Cybersecurity: Understanding Vulnerabilities – Who is Most at Risk?

Throughout the entire month of January, The Fintech Times will be exploring every dimension of one of the industry’s most pressing topics: cybersecurity.

We continue to investigate personal security this week by looking at vulnerabilities. Having previously compared workplace vulnerabilities, we now delve into who is most impacted by cyber-attacks.

Impact on older generations

Generally speaking, due to a lack of familiarity with digital processes and simply being less tech-savvy than younger generations, older people are the ones who suffer the most from cyber attacks. Speaking to The Fintech Times, MYPINPAD‘s Chairman, Justin Pike, said, “If we look at the UK as a case study, prior to the pandemic roughly four million over-65s did not use the Internet at all, according to Age UK. And, while Mintel has found that 43 per cent of those in this age group have now shopped online, there are likely some who still struggle to adjust to making payments and managing finances digitally.”

James Bore, Director, Bores ConsultancyJames Bore, Director, Bores Consultancy
James Bore, Director at Bores Consultancy

This was further supported by James Bore, Director at Bores Consultancy, who stated, “Both with cybercrime and other forms of fraud, older adults are the most popular targets. A perceived unfamiliarity with technology, along with generally having more assets (such as higher credit ratings in general) means that older adults are both more heavily targeted, and sadly fall victim more often.”

Yonder, the strategic consultancy, released research on the spending habits of over 65s, finding that 71 per cent of those surveyed said they did not need nor did they feel reliant on cash during the pandemic. These findings unravelled the perception that older generations were getting left behind digitally and in fact, showed they were keeping up with the pandemic’s digitisation.

Additionally, when it came to the newer forms of payment such as cryptocurrencyQR codes and voice assistant payments the baseline averages across all demographics were low standing at 3 per cent, 4 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. Yet, the over 65s were not the lowest demographics when it came to the adoption of these technologies – except for cryptocurrency payments with no one in this age bracket saying they had tried this payment method. However, 2 per cent of over 65s had used QR codes and 1 per cent had used voice assistants.

Yonder’s findings suggest the older generation are more digitally savvy than many give them credit for. Keeping up with digitisation trends does not make you immune to cyberattacks, but research from Atlas VPN found that Baby Boomers were found to be less susceptible to phishing attacks; with the data suggesting that only 9 per cent of them had previous direct experience of them compared to 23 per cent of Gen Z and the Millennials having fallen victim to phishing emails in the US.

Are the youth more susceptible to cyberattacks?

Jacob Sever, Founder of SumsubJacob Sever, Founder of Sumsub
Jacob Sever, Founder of Sumsub

Jacob Sever, Founder of Sumsub, echoed Bore and Pike’s points saying, “The most vulnerable internet users have little online experience and digital skills, making them unable to detect and evaluate online risks properly. Usually these are senior citizens or children—but can also be adults from parts of the world with limited economic and educational opportunities. Financial scams are a particularly high risk for the latter category, as poverty can lead people to underestimate money-related cyberthreats.”

One important thing to consider when looking at Atlas VPN’s findings is that younger generations are more exposed to potential cyberattacks than the older generations as many have to be vigilant at work as well as in their private lives.

This vigilance is not always at the forefront of their minds though. Having grown up with technology and the internet, it is very easy to become complacent and carefree, allowing criminals an avenue to cause damage.

Further insights from Atlas VPN found that in a work environment people believed themselves to be better protected:

  • Only 32 per cent of adults in the US freted about their data and security when using the internet at work. Privacy is a concern for 36 per cent of adults. The number of worried Americans nearly doubles when it comes to using the internet at home. Overall, 64 per cent of American adults said they are uncomfortable browsing the web at home, while 62 per cent are worried about their data and security.
  • Of all environments, however, the majority of Americans worry about their data and privacy when using a public WiFi. Privacy on a public WiFi is a concern for 70 per cent of Americans, and data security is a concern for 69 per cent of Americans.

So are businesses and the office a safe haven from cyber threats? The short answer is no. Whilst many believe that their office space will protect them from all cybercriminals,  crooks are constantly working on ways to overcome defences and becoming lazy and less vigilant in the workspace allows them to prosper.

Cryptocurrencies make users and organisations more vulnerable

When looking at who is the most vulnerable to cyberattacks, we must look beyond age demographics. Understanding what criminals are targeting also allows us to understand vulnerable groups.

Kadan Stadelmann, CTO of KomodoKadan Stadelmann, CTO of Komodo
Kadan Stadelmann, CTO of Komodo

Kadan Stadelmann, CTO of Komodo argues that cryptocurrencies are these high-value targets sought after by criminals, “The biggest threat at the moment for the cybersecurity field is the Log4j vulnerability. Several possible scenarios impact both individuals and organisations. The biggest threat is ransomware attacks where third parties can gain unauthorised access to systems and steal critical data. We are also seeing attackers target computers by attempting to install cryptocurrency mining malware.

“More specifically in the crypto sector, the lack of a unified secure code review standard continues to be a major security challenge for end-users. New tokens and protocols launch all the time, and investors are willing to put huge portions of their net worths on the line to try and make quick profits. Often, these projects aren’t properly vetted and end up duping investors.

“In 2021, $7.7billion of cryptocurrency was stolen. As one example, in November 2021, a group of developers created a Squid Game cryptocurrency that by its code design made it so that only the token creators could sell the token. The creators scammed $3million from investors in what is known as a ‘rug pull’. Just this week, a similar incident happened when someone created a fake MetaMask token and stole $1.8million.

“Compared to investing in traditional financial markets, crypto investors have to be much more alert about potential security risks when interacting with blockchains and cryptocurrencies.”

In an article looking at cryptocurrency crime around the world and the biggest breaches, Crypto Head released findings on which countries were most affected. The vast majority of cases couldn’t be tied to any one country, but of those that could, the majority targeted the United States (17), followed by the United Kingdom (12), South Korea (9), Japan (7) and China (6).

It wasn’t the most targeted entities that suffered the most though, as Turkey lost the highest sum through the Thodex scam, which saw $2billion stolen, followed by Japan ($1.2billion stolen in total) and China ($1billion stolen in total).

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.