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  1. #1
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    A survival guide for the home-IT manager




    BEST PRACTICES


    A survival guide for the home-IT manager


    By Lincoln Spector

    It's a sure bet that most Windows Secrets readers have been drafted by friends and family into the role of unpaid PC troubleshooter.
    You can reduce but probably never eliminate those time-consuming house calls by hardening your friends' PCs against most forms of user error.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/best-practices/a-survival-guide-for-the-home-IT-manager/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    A Few Alternatives to Items Discussed in the Article

    An external hard drive always connected to the individual computer is not the only good way to handle home user backups and restorations on local devices. Network Attached Storage, Home Servers, and Internet connected Hard Drives are all options which don't necessarily crash when a disaster strikes the user's PC. One drive array or home server can be set up for a whole household, and once set up, these are generally reliable enough to be run with only periodic maintenance. The user need not be an expert, as long as someone does the maintenance once in awhile.

    Another option is to regularly swap hard drives with the novice user, so that one backup copy is always off site and not attached. The one attached still picks up the most recent backups. With Internet connected drives, the actual drive could be in your own home or office, not in the novice user's work space. (Although this does raise the same slow transfers issue as Cloud Storage, plus a few bandwidth, ISP usage and security considerations for the user to remote drive Internet connection.)

    Many AV products turn off or alter the Windows Firewall, and this is a good thing in some cases. Checking that the Windows Firewall is turned on is not a good idea if your AV Product replaces or alters it.

    Avast Free also is quite automatic, can have schedules scans, and uses streaming automatic updates whenever there's an Internet Connection available. Highly rated in detection and removal. Just one more free alternative.

    Internet Explorer since Version 8 updates itself from MS Updates, so there's no need with Automatic Updates set up to choose another browser, even for Windows novices. IE plugins are another issue, but most of them also automatically update these days. The main advantage for Chrome these days is (sometimes) more efficient downloads, and it uses one central source for automatic plugin updates. (So does IE 10, FWIW.)

    Foxit Reader or the equally good Nitro Reader do NOT update themselves automatically, although Nitro can be set to automatically check and prompt for updates each time it's opened. Foxit's updates are a bit more user-dependent, and choices have to be made by the user. Nitro is therefore easier for novices to keep up to date and secure, in my experience. Also, Nitro uses a very efficient download manager for updates, something lacking in Foxit.

    Cloud Backup will work just fine for data files, but don't expect this method to work well for large media downloads. These downloads are among the most common files which novice users seem to want to back up these days. Some "backup" methods for media downloads don't require any actual file transfers, as some services will have records of files previously paid for and downloaded by account holders. But having a local backup of a large media library is a far better option for many folks.

    Depending on the source of media downloads, there are automatic ways to locally back up Media Libraries. These methods could be discussed (or updated) in a future Windows Secrets Newsletter article.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2013-07-04 at 14:14.
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    Not sure I agree with some of the recommendations. For example, moving people to a non-Admin account is a good idea. But if you don't give them the admin password, they'll be hooped if they need to install something and you're not available. I don't agree with locking them into one support person or obliging you to be their permanent tech. Unless it's your immediate family maybe.

    Both Avast and AVG I've found nag people about upgrading which confuses unsophisticated users. MS Security Essentials is much better there.

    I'd certainly recommend Foxit or Nitro over Adobe Reader. All require some user intervention. Bob makes some good points about Nitro, though I've found Foxit simpler for end users. Depends on their needs.

    I agree to replace IE. It's use of ActiveX is a major security issue. However, there are some who have only used it and would be resistant to the change.

    I also usually put in a generic media player like VLC or Daum. This allows them to play whatever. It also avoids the need for Quicktime and Real Player and other more invasive or pushy apps.

    However, I do still cringe with some people. The social is still overwhelmed by the fixes and all too often, they manage to mess up royally. I've learned to say no for some friends. When they have to pay for the fix, they become a little more respectful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lincoln Spector
    Install Google's Chrome browser and make it the default browser. Why? Internet security requires an up-to-date browser, and Chrome updates itself automatically completely in the background. Next, hide Internet Explorer by removing its shortcuts from the taskbar and the desktop.
    Internet security for "inept users" requires Internet Explorer 10:

    Malware downloads (via web browser) are the most common infection vector for criminals attempting to monetize malware via account/password theft, bank/financial fraud, gaming fraud, click fraud, and bot installation.

    The leading browsers show a significant variance in their ability to block malware. Internet Explorer 10 had the highest malware block rate at 99.96%, followed by Chrome
    25/26 at 83.16%. Safari 5 and Firefox 19 were a distant third and fourth, with 10.15% and 9.92% respectively. Opera offered virtually no malicious download protection, with a 1.87% score

    Browsers with low malware block rates place consumers at significant risk.


    NSS Labs, May 2013

    Bruce

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceR View Post
    Internet security for "inept users" requires Internet Explorer 10:

    • Malware downloads (via web browser) are the most common infection vector for criminals attempting to monetize malware via account/password theft, bank/financial fraud, gaming fraud, click fraud, and bot installation.

    • The leading browsers show a significant variance in their ability to block malware. Internet Explorer 10 had the highest malware block rate at 99.96%, followed by Chrome
    25/26 at 83.16%. Safari 5 and Firefox 19 were a distant third and fourth, with 10.15% and 9.92% respectively. Opera offered virtually no malicious download protection, with a 1.87% score

    • Browsers with low malware block rates place consumers at significant risk.


    NSS Labs, May 2013

    Bruce
    Yeah, this argues against Firefox. Not so much against Chrome. The tests are very stringent, so 83 percent isn't as bad a showing as it may seem. And I wouldn't be surprised if these tests were carried out with "naked" browsers -- no additional security related plugins installed, such as those I had recommended for Chrome and Firefox. With Chrome, these plugins would be self-updating, as is the browser itself.

    My points about automatic updating in IE, especially IE 10, seem to address the article's concerns about novice users and making everything as automatic as possible more directly, I think.

    Still, we both have reached the conclusion that sticking with IE is probably best for novice users. I think the article is wrong about this point when it recommends using any third-party browser instead of IE. (For novice users, that is.)
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2013-07-05 at 04:04.
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    5 Star Lounger RussB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    Yeah, this argues against Firefox. Not so much against Chrome. The tests are very stringent, so 83 percent isn't as bad a showing as it may seem. And I wouldn't be surprised if these tests were carried out with "naked" browsers -- no additional security related plugins installed, such as those I had recommended for Chrome and Firefox. With Chrome, these plugins would be self-updating, as is the browser itself.

    My points about automatic updating in IE, especially IE 10, seem to address the article's concerns about novice users and making everything as automatic as possible more directly, I think.

    Still, we both have reached the conclusion that sticking with IE is probably best for novice users. I think the article is wrong about this point when it recommends using any third-party browser instead of IE. (For novice users, that is.)
    Firefox can be configured to auto-update both itself and its add-ons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidFB View Post
    I've learned to say no for some friends. When they have to pay for the fix, they become a little more respectful.
    I agree with this particularly at work. I usually tell them to call tech support as I can spend hours trying to explain how to set up a PST file. Sometimes we have to learn to let go

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    Quote Originally Posted by RussB View Post
    Firefox can be configured to auto-update both itself and its add-ons.
    But in my experience, this never seems to go smoothly. Not as well as Chrome. This is not a knock against Firefox -- in fact, I use it almost exclusively in Windows XP. I just find Chrome auto-updating to be less intrusive and less of a hassle.

    UPDATE: 4:11 AM 7/16/2013 I just had a complete disaster updating Chrome in Windows 7 with Avast Antivirus installed. Had to manually rip out Chrome. Somehow lost some Toshiba driver software along the way. Had to reinstall those drivers. Still, this is the first time a Chrome update has EVER gone wrong for me in away that couldn't be easily fixed.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2013-07-18 at 17:12.
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    Dear Lincoln,
    Only three reasons prevented me from rating your July 4th "survival guide" as superb instead of great:
    1) The IRS "e-Services" sub-website allows me to print its reports *only* within IE, not Chrome. (I'm a CPA predominantly involved in tax preparation and consulting; so that constraint is crucial.) (The cleverer of IRS tech/tax-help staff acknowledge the problem, but, EVER since Grover Norquist's "starve the Beast" jihad took hold among Republicans -- i.e., since Dubya -- the IRS has been playing catch-up, at best, if not technically delinquent/disabled for months.)
    2) Most of my eldest relatives and clients really cannot upgrade their mentalities to a different browser -- and I feel 'LUCKY' they're online at all, ALL with IE from back when -- and, due to Microsoft's aggressive update policy, most with the latest version of IE.
    3) A reprise of Point 2) as regards backup and antivirus regimens . . . .
    You spake the Truth, but most of us need more coddling.
    Most sincerely yours, Kurt Wilner

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