Hacking Humans 3.25.21
Ep 140 | 3.25.21

Technology is not designed for older users.


Ming Yang: Technology is not designed for older users.

Dave Bittner: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the CyberWire's "Hacking Humans" podcast, where each week, we look behind the social engineering scams, the phishing schemes and the criminal exploits that are making headlines and taking a heavy toll on organizations around the world. I'm Dave Bittner from the CyberWire. And joining me is Joe Carrigan from the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. Hello, Joe. 

Joe Carrigan: Hi, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: We've got some good stories to share. And later in the show, my conversation with Ming Yang. She's the CEO of a company called Orchard. She's looking to solve an interesting problem that I think a lot of us deal with these days - providing tech support for our parents. Interesting conversation later in the show. Be sure to stick around for that. 

Dave Bittner: All right, Joe, let's dig into some stories here. I'm going to kick things off for us. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: We got a notice from the FBI that they are warning against deepfakes for social engineering. And this advisory from the FBI says that they are expecting that deepfakes are going to crank up in the next 12 to 18 months. And, of course, deepfakes are the technology where you can make a video or a photo - most of it's video - where it looks like someone who it is not. The technology... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...Exists where you can basically swap out one person's face for the other person's face. There's one that was making the rounds in the past week or so with Tom Cruise that was... 

Joe Carrigan: Yep. 

Dave Bittner: ...Very convincing. And there's a lot of them that are making the rounds. But I think the important point that the FBI is making here is that, as it often happens, these tools are filtering down, and they're becoming easier to use and more widely available. And so they're saying we need to be on the lookout for it. 

Dave Bittner: And they actually coin a term here. They say synthetic content may also be used in a newly defined cyberattack vector referred to as business identity compromise, BIC. They say BIC will represent an evolution in business email compromise tradecraft by leveraging advanced techniques and new tools. So it's not widespread yet, but, you know, they're saying this is something that certainly is on their radar. 

Dave Bittner: This also reminded me of another story I saw in the past week or so. Actually, we talked about this over on the "Grumpy Old Geeks" podcast. And it was about a mom. She had a young daughter who was a high school cheerleader. And allegedly, this mom used some of this deepfakes technology to whip up photographs and videos of some of her daughter's rivals on the cheerleading team, the cheerleading squad and sent these fake photos of these other students in compromising positions - you know, showing them drinking or smoking or other things they wouldn't want to be seen doing - and sending those fake pictures to the coaches of the cheerleading team to try to get those students kicked off the team so that her daughter would have an elevated position on the team, would have a better chance of... 

Joe Carrigan: Trying to eliminate the competition, huh? 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. Now... 

Joe Carrigan: That's despicable. 


Dave Bittner: You read my mind. I just - I - that was my first thought when we talked about it over on "Grumpy Old Geeks" - saying, you know, put all the technical stuff aside... 

Joe Carrigan: Right (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: ...You know, there are just people in this world who are horrible. And it's (laughter)... 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah, yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...Heartbreaking. What a lesson for this daughter to learn. This is not a good way to go through life, in my estimation. 

Joe Carrigan: No, it is not. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: I would agree with that 100%. 

Dave Bittner: Trying to kneecap the competition, virtually or otherwise. 

Joe Carrigan: Like Tonya Harding - going - (laughter) like a virtual Tonya Harding. 

Dave Bittner: Right. And again, you know, allegedly, this is what this woman was doing. And I guess it didn't work because the coaches figured it out. And now she's - the mom is in hot water for this fraud that she perpetrated... 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah, good. 

Dave Bittner: ...Again, allegedly. But - yeah. So I guess the point here is that this stuff is starting to make its way into the everyday world, you know? And... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...The FBI has their eyes looking out for it. Another thing we saw recently is some technology that tries to detect deepfakes. And evidently, they're looking at the eyes. The reflections in the eyes can be a giveaway as to whether an image is real or not. But, of course, it's just an arms race. 

Joe Carrigan: I have some bad news for you (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: What's that? 

Joe Carrigan: It's only a matter of time before these algorithms generate believable reflections in the eyes. 

Dave Bittner: Right. Exactly. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, it's just an arms race, yeah. The bad guys will latch on to that. They'll up their game, and it'll be back-and-forth cat and mouse for a while. This is one of those things that's easy to say, oh, that's off in the distance. Oh, we don't have to worry about that yet. But as the story with the cheerleader pointed out, no, it's... 

Joe Carrigan: It's here. 

Dave Bittner: ...Starting to seep in. Yeah, it's starting to seep in. As the FBI said, it's not widespread yet, but there's no question that as these tools become more easily available and you can just log in to a website somewhere, upload your video and say, make me look like Tom Cruise (laughter)... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: Just do it. And it'll be convincing. 

Joe Carrigan: There's the flip side of this as well. You know, let's say you do get some videos of somebody doing something illicit, right? 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: And let's say this is a person in power, and they've done something terrible, and they have pictures of it. Well, now this person can run for cover under the deepfakes... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: ...Excuse, right? This isn't me. That's a deepfake image of me. 

Dave Bittner: Right. Clearly, that was not. Look at the - look how dead that person's eyes are. That's not me. 


Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) All right. Well, that is my story this week. Of course, we'll have links to that FBI news release there. Joe, what do you have for us? 

Joe Carrigan: Dave, my story comes from your favorite organization and one of mine, the AARP. 

Dave Bittner: Hey now. Hey now. 


Dave Bittner: Oh, the truth hurts. 

Joe Carrigan: They have a good story on their website, and we'll put a link in the show notes. It's about phantom debts. Now, these are phony bills that crooks insist that you pay right now. Not only will they attempt to collect money from you, but they will also try to gather as much information from you as possible during the course of this if they're not legitimate. But there are some kind of crossovers with legitimate debt collection companies. In fact, we'll talk more about that down - as we get into this story. 

Joe Carrigan: The idea is they want to scare you into thinking that you're going to be sued, arrested or thrown in jail for money you probably don't even owe. And there's all kinds of laws that govern debt collection, and there's all kinds of situations. Debt is traded. There's a marketplace for debt. And as debt ages, at some point in time, it becomes legally uncollectible. But that doesn't stop debt collectors from buying that debt and still trying to collect on it. They buy it for a very low price - right? - pennies on the dollar. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: And if I can buy, like, a $100 debt for a dollar and I can go to somebody and say, hey, I want to settle this debt with you; it was a hundred dollars that you owe, but - you know what? - I'm willing to settle for 20 bucks, then I've just multiplied my money by 20 bucks. But... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: ...If that debt is beyond a certain age, you're not obligated to pay it, legally. You might argue that you're morally obligated to pay it, but that's a different discussion. 

Joe Carrigan: The FTC last year heard 53,000 complaints about debt collection practices, and they actually went out and shut down an Atlanta-based debt collector. This company was called Critical Resolution Mediation. They were doing stuff that was definitely illegal. Like, they were posing as law enforcement and attorneys and process servers, and they were threatening people with arrest and imprisonment. In many cases, these debts were what they call phantom debts that were never owed or were no longer owed, like I was talking about earlier. 

Joe Carrigan: These people will call you incessantly, and they'll even try to call your family because sometimes you have family information... 

Dave Bittner: Right, right. 

Joe Carrigan: ...On these debts. And they don't care who pays. So, like, if you're an older... 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Yeah. Right. They just want their money. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. If you're an older person - and they may call your kids and go, hey, your parents owe this debt from this doctor bill from eight years ago, you got to pay up... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: ...And your kids pay, that's fine with them. They don't care. They're happy to get the money. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. You know, and I bet most of us - I remember in my, you know, younger days, those years sort of right after college when we were all starting our lives and our families and all that sort of stuff, and inevitably, you'd have, you know, some ne'er-do-well associate that you knew socially from college who... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...Some debt collector would be trying to track down. And they'd call and they say, you know, hey, do you know Joe Jablonsky? Do you know where we can track him down? You know, and they'd be looking - trying to get information. Seems like the older you get, the less that happens. 

Joe Carrigan: Right, yeah (laughter). People know - don't put me on the list. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) We saw a story come by in the past week or so. This is from the BBC. And there was a person who got a phone call from one of these sort of phony debt collectors, and they said, take me off your list. And the caller replied and said, give me a thousand bucks and I will. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 


Dave Bittner: The brazenness. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. That's terrible. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: The AARP and the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have some tips about what to do when these people call. No. 1, find out who's calling. Get the name and the address of the company and the person that's calling you and the telephone number. Also, it says ask for a license number, too. Some states require that debt collectors be licensed. If you're denied the information, that's a red flag, right? 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: I'm not giving you my license number. Oh, OK. We're done here, right? 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: Get what's called validation of the debt. So within five days of contacting you, a debt collector must tell you the amount of the debt and the name of the current creditor. And if they don't have that information, then that's also another red flag. 

Joe Carrigan: Never respond to threats. They say if someone says that they'll have you arrested if you don't pay immediately, hang up and report the collector to the FTC. And they have an email address. It's reportfraud@ftc.gov, and reportfraud is all one word. 

Dave Bittner: OK. 

Joe Carrigan: If - you can dispute the debt. If you don't think you owe the debt - any, some or all of it - then you can dispute it with the collector be it via mail or online. If you believe the calls are fraudulent, send a letter demanding that they stop. So if you get the information, you know, the name and address, send them a letter - a cease-and-desist letter. And you can write one of those up yourself and say, I believe these calls are fraudulent; please do not call me anymore; you've been notified. You may be able to renegotiate any debt that you do have, seeking a reduction in late fees or interest or working out some kind of payment plan if this is actually a debt that you do owe and you're obligated to pay. Then they say, if you're still having trouble, you can get help with a credit counseling service. 

Joe Carrigan: One of the things they do note here is to beware of debt settlement companies that require you to pay some fee upfront to renegotiate debt on your behalf. A lot of times, these are scams, and there is no guarantee of success, right? You could pay them a hundred bucks to renegotiate, and they call up and they go, hey, this guy wants to renegotiate, and the debt collector goes, well, tough. We're going to proceed with collection if it's legitimate. 

Joe Carrigan: One of the things the AARP says in this article - and they have a big section on it - they say haste makes waste. And this is something we say all the time. Slow down, right? Don't react. Even legitimate debt collectors will do this. They'll try to elicit an emotional response from you to get their money back because, you know, they're businesses, and they want to make their money. They run in a risky business, of course. You're buying debt that other people haven't been able to collect on. 

Joe Carrigan: When somebody starts trying to intimidate you or trying to scare you, you should remind them about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that prohibits that kind of behavior. They're not allowed to threaten you. They're not allowed to say, we're coming to your place of employment. We're going to start harassing your family members. All that is illegal. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, it's tough. They do this every day, all day. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. Right. 

Dave Bittner: And so they know how to - they know what works. They know how to get under your skin. And it seems like an unfair fight, but as you point out here, the more information you have, the better chance you have of successfully navigating something like this. It could be a tough one. 

Joe Carrigan: It is. 

Dave Bittner: All right. We will have links to that in our show notes as well. It is time to move on to our Catch of the Day. 


Joe Carrigan: Dave, our Catch of the Day comes from a listener named Anthony (ph). And Anthony writes, hey, Joe. Hope all is well. He sent this to me on LinkedIn, by the way. I should say that. He said, I always enjoy the podcast. I want to share an email that I received that fits perfectly with your "Hacking Humans" podcast. I removed the personal information from the email, but the other personal information in the message is not mine. So there was some that matched up with his, but most of it wasn't. He says, enjoy and keep podcasting. So, Dave? 

Dave Bittner: All right. Well, this alleges to come from someone named Barbossa Salvatori (ph), who's a senior investigator at Federal Crime of Investigation. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 


Dave Bittner: Which is not a thing, but... 

Joe Carrigan: (Laughter) Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...We will proceed as if it is. And actually, their return address is federalcrimeofinvestigation@gmail.com. 

Joe Carrigan: Ah, seems legit, doesn't it? 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Right off the bat, I'm nervous. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: You've got my attention, Mr. Federal Crime of - Mr. Barbossa. 

Dave Bittner: All right. Well, it goes like this. It says, (imitating New York mobster, reading) hello. After receiving this email, we will issue a legal warrant on your name within next couple of hours. So before you do anything, read this email very carefully and respond back early as possible. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) You are hereby notified that a lawsuit has been filed against you for three serious allegations. Speedy Cash is a client of ours, and we're going to be representing them in future legal proceedings. The charges with Speedy Cash pressed on you are violation of federal banking regulation, collateral check fraud, theft by deception. The affidavit states that X was monitored online using this email address, IP address, Social Security number, date of birth, driver's license, address, your banking information and place of employment's information, which are in order to solicit funds from a restitution which is owned and operated by the Speedy Cash, who owns and operates more than 350 online cash websites, web portals, and many of the sub lenders are working with them. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) The funds were successfully transferred into your bank account utilizing an interstate EFT, which stands for electronic funds transfer. Basically, all the payday loan companies and payday loan store in the state of Pennsylvania working under my client, which is Speedy Cash. When the creditor attempted to extract the funds back from your account as a repayment, at that time, six EFTs were returned back, constituting worthless electronic checks. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) So as of now, rather than chasing you for money, the creditor have simply decided to write this money as a loss as well as declared to be stolen, and they press charges against you. Now, the affidavit is taken by FDCPA law. That means Fair Debt Collection Practices Act under Section 9, Chapter 19. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) Now, this means just two things for you. One, if you were on any state-supervised probation on payroll, then you will need to intimate the officer about this case. Two, if you have any prior convictions, including but not limited to worthless check, grand theft or money laundering, so please be aware that they shall handle this case as a habitual offense as your state is zero tolerance state. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) It is also to inform you that the creditor has the rights and authorities to inform your employer about this case. And what will be the resulting consequences comes once this case is downloaded and executed with the judgements against you is because you have kept your employer's name as a security. And also, as an additional security, two more names were used. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) Finally, you have the right to hire an attorney. If you have one, or if you cannot afford one, then one shall be appointed to you, but please make sure that you have someone to help you out regarding this case because once this case is downloaded and executed, the judgements against you and if you found guilty under the bench of jury, then you have to bear the court charges and penalty, and that amount is $8,310.27, including your bail charges, your attorney charges and the due amount pending your name. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) Finally, your name and Social Security information would be reported to the three major credit bureaus of USA, such as Equifax, TransUnion, Experian. Ultimately, it would be affecting your FICO scores by 285 negative points, and your Social Security number would be blacklisted, and you would also never be eligible for all the government benefits and entities. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) According to the orders of the courthouse, the state investigation department officers will deliver all the legal documents to your current employer, and that can risk your current job. Once the judge opens your case for execution legally tomorrow, then these charges will be reflecting on your credit reports because of which it will be very difficult for you to get a new job in future. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) Finally - he already said finally. (Imitating New York mobster, reading) Finally, part two, this case is going to be downloaded in your state county court and your local county sheriff department Monday at 11 a.m., as per your state standard time. And after then, you will be forced to resolve the case legally by facing all the legal charges, problems and spending money on your attorneys and fees, case execution charges, legal penalties, bail charges, paper development charges on top of the due amount that you owe from your creditor. That is $989.55. 

Dave Bittner: (Imitating New York mobster, reading) If you are willing to settle it out of court, you can surely respond positively today itself. We can only accept your full payment today. Also, there is no negotiation and there are no payment planes available as the issue at hand is extremely time sensitive, so kindly respond to this email to resolve this matter. If you have any doubts about the credibility of this email, please refer to the terms and conditions under the breach of contract via the online application filed up by you. Sincerely, Barbossa Salvatori, senior investigator at Federal Crime of Investigation. 

Joe Carrigan: So much going on here, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: This is such a great sample. First off, there is a phone number in here, and I asked Anthony if he called the phone number. He did call them, and some guy with a Russian accent called him back and addressed him only as a criminal, right? So they're following up with this. But Anthony, of course, hung up. He realized. He's a security professional. He's like, no, this is a scam. 

Joe Carrigan: And they cite the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which we were talking about earlier, which states that it is illegal to notify people's employers or harass people via their employer about this. But they say, that's what we're going to do. 

Joe Carrigan: It's so obvious from the grammar that's bad - one of my favorite things is it says, if you are on state-supervised probation - and it says on, but it probably should've said or... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: ...Or payroll, like P-A-Y-R - like you're on the payroll, but it's actually... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: ...Parole. They're trying (laughter)... 

Dave Bittner: Oh, oh, oh. Google Translate error. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. I don't even know if that's Google Translate 'cause I think Google Translate would've translated parole properly and wouldn't have translated it to payroll. And there are no payment planes. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: This looks like it was translated by hand by somebody who is not a native English speaker, I think. They're trying to be very scary, but they haven't really done a good job here. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) It's like they're throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. 

Joe Carrigan: Right, exactly. Yep. 

Dave Bittner: There's just a little bit of - there's something for everyone in this scam (laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Yep, absolutely. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. All right. 

Joe Carrigan: Thank you, Anthony, for sending this in. I appreciate it. 

Dave Bittner: It was a good one, for sure. And that is our Catch of the Day. 

Dave Bittner: All right, Joe, I recently had the pleasure speaking with Ming Yang. She is the CEO of an organization called Orchard, and they are focused on providing tech support to parents. I think this is a useful service. Here's my conversation with Ming Yang. 

Ming Yang: It's one of those problems that we've ignored for the longest time - that everyone knows the kind of digital literacy in the older population is a huge problem, but we never experience the pain point that much that people are willing to step up and say, hey, I think this is something that needs to be solved. And with COVID, I think that really highlights how big of a problem this is that people are now - literally can't attend family celebrations just because they don't know how to use technology. 

Dave Bittner: And even, you know, being able to go and do tech support, you know, for my folks is harder to do because you have those safety issues in mind. You want to limit the amount of interaction just to try to keep everybody safe. 

Ming Yang: Exactly. I think there's also the element of helping family is always more stressful than helping someone else. There's that emotional connection involved. And we're so emotionally tied to the success of our parents being able to do things with their phones or their computer, so when they make the slightest mistake, we just flip. 


Dave Bittner: Well, and I think it's also from their direction, too, you know? No one wants to be a burden on their children, and I think a lot of folks feel that way. They feel bad that they're not better at this than they are. 

Ming Yang: Yeah, yeah. And they feel like it's a bother. This seems like such a small problem, the, oh, what if - so what that they feel like a bother? 

Ming Yang: My mom recently - and this is a bit of a kind of a sad story. But recently, my uncle passed away in Hong Kong, and he was in the emergency room, so no one had a chance to say goodbye, including his family. And my mom and him had always had a special bond, but they haven't seen each other in probably 15 years. And they actually have not been - spoken to each other in the past 10 years, actually, before he suddenly now passed away. 

Ming Yang: And when she and I were talking about, you know, how is everything, how is she feeling about everything, I asked her, why didn't you ever talk to him? Why didn't you ever just, you know, call him on WhatsApp? He has WhatsApp. Just video chat with him, see him. And she said, well, I know how to use WeChat because you taught me and you set that up for me, but I didn't want to bother you any further, so I didn't - and I couldn't figure out WhatsApp, so I didn't ask you to help me. 

Ming Yang: And because of this, this mental barrier that she didn't ask me, and she now can no longer talk to her brother again, literally for the rest of her life. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Ming Yang: And it's these little things that really highlight for me, in my own day-to-day, how important digital literacy is and having someone that's dedicated to help our older parents with technology - how important that is. 

Dave Bittner: It also strikes me that it emphasizes the importance of folks like us reaching out and asking the folks who we're responsible for, what is it that you would like to do? Is there anything that you would like to be able to do with technology that you can't do right now? To not just assume that because they can use their TV or, you know, their computer that that's enough. 

Ming Yang: Absolutely. Yeah, because we're not them. We don't know what we want - and I think we think what they have is enough a lot of times because we're so accustomed to the fact that older adults don't really use technology and it's just not what they do. But we are actually - by making that assumption, we are actually stripping them the opportunity to live life to the fullest in the 21st century, which involves a lot, a lot of technology. 

Dave Bittner: It seems to me like there's also this issue that the devices themselves are getting more complex, and they don't always have a mode to simplify things for folks who might need that. You know, I know recently, in the past year or so, my parents got a new TV, and the first thing I had to do was go in and disable all of the apps and... 


Dave Bittner: ...All sorts of options so that they weren't overwhelmed by it. 

Ming Yang: Yeah, technology is not designed for older users - big, vicious design loop that in human-computer interaction and user design, we look at, who are we designing this for? How are they going to use it? And then we design around that and make sure that is a great experience. And because for the most part, designers don't think that an older adult will be the target audience for using the technology, so then they don't design for the older adults, which then older adults cannot use it because it's not designed for them, which this creates this giant, vicious cycle that - I think it's time for some breaking (ph). 

Ming Yang: With the complexity of how much things are changing and how fast they're changing, I'm pretty sure that by the time that I'm 75, I'm not going to be able to figure out all the newest, coolest things that are coming out. I'm going to be just as lost. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. No, I find that for myself, I rely on my kids sometimes. I'll just say, just make it work. Just make it work. I don't need to know how. Just make it work. 


Ming Yang: And I think that is kind of the - that speaks a lot about the age difference and kind of the priorities in our lives. Where I think for one of the things for young people - yes, of course we grew up in the digital transformation age. Like, we have a very strong intuition about where the buttons go, what they would do. But it's also that we have the mental energy and the time to just go and explore and make mistakes, whereas when we are older, we just need things to work. We have things that we have to do. We have goals we got to hit. We just need it to work. We don't have time to really explore around. 

Ming Yang: So I think that priority shift means that we need to be doing something to help people that are older to adapt to kind of the newest technology that could be actually beneficial for helping them with their work or achieving some kind of goals. 

Dave Bittner: Well, help us understand, I mean, the work that you're doing at Orchard, where you're doing technology coaching and you're doing support services for older folks. What are some of the things that you've learned through that process? Are there - have there been any things along the way that have been surprising for you? 

Ming Yang: Yeah, definitely - so, so many. The biggest thing is I've always thought - and this is a very general assumption. Just like everyone else, I don't really understand older adults and their use for technology. Before I started Orchard, I used to think that they just need help, let's say, setting up an iPad or texting some pictures to a friend, but they just need help, and that's it. 

Ming Yang: But what I've learned is that they actually really want to learn. They see this as a self-improvement process that is similar to - for us is going to the gym. It's an ever-growing self-improvement process that - it's stressful. We know that it's good for us, and we put it off, but we know why we should do it. So that's why we get the gym membership that we use, let's say, like, once a month. 

Ming Yang: But for older adults, it's the same thing. It's a learning process. They know that it's good for them. Learning technology is crucial. They know the benefits, but they need help. Like, they need someone that is consistent, that is patient, that understands what they need to know and how they need to learn it. And they just have not been able to find these people. And I think that's what they struggle the most. They want help, but no one's been reaching out and say, yes, let me help you. And that's what we do. 

Dave Bittner: What about the notion of having, you know, someone that they feel like they can trust? I mean, I would imagine along the way, you and your folks build relationships with these people. 

Ming Yang: Absolutely. Every interaction is a relationship. And it's definitely not just the technology. The people that we look for for our tech coaches are very personable people - that they're not just friendly and nice; they're actually personable, people that you feel that you can actually get to know, that you feel comfortable, that you're speaking to a human being. That kind of just - skip all the small talk and get to what you really want to talk about. 

Ming Yang: And that is actually quite crucial, having - feeling that there's someone that can support you. We - sometimes we hear people tell us - or people really rejecting the idea of kind of getting coaching for technology at the beginning. And their kids purchased our service for them, and they go, oh, I - that's not for me. Technology and I kind of don't - we don't go together. 

Ming Yang: And then they start interacting with us and understand what we're about and what we - who we are, and they suddenly switch their gear and say - you know what? - I trust you, and I'm ready to ask one of my stupid questions. I don't even feel embarrassed anymore. And that's really, at the end of the day, what we're trying to do. 

Dave Bittner: Well, and I have to say I hadn't really considered it before, but just being able to take out that family connection could be (laughter) - there's a benefit there. 

Ming Yang: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: You know, you say that your parents don't feel as though they're taking up your time or you're interrupting. You know, to have someone that they can reach out to who is a trusted source, but also, you know, they're being paid for this, so they're - they should be on the other end of that line when that call is made. They're on-demand. 

Ming Yang: Yes, exactly. Exactly. 

Dave Bittner: Joe, what do you think? 

Joe Carrigan: I liked that interview. I'm glad to see that Ming is doing this. It's a service that is out there that is required. And I think that she's going to do very well with this. 

Joe Carrigan: She is 100% correct about the difficulty of providing tech support to our parents. I love how she says, when our parents make a single mistake, we flip out. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: We flip. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: It's very difficult to do that with our parents or our in-laws because - especially when you're doing over-the-phone tech support. It frustrates me to no end, but we still do it. 

Joe Carrigan: Ming's story about her mom and her uncle is heartbreaking, though. I hated to hear that, and it was sad. I feel for her, and I know - I understand how she feels about this as well. You know, she feels like she could've done more, and it sounds like that is what started this and what maybe inspired her to start this company. 

Joe Carrigan: I agree with you, Dave, that things come with way too much functionality, particularly for older users. But your TV example is something that just burns me up. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: You know, I cannot find a TV that is just a TV anymore. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: I've heard that you can go out and buy a hospitality TV. 

Dave Bittner: Industrial displays - so, you know, the display is kind of like, you know, the menuing system at a McDonald's. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: You know, those kinds of things - those exist, but they cost a premium. 

Joe Carrigan: I like when she says learning technology is a mental exercise, and people want to learn. That is probably true of a lot of older people. They want to learn. You know, I don't have a problem in acquiring the skills to use new technology, although I will say I haven't bothered learning how to use Snapchat (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: Beyond Joe (ph) sending a picture to somebody or sending a text. With her company, when she starts talking, I think, why didn't I think of this? You know, this would've been a great business opportunity for me. But then she kind of lays this out, and her instructors have to be friendly, nice and, most importantly, personable, and I am none of those things. So... 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Good to know... 

Joe Carrigan: It's not really a good business model for me. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, good to know your limitations, Joe. 

Joe Carrigan: Right, exactly. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: So I hope that Ming is very successful with this. 

Joe Carrigan: One of the things that is absolutely true is that when she removes the family barrier and changes that dynamic to, this is something I pay for, I think people are going to use that more frequently. 

Joe Carrigan: Going back to her story with her mom and her uncle, that her mom didn't want to bother her with asking how to use this service, but if her mom would've had a service like this that she paid for, she would've called those people and go, how do I get on WhatsApp and talk to my brother in Hong Kong? 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. No, I love the idea of it, you know? 

Joe Carrigan: Me, too. 

Dave Bittner: And I can't say that I've used it personally, so, you know, I can't go so far as to endorse it or anything. But just... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...The concept itself, I really - I think she's absolutely right here that removing yourself from this, having someone who's not a family member, I think, is a win-win for everybody involved (laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: So if it's the kind of thing you can afford, boy, what a luxury to have. Like I said, this could be a good thing for everybody. For the folks who are getting the help, they're not going to feel guilty. They're not going to feel like they're being a burden. You know, you're not going to get frustrated because, you know, you get called all times of the day because the, you know... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...'Cause they can't log in to the Safari or... 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...(Laughter) you know, or whatever, right? 

Joe Carrigan: They can't use the Snapchat, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: Right, yeah. That's it. That's it. All right. Well, again, our thanks to Ming Yang for joining us. The company name is Orchard, and we appreciate her taking the time for us. 

Dave Bittner: We want to thank all of you for listening. That is our show. 

Dave Bittner: Of course, we want to thank the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute for their participation. You can learn more at isi.jhu.edu. 

Dave Bittner: The "Hacking Humans" podcast is proudly produced in Maryland at the startup studios of DataTribe, where they're co-building the next generation of cybersecurity teams and technologies. Our senior coordinating producer is Jennifer Eiben. Our executive editor is Peter Kilpe. I'm Dave Bittner. 

Joe Carrigan: And I'm Joe Carrigan. 

Dave Bittner: Thanks for listening.