Cyber divide suggests Boomers worry more about cyberattacks

Gen Z have the lowest awareness of threats like phishing and malware, while older consumers are far more likely to fret about attacks, new research reveals

A generational cyber divide has emerged in the United States, with Boomers far more worried about cybersecurity than younger consumers, while Gen Z had the lowest awareness of common threats like phishing and malware, according to new research.

Comcast’s Xfinity Cyber Health Report found more than three in four Americans (78 per cent) report risky online behaviours that open them up to cyber threats, such as reusing or sharing passwords, skipping software updates and more. This represents a 14 per cent increase from just two years ago, says Comcast. 

Comcast’s report combines data from a new consumer survey with national threat data collected by Xfinity’s xFi Advanced Security platform. The data also revealed the company has blocked nearly 10 billion cybersecurity threats since it launched less than five years ago.

"This holiday season, consumers are purchasing and connecting more devices to their home networks than ever before,” says Noopur Davis, EVP, Chief Information Security Officer and Product Privacy Officer, Comcast. “With this influx of devices comes an influx of cybersecurity risk. Now more than ever, consumers need to prioritise keeping their connected devices, and the people who use them, safe from cyber threats.”

Comcast’s Xfinity Cyber Health Report analyses cyber threat trends, the growing list of devices in connected homes, and a view into consumers’ attitudes and behaviours around cyber protection. Key findings include:

Connected homes are expanding, and so is attack volume

Xfinity xFi homes average 15 connected devices, up 25 per cent from 2020. Power users average 34 devices. A total of 58 per cent of consumers plan to buy at least one connected device this holiday season. Comcast’s security blocks an average of 23 unique threats per home each month – with the total number of attacks at least three-to-four times that number since many attacks are repeated.

Consumers still underestimate threats

Nearly three-fourths (74 per cent) of Americans believe less than 10 attacks hit their home network every month. A total of 61 per cent believe devices are protected from threats right out-of-the-box at purchase. This leaves many new devices open to potential threats without protection.

Consumers are unsure they’d know they’ve been hacked

When asked how soon they would know whether they were a victim of a cyberattack, only 20 per cent said immediately. Another 32 per cent said they aren’t sure they’d ever know if they were a victim of a cyberattack. And, 51 per cent of respondents noted they are not confident they would know if a non-screen device was hacked, such as a robot vacuum or a smart plug.

Emerging device vulnerabilities are misunderstood

Computers and smartphones remain the top two targeted devices, consistent with findings in 2020. While consumers recognise the risks associated with these two device types, they underestimate the risk of emerging devices in their homes. In fact, xFi Advanced Security blocked threats to smartwatches, lighting, thermostats, doorbells, garage openers, sports and fitness equipment, sprinkler systems and even cars, drones and pet accessories.

There is a generational cyber divide

Seventy per cent of Boomers admit to unsafe behaviours compared with Gen X (80 per cent), Millennials (82 per cent) and Gen Z (87 per cent). Gen Z had the lowest awareness of common threats like phishing and malware. A total of 77 per cent of Millennials are likely to buy a connected device this holiday season, the most for any segment surveyed.

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