Cyber Security for Seniors

Cyber criminals think older folks are easy prey. Follow these steps and prove ’em wrong.

In a previous article we focused on security issues kids face on the internet and how, in some ways, younger people can teach their elders a thing or two. Having grown up online, they are savvy in how the digital world works.

Senior citizens, on the other hand, can sometimes be uninformed or even naive in the world of the web — the concepts of coding, social networking and online commerce can present an unfamiliar and dumbfounding landscape.

Believing this, criminally motivated hackers regularly target seniors with phishing emails, ransomware, cryptojacking and a variety of other scams. Two examples:

In the Tuscon, Ariz., area, several seniors sent foreign scammers money after being duped into thinking they’d found romance online. 

Another example: Arizona, a state with a large population of retirees, reported more than 8,300 cases of identity theft in 2017.

The good news is that there are simple steps seniors can take to protect themselves. 

Sites for Seniors

There are many good sites that offer tips for staying safe in the virtual world. StaySafeOnline.org is one, as is APlaceForMom.com, a website dedicated to issues related to senior living.

One of my favorites is ConnectSafely.org, which has an article for seniors on how to choose the most secure passwords. Based on their guidance, and my own experience, here are a few tips:

• Use strong and unique passwords.

• Never share your passwords with anyone, unless you’ve designated someone you trust to manage your accounts. 

• Make sure your passwords are long — at least 12 characters — and include numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and symbols.

Seniors should also understand and use privacy settings. Most services have settings that let you control who can see what you post. 

CaregiverStress.com offers some useful advice, as well, including the following:

• Use the password-protection function on your smartphone.

• Take a deep breath before acting on urgent online requests.

• Be cautious about what you share online.

• Use security software. Credible vendors I recommend include Trend Micro, McAfee, Symantec and Sophos.

Security-Specific Resources

It’s also important to keep up on security news. To know what the bad guys are up to, I peruse the following sites each morning:

The Wall Street Journal, which has ramped up its cybersecurity coverage in recent months; Krebs on Security, the website of Brian Krebs, one of the finest security journalists in the industry; Dark Reading, a website that offers security-focused coverage 24/7; and Naked Security, a website maintained by Sophos. It is particularly good at simplifying complex threats in a way anyone can understand.

Bottom line: Awareness and education go a long way.

It’s also worth noting that online scruples are something anyone can attain, regardless of age. For all their early exposure to the internet, millennials have made plenty of mistakes, visiting a variety of questionable websites and sharing way too much on social media sites. To that end, younger people could learn some things from their elders.     

Read Bill’s previous articles on Cyber Security:
Natural Born Hackers
How Hackers Steal Christmas

 

 

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