Ensuring retail cybersecurity for all ages

Justin Fox, Director of Software Engineering at NuData

Online audiences are increasingly diversified by age. They now range from kids playing on their caregivers’ smartphones to senior videos chatting with their grandchildren. While this diversity is generally a good thing, it also poses a security concern for retailers.

Every user is different, with different needs, concerns and levels of risk tolerance. Some of these differences are related to age groups, which can make it difficult to design e-commerce technology to ensure security. and a good experience for all ages.

For example, requiring multi-factor authentication (MFA) on e-commerce transactions can help protect against fraud and accidental child purchases. But for older people, who tend to be less experienced with digital tools, an MFA notification on a phone lock screen can be easy to miss, resulting in cart abandonment and user frustration.

A retailer that ignores – and does not carefully balance – the cybersecurity needs of different age groups risks making its e-commerce applications and other technology products inaccessible to large segments of the population. To avoid this outcome, make sure your product teams are aware of the potential barriers that different age groups face and challenge them to find ways to verify the identity of users that are not preventing the access for any group.

Different age groups face different barriers to accessing online

When engineers and designers imagine the end users of their products, they often visualize people with similar abilities, experiences and knowledge to themselves, and they tend to design the functionality of the product, including the protections of the product. cybersecurity, accordingly. However, the product teams for most applications are less diverse than their existing user bases, especially when it comes to age. Almost three-quarters (73%) of tech workers say the average age of employees in their company is between 20 and 40 years old.

This homogeneity can contribute to biases which mean that the accessibility factors linked to age are neglected. Below are some potential hurdles your product teams should consider during the development process.

Children and adolescents: fearlessness requires guardrails

Children of all ages spend a lot of time immersed in digital worlds for entertainment, communication, and schooling. As a result, they tend to be very digital literate and are generally not intimidated by new digital tools.

However, the fearless adoption of technology by children has a downside. They may not fully consider the consequences of their actions online, whether it is sharing personal information on an unsecured website or unauthorized in-app purchases in a mobile game with a parent’s credit card.

Even if your app or website is not intended for children, you should assume that some children will have access to it. Keeping the internet safe for children and protecting their caregivers’ wallets means installing guardrails to prevent accidental e-commerce purchases and other issues. However, these guardrails cannot add friction to the overall user experience or reduce access for different groups of users.

Seniors: inexperience hinders access

Unlike other generations, adults 65 and over did not grow up using the Internet. This has not stopped them from adopting online services.43% buy more online than before the pandemic.

However, a lack of experience in using digital tools can translate into difficulties in carrying out key actions online. For example, when opening a new account, an inexperienced user may miss messages asking them to confirm their email address, so that they never complete the account creation process. Many seniors are aware of the growing incidence of fraud and cybercrime relative to their age group. They are wary of unexpected text messages and notifications – another reason why multi-factor authentication can present an accessibility challenge for this age group.

A high volume of new unused or unconfirmed accounts, abandoned carts, and requests for password help can mean your less experienced users are struggling with your platform. You need online user verification processes that instill confidence in older people rather than make them suspicious and don’t require them to interact with easily missed notifications or messages.

Other adults: meet a variety of needs

We tend to think of non-senior adults as a relatively tech-savvy group, but that’s not always the case. Digital literacy can fade over time, and an adult who does not regularly use online tools may start to lose the ability to perform basic tasks with technology. Technology is also constantly changing, and adults may not have the time or energy to learn new tools and platforms. These factors can lead to some of the same frustrations described in the section on seniors above.

In addition, not all adults have the same access to technology. Almost half of low-income adults not have a high-speed internet connection at home. Some may run from an outdated or even damaged device if they can’t afford to upgrade their phone every year. This can make it harder to use some common verification technologies: for example, someone with an older phone without a fingerprint reader may not have access to an app that requires biometric data to log in.

Other adults are in the ranks of one in four Americans with a disability, which may have an additional impact on their ability to use common application features. Even if they have a phone with a fingerprint reader, a person without hands will not be able to use it. Considering these possibilities will help you design verification processes that work for everyone. users, regardless of their income level, skill level or disability status.

Leverage technology to improve accessibility

Raising awareness of access barriers associated with age groups is a vital first step in designing more accessible security protections. From there, you can work to counter any biases that might result from the consistency of your team, such as testing products on a more diverse group of users.

With accessibility in mind, your product teams can leverage technology to understand each user’s unique needs and tailor online experiences to them. Many apps have already taken the first steps by offering users several options for authenticating their identity, such as asking them if they prefer to receive a code via email, voice call, or text. But the layering of additional technologies could remove even more friction and potential accessibility barriers. For example, by using passive biometrics, you can verify each user based on their inherent behavior, such as the way they type or hold their phone. In cases where the trust is high, you don’t even need to ask for a password or MFA code.

No single solution can meet the cybersecurity needs of all age groups. However, experimenting with the full range of technologies available today could help you design more accessible experiences that cater for a wide variety of users.

A first step towards a more inclusive world

When it comes to accessible and inclusive design, age is just the tip of the iceberg. Factors such as gender, race / ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and disability also affect the way people access and use technology, and retailers need to take all of them into account when considering the design of cybersecurity software.

However, taking into account the needs of different age groups is a great start. By designing your cybersecurity protections for an age-diverse user base, you will make your products more accessible, improve the overall digital experience, and build trust with customers across generations.

NuData is a fraud prevention company owned by MasterCard Inc.

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