There’s a difference between knowing something and acting on it. For millennials, who’ve grown up with the internet and all it brings with it, cybersecurity threats have always been there. But has the young generation’s familiarity with technology desensitized them to the impact cyber threats can have on their lives?
Many young people openly admit they don’t follow best practices when browsing the internet. They are more careless with cybersecurity than baby boomers and generation X, one study found, and frequently use work devices outside the office, opening them up to potential hacking. That sounds like cause for concern. Is it?
Understanding Our Security Gap
Before you can evaluate how alert the young generation is on matters of cybersecurity, it’s important to consider the question of context. Millennials are hardly considered technologically illiterate. They are certainly more tech-savvy than other demographics, but the ability to use technology effectively is not the same as understanding the implications of how it is used.
What are the security practices millennials fail to use? They frequently share passwords, or use passwords less robust than recommended, for starters. In corporate settings, millennials are more likely than any other demographic group to move corporate data insecurely. Because they are more inclined to take advantage of work-from-home technology, millennials often use insecure third-party apps in inappropriate settings.
Some of the lack of security seems to stem from overconfidence in their understanding of cybersecurity concerns, which keeps millennials from communicating with IT departments and other security supervisors.
Change Begins With Education
Rather than allow young people to go through life assuming they’re protected during online communications, education systems need to take into account the importance of cybersecurity training. Some already do that, teaching teens how to avoid forfeiting sensitive information to things like phishing attacks and social media scams. There are even advanced-level programs like “Hacker High-School” that prepare young people for a future in the world of network security.
Instilling good habits and practices at a young age is important. As millennials age, they inherit a world where, more than ever before, all of their personal information and important data is available online. The stakes become more real when the health and wellbeing of your family are in question, not just your social network username and password.
Creating Careers in Cybersecurity
Another reason to inform young people on the subject of cybersecurity is the growing need for professionals in this field. Cyber crime isn’t going away any time soon, and as malicious software and scams become more creative every day, the need for professional security experts grows.
Allowing millennials to fall behind in the race to combat cyber crime would be a mistake in a time when many important new technologies are just around the corner. Take self-driving cars, for example. While the prospect of this technology sounds promising, huge questions about how to secure the infrastructure for such vehicles remain unanswered. The task of answering these questions and maintaining that infrastructure lies squarely with today’s young people.
Making Cybersecurity Real for Young People
The challenge to keep cyber crime at bay will remain as long as the internet plays a central role in our lives. That is something that won’t change any time soon. Some millennials feel, understandably, that the perceived threat is less imposing than their forebears would have them think.
That is a matter of perception, but it does seem millennials understand the technology even if the seriousness of threats hasn’t sunk in for them. For someone who grew up during a time when keeping information private was as simple as locking it away in a file cabinet, of course, the change is major. Could it be that millennials do understand the nature of these threats and are just unthreatened by them?
That is unquestionably the truth for some, but even so cyber criminals have demonstrated any door left open will be exploited. For the internet-using public to begin to fight back against a growing threat, the level of urgency must go up for young people.