Older Generations More Cyber Savvy Than Their Younger Counterparts

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Insurance Information Institute

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Despite a never-ending cycle of cyber breach headlines, individuals continue to be underprepared for even the most common cyber exposures.  According to Chubb’s third annual Cyber Risk Survey, which examined individuals’ comprehension of cyberrisk and the steps they are taking to protect themselves, complacency seems to have taken hold: eight-in-10 Americans continue to be concerned about a cyber breach, yet only 41 percent use cybersecurity software and only 31 percent regularly change their passwords. These numbers are virtually unchanged from 2018.

According to Chubb’s survey, individuals don’t recognize the value of individual pieces of personal data. For example, just 18 percent of respondents are concerned about their email addresses being compromised. Similarly, only 27 percent of respondents cite concern about their medical records being breached.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which analyzed passwords belonging to accounts worldwide that had been breached bares the Chubb survey out.  The NCSC notes that several combinations of numbers made up the top 10, while “blink182” was the most popular musical artist and “superman” the most common fictional character. But “123456” was the most common password, with 23.2 million accounts using the easy-to-decipher code. “123456789” was used by 7.7 million, while “qwerty” and “password” were each used by more than 3 million accounts.

Chubb survey results indicate that a consistently large portion of older respondents employ better cyber practices than younger generations. Per the survey, 77 percent of those 55 years and older delete suspicious emails, compared to half (55 percent) of respondents between 35 to 54 and just a third (36 percent) of respondents from 18 to 34. Similar patterns arise when looking at those enrolled in cybersecurity monitoring services, where 53 percent of respondents over 55 are enrolled in a cybersecurity monitoring service.  But this same service is used by only 1 percent of respondents between 35 to 54 and just 29 percent between 18 and 34.

More concerning is that the behavior of younger generations appears to be getting worse, the Chubb report noted. For example, 76 percent and 74 percent of adults over 55 regularly deleted suspicious emails in 2017 and 2018, respectively, as compared to just 47 percent and 40 percent of adults between 18 and 34 during the same time period.

In most narratives, it’s the younger generation teaching older generations about the latest internet trends. When it comes to cyber safety, however, it’s clear that the tables have turned. The first lesson older generations should impart? The importance of talking with an independent agent and broker about coverage for a cyber-related incident.

Without it, and in the event of a hack or breach which leads to a financial loss, individuals could be left without a safety net in place. In some cases, policies will also cover incident response expenses, including legal services, reputation management, and mental and emotional pain diagnosed by a physician.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, (NCSAM), a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to ensure that all Americans have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online. This year’s NCSAM will emphasize personal accountability and stress the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity at home and in the workplace. This year’s overarching message – Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT. – will focus on key areas including citizen privacy, consumer devices, and ecommerce security.