Cybersecurity for Seniors

February 05, 2007

On January 10, roughly a dozen older adults braved the cold and settled into the Distributed Education Center for their first class in a course on cybersecurity. With this seven-week course, called Take Steps to Secure Your Part of Cyberspace, the INI and Carnegie Mellon CyLab introduced its cybersafety education to the fastest growing age group logging on to the Internet—senior citizens.

Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director of the Information Networking Institute and Director of CyLab Education, Training and Outreach, began the first day of class by discussing the growing popularity of the Internet among older adults. According to a Pew study, 22 percent of Internet users were senior citizens in 2004, compared to 15 percent in 2000. While recent media has brought attention to the importance of cybersafety information for parents and school children, a need for this information exists for senior citizens, as well. As with other Internet users, older adults can fall prey to spam and phishing scams, worms, viruses and social networking dangers, but unlike other adults who may use computers at work or school, seniors may have fewer sources available to them for safety information.  

“This class is as much a learning experience for the INI and CyLab as it is for the students,” said Tsamitis. “The students share some of their concerns about the Internet, which will help us shape the educational materials we offer for this age group in the future.”

The course, which ends in mid-February, was offered by the Academy of Lifelong Learning outside link and covers safety discussions and recommended practices pertaining to email, Web browsing, e-commerce and personal safety. The INI plans to further develop materials for older adults through its outreach programs, including its educational portal at www.MySecureCyberspace.com.