Why the need for internet security?
There are many older individuals who are keen internet users, and who are quite well clued up when it comes to technology.
Around 50% of adults who are aged 65 or over, are using smartphones, and spend a lot of their time at home online.
There has been a rise in these numbers, especially in families who seek help from social security, or they are some kind of assistance program. Comcast’s offering of their low cost Internet Essentials being one such service.
There are many programs that make internet connections possible for low-income households.
While this gives older adults something to do during the day, it does open all manner of ways that this older generation can be cared for while they are at home.
The problem is that every year, seniors fall foul of frauds and are losing out to the tune of tens of billion dollars every year.
It is crucial for more internet security and online privacy for this generation of users. They are prime targets for scammers.
Although they are used to using current technology, there are more ways which scammers and attackers are tricking these individuals into following their frauds.
Aside from this, there are plenty of ways that hackers can glean information without anyone knowing.
It is these areas which are concerning because the things we put in place to keep family members secure, can lead to them being compromised.
Internet of Things and Home Security
IOT or Internet of Things is big business, and there are many areas where devices have been made to make elderly living more comfortable, and safe.
While these areas do make things easier in homes, it also poses plenty of options for online threats to sneak into a home network.
Hackers can easily find out which homes have a low cost internet service, and with this, they find their first weak spot, and possible entry onto a system.
One of the first areas families may not know there is a threat, is from devices they have in place to protect the older members of the family.
Here are some examples of devices that can leave family members open to risks:
Medical Alert Systems
There are many medical alert systems on the market. These are often wearable devices, and if there is a problem, it can be the elder family member uses a regular phone service to call an around the clock call center. They can raise the alarm, and thus aid the person in need.
The problem with these is they are expensive, and come with monthly charges. Newer additions to these devices come without monthly charges, and the need to go through a call center.
These can be plugged into the home network, and the security device works via Wi-Fi. The systems can keep in contact with multiple family members through a smartphone app.
This kind of medical alert system is ideal, but because they require a 24/7 internet connection, it means the Wi-Fi connection, and the base station can be access points to the home network.
Smart Smoke Detectors
Conventional smoke alarms wait until they smell smoke, carbon monoxide and anything else that relates to a fire. These are one of the best things any home can install for security.
Now, we have smart smoke detectors, these do much the same job, but in a much smarter way. If there is a fire or gas leak, then the alarm sounds as usual, but also, they connect to phone apps. These can warn you even when away from home.
These are again a weak area for hackers to gain access because they connect to the homes network for internet access.
Because they have no security features to prevent this, it can be the ideal way for a hacker to sneak in the back door.
With the advent of high-speed internet, some families are making use of remote cameras, and other connected devices. Nest devices such as the camera being one of the more popular.
Families can use these for remote access to check on their home, or in the case of elderly people, they can keep an eye on them throughout the day.
Earlier this year, there have been instances of these being hacked. Not only does a hacker have access to your network, but also they can watch via these cameras.
This is a huge invasion of privacy, and there will be instances where important information will be seen.
Even an elderly person left on their own can be a threat, and an easy target for whoever is watching.
The above, are just a sample of connected devices that pose online security threats. These may be rare compared to the regular threats the older generation face. The common threats are much the same that can be the same for other family members.
Top Online Threats for Seniors
Many older people nowadays turn to the internet so they are able to get to meet new people, learning new stuff and being connected to their families.
The combination of the increasing number of older people who connect to the Internet with limited computer experience may mean they are sometimes key targets for internet fraudsters.
Although there is no hard data to say that elders are more likely to be fooled by an online fraud.
Scammers know that seniors are spending more time on the Internet during the day that other groups of individuals.
Moreover, because seniors tend to use the Internet to maintain contact with family, scammers usually use the names of family members to breach their trust and stealing from them.
Here are the top areas where seniors can fall victim while online:
- Communicating with family and friends
- Falling for scams – games and contests
- Meeting new people and online dating
- Online transactions – banking, shopping or travel
- Health issues and social security
- Social networking
- Using Wi-Fi hotspots
- Browsing and streaming
Here, we will take a look what you can put in place easily to reduce online threats to seniors.
1. Strong and unique passwords
- Never share passwords, or keep them on your device.
- Passwords need to be a minimum of 8 characters in length and up to 15.
- These should include uppercase, lowercase and numbers, and never use names and words from the dictionary.
- A good password manager can be used to save writing these down or forgetting them.
- Make passwords more than one word if possible.
2. Keep devices up to date
There plenty of areas where updates will be require. Luckily, many of these can be set to automatic.
Desktops are by default set to automatically update, this includes security patches that are released.
3. Use antivirus or anti-malware software
Although most operating systems now come with some anti-virus and anti-malware built in, in the case of seniors, an additional security software package makes good sense.
These can check for spam or the installation of unwanted software that is trying to install viruses or malware.
There are many free anti-virus software packages, but these may not deliver a full range of services or protection.
Paid for options deliver up to date protection against new viruses, they are easier to use and can turn on many other security settings without the need to do so manually.
4. Beef up browser security
Most online time will be spent inside a browser, so it is vital to make sure that your browser security is given the best possible chance to keep seniors safe.
One of the key areas will be a good ad-blocker. These can stop the majority of pop-ups, which can trick seniors.
Without these, the threat of scammers saying they have infected computers is minimized, and the lure of “You have won a prize – click here to claim,” will be eradicated.
There are also anti-tracking extensions you can install in browsers. This stops third-party sites from following users around the internet.
This can be one major area because these trackers are what spreads your personal information online to various unknown destinations.
5. Be wary of public Wi-Fi
You may associate public Wi-Fi with coffee shops, airports and shopping malls. However, one other area where seniors are exposed is commonly overlooked. This is in assisted living homes who have wireless connections.
These will operate in the same way as any public places, and hackers can take advantage of this. In many cases, they will have minimal security and encryption, and users will be online for extended periods compared to possible a few minutes at a time.
Any senior should never use a public Wi-Fi connection to pass any sensitive data, no matter what device they are using. Any mobile device should be set to forget these networks so they don’t automatically reconnect when in range.
6. Additional browser settings
Although you can improve security in your browser with ad-blockers and anti-tracking extensions, other areas can protect elder members of the family. Incognito mode can be set or new browsers that automatically run in private browsing mode.
This will delete a browsers history and cookies once the browser is closed. On top of this, there is HTTPS, which is the newer prefix of web addresses that are more secure.
Unfortunately, not all sites yet follow this, and suspect ones may never take this on board.
One final extension can be used that adds HTTPS to sites that support it. This can make things more secure with additional encryption; however, sites that don’t fully support it can leave users vulnerable.
7. Using Google alternatives
A lot of what Google does can make life easier, but, at heart, they are an advertising company, and much of what you try to prevent comes from the use of personal information for advertising purposes.
There are alternatives to Google in many areas, but none more so than the Chrome browser, and the Google search page.
Chrome browser automatically reports to Google, and the “Google Search” remembers every single thing you search for, or places you visit.
8. Social media and dating
Social media is one area where elders are spending a lot of time. Locking down the security settings inside their social accounts can prevent any sensitive information spreading around their social network by accident.
Limiting who can view posts is the main area where personal information is posted. Additionally, knowing what is safe to post be vital because social networks keep this information forever unless it is specifically asked to be removed.
One other thing many seniors may forget to do is log-out of their accounts. This is important for mobile devices that can leave users vulnerable through RFID technologies.
9. Online dating for seniors
Many seniors are online and try to find new friends or romantic acquaintance. This can be an easy area for them to give too much personal information away because they are willing to divulge these details to anyone they met online.
Sites that let you message anyone need to be avoided, because these let anyone message in the opposite direction.
One other area is many of these apps use your location, this lets complete strangers know where the senior is chatting.
Elders should be vague about personal information they share on dating sites. Things like surname, contact details and social account details should be avoided.
One final area is to never chat outside of the dating sites messaging system. This offers an extra layer of protecting by keeping more things private.
10. Use a VPN
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is the best form of protection you can have for senior members of the family.
It doesn’t matter what kind of internet service you have, it will take all outgoing data and encrypt it.
This delivers benefits in many areas. It keeps personal information private and away from prying eyes. This means any online shopping or banking can be done securely.
Even something as innocent as streaming content becomes more secure. Seniors may not understand they are watching copyright protected content, with a VPN, the tracking back to their location or IP address isn’t possible.
Public Wi-Fi zones, be it in a coffee shop or a home for the aged or wireless connections for the aids we saw earlier. All these will be sure.
This is the best option for overall security, and every item from the above list can still work along with it to further enhance security and privacy.
It does need to be an easy to use VPN service, because some can be difficult to setup, especially on mobile devices.