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How to give your parents the “cyber-security talk” over the holidays

Times have changed. Talk around the Thanksgiving table is a lot different in this tech age than it used to be.

I can picture kids gathered with their electronic devices and adults talking about the latest technology at work or their latest game console. All of this is going on while parents and grandparents are trying to keep up and learn this new language and terminology.

While kids are used to parents talking to them about things in their best interest, the tide has turned. It’s now time for us to have that security talk with mom and dad about protecting them in the cyber world.

The talk

You might not want to bring it up while mom or dad takes a bite of turkey and mashed potatoes, but at some point during Thanksgiving Day, you should talk to them about keeping their personal information safe online.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many high-profile hacks over the last year. With just the Equifax breach alone, half of Americans were impacted.

So, look at Thanksgiving as a chance to provide security tips to all of your family members. But you might have to explain it in a way they understand. Many don’t know that a virus also infects a computer and you might get a cold stare when you mention the word “phishing.”

Ransomware and varying types of encryption are also words you might want to stay away from, at least in the beginning.


Explain to them that phishing is when someone pretends to be someone else in order to steal information such as a credit card number, password or anything else that could be used in another attack. This is usually done through email and often contains a link to a website designed to trick you. Verizon’s data breach investigations report says 91 percent of data breaches happen this way. It’s also the most common way to get hit with viruses.

In simple terms, let your loved ones know that by avoiding phishing emails now they won’t have to deal with a stolen credit card months or even a year down the road.

There are three main ways to spot a phishing email: bad grammar, a thinly-veiled email disguise such as instead of and weird links. You can hover your mouse over photos and links to see where they’ll lead you before clicking on them. If an email claiming to be from a legitimate site is actually going to a suspicious website, that’s a good sign it’s a scam.

Password managers

Let your parents know there are password managers that can help you in remembering different passwords for all of your accounts. It’s not necessary for them to keep track of all of them.

You only have to remember one password when you use a password manager. You just simply log onto that and it’ll sync your browsers and devices, creating security and convenience.

Other misc advice

Some of this might be a little complicated to those who are in the beginning stages of learning technology. Instead of going into too much detail, here are simple ways to explain these terms.

HTTPS and SSL: If you see a green lock next to the URL on a website (that means you’re on an HTTPS page), that means you’re on a website that has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Ransomware: This is a virus that locks up your files and sometimes your entire computer unless you pay the ransom. The best solution is to back up your files regularly.

Patching: If you get sent an update from a company like Microsoft and Apple, go ahead and update your device. This can prevent hackers from accessing your computer.

Two-factor authentication: Think of this as the equivalent of having two locks on your door. It’s an extra layer of security on top of your computer password. The most common version is a code texted to your phone after entering your password. This makes it tougher for hackers to gain access to your accounts.

The best way of explaining computer security to your loved ones is to compare it to things they’d do at home like locking windows and doors. Showing them statistics of all the millions who’ve been impacted by these security breaches is another good method. Statistically, you’re more likely to be robbed online than you are in person.

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Here are some other common questions your relative might have. App background

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