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My roommate is a bit paranoid about security and privacy. He’s also not very good with computers. He told me he got a message that his gmail account had been compromised, and recently his laptop has been acting slow. He went to network and sharing center and noticed that a printer with my name was there. He takes this as a sign that I have access to his laptop (which of course I don’t).

He had a 10 minute conversation with me and was beating around the bush saying things like "privacy is important in a shared household". He finally directly said "I need to know you aren’t downloading files to my laptop" which I replied no, but I get the feeling he doesn’t trust me and holds prejudice against me. I offered to take a look at his laptop to help fix any problems, but he said no.

How can I convince him that I haven't hacked his computer? If he asks me to get rid of my printer or only use a hardwired connection, how can I politely say no?

I don't mean to sound rude, but to me this is such a dumb conversation to be wasting time over, and I don't want to be bothered by it again.

Side note: It's probably not worth bringing up, but I'm curious how he knows I have a printer? It could have been another roommate or the neighbor's. I don't mean to be paranoid, but I feel like this is matching his. Should I ask how he knows I had a printer?

  • Hi there! I edited your question to remove the "what should I do" part and tried to reword the question based on the details given in your post. Feel free to edit or rollback if you think I got you wrong! :) – avazula Jan 14 at 9:50
  • Do you both use a shared wifi connection? – Zorkolot Jan 14 at 14:32
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    It might help to change the printers name from "Haptometer's hacking device" to "FBI Van nr.3". That way you'll be able to use the printer in the way you want to, and he can't use the name of the device as an argument that you are hacking his computer. – Hans Janssen Jan 17 at 13:37
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He thinks you are hacking into his computer. And quite obviously if you did, you would lie about to him about it, and since you would know more about computers than he does, you would be able to come up with all kinds of reasons why he is wrong. In other words, you cannot convince him. Your approach of trying to convince him cannot work.

I would suggest to him that he find a knowledgeable person that he trusts, invites them to your place, and let them look at things. And if that person says everything is fine, then pray that your roommate believes them.

If he wants you to get rid of the printer then repeat that suggestion. And you may advise him that if a real hacker hacked his computer, he wouldn’t be seeing any obvious evidence.

PS. The person that he trusts might want to look at Elmy’s answer. It’s good advice and should work well, just not for you because you are seen as the hacker.

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    While most of this answer is good, "And you may advise him that if a real hacker hacked his computer, he wouldn’t be seeing any obvious evidence" isn't going to help you, it's only going to feed his paranoia. Telling someone paranoid that they cannot tell whether or not they've been attacked rarely reduces their paranoia levels. – Arcanist Lupus Jan 18 at 19:31
  • Another roommate got a wireless printer so hopefully seeing two will decrease his sense that it's a sign he was hacked – Haptometer Feb 17 at 12:23
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I worked for 17 years as an IT technician in a work environment where some people were far less tech-savvy than your roommate. They wouldn't even know how to find the network and sharing centre.

I think this proves the saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Your friend has found his way to some settings and information that he does not understand, and he is making massive and incorrect assumptions. He seems a little paranoid - why on earth would someone hack someone else's laptop to add their printer to it? That's like breaking into someone's house to leave them a gift!

Just considering the technical aspect for a moment with yourself - I take it that either:

  • Your computer is connected to his WiFi router, and that this means he trusts your computer to be on his network, or;
  • That you have your own WiFi network but your printer is wireless and is being detected by his computer as a wireless device, regardless of the fact it is on a different network.

In the first case, you have an advantage in that he already trusts you to share his network. A simple, non-technical explanation for this might be:

All computers automatically detect printers on the same network. Because you share your wifi with me, your computer detects my printer automatically. Nobody has been onto your computer to add it. A printer needs to be visible so that people can use it, but your computer has security to stop any unwanted access.

If on the other hand you have your own network, and he is just detecting your wireless printer, perhaps say:

I'm not even connected to your network so I can't hack your laptop. My printer has its own wireless network so that anybody can print to it, and your computer has just detected it, that's all.

Hopefully, this also answers your supplementary question which is how he knows you have a printer. Some wireless printers broadcast their own identity so that anyone can print to it without having access to a particular network. I once had to explain a similar situation to a doctor's surgery who believed they had a security breach after a patient sitting in the waiting room printed something from their smartphone to the doctor's printer. They thought he had hacked their network, but the printer had a wireless ID of its own and he had just detected it and printed directly to it. The thought also occurs to me that your roommate could even be detecting a neighbour's printer and not yours at all!

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    I would also mention that if you don't need to share printers, you should turn off the wireless function of your printer and simply connect it to your computer via cable. – pboss3010 Jan 17 at 13:47
  • @pboss3010 Good technical solution but I won't add it in because it isn't an interpersonal solution. I've assumed that the OP does not want to change anything on a technical level, otherwise he'd have done that already. This is just about the conversation with his roommate. – Astralbee Jan 17 at 15:30
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    I'm not sure that's even necessarily a good technical solution. It would prevent printing from mobile and frankly another cable can be a hassle, especially if there isn't room for the printer close to the computer. – Kat Jan 17 at 19:17
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You could start with a live demonstration.

Let him look at his laptop and see the printer connected. Then walk to the printer together and turn it off (by disconnecting it from power, just to be sure). Let him see first hand that the printer disappears from his display. Then reconnect the printer and let him see it reappear.

Explain to him that you made the printer available to everyone in the network and that you express your trust by doing so. You could offer that your roommate print something, just to demonstrate.

You can propose that your roommate do a thorough virus scan and even suggest a good (free) virus scanner. Tell him to scan all his USB storages as well, because that's how viruses are often transported to different computers. You should not propose or even insist on doing it yourself. If your roommate actually thinks you're a hacker, having physical acces to his laptop won't dispel any suspicion.

And tell him to change his passwords. All of them, especially if he uses the same password for different accounts. When hackers do have access to a mail account, they can request "forgotten password" mails from virtually any website (like paypal) or online shop.


If your roommate is still suspicious after all that, it's time to go into details and explain to him that hacking doesn't work like that.

Some arguments you could use are:

  • Hacking someone is illegal. You won't do anything that might endanger your future just to prank a roommate.
  • You are not the first roommates sharing a network in the history of computers. If connecting 2 computers in a network would grant access to data on them, there would have been more scandals and news about it.
  • If connecting to a network granted access to data, people wouldn't use free wifi in shops and restaurants.
  • Hackers often guess weak passwords. If his Google password is something like 'secret123' it's no wonder his account got compromized.
  • He could have received a phishing mail that lookes like it came from Google. Maybe show him how to check a link URL before clicking on it.

Basically, you need to teach him enough about hacking that he understands what could be happening with his laptop. If he doesn't believe you, show him simple explanations of the topic online (using public resources as a neutral authority to affirm your information).

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