When it comes to cybersecurity, millennials are a radically different generation. They’re far more tech savvy than their older generational counterparts, but various pieces of research show that they worry less about being the target of a hack or a breach.
Does this mean that millennials don’t care about cybersecurity, or that they represent a bigger risk in the workforce? Some articles might lead you to believe this, but in reality, millennials just have a different perspective—and different priorities.
Why Millennials See Cybersecurity Differently
First, let’s consider why millennials see cybersecurity differently:
- Growing up with technology. Millennials grew up with technology, and came of age when the first social media platforms were emerging. Technology isn’t as new to them, and because they’ve spent more time interacting with it, they generally have more familiarity with the types of threats to watch out for.
- Less business experience. Millennials also have less business experience and more personal experience with technology. Accordingly, their views take on a more personal perspective, prioritizing individual efforts over organization-wide changes.
- Secondary and cultural factors. Another part of the split here is millennials’ lack of interest in cybersecurity; only 7 percent of cybersecurity workers are under age 29, which is in part due to millennials believing a cybersecurity-focused education is necessary to enter the field. It may also be due to other generational factors, such as different values and beliefs.
So what are the main concerns that millennials have about cybersecurity, if they differ so strongly from those of baby boomers and Gen Xers?
- The security of cloud service providers. Cloud security is becoming more important and more complex, with most tech platforms and services offered through the “cloud” in some way. Accordingly, millennials are starting to prioritize cloud security over in-house security; in other words, rather than trying to beef up their personal devices or work networks, millennials would rather work with the right cloud vendors. They’re doing more research on cloud security to improve their understanding, and they’re more discerning about the platforms they eventually use.
- Personal passwords and account management. Millennials also focus more on practical efforts to improve security, such as choosing strong passwords and carefully managing their accounts. They worry far less than their older generations, but they take more steps to proactively guard against hacks and threats; for example, 4 percent of millennials use between 3 and 5 distinct passwords for their accounts, rather than one, and they’re the generation who uses two-factor authentication the most, at 40.4 percent.
- Awareness and education of current threats. Compared to older generations, millennials are more aware of various threats, and are better able to distinguish between different levels of threats online. For example, millennials are about as cautious as baby boomers when it comes to anticipating an online banking cyberattack, with 19 percent of boomers and 14 percent of millennials believing their bank could be breached. But the generations split on social media, where 63 percent of boomers think social media is especially vulnerable to cyberattacks, compared to 45 percent of millennials. Millennials would rather learn about current threats, and increase their knowledge, than work blindly, and they seek more education and training because of it.
- External trust. Finally, millennials tend to be more trusting of external organizations, putting their faith in major brands that have established a reputation for themselves. This makes them less worried and less active when a breach is announced, and makes them more likely to lean on external vendors to solve internal security concerns. Of all this items on this list, this is the most ambiguous in terms of value; on one hand, this trust enables them to focus on more pressing security concerns, such as personal habits and education, but on the other, that trust may be unfounded.
So do millennials have the right perspective when it comes to cybersecurity? There are clear advantages to prioritizing these outlooks, rather than spending more money on IT or worrying about the potential of a hack. Additionally, millennials seem more aware and knowledgeable about the nature of cybersecurity, and the digital risks that companies face.
It’s hard to say whether this perspective is truly “superior,” but it definitely reflects our changing work culture. If we’re going to conquer this seemingly endless string of breaches, and build a professional environment where cybersecurity is more of a guarantee, we need to examine all perspectives, and work together to create new defenses.