Internet users older than 50 years are vulnerable, according to study

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Despite the reputation social networks have for attracting younger users, McAfee's Fifty Plus Booms Online study has revealed that people aged 50 to 75 years are also connected via social media – and they are more vulnerable than they believe.

According to the study, 97 percent of respondents go online daily for an average of five hours, and 80 percent are using social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Even though more than half say they share personal information online with strangers, 88 percent consider themselves tech-savvy.

“The fact that some 88 percent of participants say they consider themselves equally or more tech-savvy compared to others their age, frankly, is laughable,” Robert Siciliano, an online security and safety evangelist to McAfee, who also posted the study, told on Wednesday.

He added, “The ability to connect to the internet and login doesn't make you tech-savvy. I speak to these groups all the time. They ask remedial questions with regard to hardware, software and security, telling me they need to reevaluate what they consider tech-savvy.”

When broken down, 27 percent are sharing their cell phone numbers, 26 percent are sharing their home address, 12 percent share financial information, roughly 33 percent do not protect their mobile devices with passwords, and almost half have not updated security software on those devices. Almost 25 percent of those users say they have sent personal or intimate text messages, emails and photos from their mobile device.

At about 75 percent acknowledging social networks can result in fraud and identity theft, Siciliano said that the 50 and older crowd knows the risks. He explained that a failure to act promptly and securely is what is getting them in trouble.

“People are a bit lazy and cheap when it comes to their security,” Siciliano said. “Examples are: We know free Wi-Fi is risky, but it's free and they still don't install a virtual private network. We know we need anti-virus, but they may choose a free option that doesn't come with anti-phishing, anti-spyware or a firewall.”

What it boils down to is oversharing, said Siciliano, who explained that people need to tone back discussing and revealing personal details, including adultery, divorce or death.

“A woman sharing the emotional turmoil of a divorce will be targeted by online dating scammers,” Siciliano said. “A person or family discussing death will be targeted by identity thieves. They need to tighten up the privacy settings on social sites, don't friend people you don't know, and lock down all their devices, including mobiles, with anti-everything.”

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