The younger generation may not have as much experience with formal cybersecurity and network protection schema, but millennials’ close relationship with technology is actually an asset to cybersecurity education, Emilia says.
Millennials, they say, ruin everything. From the housing market to Applebee’s, it seems the younger generation just has a knack for causing the downfall of one thing or another. And apparently, millennials are also ruining cybersecurity.
At this year’s North American Buy-Side Technology Summit, held on October 5 in New York, Star Mountain Capital’s CTO, John Polis, said the younger generation—that is, millennials—poses a danger to cybersecurity efforts. “The younger generation has a different sense of technology. They’ve grown up with technology, the internet, and they think once you click on something you should be able to get around easily and not really worry about anything,” Polis said. “They’re the ones who probably pose a bigger threat, so we really focus on educating them extensively.”
Polis noted that a work computer is often the first formal and secure access to the internet that millennials encounter, so most interactions they have with technology before that are unencumbered by firewalls.
The generation just now entering the workforce has an understanding of technology that is easy and free to use. When they open their office-issued computers they may be surprised—and even annoyed—that they can’t access all the websites they want to. They may look for ways to bypass those firewalls and, as a result, invite in potential cyber threats. Then again, these assertions may represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how younger generations—many of whom are digitally native—interact with technology.
The younger generation has a more intimate relationship with technology than those born before 1981. It’s ingrained into their brains that the answer to any question is almost always a Google search away. It’s a constant companion in their daily lives, so their ability to use technology is intuitive. This becomes even truer for those born in the 1990s—that difference of a few years saw those people grow up in an always-on environment.
Millennials’ technological savvy, in many ways, actually makes them the easiest to teach how to be safe. They can easily spot when something isn’t right with the programs they run, they regularly update their systems, and they know not to click on every link they see.
They have seen what hackers can do, they have been hacked, and they innately understand the perils of the cloud and the vulnerability of information. They learned early on to be wary of the messages sent to them, and are far less likely to fall for crude phishing schemes than their elders. It’s not theoretical, nor is it something out of William Gibson’s Neuromancer to them—this generation has seen the most technological disruption out of any, and has learned to be safer because of it.
Most of the people I know who take the greatest precautions over their data are my age—my mother still thinks that if she erases something on her phone, then it’s gone forever and not stored in the cloud. Taking care of personal data is akin to protecting data from workplaces, particularly in the financial services industry, and many people take great pains to ensure nothing leaks out that can be traced back to them. So again, that’s part one of cybersecurity education taken care of.
This is a generation that understands how technology works and how it can be made better. A lot of innovation, even in cybersecurity, comes from people who see a roadblock and are determined to break that barrier.
That’s not to downplay the trouble cybersecurity officers have faced teaching millennials. Of course, there will always be recalcitrant 20-somethings who think they know everything.
Polis points out that he’s learned to personalize the issue of cybersecurity with the younger people in his firm. Millennials are also the generation that personalizes everything. And if you explain that keeping workplace data safe is keeping you safe, it drives home the point that every information security officer needs to make.
Millennials can listen and be safe. They know technology, so don’t worry, they’re probably not the ones who will bring the house tumbling down.
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