Millenials and Data Security

Millennials, also known as the 'Generation Y' and definitely the super-connected population segment are set to become the largest demographic in the US workforce by more than half in the year 2020. The fresh ideas and enthusiasm they will add is something executives are anxiously anticipating. But their relaxed attitude towards cyber security and personal information privacy is a challenge that they are wary of. Various researches have shown that the millennials consider convenience and productivity to be of greater importance than security. For instance, millennials are guilty of ignoring IT directives on use of the internet such as using the organization email to share information. Instead, they opt to use their personal email referring to the directives as 'cumbersome security mandates'.

Findings from various researchers identified some tech practices that the millennials engage in which pose a great risk to the security of the company as well as their personal data. One is downloading and installing mobile apps without reading the permission details. Over half (56%) of the millennials also download and install mobile apps without going through the permission details, yet such apps might access private and personal information. Despite the sensitive information requested by mobile apps, most are never tested for vulnerabilities and many companies do not secure the data properly. Good examples are the recent breaches of Yik Yak and Snapchat where private information was accessed by hackers. These mobile apps that the millennials install indiscriminately can be the loopholes hackers use to access private information and corporate data of the users. In a nutshell, your mobile phone contains a lot of information about you such as your contacts, passwords to various accounts, your location, your schedule and even your everyday activity. It is therefore important to carefully go through the permission details before installing a mobile app. And it can be necessary to do away with mobile apps that require unnecessary permissions. For instance, why would a game application require your contact list or location?

A great percentage of the millennials also use personal devices to access corporate files. The millennials are so devoted to their devices such as mobile phones and tablets that some may experience 'nomophobia'; a term that is used to refer to the anxiety that arises when a user is separated from his or her device. For instance in a recent study, some 40% of millennials claimed that they would feel like part of them is missing if they were to be separated from their phones. The reason for this is that this demographic group prioritizes conveniences and ease of use than the security of data. They expect to instantly access and share information using their devices, and would rather use a messaging or file sharing app rather than the tedious and secure corporate directive. On the flip side, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon where employees use their personal devices for work poses such a great risk to organizational information. Some firms have tried to curb this tendency by coming up with policies that allow the staff to access limited information on their personal devices. Users are also advised to download apps from reputable mobile app market places such as the Apple App Store and to also be keen on the features and information the apps can access.

When it comes to reusing of passwords, the millennials are also the top victims. With so many online accounts that require a password such as emails, social media and company websites and even instant messaging mobile apps, over 85% of millennials have admitted to reusing their passwords. They do this albeit the risks of providing cyber hackers with access to sensitive personal and corporate information. But with so many passwords to remember, such a practice may be unavoidable. Organizations can encourage their employees to use password managers, which create unique credentials for each account. The two factor authentication which combines passwords with randomly generated numbers to render any compromised password unusable can also be utilized by companies to make such a task easy and convenient for the millennials.

The use of social media by millennials can also compromise their personal information privacy. Social media is a rich source of information for cyber criminals considering the millennials' relaxed attitude towards online privacy. For instance, accepting invitations and requests from strangers may seem harmless, but it grants them access to your personal information on the profile. A great percentage of millennials have accepted invitations from strangers, especially considering how cool it is to have many followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook. According to IT experts, some social media platforms are more vulnerable in terms of personal information privacy. As a millennial, it is important to protect access to your information on social media by controlling access to it and its distribution to others.

Some millennials prefer to bypass some organizational cyber security protocols in order to access what they want. With a 'getting the job done' mentality, these tech-savvy millennial employees may use some tools to find their way around security measures in place that they consider a barrier to their convenience. Although convenient for them, they may share confidential information outside the corporate network subjecting the organization data to risk of access by unauthorized persons. Some organizations curb this practice by combining end point monitoring with content-based filtration to ensure sensitive information is protected from hackers.

The millennials definitely pose a security threat to both corporate and personal data due to their carefree attitude towards use of the internet. With data breaches becoming more common in today's digital world, organizations are becoming wary of the millennials attitude and some have implemented various measures to protect their data from any unauthorized access. But some individuals have lost their sensitive private data due to their relaxed attitude towards cyber security. In trying to curb the challenges of millennial habits, organizations can harness it as an opportunity by embracing new technologies and incorporating the use of productivity apps that millennials can conveniently use while at work. Through this strategy, organizations can be assured that the millennials are using platforms approved by the company and which will not compromise the security of its data.