Are Millennials a Digital Security Risk?

Businesses today face an astounding number of cybersecurity risks. One major risk factor for businesses both big and small is the workforce itself. Millennials, especially, may pose a large security problem for organizations thanks to a combination of their attitudes towards technology security in general, and their habits when using technology both at home and in the workplace.

A Low Level of Concern

Millennials are the first generation to grow up using technology. From using dial-up AOL on hulking desktop models to sneaking peeks at cell phone screens under desks in high school classrooms, millennials have led lives shaped by technology. Whether because of early exposure to technology or other reasons entirely, millennials have a higher risk tolerance (or a lower ability to see risk) than other generations where technology is concerned. In fact, a 2014 Travelers study showed that 53 percent of millennials are “not concerned at all” about technology risks.

Dangerous Habits

A Forcepoint survey of over 670 millennials (those born between 1977 and 1994) identified many risky technology behaviors millennials engage in, including using public Wi-Fi and failing to password protect devices and apps (or sharing those passwords with others.)

Cybersecurity Risks

Risky cybersecurity behaviors put millennial identities at risk, but these behaviors also put the millennials’ workplaces at risk. Millennials are likely to use the same devices for work and personal reasons, which means any work data stored on those devices is only as safe as the security parameters set up on the device.

The problem becomes more complicated given the millennial attitude about workplace cybersecurity: many millennials believe that cybersecurity is up to the IT department, not them. Millennials are more likely to download apps or cut security corners if it means a quicker performance at work, and they often don’t notify IT about their activities.

Millennials Are a Huge Workforce

In 2015, the Pew Research Center revealed that millennials are currently the biggest piece of the American workforce. Collectively, millennial cybersecurity behavior poses a significant security risk to businesses in general, and especially to organizations with sensitive data, like the federal government. Millennials aren’t the only security risk businesses face, but within larger security protocols many businesses are addressing employee behavior at work.

What Businesses Are Doing

A combination of increasing security measures, which includes quick response times to security threats, and dealing with employee cybersecurity behavior, make up security tactics businesses are using. Creating specific rules that hold employees accountable for their digital actions while at work can curb some dangerous cybersecurity behavior. Creating an anti-BYOD policy is another measure businesses are taking. Beefing up internal systems, including document sharing and project management software, ensures employees have access to the tech they need to get their work done and won’t resort to downloading apps.

The millennial understanding of technology is an asset to lots of businesses. With so many millennials making up the workforce today, is the cybersecurity risk they pose going to get better? Or do businesses and cybersecurity firms need to change how they secure their data to work with (and not against) this plurality of their employees?

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