RESEARCH BLOG

Helping senior citizens with cyber security

Making it to an older age demands respect. It means you’ve been successful at life, that you’ve been able to provide for yourself and have had the time to accumulate a wealth of wisdom about the world. That being said, decades of experiences don’t exactly translate to technological know-how.

It can be hard to understand why a man who stormed the beach at Normandy would be afraid of using an iPad, but it’s important to realize that technology has advanced quite a lot in the past few years. At a certain point, keeping up with it all becomes too much. And while it might be frustrating to help your elders with their devices, remember: Changing your diaper wasn’t a walk in the park, either.

Even so, having a discussion about online safety is absolutely crucial for senior citizens. There are a lot of nefarious individuals out there who don’t treat these people with the respect they deserve, and it’s your job to help keep these cyber criminals at bay.

The first step is to explain what hackers can do

The reason that so many senior citizens fall for hacking schemes is the simple fact that they don’t understand how cyber criminals operate. To a generation that grew up on newspapers and radio, the Internet can seem quite foreign. It’s a completely different technology with its own culture, and fully immersing yourself in it can take some getting use to.

“Phishing’s significance in the online criminal underworld bears repeating.”

The sad reality is that a lot of hackers use this lack of knowledge to scam senior citizens. There are a lot of ways that they can go about doing this, but one of the most successful schemes targeted at older generations is phishing. We’ve talked about this scam before, but phishing’s significance in the online criminal underworld bears repeating.

A phishing plot goes like this: The hacker writes up an email, many times claiming to be an authoritative figure like a bank administrator. They’ll then ask you to enter in your account information to solve some made-up problem. They send this email out to a massive number of people.

“Get Cyber Safe”, a Canadian cyber security initiative, found that around 156 million phishing emails are sent out each day. But a vast majority of these are either ignored or caught by spam filters. Only about 0.05 percent of phishing emails are successful. That being said, the huge starting number means that a lot of people are still going to fall victim to these scams.

The reason phishing is so scary is that basic cyber security software, especially when it’s free, can’t really protect you. Experience at spotting a fake is the easiest way to avoid these scams, which is why having a talk with seniors in your life about personal security is so important.

Discuss online best practices

Once you’ve helped them comprehend what phishing and other hacking attempts can look like, it’s time to talk about what they should be doing online to protect themselves. The first point should be that your elders should never give their account information to anyone other than the official sites that data is relevant to. This means explaining that banks or other financial institutions will never ask for your username and password in any other format other than on their official website.

What’s more, it’s important to discuss what malware is and how it can be picked up. No one should never click on a link they aren’t 100 percent sure of, and they also need to know that going to less-than-reputable websites can result in their computers being infected. Considering the Better Business Bureau found that it takes around 170 days to discover a cyber attack, preventing a hack in the first place is obviously preferable.

Cyber security software is a must

Cyber security software is absolutely necessary for online seniors. While they may not be able to stop phishing attacks, they work wonders at blocking malware and viruses. What’s more, this kind of software has advanced to the point of being able to cover multiple devices. Many older people are introducing themselves to the Internet through tablets, as the touchpad interface allows for a simple transition. Cyber security software can protect these devices as well, helping to keep your elderly loved ones safe online.