Older Australians just as at risk with internet security as the younger

On the internet, there is always a risk that your details could go wandering, and new research suggests that one in five Aussies aged 50 to 75 are having just that happen, while this age bracket also shares weak passwords with the young.

The information is coming out of security company McAfee and its “Silver Surfers survey,” a report that highlights the activities of people above the age of 50 who spend time surfing the web, in what McAfee calls “silver surfers.”

According to the research, which was conducted on 500 Australians, 7 out of 10 have been targeted by scammers and one out of five have been the victim of online fraud.

The good news is that most older Australians who are online are at least careful about what they post online, with 99 percent of those surveyed aware, though 81 percent of these sharing personal information online.

What is interesting, however, is to see how this information clashes with the way young Australians are using the internet, and McAfee has found that roughly 27 percent of older Australians are using low-security passwords, which is a stark contrast to the roughly 40 percent of tweens in Australia that are going online with poor passwords.

“We know from our research on teens and tweens that these two age groups are at a high risk due to their fast adoption of technologies, but now we’re seeing the same trend with our older Australians and their internet behaviour,” said McAfee’s Keith Buckley, Managing Director for the company’s Asia Pacific division, adding that “cyber education at any age is critical.

This cyber education can come in the form of making sure online security software is used, something barely half of older Australians are using, and even in the form of creating secure passwords, which seems to be a problem across both the old and young divide in Australia.

Remember that passwords that sound simple often are, and if you’re using a common word or birthday, it might be time to shake that up with extra characters, such as that of an ampersand, at sign, or exclamation mark, even interchanging letters for similar numbers.

Passwords are often the only protection we have to our complete identity, and the more time you spend refining this to be stronger, the less likely you’ll have it broken in the process, ready to be misused without you aware of it.

Other parts of the problem seem to stem from Australians just getting caught unaware, a fact noted by the Queensland Police Service’s Detective Superintendent Brian Hay, who says that “over 90 per cent of the millions of dollars of fraud money going to West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana every month is from love scams.

“We also see older Australians getting caught up in lottery scams and much of this money goes to the US and Canada,” said Hay. “Of particular concern is identity theft.”

According to Hay, the key to fixing this is awareness, and delivering “ongoing education to the older community to encourage them to protect themselves and to be aware of the risks.”

As with all things online, it’s best to be aware that something that sounds too good to be true usually is, and anyone offering you money, love, or property online without you knowing them is likely telling a porky, so try not to be fooled, because they’ll happily take you and your money for a ride, and you’ll just be left another number on one of these surveys.