Online Security for People Born Before the Net​

Security & Privacy, Threats & Hacks, Tips & Tricks

If the Internet has a birthday, it would be September 2, 1969. On that day, for the first time in known history, two computers communicated with each other.

This means the Internet is quickly approaching its 50th birthday and already well over 3 billion people use it — 9 out of 10 people over 50 in the US –regularly use it.

Older users may be at a disadvantage because they did not grow up using the web or smartphones. Browsing websites didn’t become common until they were in their thirties and the smartphone revolution didn’t take off until their forties.

But that doesn’t mean that they are more likely to be scammed.

According to a 2016 survey from the Better Business Bureau’s Institute for Marketplace Trust, Millennials reported that they are the most likely to be hit by scams on the internet, with 30 percent of those aged 25-34 saying they’d been taken online compared to 10 percent of those aged 55-74.

Why are Baby Boomers better than their kids about staying safe online, even as they spend more time online? Maybe they’re better at taking advice.

Here are five things to do to help make sure you’re not on the wrong side of the the statistics.

  1. Assume unsolicited offers, emails and calls are bad news.
    Scammers are just looking for ways to get into your life. And as the spam filters in our email boxes and social media feeds improve, the quality of the scams have to get better. Criminals rely on our trust of major brands and our willingness to engage to manipulate us down the path toward handing over our private data. Do not click on links or attachments in emails, even when they’re from your banks or favorite online retailers. If you’re contacted by an institution you do business with, go directly to its official site’s help section, which you should bookmark, to find out more. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone wanting you to purchase something, offering tech support or offering you some sort of prize your personal information, hang up. If you’re ever unsure about any call you’ve received, ask for a number to call back so you can check the number through a search engine.
  2. Keep your inbox uncluttered.
    Most of us can’t stay at “inbox zero,” which requires sorting or deleting every email you get as soon as possible. But the fewer emails you have to deal with, the easier it is to focus and avoid clicking on the wrong thing. To avoid clutter, be reluctant to hand over your email address to new sites. Opt-out unless you’re sure you want to be contacted and unsubscribe as soon as you’re ready. You can also reduce the number of calls you get from potential marketers and scammers by signing up for your country’s “Do Not Call” registry.
  3. Get password smart.
    We’ve probably made password security too complicated, at least that’s the opinion of Paul Grassi, the guy who wrote what became the accepted “rules” for good password management in 2003. You don’t need to change them regularly, unless they’ve been stolen. (You can check this at a site like Have I Been Pwned?) Yes, you still need unique, strong passwords for all your important accounts, but they don’t have too filled with strange combinations of special characters, long passphrases that you can remember should work. But even then memorizing dozens of those phrases will be tough. So consider using a password manager, like most cyber security pros do. You can use F-Secure KEY for free on one device.
  4. Use two-factor authentication.
    If a hacker gets control of your email account, she or he could potentially take control of much of your online life. That’s why you should always have a second way to keep them out of your most important accounts, especially your webmail accounts. “Two-factor”authentication adds a second requirement to get into those account that the hacker shouldn’t have immediate access to, usually a code you access via your smartphone. Our experts recommend that you use apps like Google or Microsoft’s authenticator to generate these codes.
  5. Assume you’re going to make mistakes.
    No one is perfect. Given that average Internet users are online dozens of hours each week, we will all make mistakes. If you click on the wrong thing, you want to make sure you keep your system and browser software updated to give crooks fewer ways into your system. And you should always be running updated security software like F-Secure TOTAL, which offers F-Secure SAFE‘s layered protection against advanced ransomware threats and browsing protection to keep you away from malicious websites along with F-Secure FREEDOME‘s complete privacy protection and Wi-Fi Security. You can try it for free.

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