Older Americans have a misconception about online safety


By Nora McDonald and Helena M. Mentis 5 minutes Read

Recently the US Social Security Administration sent an email for subscribers to his official blog explaining how to access social security returns online. Most people know to be suspicious of seemingly official emails with links to websites asking for login credentials.

But for older adults who fear the spread of scams to their community, such an email can be particularly alarming, as they have been told that the SSA never sends emails. Of our research Design Cyber ​​Security Precautions For older adults, we believe there is every reason to be concerned.

This demographic has been trained in a tactical approach to online security that is based on fear and distrust – even of themselves – and focuses on specific threats rather than strategies that allow them to stay safe online. Elders have been taught this approach by organizations they tend to trust, including non-profit organizations that teach older adults how to use technology.

These organizations promote the view that older adults are at great risk while encouraging them to take unnecessary risks to defend themselves. as information technology researcherwe believe it doesn’t have to be that way.

What “Experts” Tell Older Americans

Unfortunately, the guidance older adults receive from those who are believed to have authority on the matter is far from ideal.

Perhaps the loudest of these voices is this AARP, a US advocacy group that has had a mission to “empower” aging for more than six decades. In that time it has built an impressive print and online presence. Reached his magazine over 38 million mailboxes in 2017and it is one effective advocacy.

What we found was that the AARP cybersecurity communiqués use storytelling to create cartoonish folk tales about internet deception. A regular diet with sensational titles like “grandparents pitfalls“, “Sweepstakes scam” and “Devilish diagnoses‘ represent current and emerging threats.

These scenarios appeal to readers in the same way crime series have appealed to television audiences in the past: by using narrative devices to alarm and excite. Ultimately, they also fool viewers into believing that they can use what they have learned in these stories to defend themselves against criminal threats.

Folk Tales and Weaknesses

One purpose of folk tales is to show the dangers a culture seeks to instill in its members during childhood. But by presenting cyber risks as a series of ever-evolving stories that focus on specific risks, AARP shifts attention from core principles to anecdotes. This requires members to compare their online experiences to specific stories.

Readers are implicitly encouraged to assess the plausibility of certain scenarios with questions such as “Is it possible that I have paid unpaid taxes?”. And do I actually have an extended warranty? It requires people to catalog each of these stories and then each time determine for themselves whether an unwanted message poses a real threat based on its content rather than the person’s circumstances.

No, it’s not personal

Through this inventory of stories and characters, we also found that the AARP personalized, which is basically a set of structural threats that are inherently impersonal. The stories often characterize scammers as people in the midst of readers who use local news to manipulate older adults.

Real threats are not “sweepstakes scammers” or “Facebook unfriendlys”, with a live scammer sensitive to the needs and weaknesses of each intended victim. There is rarely a human relationship between the cyber scammer and the victim – no scammers behind the infamous “grandparent scam”. The AARP bulletins and notices imply that there is a direct relationship between scammer and victim—or at least implicitly promote that old-fashioned view.

Don’t engage

Perhaps more worryingly, AARP leads seem to encourage investigation of scenarios when engagement of any kind puts people at risk.

In a post that drew people to “8 Military-Related Scammers‘ they discuss ‘too good to be true prices’ when the mere concept of buying a car on Craigslist or an ‘active service agent’ urgently selling a car should be a red flag that from any form of engagement.

Internet users of all ages, but especially more vulnerable demographics, should be encouraged to distance themselves from threats and not be portrayed as sleuths in their own compelling stories.

Protecting older adults in the age of surveillance capitalism

In order to reduce everyone’s risk on the internet, we think it’s important to provide a well-curated set of principles, rather than presenting people with a set of stories to learn. Anyone exposed to online threats, but especially the most vulnerable, needs a checklist of precautionary measures and strong rules against intervention when in doubt.

In short, the best strategy is to simply ignore unsolicited contact, especially from organizations you don’t do business with. People need to be reminded that their own context, behavior and relationships are all that matters.

Because in the end it’s not just about tools, it’s about worldview. Ultimately, people need a theory of the online world that enlightens them about the security tools so that everyone can use them effectively and consistently Approaches to Surveillance Capitalism.

We believe people should be taught to see their online selves as reconstructions from data, as unreal as bots. This is admittedly a difficult idea, as people find it difficult to imagine being disconnected from the data they generate and realizing that their online lives are being impacted by algorithms analyzing and acting on that data.

But it’s an important concept — and one that older adults bring to our research when they tell us that while they are frustrated at receiving spam, they are learning to ignore communications that reflect their “selves” with whom they don’t identify themselves.

Nora McDonald is an assistant professor of information technology at the University of Cincinnati. Helena M. Mentis is Professor of Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article. Older Americans have a misconception about online safety


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