Study: Compared to baby boomers, millennials are pretty careless about cybersecurity


A recent study on young adults and technology reveals that millennials, generally thought to be more tech-saavy, are lax about cybersecurity and don’t take password protection as seriously as their parents.

A whopping 82% of millennials said that they reuse passwords online, while 70% of baby boomers said they did the same, according to the study.

The new findings from global commerce firm First Data indicate that young adults are behind baby boomers and Generation Xers in preparing themselves for a security breach, which has become a major threat to consumers in recent years.

“The results of the survey underline why businesses need to deploy state-of-the-art solutions to address the risk of cyber threats,” EJ Jackson, senior vice president and head of the security and fraud division at First Data, said in a news release. “Fraudsters are using increasingly complex schemes and not all consumers are employing best practices, but there is technology that can help businesses and financial institutions mitigate the risk.”

About 70% of millennials believe that downloading free software from the internet exposes them to a cyberattack, the survey shows. About 46% of them believed that there were cybersecurity risks with using social media while 63% of baby boomers agreed with the sentiment.

Young adults were also less trustful of mobile banking, with 39% believing that it exposed them to being hacked.

To arrive at the numbers, FirstData surveyed nearly 800 U.S. consumers about their security practices, including millennial behaviors toward identity theft and fraud.

RELATED: A strong password isn’t enough: Here’s how to protect your online accounts

Study: Young adults weak on password protection

In the aftermath of the Equifax data breach, the research is a startling  reminder of the need for consumer education when it comes to cybersecurity. When asked how they would react if their favorite retailer experienced a security breach, millennial respondents to the FirstData survey had this to say:

  • 32%: I’d still shop there, but I’d only use cash or my EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa)-enabled card.”
  • 30%: I’d still shop there and wouldn’t change how I paid for my items.
  • 30%: I’d still shop there, but I’d only use cash.

Meanwhile, 58% of young adults said that cyberattacks via online shopping were “very likely” and 38% called the notion “somewhat likely.”


RELATED: New security warning about chip credit cards

Generations differ on social media security vulnerability

A generational gap was most pronounced when it came to beliefs around social media safety. Only 45% of millennials believe that cyberattacks via social media were a concern. But 53% of Generation Xers and 63% of baby boomers thought that hacking was a major issue on social media.

Young adults also proved to be duly suspicious of strangers online. Most millennials (81%) said that they never open attachments from people they don’t know. And 79% said they don’t click links in emails from unknown individuals.

When it came to credit card security, 52% of millennials said that they had at least one of their credit or debit cards compromised. More than 50% of them said that after the incidents, they signed up for electronic notifications  to monitor their cards.

Money expert Clark Howard advises healthy spending habits for young adults with credit cards.

Three rules for using credit cards responsibly

  1. Pay your balance off every month: No singular practice will increase your buying power more than faithfully paying off your balance by the end of the month.
  2. Store credit cards are pretty bad: They don’t help your credit much and are little more than vanity plates for merchants.
  3. Monitor your credit history: Take an active stake in your financial life by knowing your credit score.

RELATED: Debit vs. credit: Pros, cons and protecting your money

Protecting yourself online: The dos and don’ts of social media

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