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Journal article | Research library
| 17/10/2021

How do older adults feel about engaging with cybersecurity?

Benjamin Morrison | Lynne Coventry | Pam Briggs

In the field of cybersecurity, older adults have become increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks. Despite this, there has been limited research into how older adults perceive and engage with protective cybersecurity behaviors. To address this gap, a novel card-sorting task was developed and employed to uncover the sentiments of older adults regarding these protective behaviors and to identify the factors influencing their confidence in executing such actions.

Nineteen task-assisted interviews were conducted with older adults in the UK, leading to several key findings:

1. Older adults recognize the significance of protective online behaviors, but their reasons for abstaining from them can be categorized into three main groups:
– “I do not want to” (typically due to a belief that the costs outweigh the benefits).
– “I do not need to” (such as the perception that cybersecurity is not their responsibility).
– “I am unable to” (including heightened anxiety about making errors).

2. The level of confidence in carrying out protective behaviors is contingent on three factors:
– Personal competence (linked to strong computer self-efficacy and relevant past experiences).
– Support (having access to a supportive network for information and advice).
– Demand (the effort required to stay up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity guidance).

In summary, older adults express a desire to safeguard themselves online but often lack the necessary support. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to developers, researchers, and policymakers. This paper provides insights into how older adults perceive common cybersecurity practices and introduces an effective card-sorting methodology for eliciting security-related information from this demographic.

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