Cybersecurity for seniors this holiday season: all generations are a target

December 22, 2022  |  Adithya Bharath

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Gift for cyber well being

During the holiday season, it is essential to take extra precautions when it comes to cybersecurity. Cybercriminals may be more active than usual, looking for ways to exploit unsuspecting users. Protect yourself and your loved ones, ensure that you and they are up to date with the latest security software, and be mindful of potential scams.

Furthermore, only visit trusted websites and know the risks before making technological purchases. Cyber security can seem complicated, but anyone can protect themselves from common cyber threats with the correct information. Additionally, be aware of the various scams aimed at senior citizens during the holidays, such as fake holiday deals, phishing emails, fake charities, sweepstakes, or even threats to disconnect a senior's utilities. Taking these extra precautions can help ensure a safe and secure holiday season.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for an intergenerational cyber awareness program to help seniors and their grandchildren stay safe online. Using a grandchild's name for a password may be cute, but it's not always the safest option. Educating them and their grandchildren about the risks and best practices of using technology is essential to promote cyber well-being for seniors. A conversation between generations can be a powerful tool for increasing cyber security and safety. By providing age-appropriate lessons, we can create a strong bond across generations and make sure that everyone can stay safe online

No matter your age, staying informed about cyber security is essential today. Elder fraud is becoming increasingly common, with scams taking different forms, such as fraudulent phone calls, phishing attempts through email and social media, or shopping scams. It is essential for everyone to be aware of the risks associated with the online world and to be responsible digital citizens.

To make this easier, it takes a "cyber village" to help raise savvy cyber citizens. For example, I have been able to explain the importance of cyber to my grandparents. They enjoy using iPad and social media to stay connected and are a great example of how anyone can become a responsible digital citizen.

Be aware of the potential dangers of oversharing online, particularly on social media. Personal details such as your name, family member's name, home address, telephone numbers, and even answers to your secret question when you set passwords should be kept private. Be wary if you're ever contacted online by someone who requests this information. It is best to ignore unsolicited requests for personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and passwords.

Be on the lookout for any suspicious deals, discounts, or coupons that may be sent to you via email. It is essential to be aware of phishing scams, which often involve requests for you to act urgently to take advantage of a deal or prize. Also, be mindful of attachments containing malicious content, as they can infect your computer with a virus. Be vigilant and know how to spot any malicious baits confidently.

A password manager can be your friend: Change the default password if you have a device that will connect to the Internet. A device is not just your phone or laptop; everything from your Internet router, TVs, and home thermostats to Wi-Fi is included. What does a strong password look like? Use a phrase instead of a word. "Passphrases" are easy to remember but difficult to guess. If the field allows, use spaces as special characters for added strength, making the phrase easier to type.

Longer is stronger for passwords. The best passwords are at least ten characters and include some capitalization and punctuation. Typing the passphrase becomes a habit (usually within a few days). Some additional strategies include misspelling, a nursery rhyme, a movie quote, or song lyrics with a twist.

Don't fall for free Wi-Fi: Be smart about where and how you connect to the Internet for banking or other communications involving sensitive personal information. Public Wi-Fi networks and computers at places such as libraries or hotel business centers can be risky if they don't have up-to-date security software. The process starts now with teaching our family, especially older generations, how to interact with new technologies safely

When in doubt, reach out! Beware of scammers, especially during the holidays. A stranger may claim an urgent emergency involving your grandchild and ask for thousands of dollars by declaring a critical emergency involving a child or grandchild, posing as a kidnapper demanding ransom or grandchildren in distress.

Also, no tech support company will call you. If anyone pressures you to buy a computer security product or says, a subscription fee is associated with a call, hang up. If you're concerned about your computer, call your security software company and ask for help. Watch out for copycat websites too.

During the holidays, you'll see an increase in-store sales emails. Be sure to verify the sender's address, hover over links before clicking to see the URL address, and only enter information into websites with URLs that start with "HTTPS." Also, beware of fake delivery notifications. Once you place an online order that requires shipping, you'll usually receive delivery notifications telling you when your order has shipped and your expected delivery date. However, some of these notifications can be phishing scams that hide behind legitimate business names to get your private information. To avoid falling victim to these scams, make sure you receive tracking information so that you can easily find your items

Have you done your cyber exercises? It's important to remember that passwords should be kept secret, just like your special cookie recipe. Even though these tips may not be new for the holidays, reviewing and applying them to your normal activities is still essential. During the holiday season, when the cousins come to visit or when you make your famous cookie recipe, things can get a little bit busier. So, to ensure that your festive season isn't ruined, here are the top 10 tips to help you stay cyber-secure:

  1. I avoid using free Wi-Fi and use a VPN or my mobile phone as a hotspot when going online.
  2. I disable auto-connect on my devices and keep track of my laptop, smartphone, tablet, and accessories such as USB drives, especially while on the go.
  3.  I don't leave my devices unattended in public places and avoid using the same password for different accounts.
  4. I change my passwords regularly and ensure they are at least ten characters long, involve a mix of upper- and lower-case letters plus symbols and numbers, and avoid the obvious. I also change the default passwords on my connected devices, such as Wi-Fi routers and printers.
  5.  I never write my passwords down or share them with others, and I avoid clicking on suspicious links or links I'm unsure of.
  6. I don't open suspicious emails or attachments and never click on ads that promise free money, prizes, or discounts.
  7. I am wary of strange or unexpected messages, even from people I know, and I don't answer personal questions when using a text or voice chat online gaming session.
  8. When using social media, I limit the personal information I post and only add people I know.
  9. Before I act, I search for information about a proposed offer and never send money or personally identifiable information to unverified people or businesses.
  10. I use reputable antivirus software and ensure I regularly update them, and I never share financial account information or allow anyone access to my accounts.


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