Return of the Guru

You Can’t Cure ‘Gullible’

Ara Trembly
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 24, 2011

There is no doubt that phishing schemes and malware enticements are par for the course for anyone who logs onto the World Wide Web these days, but new research seems to indicate that one group is more likely to be bamboozled than others.

Specifically, Dark Reading reports that smartphone users appear to be far more likely than PC users to visit a phishing website via a phony e-mail message and, once there, are three times more likely to provide their log-in information, new research finds.

According to Dark Reading, Trusteer, a provider of secure browsing services, studied the log files of several Web servers that were hosting phishing sites and came up with those results. The report, claiming “lopsided” results against mobile phone users, blames this on several factors, including the fact that portable devices are always “at hand,” so users tend to see phishing e-mails there first. Trusteer CEO Mickey Boodaei points out that the first couple of hours of a phishing attack are key, since such sites typically shut down or are blocked after that.

The report also theorizes that the smaller screens and address bars of Smartphones and the like may hide what users on a PC would recognize as clues of a phony e-mail or Web address. There may be something to these reasons, but I doubt that they alone account for significantly skewed results. One has to wonder why using a portable computing device suddenly make one less intelligent when it comes to sniffing out scams.

Obviously I haven’t done any research on this issue, but one thing that occurs to me is that the ranks of smartphone users are probably overrepresented by very young consumers. Of course, younger users aren’t necessarily less intelligent, but they are more likely to be gullible. While most young users are extremely computer savvy, they often have a long way to go before they become savvy in the ways of the world. Most of us would probably agree that teenagers, at least, would be far more likely to do something impulsive—like click on a link that promised rewards that most adults would realize are too good to be true—than older users.

Happily for the insurance and financial services sector, it is likely that most of our business partners and customers are wise enough to recognize a scam when they see one, and would be hard-pressed to divulge passwords and other confidential data. The same, however, may not be true for those in our youngest demographics, among whom portable computing devices are often a given. Only maturity and experience can cure the gullibility of youth. Insurers would be wise, then, to make their customers and potential customers more aware of scams that involve insurance products in general, and their own companies in particular.

Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Ara using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at ara@aratremblytechnology.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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