Security news that informs and inspires

A Note to All the Holiday IT Folks


This post is from Kim Burton, security education lead at Duo Security.

This is for all the holiday IT folks out there. You know—the folks who show up to dinner, and when family asks, “So what are you doing now?” and you say, “Tech,” and it’s all over. “I have this issue with my laptop…” “Could you figure out why my phone…”

You know who you are.

Much like the paralegals, lawyers, doctors, and lab assistants who answer legal and medical questions over appetizers through dessert, you are already resigned to your fate. You don’t mind the the tech questions, but the ones asked are outside of your wheelhouse.

But, just as your environmental lawyer cousin is hypothesizing on questions of divorce, and your lab assistant sibling has somehow (within two bites of pie) made the leap from fruit fly research to cancer diagnosis, so will you do your best to answer questions about an operating system you don’t know, troubleshooting issues you haven’t seen, Googling the answers just like everyone else would.

“But I’m not a Windows developer” you plead. “If you could just take a quick look,” they say.

Make This Year Different.

This year, you could be the life of the technology party and turn your family into the tech-savvy juggernauts they were always meant to be.

Looking to upgrade your troubleshooting-game? Try one of the following.

The "Yes, And…"

When someone asks for help, do a two-for-one!

Need password recovery? Help set up two-factor authentication after resetting that password. Troubleshooting software? Check it’s up-to-date. Installing a browser extension? Could that browser use an update? New email address? Two-factor it. It’s okay if your relative is more comfortable with an SMS text over a hardware token. They’re now safer than they were before, and you always have next year’s holiday dinner to look forward to!

Validate to Educate

It’s not easy asking for help. Remember when you learned that really difficult “thing” and how you felt? Econometrics, Ancient Greek, linear algebra, the oboe… That’s likely what your relative is feeling now: frustrated, a bit ashamed, a dash of fear.

Let the person you’re helping know you recognize their abilities. Instead of saying “It’s easy!” Try “At first it might look tricky, but it’s easier than it looks” or “Yes, this is difficult, but we’ll work through it together.” Position yourself as an ally and you’ll finish that troubleshoot and get back to the cheese plate much faster.

Do a Skill Share

You can’t be the only one with “1337 skillz”. Grab your favorite digitally astute relative and pool your resources! Encourage folks to teach each other and, if you have a lot of interest, create breakout groups to work on similar challenges together. Suggested topics include privacy settings, unique, long and strong passwords, password managers, account recovery, and scam-avoidance.

Make it a Holiday Game

Is your family into The Holiday Game? Maybe they have a penchant for the fun and ridiculous? Consider putting yourself in charge!

Have a Password Party!

Educate your relatives on unique, long, and strong password use. Avoid calling out the relative you know has been using the same password for years. Don’t laugh when you hear two folks use the same sports team as theirs. Empower them all to change!

Turn on some fun holiday music and dance along as you assist your relatives in utilizing a new tool: the password manager. Help folks generate strong passwords and update neglected accounts. Create some friendly competition and see who can get the most done!

You need just two things to have a password party: Knowledge of your favorite password manager and a list of most popular websites to use as a prompt on what to update or change. A Tip: You can start with the list of popular sites on Wikipedia. Another timesaver: Choose a password manager with friendly documentation that you can either print or point your participants to.

Play Security Trivia

Try out questions like, “Who knows what 2FA stands for?” “How long should your password be?” “Name a type of cyber attack.”

If you choose to play this game, it takes just a little prep (20 questions or so) and you’re good to go. Split your players into teams, and have a pub quiz in the living room!

Go On a Tech Scavenger Hunt

Consider making a scavenger hunt that goes on through the day! For a mere 20-30 items that give some security attention to your tech, individuals or teams can amuse themselves trying to check off as many boxes as possible before the last course is served.

Teach your hunters to check their devices for updates. Is your operating system up to date? Your laptop/desktop? What about your phone?

Secure accounts by having them set up two-factor authentication on their Google account. Give them bonus points for being able to name three more accounts they have set up two-factor authentication!

Think about security and privacy housecleaning. Find the Security and Privacy Settings of your favorite social media. Consider Facebook, Google, Twitter, and more!

Find three relatives that had their credit card stolen and listen to their stories.

Make the Holidays Count

Go forth and be merry, holiday IT help! I believe in your abilities to make a better digital world for all of your loved ones this season. Whether those conversations are happening at the dinner table, in the sitting room, or in a desperate attempt to avoid discussing politics, you have the power to bring joy and tech-savvy to all who follow you.