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Baby Boomers need to improve their digital security practices

October 1st, 2012

lockBaby boomers have fully joined the digital age: most carry mobile phones, many use tablets, and significant numbers use social media. But they are not security savvy. A recent 15-city North American digital security survey shows a pressing need for baby boomers to become more educated about digital security.

While the original survey by AVG Technologies identified the top 10 savviest cities for digital protection, numbers also revealed that baby boomers still have a lot of work to do when it comes to safeguarding against identity theft, financial fraud and loss of personal data.

Defined as adults between the ages of 46 and 64, baby boomers make up one quarter of the U.S. population. 81 percent own desktop computers, 61 percent use laptops, and another 30 percent have smartphones. A surprising 20 percent use tablets to conduct online transactions.

While baby boomers have demonstrated a willingness to use today’s most advanced digital platforms, many are still not aware of the resources available to protect their identities.

Of the 1,300 baby boomers surveyed with home Internet access, AVG determined the following:

  • 65 percent don’t check online banking statements more than once per week
  • More than 40 percent use one low limit credit card for online purchases

“Some of the better attackers know exactly who they are dealing with and will view baby boomers as being deficient in online safety skills,” said JR Smith, CEO of AVG Technologies.

“The opportunity to take advantage of them is on the rise; therefore, it’s important for baby boomers to familiarize themselves with how to minimize the risk of theft or fraud.”

At least some baby boomers have taken proactive steps toward digital security. The survey highlights that 39 percent run manual antivirus scans more than once per month, a good preventative measure, which AVG offers along with providing real-time scanning for web and file access. However, more than 50 percent back up their home computer data with external media such as CDs, USB sticks or other personal storage products.

When it comes to mobile security, baby boomers are even further exposed:

  • Almost 60 percent do not use a cell phone password
  • 45 percent would have to manually re-enter data should their phone be lost or stolen
  • Nearly 20 percent report at least one other person knows their password

“Mobile devices have become extremely popular with aging parents and grandparents,” said Smith.

“Tablets and smartphones simply make life easier by allowing access to family photos, banking, shopping, and medical records from any location at any time. What they don’t know is that public Wi-Fi, for example, makes them extremely vulnerable to data theft. And you don’t have to be a grandpa to leave your iPad in a taxi.”

In addition to installing a free, robust antivirus program on PCs and mobile devices, AVG recommends the following simple steps to minimize the risk of fraudulent charges, identity theft and personal data loss:

  • Use one credit card with a low spending limit for all online purchases. Monitor this account regularly, and flag any inappropriate activity immediately to the bank or lending institution.
  • Change passwords regularly, use variations for each online account, and never, ever share them with others.
  • Back up data! Back up data on computers with external hard drives or a cloud-based solution such as AVG LiveKive, and don’t forget about mobile devices, too.
  • Protect data on the go. The more personal information is shared via mobile devices, the more hackers will target these tools. AVG AntiVirus for Android™ smartphones and tablets not only adds protection from malware; it can remotely wipe the device if lost or stolen.
  • Be wary of phishing scams. Never click on links in emails from banks, or other financial institutions – go directly to their URL and enter log-in information from their homepage.

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