Millennials Have Different Attitude About Security than Older Co-Workers

Sue Marquette Poremba
Slide Show

Seven Ways to Improve Cybersecurity Through Behavioral Analysis

It’s graduation season, which means a lot of new, young employees are entering the workforce. Is your company’s security system ready for the hit it is going to take?

We already know that the millennial generation loves its devices – when was the last time you saw a twenty-something without a smartphone practically glued to his or her hand? But a new study from Absolute Software shows that this generation tends to be lax when it comes to the security of those devices, and that could directly be a risk to your business.

For example, while the study found that 52 percent of respondents regularly use their employer-owned devices for personal use, that number jumps to 64 percent of millennials. Also, 27 percent of millennials admit to using the device in ways that are “not safe for work,” whether that is public Wi-Fi or unapproved sites – a definite jump in defiant behavior when compared to baby boomers, where that number drops to 5 percent. In fact, when compared directly to baby boomers, the millennials seem downright reckless when it comes to good security practice.

But I’ll be honest here: While I totally believe the survey’s numbers regarding millennials and their seeming disregard for cybersecurity, I’m much more skeptical about the low numbers for baby boomers, especially when you look at some of the other results from the survey. Exactly half of the respondents claim that security isn’t their responsibility, and 30 percent think there should be no penalties for lost corporate data. These are big security fails across the board.

I suspect that the biggest difference between boomers and millennials is how well one generation understands technology and security compared to the other, as well as the general attitudes. Younger people simply have a different attitude toward privacy and security issues than older adults, while I think a lot of older adults often think that their lack of tech know-how somehow makes them immune to security issues. Consider the numbers that show 35 percent of millennials don’t hesitate to switch from default settings, compared to 8 percent of boomers – which might sound like a security risk for the younger folks. But at the same time, how many of those boomers sitting in the default setting aren’t updating software or changing (or even using) the passwords? I’d love to hear more about the security things that millennials might be getting right that boomers are struggling with.

Security Policies

Stephen Midgley, Absolute Software's VP of Marketing, agrees that there is a clear security generation gap at work, and in an eSecurity Planet article, pointed out that security policies need to take into consideration this difference in attitudes:

Gone are the days of having one generic policy for all employees. More progressive organizations are looking at having policies that allow certain flexibility in how employees use technology but also provide guidelines around clear ramifications.

So if you have a new graduate or a young employee coming to work for you, it may be a good idea to take his/her temperature on their security know-how and make sure that they understand how and why everybody needs to be on the same page about security, even if we all take different paths to get there.

Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 19, 2015 9:19 AM online backup online backup  says:
i wonder how these trends will impact online backup security. it would be really bad for a business to lose data because of poor security precautions taken by a young person Reply
May 19, 2015 3:50 PM Michael Michael  says:
Well... maybe it is just the case that the baby boomers don't really use technology as much. Reply

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