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We tend to hear a lot about online security awareness with regards to protecting our kids online, be it keeping them safe from predators, identity thieves, or the perils of peer-based cyberbullying, but we don’t hear enough about protecting those at the other end of the age spectrum: Seniors.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 53% of adults ages 65 and older regularly use the Internet for keeping in touch with family, paying bills, banking, entertainment and shopping, among other activities.

This demographic is quickly becoming a favorite target for cyber scammers because they are thought to be less savvy about technology uses, less informed about online safety precautions, and are more likely to be engaged in online financial transactions than their teenage counterparts.

But it’s not just the bad guys who have taken notice of this population, some reputable security professionals also see an opportunity to help thwart the threats by providing education and services targeted at seniors.

We  recently caught up with Christopher Burgess, CEO of security consultancy Prevendra, to inquire about their recently launched endeavor Senior Online Safety to get a better idea of how security awareness for this very vulnerable population is being addressed by vendors.

Burgess, who co-authored Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century, has held multiple executive level positions at a Fortune 50 company as well as having thirty-plus years of service as a senior national security executive with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post on security issues.

Senior Online Safety was created to allow us to impart advice, provide some guidance, and offer up partnered and original security applications which we believe will be of utility for our audience – the 45+ years-of-age individual,” Burgess said, and clearly this is an enormous demographic.

According to figures derived from the International Telecommunication Union (PDF) and the European Travel Commission, the US alone has 245 million internet users over the age of 45.

“Add to that the other English speaking countries like India with 137 million users and the UK with more than 52 million, that is a large audience that we firmly believe can benefit from our interest in maintaining their safety and security online,” Burgess said.

According to Burgess, any state’s attorney general can provide statistics that demonstrate how the senior population is increasingly viewed as the “cream of the crop” from a criminal targeting point of view.

“While our name Senior Online Safety implies our focus will be cyber-oriented, we intend to address the confluence of both the physical and virtual worlds in order to provide comprehensive security guidance for our intended audience,” Burgess explained.

There are a number of factors which make seniors an attractive target, Burgess said, including:

  • The perception that they are not technologically savvy
  • They are more likely to have accumulated a substantial amount of wealth
  • Many living alone or in long term care facilities

First and foremost, Burgess says they will be using their blog space as the primary avenue to impart useful, actionable information to readers. and that National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October provided them with the incentive to establish a daily cadence for their publications.

“In addition, we have just finished the product requirement document to create an application designed to push daily online safety reminders to the subscriber audience, and we envision the subscription cost to be very modest, not to exceed three cents per day,” which is just less than $11 per year, Burgess said of the service.

They have also partnered with some other service providers and will be offering ID theft monitoring and remediation, secure online storage, and other items which they hope will demonstrate their commitment to keeping their readers/clients/customers safe and secure.

“And of course we speak to the topic where ever we can – we have one talk we offer to healthcare facilities and associations, titled Why Do Criminals Target Your Facility & Residents? You’re Both Easy and Lucrative Targets, where we walk through the targeting matrix,” Burgess said.

“And while they can’t take themselves off the selection list, they can certainly make themselves a hard-target for the criminal through adoption of basic security stratagems focused on tightening up the facility’s data security and educating the residents.”

Burgess says they are very pleased with the initial launch of the program as they have begun to see their content gain traction through social networks, and they are witnessing a daily growth in readership and return readership at the website, which can always be accessed free of charge in their effort to increase security awareness.

“We will continue to strive to provide quality, actionable content which our readers can use, and thus they obtain an immediate ROI on their choosing to invest their time with us,” Burgess said.


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