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Silver surfers are more switched on about security than youngsters, even though the 18-25 age group are generally considered a more tech-savvy generation.

Young adults who have been around computers all their lives tend to prioritise entertainment and community over security and privacy, according to a new survey.

The survey of more than 1,200 PC users, sponsored by Check Point Software, found that 50 per cent of 18-25 age group (Gen Y) respondents have had security issues in the past two years compared to less than half (42 per cent) of those from the group aged between 56- to 65-year-olds. Gen Y users had more security problems in spite of expressing greater (perhaps misplaced) confidence in their supposed security knowledge.

More than that 78 per cent of Gen Y respondents fail to follow security best practices. By comparison, those approaching retirement were twice as likely to protect their computers with additional security software (paid antivirus, third-party firewalls, or integrated security suites), according to results from The Generation Gap in Computer Security survey (PDF). This leaves their sensitive data – such as tax records, financial info, and online passwords – at a greater risk of attack.

Only 31 per cent of Gen Y respondents ranked security as the most important consideration when making decisions about their computers in comparison to 58 per cent of Baby Boomers (56- to 65-year-olds). Gen Y prioritised entertainment and community above security, the survey found. Young adults (45 per cent) are more likely than silver surfers to view security software as being "too expensive".

"Growing up in the digital age, Gen Y may appear to be a more tech-savvy generation, but that does not translate into safer computer and online practices," said Tomer Teller, security evangelist and researcher at Check Point Software Technologies.

"Gen Y tends to prioritise entertainment and community over security, perhaps due to overconfidence in their security knowledge. For example, they’re more concerned about gaming or other social activities than their online security. They also have less sophisticated security software, and hence have reported more security problems than other groups, such as Baby Boomers."

Check Point recently launched ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall as a combined security suite. It also sells a range of paid-for products, principally but not exclusively to business, which means that the firm has a vested interest in highlighting consumer security mistakes. That doesn't mean it's wrong about tearaway young adults and lax security, however. ®

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