Tech Savvy Millennials Least Prepared Against Cybercriminals

We use technology for everything -- paying bills, buying lattes, even dating. And cybercriminals are paying attention and shifting their tactics online. As technology permeates our daily lives, criminals are focusing their efforts on the Internet for lucrative opportunities to take advantage of people's online behaviors.

While it is not surprising that cybercrime has become a reality, it is surprising that digital-native Millennials, the ones downloading apps for paying bills and teasing their grandparents for their lack of cyber smarts, are most likely to be targeted by online criminals while their parents and grandparents are actually more secure. Still, the bad guys are showing their smarts too: in the past year, one in three Americans experienced an online security breach. Cybercrime is definitely taking its toll.

The Digital Divide in Online Crime
New research released this week from Norton explores the emotional toll that cybercrime takes on consumers, and in the process, uncovers generational divides regarding online security attitudes and habits.

The Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report surveyed more than 17,000 individuals around the world ages 18 to 65-plus. The findings in the U.S. show Americans are highly aware of the risks associated with online crime and worry about the consequences. In fact, 79 percent of Americans surveyed believe identity theft is more likely now than ever before, and 63 percent would rather go on a bad date than have to deal with the aftermath of a security breach.

Not surprisingly, online fears are beginning to surpass other anxieties. Parents suspect their child has a better chance of being bullied on the Internet than being bullied on the playground. And "germaphobes" have another matter to worry about - 78 percent of Baby Boomers and 64 percent of Millennials believe using public Wi-Fi is more dangerous than using a public restroom!

Unsurprisingly, Millennials consider themselves better equipped to deal with online dangers than Baby Boomers -- they feel more knowledgeable than older generations in how to secure Wi-Fi networks and how to update privacy settings on a phone. One in three Millennials surveyed awarded themselves an A+ for online security -- the highest of any age group -- and 38 percent even claimed they "aren't interesting enough" to be targeted for online crime in the first place.

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, ranked themselves as the most likely targets of online crime, with 56 percent reporting their own age group is the most at risk.

Despite these perceptions, Baby Boomers are winning in online safety and Millennials are failing the most basic security course: Passwords 101.

Password ≠ 12345

Using weak passwords is like relying on Wikipedia in college -- you know you shouldn't use it, but it's just so convenient. Unfortunately, using weak passwords opens us up to an array of cybersecurity risks, from having our Facebook accounts hacked to having our identities stolen. Today, using a secure password is more important than ever before. The 56 percent of Millennials who believe sharing a password with a friend is riskier than lending them their car have the right idea: passwords are the first line of defense in protecting your online identity.

While the majority of Millennials understand the importance of passwords, this age group is still more than twice as likely to share passwords as Baby Boomers. And they're sharing sensitive login credentials, including their social media profiles, email and even banking accounts.

Baby Boomers, however, are less than half as likely to share passwords (only 15 percent) and when they use passwords, Boomers are the most likely to always use secure passwords (46 percent).

These lax security habits have real-world consequences. Forty-four percent of Millennials report having experienced a security breach in the last year compared to just 26 percent of Baby Boomers.

The Real Toll of Cybercrime

Though Millennials are most likely to be the target of cybercrime in the U.S., 82 percent of all Americans surveyed believe that online crime is significant enough to worry about -- and for good reason.

In the past 12 months, Americans lost almost $29 billion to online crime. That averages to $300 per person -- or equal to a year of a home security service. Americans also spent an average of 17 hours per person dealing with the fallout of an online attack -- that's nearly the equivalent of binge watching two seasons of Game of Thrones!

Here are tips everyone, from Millennials to Baby Boomers, should consider to improve their security:

  • Use a password manager -- Instead of designing difficult-to-remember yet secure login credentials on your own, leverage a password manager that creates and stores secure passwords for all your accounts.
  • Secure connected devices -- As connected devices become more common, you should become familiar with securing these devices. One easy step is changing the default password on a connected device immediately after turning it on for the first time.
  • Be skeptical of social media logins -- While it's convenient to use a social media account (like Facebook) to login to other third-party websites, it also makes it easier for criminals to compromise your accounts. If a hacker gets a hold of credentials to your main account, the criminal could have access to all the linked accounts.

Every day criminals are finding new ways to compromise devices and steal identities. While consumers understand this, many still don't take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Next time you think about casting security aside and sharing your password with a friend, imagine what you could do with an extra $300.

Learn more about the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report and tools for protecting yourself on the internet at