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5 Ways To Protect Your Network From New Graduates

Employers of new grads, this is your assigned reading: Batten down the hatches, they're coming and their security behaviors are appalling.

Graduation season is wrapping up and a new generation is entering the workforce. Youth and a fresh perspective is always appreciated in the enterprise, but what about when these new grads pose a security risk to the network? 

The graduating class of 2016 was born the same year that Google was founded and were nine years old when the first iPhone was released. Smart technology and access to high-speed internet has been a part of their lives from the get-go, making this group incredibly tech savvy. But, their hyperconnected behavior doesn’t come without its drawbacks. 

Several surveys released last week showed that millennials are lagging behind Gen X-ers and baby boomers when it comes to security best practices. Millennials are nearly three times as likely to lose a device as baby boomers, and 10% less likely to have antivirus solutions installed on their devices. What’s probably most concerning to enterprises is that these new grads are far more likely to connect to free public WiFi (88% of millennials and only 32% of baby boomers). As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, managing devices and network security is imperative to data security. 

By all means, bring the next, extremely tech-adaptive generation into the workforce, but read this article first to learn how you can protect your network from their nonchalant security behavior -- and maybe help improve their behavior, too.  

1.     Optimize your network to be as flexible and mobile as possible. (What perimeter?) 

It’s time to rethink the perimeter, or rather give up on the pipe dream that it will only exist within four walls ever again. The class of 2016 is incredibly mobile and their expectations when they join your organizations will be to continue to have the mobility that the technology they grew up with affords them. 

“They don’t really think of anything as really being a perimeter,” says Kirsten Bay, CEO of Cyber adAPT, a network monitoring company. Bay recommends that in order to couch those coffee shop WiFi woes, you should employ strong VPNs and encourage the use of them so that the inevitable data in motion is protected. 

Stephen Cox, chief security architect at SecureAuth, a provider of two-factor authentication and single sign-on technology for mobile devices, says that these new hires are also going to be rolling in with multiple devices. So segment your network now, and segment often, he says.

“They’re going to have an iWatch or Android Watch, other wearables. What I generally recommend is that you segment those devices off of your network. Don’t let them get to critical systems,” he says.

He also warns that millennials and new grads are a new kind of challenging because they’re highly technical but resist having security put in front of them. “They’re going to cast it asunder with extreme contempt,” he says, and so that’s why it’s important to keep their personal devices, which may already be compromised, away from sensitive data. 

Bay recommends segmenting the network in the office by room, if you can. Create connectivity rooms, she says, where different rooms provide a different levels of access. 

2.     Eliminate passwords where you can and recommend the use of passphrases. 

David Meyer, vice president of product and online business for OneLogin, says the key to curbing new millennials' penchant for poor password production is to eliminate passwords altogether, or at least where possible. 

This is important for millennials, he says, because they are terrible when it comes to password habits. “They’re much more likely to reuse passwords,” he says. A Gigya survey released last week shows that only 33% of millennials create strong passwords. Meyer recommends working with a single-sign on provider to be able to limit the need for multiple (crappy) passwords, and recommending that new grads create strong passphrases rather than passwords.

Meyer says that if you have a pattern that you can easily remember then you can create a passphrase for each of your apps. He adds that it’s also kind of fun, and “millennials like things that are fun.” He recommends suggesting something millennial-friendly as inspiration for the passphrase, like a meme, that they can adapt for every app. 

“The only way to better security for millennials is making it easier while you make it more secure,” says Meyer.

3.     Employ multifactor authentication and biometrics.

SecureAuth's Cox adds that you shouldn’t stop at at just one factor for authentication when it comes to securing the network. “We can’t just trust a username and password anymore," he says. “We have to use multiple factors, password and biometric.”

This will help identify the user, which is imperative since new grads will be working remotely more than their older peers -- and from more devices.

Meyer of OneLogin also sees technology such as that of Amazon's selfie checkout patent being popular with new grads, and something enterprises could employ in the future to add a layer to authentication where necessary.

4.     Utilize the cloud for storage and apps.

Millennials are nearly three times as likely as older generations to lose a device. Hardware is pricey, but the cost of a data breach is pricier, and the work to replace lost data is headache you don’t want to have.

“If you’re a company that runs in the cloud, the device itself should just be hardware; there shouldn’t be anything stored on it” so that if a device is lost, everything is backed up and nothing is lost, Meyer says.

This is probably a little unrealistic since access to the cloud isn’t always possible (you’re supposed to stay off the free public WiFi, remember!). Meyer acknowledges this and says that it’s important to build trusted devices and be able to remotely block and wipe them if they accidentally get left in said café with the free public WiFi.

5.     Education that is specific to and customized for new grads.

Education. A whole lot of good it’s done new grads, though: They just finished school and still a recent survey showed that millennials are more likely to get breached than baby boomers.

Meyer says that security education for new grads can’t just be a list of things not to do. “Security training and education is an important part as long as it’s fit to the people,” he says. “Security is more of a cultural issue than a technology issue, and getting people to align their own self-interests with the self-interests of the company is important,” as is creating a pride around it, he adds. 

Bay concurs. “It’s kind of like the war effort. You have to make people owners of the solution to get them to buy into the behavior you’d like them to have.”

She adds that there has always been this “us vs. them” mentality in security, but that it’s time to make solutions more inclusive. 

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Emily Johnson is the digital content editor for InformationWeek. Prior to this role, Emily worked within UBM America's technology group as an associate editor on their content marketing team. Emily started her career at UBM in 2011 and spent four and a half years in content ... View Full Bio

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