If you’re one of the nearly 75 million people born between 1982 and 2004, you fall into the generational group researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss proclaimed “Millennials” in 2012. Since the term Millennial didn’t come about until recently, one of the defining characteristics of the Millennial generation as compared to their Generation X parents is a familiarity with technology.
Most people who identify with this generation group grew up in a high-tech era and view technology as a part of daily life. But understanding technology and using it securely are not the same thing, and new studies are pointing a finger at young people for making careless choices in their use of technology — choices that have significant impacts in the workplace.
Business and Pleasure in One Place
In 2013, mobile threat defense company Marble security conducted a survey of online security practices in people born between 1980 and 2000. The results indicated that Millennials were five percent more likely to have been hacked in a major breach than persons even just a few years older.
How does this impact office affairs? Their poor security practices do nothing to discourage Millennials from using their personal devices in business applications. Imagine you’re an executive receiving a sensitive document that’s just been emailed to you using someone’s personal email. You have no way of knowing whether it was compromised while on public servers.
This type of exposure becomes frightening when you consider the how easy it is for cybercriminals to take advantage of abundant personal information these days. The recent yahoo breach that exposed information for five hundred million personal accounts is a great example. All an attacker needs to do is match your account name to the email, and viola — everything in your inbox is theirs.
Have We Become Comfortably Numb?
Despite their familiarity with technology as a tool for productivity, today’s youth don’t seem the least bit concerned about network security, even in an age when breaches, hacks and identity theft take place on a nearly daily basis.
Seventy-two percent of Millennials polled by Marble indicated that they had logged into an unsecure public network, more than half said they had used mobile media — for example, a flash drive — that they had received from someone else and nearly a quarter confessed to having shared an online password with someone outside their family.
Collectively, it seems Millennials are just plain less concerned about online security than other generations. However, when you consider that they’ve grown up in a world where password entry is just another chore, perhaps the situation is a little bit like getting behind the wheel of a car. You know it’s dangerous, but you don’t feel nervous. You become desensitized to the threat.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the way Millennials perceive cyber threats is their reaction when they are the target of one.
It seems they fail to recognize the consequences of a potential breach, and how real they are. Once the attack takes place, Millennials use their knowledge of technology to quickly make changes and adopt more secure practices.
Best Practices for Safe Browsing
If you’re the owner of a company that hires lots of young people, this might not be enough to convince you to institute a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, but it is a sign that there’s hope.
Many of the things Millennials are doing wrong are easily corrected — for example, using a single password for multiple locations. Instead, try using a password manager like LastPass to keep track of multiple credentials for each individual site. Create complex passwords that use numbers and characters, and replace them often to ensure maximum protection.
Social media, made popular during the age of Millennials, has been a popular medium through which criminals obtain personal info. Take caution not to share items that could be used to mine your personal information.
Millennials are also commonly the first to get their hands on hot new devices or applications. While these new technologies might use the latest security, they can also fall victim to exploits developers haven’t had time to work out. If you’re using an app or device in a business setting, be sure to vet it with your IT team.
Is the Next Great Generation a Great Security Risk?
Millennials bring a wealth of technological knowledge to the workplace, and are generally perceived as more attracted to jobs where they can make a difference and influence growth. These two characteristics make them attractive hires, not to be ruled out just because of Marble’s survey.
The same risks many Millennials have fallen victim to — possibly because they simply use technology more than other generations — can do harm to someone of any age. This is why business owners need to carefully consider policy before allowing the use of personal devices and insecure browsing.
With a few additions to the employee handbook, some good training and an IT policy that includes antimalware software and password management, you can easily eliminate 99% of the threats that anyone who is not being careful, Millennial or not, might introduce.