7 Computer Tips You Won’t Learn From Your Mom

When I was a kid, I learned a bunch of computer tips from other kids which I used to hide things from my parents.
Although this article talks about ways to avoid parental surveillance, it’s really written for parents. We want you to know how your kids might use the computer in ways you don’t approve of. Accordingly, each section ends with tips for parents on how to prevent abuses.

Computer Tips #1—Browser Privacy Mode

Most modern Web browsers now ship with a privacy mode which changes how the browser stores data.

One key feature of privacy mode is that the browser doesn’t store any history data. As soon as you close the browser, it deletes any browsing history from that session, so parents can’t see where on the Web their kids have been.

Computer Tips Browser Privacy Mode

Privacy mode also doesn’t store permanent cookies or other information, so parents can’t automatically log into their children’s Facebook accounts just by visiting Facebook.com.

Computer Tips for Parents: high-end routers with built-in parental controls can help monitor what sites your kids visit even if they use privacy mode.

Computer Tips #2—Free Proxy

Parental control software works by blocking the Web addresses that match a particular pattern. For example, if your parents don’t want you visiting Facebook, they block all addresses including Facebook.com.

A free proxy site gets around that restriction. The proxy at, say, example.com downloads the page from Facebook and displays it to you on example.com.

Warning: proxies can be dangerous. To log in to Facebook through example.com, you must give your Facebook password to example.com.

Computer tips for parents: blocking free proxies can be easy. Check your parental control logs for what sites your kids visit. Make sure you know what each site does—if one of them is a proxy, block it. If your kid keeps trying different proxies, activate the white list feature of your parental control software which will block all sites on the Internet except those you give permission to access.

Computer Tips #3—Password Unprotected

Passwords are the most used type of computer security, but even strong passwords provide weak security if you have access to the hardware.

Say your father has administrative access to your computer and won’t let you install some software. You can download certain live CDs based on Linux which will let you discover or change his password.

Computer tips for parents: don’t use the same password on your computer that you use for online accounts. Also, go into your BIOS settings and disable booting from CD and set a BIOS password.

Even if your parent sets a BIOS password as described above, you can reset most BIOS passwords by simply removing the battery from your computer’s motherboard.

Warning: Linux live CDs can erase your disk drive and removing your motherboard battery can destroy your entire computer.

Computer tips for parents: check to make sure your BIOS password is still there every once in a while. Removing the motherboard battery will reset the password, so you’ll know it has been changed.

Computer Tips #4—The Secret Desktop

Your Mom might teach you about Alt-tab, which is a quick way to change applications—and to clear your screen of an unapproved website—but your Mom probably won’t tell you that there are applications that do a better job of hiding open applications.

With one of these apps, the current window disappears not only from the screen but also from the taskbar. To get it back, you need to press a particular key combination—a combination your Mom probably doesn’t know.

Computer tips for parents: check the list of installed applications occasionally and make sure you know what each program does.

Computer Tips #5—Encrypt Files

If you absolutely don’t want someone else to see a particular file—like your diary—the only way to truly keep it secure is encryption. The top editions of Windows come with encryption, but you can also install a third-party program that does just as good a job.

To encrypt a file, you need to enter a password. There are also key-based encryption methods and methods that use both a key and a password—but those methods are complicated to use.

The advantage of a password is that nobody without the password can access the file unless they have access to several years of supercomputer processing time.

Computer tips for parents: if your kids start using encrypted files, you can ask them to decrypt them. If that doesn’t work, you can use a key logger which will save any passwords typed on your computer.

Computer Tips #6—Two Browsers

Browser privacy mode, described previously, has one big problem: you can’t save bookmarks or other information you don’t want your parents to see. This problem can be easily solved if you have a USB drive and a “portable” browser.

A portable browser is a special browser designed to run from a USB drive and to store all of its information there too. There are portable versions of several major browsers.

As long as your parents don’t get ahold of your USB drive, any information on it is secure.

Computer tips for parents: some modern computer BIOSes let you restrict what USB devices can be used. Some software does the same thing less effectively. A trick used at some corporations is just to epoxy over the USB ports, but this is obviously a permanent solution. (Although it may make an effective threat.)

Computer Tips #7—Anti-Anti-Virus

Gamers who need a speed up the computer can turn off their computer anti-virus. This is somewhat similar to feeding your vegetables to the family dog—Mom won’t teach you this trick, but it’s not usually terribly harmful in the short term.

Of course, the problems start when you forget to turn the anti-virus back on after you finish gaming. The next thing you or someone else on your computer downloads could install a virus on your computer which will upset the whole family and even cost your parents money.

Computer tips for everybody: be sure anti-virus is running (check the task bar) before you start browsing or reading your email.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m little late for the party, but thanks for the tips. I would like to comment on #7, however… Most major AV applications have an option called ‘gaming mode’ or the like whereby whenever you launch a game session, the AV will go into ‘lite’ mode, freeing up resources for use by the game. But… the important thing is once you’re finished with your game session, it reverts back to full protection mode.

    Setting this option once is a lot better than hoping your teen remembers to run the AV app every time.

  2. says

    Hi David. Great tips here! I really don’t have any idea on some of the things you mentioned. Can you tell me what keys to enter to hide applications? Thanks.

  3. Joe says

    David, I loved tip #4 about using a usb drive for a portable browser. Google chrome has one that can be downloaded for free and it is very light in resource usage.

    This works great when you are traveling and you need to use public computers.

    -Joe

  4. says

    Great tips David!
    Just not so happy with you sharing the “remove the motherboard’s battery to reset the password” Tip. Luckily that will be a lot harder with my laptop.
    And tip #5, if your kid has an encrypted diary, then respect their privacy.

    If you don’t let kids make their own mistakes they will never learn to use/develop common sense. Which will be a much bigger problem.

  5. remegios says

    This really are a good tip for the kids. Parents should be aware about the technicalities of the computer so we may protect them with anything obscene and beside this is the only time I know that to turn their game fast is to turn off the anti virus. Let me see if they really are doing it.

  6. says

    I bet all the parents are busily trying to hide this post from their kids. I really don’t like that tip about turning off the anti-virus. :-) I know my kids would forget turning it back on.

    • says

      I know..don’t let the kids see this… By the way I made a video on how to add the rss buttons to the sidebar..just haven’t edited it yet! :)

  7. Norman says

    I appreciate you sharing this article and find it is a good thing you are doing to help parents keep a closer eye on what their kids are doing on the computer. I like the heading too.

    • says

      Yes as parents it is very hard to keep up with what the children know. By the way Norman, please see that I have changed your comment name to Norman@keywords. We do not allow just keywords in the name area. Hope you understand. :)