WiIl Millennials Be The Death Of Data Security?

Millennials, notoriously promiscuous with data and devices, this year will become the largest generation in the workforce. Is your security team prepared?

Chris Rouland, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Phosphorus Cybersecurity

January 27, 2015

3 Min Read

As the 51 million members of Generation X begin turning 50 this year and start thinking about retirement, the Millennials (also known as Generation C for “Connected”) will be entering the workforce en masse with fresh ideas, optimism…and millions of unprotected connected devices.

According to Forrester Research, Generation Xers use technology strictly for convenience; they don’t consider it an integral part of day-to-day life. Millennials, on the other hand, were born in hospitals that attached digital security bracelets on them upon birth, which is an apt metaphor for how they now live. Millennials, says Forrester, are digitally integrated into the world around them at all times, both personally and professionally.

What’s interesting to me about the Millennial generation is while they are certainly tech-savvy, they have no interest in protecting their data. They will pay double for organic bread, preferring specialty stores to corporate grocery chains. But they place seemingly no value on the integrity and security of their personal identifiable information, let alone the consequences a hack could have on their friends, families, colleagues and employers. That’s not to say they are unaware of these consequences; they have access to more information than any other generation preceding them.

The Snapchat effect
The recent breaches of Snapchat and Yik Yak, two apps catering to Millennials, seemed to have had little impact on the population at large. While newsworthy for a moment, these breaches didn’t significantly lessen the use of either app. In fact, usage actually increased in the days and weeks following the “Snappening.” Leaked personal photos and private information seem to not just be tolerable in this demographic, but almost expected. There also appears to be a forfeiture of any sense of privacy. Is this an acceptable price to pay for the conveniences of being digitally connected? Worse, the fact that Millennials will become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce this year raises serious a slew of corporate security issues for the rest of the enterprise. 

While once disparate domains, Millennials merge their work and personal lives – and don’t see a problem using personal devices and applications for work and vice versa. According to a TrackIT survey, 60 percent of Millennials are not concerned with corporate security when they use personal apps, and 50 percent of them bring these personal apps into the enterprise. With data protection a top concern among organizations of all sizes, these statistics only spell trouble for corporate environments.

There is a clear dichotomy over the data security concerns of Millennials and the enterprises that employ them. It will be interesting to see what will convince this generation to get on board with securing their devices and following corporate protocols. Thus far, current policies, risk awareness, and the reality of threats to personal information do not seem to have any impact . So, what will override the convenience of connectedness? Certainly organizations will need to create policies to incorporate all connected devices. But that may not be enough.

One thing that is certain: enterprises are not going to loosen their security practices. They are only going to enhance them with new technologies or replace workers who will not adapt. As the Millennial generation begins to take over the workforce, it will be interesting to see if enterprises can succeed in communicating the importance of data security and get employees to act accordingly. That's a message that, up to this point, no breach, hack, threat or foe has been able to deliver.

About the Author(s)

Chris Rouland

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Phosphorus Cybersecurity

Chris Rouland is founder and CEO of Phosphorus. He is a renowned leader in cybersecurity innovation and has founded several multimillion-dollar companies, including Bastille, the first to enable assessment and mitigation of risks of the Internet of Radios, and Endgame, the leader in endpoint security. He was also Chief Technology Officer and Distinguished Engineer for IBM and Director of the X-Force for Internet Security Systems. Chris holds 20+ patents and a masters’ degree from Georgia Institute of Technology.

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