How do Older Adults feel about engaging with Cyber-Security?

Benjamin Morrison*, Lynne Coventry, Pam Briggs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
39 Downloads (Pure)


Older adults are increasingly a target for cyber‐attacks; however, very little research has investigated how they feel about engaging in protective cyber‐security behaviors. We developed and applied a novel card‐sorting task to elicit how older adults feel about protective cyber‐security behaviors and to identify the factors that impact their confidence in executing these behaviors. Nineteen task‐assisted interviews were conducted with UK older adults. A thematic analysis revealed that older adults see protective online behaviors as important, but their reasons for disengagement fell into three categories: I do not want to (essentially, because the costs outweigh the benefits), I do not need to (e.g. because it is not my responsibility), and I am unable to (which includes heightened anxiety about doing something wrong). Underlying confidence around engagement with protective behaviors was a function of three factors: personal competence (related to good computer self‐efficacy and relevant past experience), support (having a good network for information and advice), and demand (the effort of keeping up to date with the latest advice). Ultimately, we found that older adults are keen to protect themselves but are lacking appropriate support and we discuss implications for developers, researchers, and policy makers. This paper explores older adults' perceptions of common cyber‐security behaviors. We introduce an effective card sorting methodology for security elicitation in older adults. We apply this to identify reasons as to why older adults may not engage in security behaviors as well as identifying a number of reasons why older adults actively avoid engaging in security behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1049
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Behavior and Emerging Technologies
Issue number5
Early online date17 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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