How seniors can protect their online independence through cybersecurity literacy

(BPT) - It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the increased use of the internet and technology for many; however, this trend is best highlighted by seniors. A recent survey on global internet trends conducted by Avast in partnership with Forsa and YouGov found that 22% of people over the age of 65 spend more than three hours per day online. Forty-six percent also noted that the internet has become more important since the start of the pandemic. While this shift was great for staying in touch with loved ones and keeping busy in a time of isolation, drawbacks emerged.

With the uptick in use, online threats like malware (software designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorized access to a computer system), phishing scams (manipulation through deception into disclosing sensitive personal information), tech support fraud (unsolicited offers to help fix alleged computer problems) and even romance scams culminating in untraceable payments to bad actors, emerged.

Elders reported the least confidence in their online abilities, with only about 16% asserting their ability to do things online is “very good.” This is particularly relevant when looking at fears that keep seniors from fully participating online; in fact, 69% of people over the age of 65 decided not to do something due to security and privacy concerns, and another 17% felt that they don’t have enough online protection knowledge. Further, fears of being a digital burden put older Americans at greater risk online due to a direct correlation between internet literacy, the perceived burden on others, and frustration of online tasks for those over 55.

According to the FBI, Americans were particularly impacted by tech support fraud, which garnered nearly 10 million attack attempts on computer users between January and March 2021. These scams are particularly insidious because although seniors make up 66% of tech support fraud victims, they shoulder a disproportionate amount of the financial losses at 84% in the U.S., translating to $116 million in 2020.

"In our increasingly digital world, cybersecurity literacy is essential, especially as many crucial social interactions and essential services moved online due to the pandemic," said Ramsey Alwin, President and CEO of the National Council on Aging. "Despite the risks of using technology, the rewards are boundless. Older adults need to be empowered to extend their independence in the online domain to participate wholly in our modern society."

Build confidence online and avoid becoming a victim by using a comprehensive security and privacy solution and following three simple rules:

  • Don’t click links: Whether from senders you don’t recognize or messages you aren’t expecting, clicking on suspicious links may lead to phishing scams.
  • Don’t open attachments: Unless you know the sender and were expecting the document in question, they may be a vehicle housing malicious programs on behalf of an attacker.
  • Don’t respond to calls or pop-ups: Unsolicited calls or pop-up windows could be facilitating a tech support scam or other sinister activity. If in doubt, hang up or close the window and contact someone you trust.

“It’s fantastic that older adults are discovering the rich rewards that a more digitally connected life can offer,” said Jaya Baloo, Chief Information Security Officer, Avast. “However, older adults face disproportionate risks online, causing some to hold back. The key to a rich and safer digitally connected life is to approach being online like driving and follow our clear, simple, defensive tips to help ensure a safer and better online experience.”

If you think you’ve been victimized, call your financial institution and the FBI right away. To learn more about how to protect yourself or your loved ones online, visit https://blog.avast.com/tag/elders for additional easy-to-use resources.

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