Protecting your parents from online threats

One of the great things about technology is how it makes keeping in touch with our relatives across the country or around the world so easy.

We share videos and pictures instantly across borders and enjoy real time connections that were not possible even 20 years ago.

For many seniors the computer is a lifeline, protecting against isolation and loneliness. But it’s also a technology they did not grow up with. So while it might be impressive that mom and dad can do online banking or create impressive video collages, the actually technology running in the background can be a bit of a mystery.

The other week when the  Wanna Cry, a Ransomware virus cascaded across the world, infecting computers and demanding payments in return for restoring access to files, I was left to consider just how damaging this type of malware can be for older people.

As we age, memories become our greatest treasure. And today most of those memories are digitized photos stored on harddrives.

So ransomware attacks and other malware can have a particularly devastating effect on seniors. Not only can they erase a lifetime of digital memories, they undermine confidence in the technology itself, leading to isolation and a loss of independence as many seniors simply choose to disconnect.

So it’s important to not take your older loved-ones’ techno savvy for granted. Here are a few tips to help you protect them and yourself.

1 – Set computers to automatically update all settings and programs. There are teams of people at companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google on the watch for potential threats and they push out updates to protect users from threat. But, and this is crucial, users have to install them as soon as they are issued.

2 – Install an Antivirus program. If browsing takes you to an unsafe website, viruses that make their way to the computer can be flagged by an antivirus program and deleted.

3 – Back up everything

This one is crucial. If a person has everything backed up then a threat to erase all files on a computer means nothing.

That’s it. It’s very simple to do and can prevent your loved ones from the emotional turmoil of losing precious photographs and documents.

If you don’t live near them, find out the name of a reputable computer support team in their city and have them do it.

Teaching your loved ones how to protect themselves online is an important step to protecting their dignity and possible financial ruin.