Younger and older people differ in their susceptibility to different types of social engineering attacks, according to researchers at Avast. Younger people tend to fall for scams distributed through social media apps, while older people are more likely to fall for banking and tech support scams.

“The most important internet activity for 18-24 year olds is using social media (37%),” Avast said in a press release. “For 25-34 year olds, it’s staying in contact with friends and family via messenger services and emails (40%), and for 35-44 year olds, it’s banking and finance activities (40%). This shows why the younger generation are targeted on their smartphone with scams on Instagram and TikTok, FluBot SMS and email phishing scams that look like they’ve come from friends or family, and mobile banking Trojans.”

The researchers explain that older users tend to be targeted by attacks that affect desktop computers.

“In comparison, the most important activities for the older generation are banking and finance activities (55-64: 55%, 65+: 70%), followed by staying in contact with friends and family via messenger services and email (55-64: 47%, 65+: 56%), and using a search engine (55-64: 33%, 65+: 38%),” Avast adds. “This helps to explain why they are more likely to be targets for key threats on computers including ransomware, email phishing scams and spyware/Trojans targeting their finances, and tech support scams.”

Jaya Baloo, Chief Information and Security Officer at Avast, noted that despite these trends, anyone of any age can fall for social engineering scams.

“Of course, younger generations are also susceptible to desktop-related threats as they use desktop devices as their secondary tool to go online, and vice versa older generations also use smartphones, but it’s important that New Zealanders understand the different types of online threats that are targeted at different devices and that you discuss all of these threats as a family so each person is up to date and aware of how to stay safe whatever device they happen to be using,” Baloo said. “Different generations may see the internet with different eyes and have different online experiences, which is something to keep in mind when having conversations about online safety at home.”

New-school security awareness training can help employees of all ages avoid falling for phishing and other social engineering attacks.