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“I’m Doing the Best I Can.”

Understanding Technology Literate Older Adults’ Account Management Strategies

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS,volume 13176)

Abstract

Older adults are becoming more technologically proficient and use the internet to participate actively in society. However, current best security practices can be seen as unusable by this population group as these practices do not consider the needs of an older adult.

Aim. We aim to develop a better understanding of digitally literate, older adults’ online account management strategies and the reasons leading to their adoption.

Method. We carry out two user studies (n = 7, n = 5). The first of these gathered information on older adults’ account ecosystems and their current online security practice. In the second, we presented security advice to the same group of older adults facilitated by a bespoke web application. We used this to learn more about the reasons behind older adults’ security practices by allowing them to reflect on the reported security vulnerabilities in account ecosystems.

Results. Our participants are aware of some online security practices, such as not to reuse passwords. Lack of trust in their own memory is a critical factor in their password management and device access control strategies. All consider finance-related accounts as their most important accounts, but few identified the secondary accounts (e.g. emails for account recovery) or devices that provide access to these as very important.

Conclusions. Older adults make a conscious choice to implement specific practices based on their understanding of security, their trust in their own abilities and third-parties, and the usability of a given security practice. While they are well-aware of some best security practices, their choices will be different if the best security practice does not work in their personal context.

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Fig. 1.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Karen Renaud for her excellent suggestions on how to improve the paper and the anonymous reviewers for the careful reading and helpful comments. We would also like to thank all members of the Bytes and Blether group at the University of Dundee that took part in this work.

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Correspondence to Melvin Abraham , Michael Crabb or Saša Radomirović .

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Appendices

A Interview 1 Script

Demographic

  1. 1.

    What is your age bracket? (a) 60–69 (b) 70–79 (c) 80–89 (d) 90–99 (e) 100+

  2. 2.

    What sex would you classify yourself as? (a) male (b) female (c) transgender (d) non-binary (e) other (f) prefer not to say

  3. 3.

    What is/was your occupation

  4. 4.

    How do you personally rate your technological literacy?

Finding Information Security Advice

  1. 1.

    How important do you think it is to be secure online?

  2. 2.

    How do you decide what your online security practices are?

  3. 3.

    Do you face any challenges implementing online security for your situation?

  4. 4.

    How do you prefer this type of information being presented to you?

Day to Day Security

  1. 1.

    What do you do to keep yourself secure online? – Why?

  2. 2.

    Are you worried about your online security? – Why?

  3. 3.

    What do you wish was easier regarding online security?

Account Ecosystem. I will now ask you questions about your account ecosystems. For each item you introduce you will give it a nickname such as Social1, Password2 or EmailOL. This is so that you can protect your privacy and not disclose any of your passwords. Please do not share any sensitive information such as passwords and PINs. We can revisit questions you have answered.

  1. 1.

    What devices do you use to access the internet?

    1. (a)

      For each device give it a nickname. (Examples: Laptop1, WorkPhone2)

    2. (b)

      What are the login methods and things you need to access it?

      1. i.

        Give a nickname for each entity needed or refer to the nickname that entity was given if already mentioned in the interview.

      2. ii.

        Is this method a recovery method for this account?

    3. (c)

      Can you view messages and notifications on this device when it is locked?

    4. (d)

      Are there any comments you have on this device you would like to share?

    Repeat (a)–(d) for every Device.

  2. 2.

    Do you use password managers to access any of your accounts?

    1. (a)

      Give each password manager a nickname. (Examples: PM1, Manager1)

    2. (b)

      What are the login methods and things you need to access it?

      1. i.

        Give a nickname for each entity needed or refer to the nickname that entity was given if already mentioned in the interview.

      2. ii.

        Is this method a recovery method for this password manager?

    3. (c)

      Do you have open sessions (logged in permanently) with this password manager?

      1. i.

        For each open session assign a nickname for each entity or refer to the nickname that entity was given if already mentioned.

    4. (d)

      Are there any comments you have on this password manager you would like to share?

    Repeat (a)–(d) for every password manager.

The sub-questions 2(a)–2(d) are also asked for each of the Questions 3–9, replacing “password manager” by “account”.

  1. 3.

    What email addresses do you have access too?

  2. 4.

    What social media accounts do you use to stay connected?

  3. 5.

    What accounts do you have to access your online finances? What social media accounts do you use to stay connected?

  4. 6.

    What accounts do you use for online shopping? What social media accounts do you use to stay connected?

  5. 7.

    What accounts do you use for entertainment? What social media accounts do you use to stay connected?

  6. 8.

    What accounts do you use for gaming? What social media accounts do you use to stay connected?

  7. 9.

    Are there any more accounts or items you feel we have missed? What social media accounts do you use to stay connected?

  8. 10.

    Look over the passwords you mentioned.

    1. (a)

      How secure do you think your password is?

      1. i.

        Strong = A password created by a password manager.

      2. ii.

        Average = A password you made yourself that you consider strong.

      3. iii.

        Weak = A password you made yourself that you consider weak or one that does not fit in the other two categories.

    2. (b)

      What are the login methods and things you need to access this password?

      1. i.

        Give a nickname for each entity needed or refer to the nickname that entity was given if already mentioned in the interview.

      2. ii.

        Is this method a recovery method to access this password?

    3. (c)

      Are there any comments on this password you would like to share?

    Repeat (a)–(c) for every password in this category.

B Interview 2 Script

Checking the Participants Awareness of Their Security

  1. 1.

    What did you think was the most important part of your account ecosystem?

  2. 2.

    Are you aware of any account security vulnerabilities you may have?

  3. 3.

    Which of your accounts do you think are the most important to keep secure?

  4. 4.

    Are you aware of anything you can do to improve your account security?

Reflections

  1. 1.

    Were there vulnerabilities found within the analysis based on a security practice that you originally thought secure?

  2. 2.

    Are there any practices you currently do you thought were not secure but disproved by the analysis?

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Abraham, M., Crabb, M., Radomirović, S. (2022). “I’m Doing the Best I Can.” . In: Parkin, S., Viganò, L. (eds) Socio-Technical Aspects in Security. STAST 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13176. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-10183-0_5

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