As a general rule, when we talk about older people, in the first instance we tend to think of a specific demographic group, but soon after, the most common is that someone from our environment comes to mind family or close, which helps us put a face to what, until then, is nothing more than numerical and statistical information. And it is essential to do so, because only after taking this step can we make a truly empathetic approach to their specific circumstances and needs.
For example, it happens to me mainly with my mother. With his seventy-few years of age, he operates with great ease in the technological world (I must have had something to do with it, I will not deny it). He uses his computer and tablet regularly, has a profile on some social network, consumes YouTube content like a millennial and fills many of his leisure time with all kinds of games (he was the first person in the family unit to finish the saga from Monkey Island, for example). And every day you receive the odd scam in your email accounts.
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Fortunately, he has learned to identify them quickly and, in the vast majority of cases, they go directly to the trash. He only makes an exception to the rule when, for some reason, usually for joking, he wants to show me one. And even so, despite this, with some specific phishing has come to doubt. I remember, for example, the first time you saw a message on your iPhone saying that your phone had some problems, and that you had to download an app to fix it.
All this comes to mind as a result of an article by Karoline Gore published on the security blog of the technology AT&T, in which an interesting review of the main cybersecurity threats that our elders face. The coronavirus pandemic has been an important reminder that we need to be more vigilant about their safety and, as Gore recalls with that text, the field of computing, technology and communications is no exception.
There is one point that is interesting to mention, and that is that as a general rule online frauds that affect our elders tend to have a greater economic impact than those that affect other demographic segments. In United States the average is $ 1,092 in people over 70, compared to $ 400 in the 20-29 age group. This means that each threat carries a greater risk in terms of its consequences.
With regard to the main threats that older people face, many of them are directly related to their lack of knowledge regarding the digital world. Many of them have wanted or have been forced to use various devices and services, but largely do not have a solid knowledge base. They have learned to carry out specific tasks, but when they leave them they face a completely unknown environment and, not infrequently, somewhat hostile.
And to this we must add another factor of great risk, and that is that they tend to be more confident when faced with elements that are recognizable to them. Thus, for example, frauds such as those related to mailings, bank phishing and even security-related scams are a trap in which older people can trip more easily. The power of a simple logo in a fraudulent email is much greater than we can think, especially for those people who feel somewhat lost in the middle, and who are looking for recognizable elements to feel more secure.
And there is still one more factor that affects older people: loneliness, a circumstance that can push them to look for ways of socialization, be it to look for new friends, partners, etc. An open door to frauds of all kinds, from false contact agencies to more than classic email scams in which a person, usually a young and attractive woman, has seen our photo on the Internet and would like to meet us. For a person who spends most of his time alone, we are talking about a lure, a bait so powerful that it is surely capable of forcing the inhibition of all alerts that they should always jump in these circumstances.
So it is time to ask ourselves the big question:
What can we do to protect our elders?
Fortunately, it is in our hands to help them make safer use of technology. The approach, yes, must be comprehensive, including both preventive and reactive measures. It can be summarized in these four points:
Cybersecurity training: No, obviously I’m not talking about turning our seniors into computer security specialists. But it is essential to have a few conversations with them, explaining what risks they face, what they should pay attention to and, as I always say, pay more attention to common sense. They do not need to know that phishing is called phishing, but it is essential that they know that it exists and that sooner or later they will have to deal with it. The most dangerous enemy is usually the one we don’t know.
Communication channels: It is normal for older people to have many doubts when facing new technologies, and it is essential that we have as many communication channels open with them as possible, to help them solve them. Let’s be a little generous with our time, they undoubtedly have earned it, and ten minutes today can avoid a great disappointment tomorrow.
Managed solutions: From security suites to remote access solutions, we have many solutions that allow us to remotely manage the security of the devices used by the elderly. If we take care of managing that part of your security and, in addition, we have access to your devices to identify and solve problems, update components, etc., your security will increase exponentially.
Action plans: We must be clear, in advance, how our elders should act, and how we should act against any incident. Always from empathy, always with assertiveness, let’s not forget that they acted like this with us when we need it. Transmitting tranquility and clearly guiding the steps to be taken not only reduces the potential impact of what happened, but also does not generate in the victim a feeling of rejection towards everything related to technology.
The key, as you have already deduced, is in communication. Our elders may suffer from a certain awkwardness, but they are not stupid, so with the right knowledge and tools they can enjoy all the possibilities that technology offers in a safe way. Now, our role and our actions are a fundamental element for it to be so. And although the damn coronavirus has stolen many of them, many others are still here with us. We must ensure their safety, and we cannot afford to fail them.