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January 10, 2014

Baby Boomers on the Internet: A Scary Thing

The Internet is a scary place. My generation has watched it grow from a place to look up information to one that is transforming the lives of many, removing physical barriers and even fostering an environment for spying, scandal and theft.

Working for a tech publication aside, it’s pretty apparent to most Web users that you have to be careful with how you present yourself on the Web. Precautions over personal information sharing and clicking on malicious links are pretty much common sense for most of us.

But for the generation before me, the Internet is an even scarier place because so many are still unaware of the dangers or aren’t taking it serious.

The baby boomer generation, adults aged 50 to 68, have found their way to the Internet and are now banking online, using social networking and enjoying so many of the other benefits younger generations have been afforded by the World Wide Web.

Pew Internet Research found earlier this year that a third of American adults own tablet computers, and the number of older adults ages 65 and over who own tablets is also increasing.

But those in this age group, who are easily trusting, may lack the insight needed to realize that a friendly face on the other side of a friend request, or an important security update from a company they recognize the name of, might actually be a criminal posing and looking to victimize them.

Research from AVG back in 2012 found a pressing need for baby boomers to become more educated about digital security. But how much have things improved since then?

I’d like to assume that the fact that I work for a technology publication isn’t the only reason I’m more cautious about the Internet these days.

I mean, who doesn’t realize that people can figure out your password and read your emails if you’re not careful or that by clicking on what seems to be a legitimate link from a friend, you can become a spamming victim?

I raise this question because my mother and her friends, who are Baby Boomers, recently had a few  spam statuses on Facebook. I quickly noticed them and tried to warn them about it.

One comment about changing your password to stop this posting of 'spammy' statuses suddenly turned me into an IT help desk. That got me to thinking. If something this easy can happen on Facebook, what other ways were these cruel attackers already making their way into scamming this less informed population of Internet users?

McAfee took a closer look at this and revealed survey results that proved while Baby Boomers are online and more confident about using new technologies, they are over sharing personal information and putting themselves at risk.

Respondents of the survey said they had voluntarily shared their personal information online with people they had never even met in person. This included sharing phone numbers, emails and home addresses. Many also admitted to not having proper security protections on the mobile devices they were using.

The Infographic below, compiled by techgenie, takes an even closer look at Baby Boomers and the security risks they are putting themselves against online.

As we continue to transform to an even more Internet-focused world, these threats will continue to grow and new ways of protecting yourself will be revealed daily. It is the job of every Internet user, regardless of age, to stay abreast of these incidents and find ways to safeguard against them. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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