My Generation: Views on Security Differ By Age Group


Our CEO, Kent Lawson, was (infamously!) at last week’s RSA security conference in San Francisco. He said that one of the more interesting presentations had to do with the differences among generations in regards to their online security. This presentation contained survey information from ZoneAlarm, an online security company.

The team at ZoneAlarm had previously surveyed 1,200 people from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia, and presented the following stats during their presentation at RSA.

Security Concerns Increase With Age

Unsurprisingly, the survey found that the importance of security increases with age. The following percentages of people considered online security as the most important consideration when making decisions about their computers:

  • 31% of users between 18-25 (Gen Y)
  • 46% of users between 26-35
  • 41% of users between 36-45
  • 54% of users between 46-55
  • 58% of users between 56-65 (Baby Boomers)

Baby Boomers More Interested in Security

The report found a wide gap in the online priorities of Gen Y and Baby Boomers. Gen Y seems to put a much higher priority on entertainment and community that Baby Boomers do. 40% of Gen Y considered entertainment and community a priority for them, versus only 8% of Baby Boomers. Only 32% of Gen Y considered security a priority, versus 58% of Baby Boomers.

The survey found that 36% of Baby Boomers are “very concerned” about security, versus only 20% of Gen Y participants. Gen Y is mostly concerned about attacks via social networks like Facebook and file-sharing networks, while Baby Boomers are more concerned about viruses attached to email messages.

Baby Boomers are more likely to use antivirus and firewall software than Gen Y. The ZoneAlarm survey found that 59% of Baby Boomers consider themselves “knowledgeable” about security issues, versus 63% of Gen Y users. 42% of Baby Boomers have had a security incident in the past two years versus half (50%) of Gen Y participants.

Both Age Groups Ignore Security Best Practices

One thing both age groups can agree on is that they both love to keep personal data on their computers. An identical 82% of both groups keep personally identifiable data on their computers, including tax records, passwords, and financial information.

71% of all users do not follow security best practices of using a firewall in addition to antivirus software. This includes 78% of Gen Y as compared to 53% of Baby Boomers. 45% of Gen Y participants considered security software “too expensive” versus 37% of Baby Boomers who felt the same way. Nearly half of both age groups think that security software should be free.

AARP/Microsoft Study Finds Similar Security Concerns

AARP and Microsoft recently teamed up on a study called “Connecting Generations” which found similar information regarding Gen Y and Baby Boomer online security.

56% of respondents were either extremely concerned or very concerned about staying safe online. Nearly two thirds (64%) of parents and grandparents of teenagers reported being either extremely concerned or very concerned about how online security risks might affect their family. In addition, 58% of all respondents indicated that they wished they knew more about how to keep personal information private, and 50% wanted to know more about how to safeguard their devices.

How You Can Stay Safe

No matter what age group we are in, it’s always a good idea to keep our computer and our personal data as secure as possible. Below are some general tips for increasing our online security:

  • Use complex, strong passwords for all of our online accounts, change them frequently, and do not share them with anyone.
  • Keep your computer, browser, and security software optimized by installing updates.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post line and maximize your privacy settings on Facebook and other social websites to avoid sharing your private information with too many people.
  • Be cautious about what email attachments you open, as some can contain viruses. Only open email attachments if you are sure you can trust it.
  • Use a VPN like PRIVATE WiFi to encrypt all of your personal data. This encryption protects all your Internet communication from being intercepted by others in WiFi hotspots.
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Jared Howe

Jared Howe is PRIVATE WiFi’s Senior Manager, Product Marketing Communications. Working in high tech for over 15 years, Jared currently lives in Seattle with his wife, daughter, and their two cats.

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