Technology has become an unavoidable part of our everyday lives. While the internet is a great tool for connection, it is also a hotbed for crime. According to the FBI, the Internet Crime Complaint Center received a total of 791,790 complaints that led to losses of about $4.1 billion in 2020. And statistics show that seniors are particularly vulnerable, especially with the pandemic having accelerated technology adoption among seniors. "The benefits of technology far outweigh the potential negative encounters they might have but this doesn't negate the fact that those threats are still there," said Jessie Riley, resident technology manager.
That's why we're doing our part to ensure we're educating residents on basic cybersecurity and responsible online habits. "We want to increase residents' digital literacy and their exposure to technology. And when we do, there is an increase in confidence and comfort level," Riley said. So with January 28 being National Cybersecurity Day, we’re helping spread awareness with six tips for seniors looking to enhance there cybersecurity:
1. Create Strong Passwords
Passwords are the first line of defense in protecting you online, yet many seniors do not use them on their devices. Your phone, tablet, and computer should all have passwords that deter people from entering, especially if you lose your device. For your online accounts (like banking and social media), you should use strong passwords that are made up of a mix of letters, characters, and numbers. Try not to include any personal information as these can be much easier for people to guess. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, save them in a hidden word document on your computer.
2. Protect Your Computer
Hackers are always looking for the easy way in. Viruses and other infections commonly come in through email attachments or compromised software. Adding an extra layer of protection through firewalls, antivirus programs, or ad blockers are a great way to combat this. There are many options—free and paid—that are available to help you further protect yourself.
3. Be Aware of Scams
There are hundreds of internet scams aimed at getting people’s information. Older adults 60-plus years of age are five times more likely to be targeted and fall victim to scams often coming in the form of email or phone communications. Oftentimes, you will get an email or a pop-up saying that you have won a prize or that something (like your bank account) has been compromised and you need to enter your information to claim the prize or get your system back to normal. The most important thing you can do to avoid these is to think before you act. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Trust your gut or consult a trusted family member or friend before entering any information in a place you usually don’t.
4. Remember to Log Out
Passwords only work if you remember to log out of your accounts and devices. Even if you are on your personal device, it’s still an important step to take. Leaving apps or devices open invites security threats in.
5. Ask for Help
If you live alone or are not that tech-savvy, find a trusted friend or family member that could help you. It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes looking out for you and if you ever have a question or concern, you can reach out to them.
6. Social Network Security
Social networking sites are a great way to stay connected to family and friends. But sharing too much online can be dangerous. Any information you share becomes permanent public knowledge. Even if you delete something, it remains on the server. So pause before you hit “post” and don’t accept messages or friend requests from anyone that you don’t know. When browsing, be cautious of clicking links that take you to other pages.
Readily Available Resident Resources
Residents have a couple of ways to pose technology-related questions and address what they consider to be suspicious activity. You can even schedule one-on-one appointments. Jessie Riley noted what a difference it makes working one-on-one with residents, "Based on research and our own experience, it is honestly the preferred method of learning and the most successful. When residents can learn from someone they're comfortable with, it drives up their overall confidence."