I installed Windows 98. That PC was nothing but trouble, and we eventually gave up on it in favor of a new PC running Windows XP. I thought that XP would be less trouble; I couldn't have been more wrong. The thing got wormed and virused to death; I spent 14 hours cleaning all that stuff off. After several multi-hour tech support phone calls I ha
    • by steveg ( 55825 )
      I couldn't do that; there aren't any tools for dealing with magnification

      Mmmm? I did a demo for my user group when Dapper came out. I was ad-libbing, showing how to install software and discovered the accessibility tools. What I installed was the magnification utility. I can't tell you much about how good it is, but I know there is such a creature.

      • by jimfrost ( 58153 ) *
        I was totally unaware of that; I will have to look harder next time. Thank you!

        This is particularly interesting now that I am weaning them off of AOL and onto gmail. Anything I can do to get rid of Windows is going to be good for all of us, and if I don't have to spend any more money on hardware (a mini isn't expensive, but the last few PCs I bought were still hundreds less) I would be ok with that :-).

  • Consider just starting her out with email and a web-based version of a newspaper or magazine that she's into. This will allow her to learn how to use the computer, and will allow you to gauge her vulnerabilities before she puts her money on the internet.

    Another strategy is simple risk management. Assuming your grandmother has life savings that she doesn't touch often, keep that money off of the internet. You could start her off by only setting up a bank account that her weekly/monthly check goes into.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972