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Device-divide: Grandparents targeted by ransomware, young adults by TikTok scams

New research from Avast revealed that older and younger generations are being targeted by different online threats based on the primary device that they use to go online.

user iconReporter
Tue, 25 Jan 2022
Device-divide: Grandparents targeted by ransomware, young adults by TikTok scams
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The research, which forms part of a comprehensive global study with YouGov into digital citizenship trends, found that a majority of Australians aged 55-64 (58 per cent) and over 65 (69 per cent) primarily use their desktop computer or laptop to go online. This makes them more susceptible to ransomware, tech support scams, spyware or Trojans, and Botnets, which can be accidentally or unknowingly downloaded or accessed via links in emails or through malicious websites.

In contrast, younger Australians mainly use their smartphone to go online (18-24 - 61 per cent; 25-34 - 73 per cent; 35-44 - 68 per cent) making them targets for adware, mobile banking Trojans, downloader and FluBot SMS scams spreading malware, and Instagram and TikTok scams promoting adware apps or Fleeceware. Across all devices, younger and older generations are also targets for phishing attacks and romance scams.

According to Avast Threat Labs data, on desktops, Avast blocked on average over 1.46 million ransomware attacks each month in 2021, and between January and April this year, there were 5.9 million tech support scam attack attempts worldwide each month.


On mobile devices, the top threats last quarter were adware (59 per cent), mobile banking Trojans (9.7 per cent), and downloaders (7.9 per cent), which are harmful apps that use social engineering tactics to trick victims into installing more malicious or otherwise unwanted apps. FluBot has also been spreading widely on mobile in most countries, including Australia, where Avast blocked 3,500 attacks monthly in August and September this year, out of 35,000 attacks blocked on average globally per month in Q3.

Cyber criminals are always looking for new ways to steal your data, personal details or money through increasingly sophisticated scams and online threats, according to Jaya Baloo, chief information security officer at Avast.

"They often take into account how younger and older generations use different devices to launch targeted attacks, adapting them to current cultural and usage trends to make them more relevant and likely to hit their mark.

"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.

"It goes without saying that you should also make sure that you have strong digital protection not only for your computer but for your smartphone, which is becoming even more important with growing mobile threats," Baloo said.

The most important internet activity for 18-24-year-olds is using social media (37 per cent). For 25-34-year-olds, it’s staying in contact with friends and family via messenger services and emails (37 per cent), and for 35-44-year-olds, it’s banking and finance activities (43 per cent). 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.

In comparison, the most important activities for the older generation are banking and finance activities (55-64 - 56 per cent; 65-plus - 61 per cent), followed by staying in contact with friends and family via messenger services and email (55-64 - 40 per cent; 65-plus - 47 per cent), and using a search engine (55-64 - 42 per cent, 65-plus - 44 per cent). This helps to explain why they are more likely to be targets for key threats on computers including ransomware, email phishing scams, spyware or Trojans targeting their finances, and tech support scams.

According to Baloo, it’s important that Australians understand the different types of online threats that are targeted at different devices and 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.

"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.

"As a rule of thumb, when going online, whether it’s on your computer, laptop or smartphone, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t continue.

"Don’t click on a link in an email, SMS, social ad or website, don’t input your personal or payment details and don’t download. It’s better to be safe than sorry," Baloo concluded.

[Related: DHL named most frequently imitated brand by hackers running phishing scams]

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