A mixed methods approach to understanding cyber-security vulnerability in the baby boomer population

Benjamin Alan Morrison*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The ongoing development and ubiquitous spread of technology has brought with it new threats and opportunities for online victimisation. Although human factors cyber-security research continues to try to mitigate these threats through the application of behavioural science, some users, such as older adults, remain at particular risk of cyber-attacks, and yet remain heavily under-represented in the extant literature base. This thesis outlines a mixed methods approach to understanding older adult cyber-security vulnerability.

The thesis began by identifying a range of technological changes that take place during the transition into retirement. Each of these changes offered avenues for subsequent cyber-security vulnerability. Through conducting a large-scale online survey in retired older adults, these retirement related factors were shown to be associated with engagement in risky online cyber-security behaviours. It was identified that the strongest predictor of these was an individual’s computer self-doubt. A second qualitative study found that older adults see cyber-security as a stressful subject and demonstrated both: the factors that influenced their confidence in relation to engaging in cyber-security behaviours, as well as their reasons for disengaging from cyber-security behaviours. A scale was developed to further understand older adult’s security related stress, which was applied to understand their coping behaviours when faced with a cyber-security challenge. This was effective at predicting older adults’ engagement in dysfunctional coping, highlighting how security stress might promote cyber-security vulnerability. Finally, the research applied the transactional theory of stress and coping to older adults’ cyber-security, demonstrating its effectiveness in predicting both dysfunctional and problem focussed coping strategies.

The thesis provides new knowledge as to the factors which promote cyber-security vulnerability in older adults and outlines specific avenues as to how this vulnerability might manifest. Throughout this thesis, recommendations for policy makers, developers and future research are made and discussed in the context of existing literature.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Northumbria University
  • Briggs, Pam, Supervisor
  • Coventry, Lynne, Supervisor
Award date19 Nov 2020
Place of PublicationNewcastle Upon Tyne
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Jul 2020


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