What Seniors Know about Password SafetyWhat Seniors Know about Password Safety

A recent survey on password security revealed that US and UK internet users age 51 to 69 practice better password habits and suffer fewer online account break-ins than the 18 to 34 “digital native” generation. Here’s how the most security-savvy Baby Boomers protect their identities and financial information online.

They create unique passwords for each online account

Using the same password for more than one account puts all those accounts at risk if you lose control of the password through hacking or phishing. The survey (sign-up required) of 4,000 adults by technology company Gigya found that 20 percent of Baby Boomers follow the best practice of using a fresh password for each and every online account they have. Another 45 percent of them use at least five passwords across all their accounts. That’s not as secure as having unique passwords for each account, but it’s better than the under-35 crowd. More than half of them said they use four or fewer passwords across all their accounts.

They create passwords that are tougher to crack

Easy-to-remember passwords may save time and aggravation in the short term, but they set internet users up for identity theft and credit card fraud over the long term. More than half of Boomers surveyed said they never slack off by creating easily guessed passwords such as ‘123456’ or ‘password,’ which top the list of the worst yet most popular passwords year after year. Only 33% of Millennials made the same claim.

They’re more likely to take extra security precautions

Most of us learn some patience as we get older, and in the case of Baby Boomers that results in safer online experiences. Two-factor authentication is an account-safety step that experts recommend but few people use, because it requires waiting a few seconds for a call or text with a one-time code to enter in addition to the account password. The Gigya survey found that Boomers are “nearly twice as likely as Millennials to activate two-factor authentication when logging in to an online account.”

The payoff for using two-factor authentication and creating a new strong password for each account is fewer account break-ins. In the 12 months prior to the survey, more than 80 percent of the senior respondents said none of their accounts was compromised. Among those who did suffer an account hack, none said more than six accounts were breached. Sixty-five percent of the youngest adults reported no break-ins; some of those that were hacked lost control of as many as 10 or more accounts.

Are seniors ready for the next wave in online security?

One security area where Boomers lag behind younger internet users is biometric identity verification tools like fingerprint, face, and voice recognition. Gigya found that 70% of older adults don’t have devices that support biometric ID, while the majority of Millennials do. That may need to change over the next few years, because security experts are recommending biometrics as a safer alternative to passwords. The good news is that new tablets, phones, and laptops can support biometric verification, so the next time you upgrade, you’ll have the tools to be even more secure online.


Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


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