Generation Y Highly Susceptible To Threats Due To Risky Behavior Online

Seven out of 10 admit they are not always as careful as they should be when posting and accessing information online, a new RSA survey shows

April 22, 2010

5 Min Read


BEDFORD, Mass., April 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite being aware of security threats, the risky online behavior of young adults can negatively affect their future career prospects and financial standings, while leaving them vulnerable to identity theft and fraud, according to a new survey commissioned by RSA, The Security Division of EMC (NYSE: EMC).

"The irony of these findings is that the generation that has grown up with the greatest percentage of its life knowing technology and the Internet and that claims to know about the risks of technology is the one that is ignoring the good advice," said Sam Curry, Chief Technologist at RSA.

Research firm, TRU polled more than 1,000 young adults between the ages of 18-24 regarding their online behavior and security precautions, and found that more than seven out of ten admit that they are not always as careful as they should be when posting and accessing information online. The research also reveals that young adults regularly make risky choices when engaging in activities such as file sharing and social networking that can lead to long-lasting negative consequences and result in damage to an individual's reputation both online and off.

"The rapid growth of technology has far outpaced the security aptitude of everyday users," said Robert Siciliano, CEO of "What's worse is that the bad guys are capitalizing on the naivete of millions of unsuspecting users and getting paid as a result."

"When you engage in unsafe or risky behavior in the virtual world, those risks can spill over into the physical world. Unlike people -- who might forget with time -- the Internet has a permanent memory and some members of Generation Y are learning this the hard way," adds Curry. "Many are aware they are neglecting basic security precautions when participating in online activities, such as social networking, and unfortunately are experiencing malware infection and other negative consequences to their identity and reputation as a result."

Choosing Convenience Over Online Safety

The research revealed that while young adults understand the mounting risks associated with unsafe online habits, they are not taking the appropriate actions to change those behaviors, leaving themselves vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.

While 73% of survey respondents acknowledge concern about being a victim of online fraud or identity theft, 71% also admit that despite good intentions, they are not always as careful as they should be when it comes to their personal online safety. More than 50% of all respondents admitted to both using the same password for all of their online accounts and staying logged in to their personal sites to avoid the time and hassle of logging-in every time. Additionally, more than 75% of those surveyed said most people their age are willing to accept more risk when purchasing items online in return for lower prices.

Real-Life Consequences

The survey also found that risky online behavior does increase exposure to threats that potentially can have long-lasting negative effects on financial history, credit scores and housing opportunities. However, 55% of those surveyed indicate they never check their credit report, and 35% do not always check bank records after making online purchases. Moreover, 31% of those surveyed admit they do not always take steps to verify a website is legitimate before submitting credit card information. Sixty-four percent of all respondents also claim to have experienced at least one of the following:

-- Been a victim of identity theft -- Lost or stolen cell phone, laptop, flash drive, credit card or mail -- A compromised hard drive, email, social network, online payment (i.e. PayPal) or other online financial account -- Photos or other personal information ended up online without their knowledge

The survey also polled young adults regarding their online behavior and how it may affect job searches, finding that while 76% indicate they are currently or soon plan to begin searching for a job, and 67% have posted inappropriate content, photos, and/or videos involving cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and sex online, which could potentially limit employment opportunities.

Protect Yourself Online

To help individuals of all ages stay safe online and protect themselves against identity theft and the repercussions of risky online behavior, RSA has launched a website ( with simple and effective online security and social networking tips to help consumers avoid mistakes that can have a negative lifetime impact on career prospects and financial futures. The safe online behavior advice includes:

-- Assess your social network "friends" to ensure you're connected with only people you know and trust; -- Consider creating separate lists or profiles for professional and personal networking; -- Take the time to practice safe online behavior - be sure to end every online session by logging off your personal accounts when you're done using them; -- Don't access personal documents or online bank accounts on public computers; -- Only shop with reputable online companies and be sure to verify web sites for their authenticity before submitting credit card numbers or other personally identifiable information; -- Frequently change your passwords and ensure they're hard to guess by including a series of numbers, letters and symbols; -- Every year complete a full analysis of your online persona. Use a search engine to gather and review all content associated with your identity; -- Check your financial health annually by obtaining a copy of your credit report to look for false or fraudulent activity.

To learn more about how to protect yourself online and for the complete survey results, visit

Survey Methodology

-- Respondents totaled 1,002 consumers in the United States between the ages of 18 and 24. -- Conducted in February 2010 by market research firm TRU.

About RSA

RSA, The Security Division of EMC, is the premier provider of security solutions for business acceleration, helping the world's leading organizations succeed by solving their most complex and sensitive security challenges. RSA's information-centric approach to security guards the integrity and confidentiality of information throughout its lifecycle - no matter where it moves, who accesses it or how it is used.

RSA offers industry-leading solutions in identity assurance & access control, data loss prevention, encryption & key management, compliance & security information management and fraud protection. These solutions bring trust to millions of user identities, the transactions that they perform, and the data that is generated. For more information, please visit and

EMC and RSA are trademarks or registered trademarks of EMC Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

SOURCE EMC Corporation

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