Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you are hosting the feast this year, you are probably scrambling around, trying to get ready for the big day and getting your house spick and span so your guests don’t judge you. But there’s one area in our homes that we often overlook when it’s time for relatives to come over. It is an undoubtedly popular place among both young and old. It’s your PC.
Without fail, your 7 year old nephew is going to ask you if he can play computer games and your 70 year old uncle is going to ask you if he can “surf the web.” And everyone who steps in the door with a smartphone is going to ask you for your WiFi password. Because you’re a nice person and a gracious host, you will say yes and your guests will skip down the hall and plop down in front of your computer.
Now, you might think this is no big deal. However, letting others use your PC without implementing some proper security measures could lead to an infected computer or an invasion of your privacy.
What can happen
Imagine Uncle Joe sits down at your computer, logs into your account, and starts searching the web. He will immediately have access to your search history, autofill forms, passwords, YouTube watch history, email, and social media accounts (if you leave those logged in). You might not be searching for and watching anything “bad” but you might still be embarrassed if he sees that you recently searched for “how to cook a turkey.” You also don’t want him looking at your private email or your Facebook messages. And you certainly don’t want him stumbling onto eBay and starting a bidding war on your account accidentally.
The other thing that can happen if you let guests use your computer is an infection. While you, being tech-savvy, might know that you shouldn’t just click anything and everything on the computer, your little nephew probably does not. He will head straight to his favorite game site which is probably riddled with malware that will download straight to your system. It can happen way too easily, especially in the case of drive-by-download attacks.
There are ways to prevent both of these things from happening.
How to prevent an invasion of privacy
The first thing you need to do to prepare for computer visitors is to create a “guest” account. With a guest account, the user won’t have access to your browser history, files, passwords, email, etc. They will also be unable to install software to the computer or apply a password to that guest account. To enable the guest account in Windows 7 or 8:
1. Open the Control Panel.
2. Click on Add or Remove User Accounts. (in Windows 8 click on Change Account Type)
3. Click on the Guest icon to enable it.
4. Then click Turn On.
Microsoft changed a few things with Windows 10 and the guest account enabling gets a bit more complicated. If you’re interested, here are the directions for enabling a guest account in Windows 10.
Voila. Now guests can surf the web and play games without being able to see any of your personal stuff.
How to prevent an infection
First of all, you need to install good antivirus software. You should have this whether or not guests are using your computer because if you don’t, it’s not a matter of if you get a virus, but when. If you are connected to the internet, you are vulnerable to malware. You also need to keep your antivirus updated continually. Then, scan your computer for malware regularly to make sure you are not infected. Be sure to always back up your data before anything bad happens because once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Some antivirus software, such as Avast, will indicate whether or not a link is safe to click on. You could teach your relatives this to make sure they don’t click on the bad links.
What to do if you are infected
If it’s already too late and you acquired some nasty viruses (as well as a few extra pounds from all of that pumpkin pie) you should take your computer to a professional. Most antivirus programs have the option to eradicate the virus, but they don’t always work as well as they should. At catmandu, we may not be able to help with the pumpkin pie weight, but we can certainly help with the viruses.