Senior adults use computers in numbers no one expected just a few years ago. They’re doing everything online from paying bills to socializing, embracing the benefits, fun and excitement that connectivity brings.
In 2015, more seniors used desktop PCs than other forms of technology, but smartphone and tablet use increased as well. Of course, just like any other group, seniors have to protect themselves against malware, spyware, phishing attempts and fraud. Here are some tips to keep you safe online, whether you’re a senior, just getting there or need a security refresher course no matter what your age. No one is immune.
- Your Password: Is It Good or Is It Bad?
“Bad passwords top the list of weak online security habits,” says George Otte, Miami entrepreneur and founder of Geeks on Site, an It support and computer repair company. “Unfortunately, weak passwords are common and easily exploited.”
SplashData, a password management company, publishes an annual list of the worst passwords used by consumers. Unfortunately, the these passwords are common and easily exploited.
Here are a few examples from the latest worse password list:
- 12345: This numerical password topped the list two years in a row.
- Password: That’s right, some people actually use the word “password” as a password. Variations include the word followed by numbers, such as “password123.”
- Qwerty: They’re the first six letters on the computer keyboard. They also make for a bad, but frequently used password.
- Football: This common sports lover’s password is a list perennial.
- Baseball: Another perennial on the worst list.
- Starwars: A worst list newcomer, probably because of the latest film release.
Hackers breach a password every three seconds and it’s a good bet that many of those breached passwords are on the worst list. Passwords are your first line of defense against hackers. Don’t make it easy for them.
Follow these tips for creating strong, nearly hack-proof passwords:
A few more password don’ts: Don’t use your loved one’s or pet’s names, anniversaries, birthdays or any other information that’s already visible on the Internet, such as information on your Facebook account. Do not reuse passwords, even if it’s been awhile since you last used them. Do not use the same password over multiples sites, particularly your banking, social media and email accounts. If using a public computer, close browser windows when you finish. Never tick the “Remember me” option.
Come up with a great one: The best passwords are long with a variety of lower and uppercase letters, numbers and random characters. What’s a great password look like? This: “71&TeBsT*iZyT2K@mE.” The combination of upper and lowercase letters, interspersed with different characters and numbers along with its length make it great. But, yikes! You’re probably thinking, “It’s a wonderful password, but how would I ever remember it?” The “71&TeBsT*iZyT2K@mE” password was formed using a trick the pros use called phrase-based password creation. The phrase the password is based on is “71 and the best is yet to come.” Look closely at the password and you can see how it relates to the phrase. Come up with your own phrase formula, using different patterns of misspellings and breaking up words with random characters and numbers. Remember the phrase and you’ve got your password.
Cheat sheet use: You have to have a different password for every account, so using a cheat sheet is inevitable as long as you’re careful. Never keep passwords on your computer. If it’s hacked, your online accounts won’t be far behind. Old fashioned pen and paper make for a more secure cheat sheet, particularly if it contains password clues and not actual passwords. Store your cheat sheet in a safe place.
- Have Fun But Avoid the Fraud
Seniors shop, use Facebook, pay bills, watch videos and play games online, all of which bring enjoyment and added convenience to daily life. Of course, the more you’re online, the more likely you’ll be targeted by some kind of scam. Everyone becomes a target at some point. How can you protect yourself?
Follow these tips:
Be smart about email: Financial institutions will never send you an email asking you to click a link to verify information, but scammers will. Never click on a link within an email to “verify information.” Do not download attachments unless you are expecting one from someone you know. To be extra safe, don’t even open emails from unknown sources.
Use the Internet safely: You’ve seen them — you’re conducting a Google search, click on one of the links to a website and suddenly a pop-up window appears, asking you to “click here” for something fantastic. Actually, it is fantastic. It’s fantastic for the hackers who are waiting for you to click on that pop-up. When you do, hackers can secretly install malware and/or spyware on your computer, making you vulnerable to all sorts of security breaches and identity theft. Say no to pop-ups.
Protect your computer: Install anti-virus, malware and anti-spyware software programs on your computer. Turn on auto updates to ensure you have the latest protection.
Sign up for fraud alerts: AARP offers a free fraud watch alert service that’s open to anyone regardless of age. Fraud alerts for online and email scams, as well as phone and door-to-door rackets are included so you can be on your guard.
Staying safe doesn’t have to take the fun out of using computers. In fact, now that you’ve followed the suggestions above, isn’t it time to check your Facebook page?