Visible to the public  SBE: Option: Small: Safety for the Ages: Generational Differences in Motivations to Use Security Protections in an Online Banking ContextConflict Detection Enabled

Project Details

Lead PI

Performance Period

Sep 15, 2013 - Aug 31, 2017


Michigan State University

Award Number

Outcomes Report URL

How does the average user cope with the threats they encounter while engaged in the most sensitive of all online activities, online banking? Online Safety for the Ages (OSA) examines generational differences in motivations to use risky online services and self-protective measures in the context of online banking. An influx of older adults attracted to the Internet by social media but at times unfamiliar with dealing with the hazards of online life, as well as younger users who are sometimes oblivious to those dangers, pose distinct challenges to the preservation of online safety.

A partnership with the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union will provide access to both users and non-users of online banking services of various ages to explore these issues. OSA will work from group interviews and observations of users in their homes to understand the risks that ordinary users perceive when attempting to use online banking, how they cope with risks currently, and the gaps that they see in their own abilities to bank safely online. In-depth analysis of surveys administered to credit union customers will reveal the factors that drive and the barriers that prevent adoption of online banking and online consumer safety measures. Finally, OSA will create and test online tutorials designed to help credit union customers become more confident in their abilities to protect themselves while banking online and to understand how their banking institution can assist them.

Thus, OSA will contribute new knowledge about how to motivate average users to play their part in making the Internet safer for themselves and for the online community at large. In public discussions of online security, user education is often mentioned as a priority, but too often only in passing, and with self-canceling lamentations about the difficulty of achieving it. The present project will contribute by developing scientifically grounded, evidenced-based knowledge about effective approaches to consumer education. The project focuses on a vulnerable group of older Americans whose lives can be improved through secure access to financial services. Older Americans, however, are also vulnerable to online scammers and are too often uninformed about online dangers and inexperienced with effective protections. OSA provides a model through which bank customers and their financial institutions can work together to improve online security, a model that will be disseminated widely in the banking community with the assistance of a banking industry partner and to the computer security community through professional publications. Finally, the project will support doctoral students who will pursue careers in academia and government and further the goal of online safety through their own students and constituents.