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Virtual scams: what is the cyber attack to which you are most vulnerable according to your age

A survey among 16,147 online users in 17 countries around the world shows that the attack modalities are different depending on the device that is used the most, something that is closely related to age. EFE / Sascha Steinbah

A study of a private company dedicated to cybersecurity in 17 countries found that virtual scams, magnified by social distancing and greater dependence on technology, have very different characteristics according to the ages of the potential victims. While younger people are vulnerable to attacks via social media, older adults tend to be targeted by their online banking and financial activities.

The Avast firm conducted a survey among 16,147 online users from 17 countries around the world. The company commissioned the survey from the YouGov research institution in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the Forsa research institution in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The survey was conducted representatively among more than 1,000 people in each region, except Austria and Switzerland, where Forsa surveyed more than 500 people each.

The results revealed that older and younger generations are targeted by different online threats depending on the primary device they use to connect.

Younger generations are targeted on their cell phones with scams on Instagram and TikTok, text messages with FluBot and phishing scams via email pretending to come from friends or family, as well as mobile banking Trojans

A matter of devices

For example, in Argentina a higher percentage of people over 65 (56%), 55-64 (48%) and 45-54 (49%) use their computer or laptop as their primary device to connect to the Internet, compared to younger generations. This makes them more susceptible to attacks from ransomware, tech support scams, spyware / Trojans, and botnets, which can be accidentally or unknowingly downloaded or accessed via links in malicious emails or websites.

On the contrary, there are a higher percentage of younger generations who mainly use their smartphone to connect to the Internet (18-24: 79%; 25-34: 78%; 35-44: 77%), compared to respondents over 44. That makes them the target of adware attacks, mobile banking Trojans, SMS scams from FluBot and downloaders that spread malware, and Instagram and TikTok scams that promote adware or fleeceware applications. Across all devices, the younger and older generations are also targeted by phishing attacks and romance scams.

The attack by Tik Tok or Instagram is the most common among those suffered by the youngest.  REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration
The attack by Tik Tok or Instagram is the most common among those suffered by the youngest. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

On mobile devices, the top threats in the last quarter were: adware (59%), mobile banking Trojans (9.7%) and downloaders (7.9%), which are harmful applications that use social engineering tactics to deceive victims to install more malicious or unwanted applications. FluBot has also spread widely in most countries, including Argentina. Globally, there are an average of 35,000 attacks blocked monthly worldwide in the third quarter.

Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to steal your data, personal information or money through increasingly sophisticated online scams and threats. They often take into account how different devices are used by the younger and older generations to launch targeted attacks, adapting them to current usage and cultural trends so that they are more relevant and more likely to hit the target, ”he said. Jaya Baloo |, Director of Information and Security at Avast.

The most common threats by age

According to the study, the most important activity on the Internet for young people aged 18 to 24 is the use of virtual studies or classes, for example, as part of a school or university program, or personal development (39%). For those between 25 and 34 years old and for those between 35 and 44 years old, it is being in contact with friends and family through messaging services and emails (34%). In addition, for those aged 25 to 34 it is also the use of social networks (34%). This shows why younger generations are targeted on their cell phones with scams on Instagram and TikTok, text messages with FluBot and phishing scams via email pretending to come from friends or family, as well as mobile banking Trojans.

The most important activities for the older generation are banking and financial

In comparison, the most important activities for the older generation are banking and financial (over 65 years: 43%), and maintaining contact with friends and family through messaging and email services (55 to 64 years: 36%, over 65 years: 43%). This helps explain why they are more likely to be targeted by major threats to their computers, such as ransomware, email phishing scams and spy / Trojan programs targeting your finances, and tech support scams.

“Different generations may see the Internet with different eyes and have different experiences online, which is something to keep in mind when having conversations about online safety at home,” said Baloo.

“As a general rule, when you connect to the Internet, whether on your computer, laptop or smartphone, if something does not smell good, do not continue. Do not click on a link in an email, an SMS, a social media ad or a website, do not enter your personal or payment details, and do not download. Prevention is better than cure ”, he concluded.

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