Battle of the Generations: Who Knows the Most About Ransomware?

Gen-Z, Millennials and Boomers Still Unsure What Ransomware Is, According to New Webroot Survey

Broomfield - February 1, 2018

As massive data breaches like Equifax and Yahoo continue to affect millions of Americans, Webroot, the Smarter Cybersecurity® company, set out to discover how these incidents are impacting cybersecurity awareness—and precautions—among different generations.

The company surveyed more than 2,000 US-based home users about their cybersecurity knowledge and practices, and found that while users of all ages have some practices down (such as not clicking links in messages from unknown senders), there are still gaps in their awareness, mostly around ransomware.

In a ransomware attack, hackers encrypt or lock consumers’ files to extort payment. Unless the victim pays the ransom, their files may be gone forever (though there’s no guarantee that payment will buy back their files, either.) Despite the growing prevalence of ransomware attacks in news headlines, including WannaCry and Petya, nearly two thirds (61.6 percent) of survey respondents could not accurately define ransomware.

Click here to see the full survey results.

How do the generations stack up?

Gen-Z (18-24)

  • This group was the least ransomware-savvy. Under a quarter (23.7 percent) were able to accurately define ransomware.
  • Although antivirus offers strong protection against ransomware, members of Gen-Z are likely to report they either don’t use antivirus protection (33 percent), or don’t know if they have any installed (23.8 percent).
  • This same group is the most willing to pay a hacker to return stolen data; 25.1 percent reported they would pay a hacker up to $500 to return stolen data.
  • Thirty-six percent of Gen-Zers who reported they have clicked a link in an email or text from an unknown sender, have also been a victim of a ransomware attack or know someone who has.

Millennials (25-34)

  • While more savvy than their younger counterparts, only a third (34.2 percent) of millennials could accurately define ransomware.
  • Millennials are the selfie generation; nearly a third (28.9 percent) of survey respondents who were most concerned about losing personal photos in a cyberattack were millennials.
  • Over 60 percent of millennials share their personal information online via mobile banking and bill pay, tax, financial and health care forms, or by shopping online. This makes them more vulnerable to data breaches of all types, underscoring the need for cybersecurity knowledge. 

Baby Boomers (55 -65+)

  • While only half (47.6 percent) of baby boomers could accurately define ransomware, this was still the highest of any generation.
  • Respondents 55 and older might be the most unsafe online, as they are most likely to admit to having received suspicious texts or emails (73.3 percent), or having clicked links in emails/texts from unknown senders (26.9 percent).
  • Despite the risks they face, Baby Boomers are the savviest when it comes to not forwarding emails from unknown senders; 94.2 percent said they had not done so in the past year.

Key Quotes:

Gary Hayslip, Chief Information Security Officer, Webroot
“Despite the widespread threat ransomware presents, consumers still think they are invulnerable to these types of cybersecurity risks. It’s imperative that users follow basic cybersecurity procedures to protect themselves. Regularly backing up your data, keeping applications current with the latest patches, and running a best-in-class antivirus software are critical to protect against ransomware.” 

Tips for consumers to stay safe:

  • Back up your data. Proactively backing up your files can not only save you thousands, it can save your favorite vacation photos, videos of your kids’ piano recitals, and sensitive information.
  • Use good judgment. Be extra vigilant about the websites you visit, the URLs you click and mobile apps you use.
  • Think before you click. Don’t click links from unknown senders and hover over links before you click to double-check that the URL will really direct you a legitimate website. Or better yet, type the URL into your browser yourself.
  • Skip the public WiFi. Criminals can hack your device if you’re signed into an unsecured network. Instead, opt to use your mobile data or connect to a VPN to secure your session.
  • Choose your cards wisely. If a hacker gets your debit card info, your bank may not replace the money they steal. Credit cards are the safer way to pay.
  • Deactivate Bluetooth. Especially in crowded areas like shopping malls. Bluetooth makes it easier for anyone within range to hack your phone.
  • Use a reliable antivirus software. A good solution should protect your data while providing a seamless user experience.

Additional resources:

Research Methodology

The figures presented are based on 2017 data collected, tracked and analyzed by Google Surveys and SHIFT Communications.

About Webroot

Webroot was the first to harness the cloud and artificial intelligence to protect businesses and individuals against cyber threats. We provide the number one security solution for managed service providers and small businesses, who rely on Webroot for endpoint protection, network protection, and security awareness training. Webroot BrightCloud® Threat Intelligence Services are used by market leading companies like Cisco, F5 Networks, Citrix, Aruba, Palo Alto Networks, A10 Networks, and more. Leveraging the power of machine learning to protect millions of businesses and individuals, Webroot secures the connected world. Headquartered in Colorado, Webroot operates globally across North America, Europe, and Asia. Discover Smarter Cybersecurity® solutions at

About Us

Webroot delivers next-generation endpoint security and threat intelligence services to protect businesses and individuals around the globe. Our smarter approach harnesses the power of cloud-based collective threat intelligence derived from millions of real-world devices to stop threats in real time and help secure the connected world.