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How security smart is Generation Y?

Taylor Armerding | Aug. 13, 2013
Some experts call Millennials, or Generation Y, the 'new threat vector.' But others say the weakest link in the enterprise is people of any age group

"When you couple administrative rights with the skills and expertise of today's savvy employees, antivirus and application controls can be disabled in seconds," he wrote.

Bogdan Botezatu, senior e-threat analyst at Bitdefender, said direct observation shows that, "Millennials are more likely to open the door to security threats in corporate environments. Since they are basically more interconnected than other demographic categories, they tend to expose more information about themselves."

[Slideshow: 9 tips, tricks and must-haves for security awareness programs]

Not everybody agrees. Guy Helmer, assistant vice president of data loss prevention at Absolute Software, said he doesn't think any specific generation is a new attack vector.

"As technology is embraced by all generations, it is natural for tech-savvy employees to want to have the same network and app access at work as at home," he said. "Gen Y employees are continuing the democratization of the data that started 30 years ago in the days of the personal computer."

Kevin Bocek, vice president of product marketing at Venafi, agrees that "Gen Y trusts technology to an extent that other generations have not -- their rush to use social media and anything mobile are just some examples of trusting and embracing technology."

But, he says, they are simply the newest part of the most common attack vector.

"People have been known by cybercriminals to be the weakest link, and spawned the use of phishing, spear phishing, water hole attacks and more for years."

Mike Tierney, vice president of operations at SpectorSoft, agreed.

"Access and availability have always been at odds with security and privacy," he said.

Still, even some in the Gen Y age range acknowledge that the problem is at a new level with their age group. Reem Ateyeh, an account executive at HORN, is one.

Ateyeh said the "new attack vector" label is, "absolutely fair. Many Gen Y employees are tech-savvy, but not as security savvy as they ought to be. Often times, we do not realize the risk that our online activities can pose for our employers," she said, adding that even though she has become very security conscious through her work with IT professionals, "it is difficult to be cautious simply due to the vast number of tools available to share data and information."

But, she adds that older generations may become more of a risk factor as they also become more socially connected.

"Whether or not Gen Xers are more security-savvy is an unknown, but they are by no means in the clear when it comes to enterprise security," she said.

What should enterprises do about it? While education about security is important for employees of every age, most experts say this is not something that companies can "train" their way out of. It is also not something the Gen Y cohort will outgrow.


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