My Generation: Views on Security Differ By Age Group

Mar 11, 2014 2:30pm

Jared Howe 
Senior Technical Communicator 
 Private WiFi

Our CEO, Kent Lawson, was (infamously!) at last month's RSA security conference in San Francisco. He said that one of the more interesting presentations had to do with the differences among generations in regards to their online security. This presentation contained survey information from ZoneAlarm, an online security company.

The team at ZoneAlarm had previously surveyed 1,200 people from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia, and presented the following stats during their presentation at RSA.

Security Concerns Increase With Age

The ZoneAlarm survey found that the importance of security increases with age. The following percentages of people considered online security as the most important consideration when making decisions about their computers:

  • 31% of users between 18-25 (Gen Y)
  • 46% of users between 26-35
  • 41% of users between 36-45
  • 54% of users between 46-55
  • 58% of users between 56-65 (Baby Boomers)
My Generation 

Baby Boomers More Interested in Security

The report found a wide gap in the online priorities of Gen Y and Baby Boomers. Gen Y seems to put a much higher priority on entertainment and community that Baby Boomers do. Forty percent of Gen Y considered entertainment and community a priority for them, versus only 8 percent of Baby Boomers. Only 32 percent of Gen Y considered security a priority, versus 58 percent of Baby Boomers.

The survey found that 36 percent of Baby Boomers are “very concerned” about security, versus only 20 percent of Gen Y participants. Gen Y is mostly concerned about attacks via social networks like Facebook and file-sharing networks, while Baby Boomers are more concerned about viruses attached to email messages.

Baby Boomers are more likely to use antivirus and firewall software than Gen Y. The ZoneAlarm survey found that 59 percent of Baby Boomers consider themselves “knowledgeable” about security issues, versus 63 percent of Gen Y users. 42 percent of Baby Boomers have had a security incident in the past two years versus half (50 percent) of Gen Y participants.

Both Age Groups Slow to Adopt Security Best Practices

One thing both age groups can agree on is that they both love to keep personal data on their computers. An identical 82 percent of both groups keep personally identifiable data on their computers, including tax records, passwords, and financial information.

Yet nearly three in four users (71 percent) do not follow security best practices of using a firewall in addition to antivirus software. This includes 78 percent of Gen Y and 53 percent of Baby Boomers. Nearly half (45 percent) of Gen Y participants considered security software “too expensive” while 37 percent of Baby Boomers felt the same way. Nearly half of both age groups think that security software should be free.

AARP/Microsoft Study Finds Similar Security Concerns

AARP and Microsoft teamed up for a 2012 study called Connecting Generations (PDF) that found similar information regarding Gen Y and Baby Boomer online security.

56% of respondents were either extremely concerned or very concerned about staying safe online. Nearly two thirds (64 percent) of parents and grandparents of teenagers reported being either extremely concerned or very concerned about how online safety risks - ranging from harassment to identity theft to malware - might affect their family. In addition, 58 percent of all respondents indicated that they wished they knew more about how to keep personal information private, and 50 percent wanted to know more about how to safeguard their devices.

How You Can Stay Safe

No matter what age group you find yourself in, it’s always a good idea to keep our computer and our personal data as secure as possible. Below are some general tips from STOP. THINK. CONNECT., the national cybersecurity campaign: 

  • Make passwords, long, strong and unique: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password, and create a different one for every account to mitigate the impact of a compromised account. 
  • Keep security software current: Having the latest security software, browser, and operating system are the best defenses against online threats.  
  • Own your online presence: When available, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit how and with whom you share information. 
  • When in doubt, throw it out: Links in emails, social media posts, and online advertising are one way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete it.
  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine.

A version of this blog first appeared on the Private Wifi Blog on March 6, 2014. View the original post at