Nonprofit Launches Free Online Safety Tutorial Amid Rising Phishing Attacks

data breachImage by Darwin Laganzon

PHILADELPHIA, PA — As cyber threats continue to escalate, Generations on Line (GoL), a national nonprofit committed to digital literacy for older adults, is launching a free, interactive safety awareness tutorial. Timed to coincide with Safer Internet Day on February 6, the tutorial aims to equip internet users with the skills to navigate the web securely amid a surge in phishing attacks.

Phishing, a fraudulent attempt by scammers to acquire sensitive user information through deceptive emails or websites, has seen a staggering rise of over 150% annually since 2019, according to cybersecurity expert Gary Smith at Station X. With an estimated 3.4 billion phishing emails sent daily, phishing has become the most prevalent form of cybercrime.

Older adults are particularly vulnerable to these cyber threats. The Daws Centre for Future Crime and other experts cite factors such as lower tech familiarity and social isolation as contributing to their increased risk. As the pandemic pushes more seniors online, over a quarter reported encountering at least one online fraud attempt during the first lockdown.

Recent research from Pew Studies reveals a concerning lack of cybersecurity knowledge among the 65+ demographic. Only 26% could identify an example of two-factor authentication, while only 57% understood that cookies track user visits and activity. Alarmingly, 50% expressed anxiety about password security, and 38% admitted to using easy-to-remember but less secure passwords.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Annual Report to Congress last year highlighted the financial toll of these scams. Adults aged 60 and over reported losses totaling $1.6 billion in 2022. However, the FTC estimates the actual cost could be as high as $48 billion, given that many cases go unreported.

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Generations on Line’s safety awareness tutorial promises to arm users with practical skills to counter this threat. The tutorial offers personalized guidance, interactive quizzes, and insights into safe web surfing, shopping, email use, and password protection. It will be used by senior centers, libraries, elder residential facilities, and over 300,000 GoL users.

A 2019 study in the International Journal of Innovative Technology found a significant decrease in falling for phishing attacks among those who underwent awareness training. The study emphasized the need for practical training to help users discern legitimate websites and emails.

As cybercrime continues to soar, initiatives like GoL’s tutorial are crucial in empowering internet users, particularly older adults, with the knowledge to protect themselves online. To report elder fraud, contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–FRAUD–11 or 833–372–8311.

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